August 29: Story Challenge in 99-words

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

August 29, 2023

Two massive tundra swans rest upon the dark waters of Boston Pond near my daughter’s farm. The nesting parties of the northern hemisphere have ended for 2023 and migrators are leaving their breeding grounds to overwinter elsewhere.

The merlins, falcons, and osprey have left the Northwoods of Michigan and Wisconsin. The sandhill cranes, dabblers, and divers are gathering to take their leave, too. Everyone with feathers has either fledged or molted. With the birds sporting their duller non-breeding colors, it’s time for the leaves to stand out.

And celebrate. It’s festa time!

When I was a child in Old Californio — okay, I’m not that old, but I did grow up in one of the last holdouts of vaquero culture — the Azorean Portagees practiced celebrations called “festas.” They were religious festivals associated with the Cult of the Holy Spirit, a sect of Catholicism going back to the fourteenth century and linked to Franciscan monks. Today, the Azores and small pockets of buckaroo country in the western US (parts of California, Nevada, and southern Idaho), continue the tradition.

Festa foods are among my favorites, a tradition my coming grandchild will one day know. Originally, the communities gathered all their soup, sausage, bread, and milk. Cattle were butchered and the sopas prepared. In my family, the beef chunks were cooked in a vat of red wine with onions, garlic, and spices then served over chunks of San Francisco sourdough bread with fresh mint. When we lived in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I used to harvest wild mint for festa soup we called sopas.

My kids grew up on festa foods, and we all lamented when we moved to Minnesota where there is no linguica. That’s the sausage. It, too, is made with red wine and spices. While the pinnacle of best food ever has been linguisa and eggs, Vermont introduced me to linguisa and lobster. Oh…my… Another festa sausage remains rarer — we called it marcella, but I don’t know if I’m spelling it correctly. It could be called marsala for (you guessed it) red wine. I recall my grandmother putting red wine in every Azorean recipe from rabbit marinade to jerky. My grandparents made marcella, using fresh pig blood. It’s blood sausage made with wine, garlic, and spices. My eldest daughter, Allison, will get to try it when she visits the Azores in November.

November will be the month of festas for my family and we kicked it off in August.

Allison and I drove to southern Wisconsin this past weekend for a baby shower my son, Kyle, and his wife, Leah, hosted. It was an elegant affair and they were the fashionable couple, the mother-to-be in a Grecian seafoam green dress and the father-to-be in a buff linen suit with matching green gingham shirt. It was a luncheon with an open bar (my son bartender through six years of college) and neither parent had anything alcoholic. Which might be why we didn’t have festa foods.

What a joy to be in my son’s life as he’s embarking on fatherhood. I’m excited, but I’m more excited to watch my son grow with his child. It feels like a gift. Driving back, I realized it was also a gift to have travel time with Allison. We did arrive home to the Keweenaw late and she was expecting to harvest her flowers for markets. I told her I’d help her if she delayed. The next day we harvest flowers together. Her husband, Drew, who had been in the fields or pack-shack all day took a break by grilling and reading. I was invited to feast, or festa, with them afterward.

And yes, there was red wine served with zucchini, poblanos, mojo peppers, tomatillos, and local beef sausage.

I’m wondering what you dreamers and writers will catch from “festa”? What celebratory foods or rituals do you still find comfort or delight? What are the origins of festivals you’ve attended? Go tend your stories and if you chase a white calf down a rabbit hole, remember, it’s all about connecting to your creativity as literary artists.

August 29, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a festa. It can be any festival, celebration, or use of the word. Is it food-related or an event? Is it an object or a shout-out? Who is involved and why? What happens? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by September 5, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

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23 Comments

  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Whoa. Back up. Stop. Did we have linguisa and lobster when you were here? Brilliant! Obviously not a VT thing though. I would have learned that in southeast Massachusetts, where there are many Azorean and Cape Verdean descendents.
    Trees are already beginning celebrations here as well, and the birds. Another transition another season, another becomes a grandmother. Cool beans, Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! There was linguica and lobster, and it was divine! Okay, not a Vermont thing but so happy you got exposure in southeast Massachusetts. So happy we picked up ingredients in Maine! Cool beans all the way around, D.

  2. Primary Window Films

    Wow, this blog post is a wonderful celebration of traditions and family. I love how the author shares their experiences with festa foods and the significance of these celebrations. It makes me think about my own family traditions and the importance of passing them down to future generations. What is your favorite festa food and what does it mean to you personally? Have you ever tried to recreate any of the traditional recipes from your childhood?

    • Charli Mills

      I wonder when we realize something familiar was really something special and worth handing down? I have successfully recreated Sopas thanks to my Great-Grandma Fernandes’s recipe, but the festa sausages elude me.

  3. restlessjo

    So, your grandmother was from the Azores, Charli? Such a beautiful part of the world. We arrived there in late June and ran slap bang into a whole bunch of celebrations. We only had a couple of weeks and I’ve always meant to go back to see the 3 islands we missed. Maybe next year!

    • Charli Mills

      I have Azorean grandparents on both my mother’s and father’s line, Jo. Even descendants who have never been back talk about how beautiful the islands are. Did you get to Fial? that’s the island my father’s family came from. Ha! I might be an American mut, but I still appreciate a good Azorean festa! How awesome you got to visit and experience some. Maybe we’ll meet up there one year!

      • restlessjo

        We visited Sao Miguel, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial, Charli. We stayed in Horta, the capital of Faial, with the most wonderful views across the water to the volcano on Pico. I gather that it’s cold and damp in winter, otherwise I could be very tempted by island life. I wrote half a dozen or more posts about them, and this was the first.
        https://restlessjo.me/2019/06/12/a-call-to-place-the-azores/

      • Charli Mills

        Wonderful, Jo! Thanks for sharing your posts!

  4. Norah

    How wonderful to share such special times with your children. Any time with children can be a festa.

    • Charli Mills

      Children make any time Festa time, Norah! Yes, I relish special times with my children — soon with a grand. Oh, wow.

      • Norah

        Oh wow, yes! Magic happens! ????

      • Charli Mills

        It’s quite something to wait on a pregnancy. It is like waiting for the magic to emerge!

      • Norah

        Yes. Exactly like that. ????

    • Charli Mills

      Definitely!

      • Norah

        ????

  5. Jules

    Charli,

    Food and family is always a big thing during festival times. Different sides do up the various holidays here. Birthdays usually for the younger ones. There comes a time though when just getting up and enjoying the day is a festa!

    Last week the old folks bowling started. I didn’t do so well, but it is like a mini party every week at the alley to enjoy friends and be active. Today there are two birthdays in my family… Though we weren’t with either of the celebrants I’m sure they enjoyed their day – one might have had to work – but the other is on a mini family vacation. And tonight we all should celebrate the second full moon of August – a non-blue, blue moon! Cheers to everyone.

    Here’s my take, a haibun;
    Alive and Dancing?

    summer ends
    unofficially
    long weekend

    Wind blows the white puff clouds across the blue sky; birds fly, leaves yellow, fall.

    Some celebrate the return of students to school. Some have been lucky enough to have a family vacation down by the shore. Building sand castles, watching seagulls and maybe dolphins jump in the sea. For others the day passes as a birthday, some have cake, others toast.

    On the table in a jar, summer blossoms celebrate the gift of the sun with pinks, purples, yellows, reds, whites and greens. Everyday is a fiesta when we can live life fully.

    © JP/dh

    • Charli Mills

      Jules, how fun to spend regular time with a shared activity. It’s sheer joy doing something with others like bowling. We have roller derby starting up again, and I love watching the camaraderie that builds between the spectators, sponsors, and participants. Funny how I was thinking that it reminded me of a bowling league and I wondered what happened to bowling. But it didn’t disappear! Love how you opened the line “On the table a jar…” it anticipates something evocative to follow. Your last line is a joyful declaration.

  6. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Pepe LeGume!”
    “Ello, Keed. Ello Pal. I am hopeeng you weel join me and Logatha for a fair la fête.”
    “Fair la fête? You bet! What’re we celebratin?”
    “The upcoming birth of our leetle bambeano! Eet ees strange, no, how life imeetates art.”
    “Thinkin yer bass-ackwards on thet, LeGume. Yer the mimesis.”
    “Why must you eenseest on being my nemesis, Pal? And no, I announced our bakeeng bambeano before Mees Shorty announced her grand. Eet ees no coeencidence.”
    “Hmmf. An now yer havin a festa.”
    “Fair la fête. Eet weel be, how you say, artsy-fartsy.”
    “Yer half right, LeGume.”

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! It’ll be fine and fartsy, I’m sure with that family!

  7. Stine Writing and Miniatures

    On of the things I love most about traveling is tasting foods that are traditional to the region.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s the best way to connect to people and the land — through the food!

  8. woundedcat

    Charlie,
    I’m staying in Ecuador right now, and here they call their blood sausage morcilla. They serve it with this white fluffy corn called mote and potato pancakes called llapingachos. It’s delicious. And the province that I am currently residing in is named Azuay province. Such a funny coincidence!

    Congratulations on becoming a grandmother!

    • Charli Mills

      What a wonderful serendipity! Morcilla could be the truer spelling as I’m going with how it sounded. Thanks, I’m getting my grandma vibe going! Enjoy Ecuador — you are living life out loud, experiencing new cultures.

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