My son is having a “hot girl summer,” according to his wife who is nearly full-term in her pregnancy with our family’s first baby. Their first child. Our first grandchild. My two daughters’ first blood-related niece/nephew. We don’t know Boo’s gender, yet. It doesn’t matter. We have a child to welcome and raise. We are part of a village.

And Boo’s daddy is on top of his running game.

According to musician, Megan Three Stallion, who wrote a song called Hot Girl Summer, the phrase means embracing one’s confidence and joy. In a 2019 interview with Root, she said, “It’s just basically about women – and men – just being unapologetically them …”

My son is an unapologetic cross-country runner. He loves to run. Although he danced classical ballet, modern, and swing throughout his childhood and teen years, he found a community among runners. It wasn’t a community I fully understood, not being a runner myself. I wasn’t a dancer, either, but I could participate backstage or in the audience. Running families run. His wife grew up in one of those families and they hope for their child to, as well. I better understand, having conversations with her about childhood memories of meets like the S’More Fun Trail Run.

Held at Mirror Lake State Park in Wisconsin, the run features hills, sandstone bluffs, and more hills. My son was excited for the race, as I was to get to watch him. Though he had an incredible college career in cross country, I got to see little of it after relocating to North Idaho. He met his wife and her family during his freshman year of college. She moved for two years after graduation for her undergrad degree but returned to go to grad school with my son. The relationship grew from there to this moment, three weeks before their first child is due. And I saw what was so alluring to my son about this activity — the level of family involvement.

It’s not unlike ranching or farming. When Todd and I moved away from the landscape of our Western heritage, we also left a family community. For me, it was necessary because I broke cycles. For Todd, it was part of his journey. He used to tell me he was a lone wolf or the family black sheep. But he always had his family ready to reconnect. I was always looking forward, expecting to meet up with a new order of family. And I have. My grown children have all connected me to strong roots, values, and traditions.

With wonder, I saw the toddlers differently. Would I return to this fun run four years from now? Would I have a Mini Marshmallow to cheer? On this day, I cheer my son on the last race of his hot girl summer. He’s confident. Yet he told me earlier right before his race lined up that even if he confused the trail markers and had a bad race, he’d finish happy. He’s getting to do what he loves, surrounded by family he loves, running on a perfect autumn day, and expecting a baby in weeks. To witness someone in full gratitude and appreciation for where they are at this moment reminds me that we can pick a day and whisper, “Today’s a great day.”

But it definitely was my son’s hot girl summer. He smoked the race, crossing the finish line nearly three minutes before second place. The beautiful wife, two mothers, and almost a baby greeted him. We ate s’mores by a campfire. And he looked handsome and fit as he took to the podium to accept a trophy comprised of a wood round mounted with a resin flaming marshmallow. We all felt the squishy movement of imagining our future Mini Marshmallow. Later that day, my son said he imagined the moment his child beat his record.

For my part, I cooked to fill the freezer while I stayed in Wisconsin. My DIL washed newborn clothes and together we sat in the nursery and folded. The chore rewarded me; I got to touch each little onesie, bunting, and sock my grandbaby will wear. My son drilled and hammered to make the nursery safe. He secured the dresser and changing station to the wall. I got a first-hand look at their systems. These soon-to-be-parents are organized and yet allow life to flow, too. Like running.

Wheels carried me home to the Keweenaw; five and a half hours for pondering, singing to the playlists, listening to podcasts, and writing stories in my imagination. For my hag training, I’ve been blessing the bones of road kill as I travel. It’s a soothing ritual for acknowledging our kin and their trauma. I make elaborate hand gestures not because of any belief but for how good the crackling and stretching of joints feels, after all, becoming a hag means finding joy where possible. May your bones find their way back to Mother Earth. Your trauma is over. Your breath is free. I imagine a Hodag riding shotgun with me. As a fiction writer, at least I’m never alone.

Note: as of October 10, the Art Walk videos are loading to YouTube but a policy only allows me to post fewer than I have. I was hoping to announce they were up but alas, I have to wait until later tomorrow to finish.

October 10, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about confidence. Is a character confident or struggling? Why? Is confidence cultural, compelling, or conflicting? What is the value of confidence? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by October 16, 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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