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October 17: Story Challenge in 99-words

My bed has a shaggy coat. Colder temperatures call for afternoon hot apple cider, flannel sheets, and “blankets of joy.” The one who finds the most joy in winter blankets is Mause. The little GSP will be three in November and she shows no signs of slowing down, although she’s getting comfort dialed in.

I needed something warmer for my bed and when I saw the shaggy duvet cover on Amazon, I giggled at the image of Mause discovering shag. It was also the least expensive cover made of natural fibers, which sealed the deal. I bought a similar blanket from the same eco-friendly company out of Minnesota for Mause on the couch.

Shag is questionable to the dog. When Mause leaped onto the couch, the shag caught her by surprise. It was sleek, satiny, and fur-like. Good surprise or bad? It was hard to read her features. She kept her ears perked in curiosity but had a gleam in her eyes that foreshadowed naughtiness. Meanwhile, the grand shag duvet cover spent the day in the basement at the spa for bedding.

I’m not the biggest fan of duvets after spending half my life wanting one. The struggle to find the right corners, tie the loops, and get the cover situated places the chore low on my enjoyment list. Tussling with a shaggy duvet cover was like wrestling a creature from deep in the winter woods. Once successful, I felt like I had conquered Grendel and his hide covered my bed. I’ve never had a shaggy bed before. We’ll see what the princess upper thinks when she gets home from her run-around-town with her veteran.

When fall came to the small mountain town where I grew up, our herd of horses grew thick, long coats. They did not winter in the Sierras — they left for Nevada. I remember Captain’s coat long and more coarse before he left. I longed for his return in spring with the rest when I’d brush out his coat until it shined. There’s a lovely familiarity with changing seasons. Pre-winter shag feels right.

The Keweenaw holds its breath — will we get 300 inches of snow or will climate change cause different conditions? How much say does Lady Lake Superior have? We have no gales to report, no early white flakes, and no hard frost, yet. It’s due any day. Which has me thinking, so is my grandbaby! The last month of a trimester is the longest. While the maples outside slowly drop their leaves, I wait for news.

The Collections are caught up. Such different ideas, yet visible strands of connectivity. Your stories (and verse) continue to be a joy to work with and I can’t wait to start learning more about the connection between our literary art and the collective unconscious. On November 3, I will begin a journey into Dream Tending and Deep Imagination. I hope to unlock access to our collective “inner genius” for the continued work of collaboration at Carrot Ranch. Tending dreams is akin to how we create from a deep urge.

Another important aspect of dream tending is its potential for group work among veterans and their families. I don’t think veterans need more treatment for mental health; I believe they need more empowerment to work with their PTSD and brain trauma. What better way to bring troubled veteran couples together but through tending dreams. The very tools of dreamers include creating safe space within and working with intolerable images. Already, Todd has been happily sharing his dreams with me.

Another aspect of dream tending is the cultivation of a connection to something bigger than oneself. Do you ever feel that as a writer? The vastness of the space within, the many ways we connect with humanity around the world through literary communities like Carrot Ranch, readers, and our physical communities, take us somewhere. We return with stories. Soldiers believe in something bigger than themselves even when they know they are a cog inside the wheel or a war machine. Stories like “Band of Brothers” show this bond in action.

I feel hopeful that Dream Tending will expand what thrills me about creative writing. For gales, baby news, and shaggy warmth, stay tuned!

October 17, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something shaggy. It can be carpet, a hair-do, or some sort of critter. How can something shaggy steer the story? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by October 23, 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.


  1. I had fun with this one

  2. Keepin Cryptoz Off the Ranch

    “Well, Kid, s’pose yer all set up fer a shaggy hog story, what with Curly sportin her new angora goat fleece jacket.”
    “First thing come ta mind was Ernie an that shaggy shirt he’s always wearin.”
    “Better not write nuthin bout thet, Kid.”
    “Why not?”
    “Cuz Ernie ain’t never worn a shirt unnerneath his overalls, not even in winter.”
    “Gulp. I see.”
    “The unseein won’t come easy.”
    “Reckon Ernie’s manscapin ‘splains Sassysquatch’s ‘ttraction to ‘im. But I ain’t gonna write bout that neither, won’t have a bunch a cryptozoologists creepin roun the ranch.”
    “Thet’s write decent a ya, Kid.”

  3. Jules says:


    I veered off the straight an’ narrow with mash up;
    (Some older folks may look shaggy, but they are still sharp as tacks!)

    Wistful Thinking

    haloed ‘round
    her mylar balloons
    to bring cheer

    Would Granny be able to overcome the ripped denim jeans she wore?

    Claire’s Mom had warned her to dress nicely when visiting Granny’s retirement home. Most older folks there looked a tad shaggy around the edges, and some even as if they’d been through the ringer themselves. They’d frown on clothing that looked like it should have been cut into strips and braided into rag rugs. Claire hoped the balloons would be a happy distraction, so the old folks wouldn’t complain about her outfit. Claire never whined about ‘Ode du Old Folks!’

    © JP/dh

  4. Norah says:

    Shaggy. That’s an interesting one. I can’t recall every having anything shaggy, though I think the shaggy hairstyle appealed at one stage. Can’t wait for baby news. No shaggy duvets needed there!

  5. Geoff Le Pard says:

    Ah what we need is a shaggy god story….

  6. Anne Goodwin says:

    I hadn’t thought of horses growing shaggy coats like the Highland cows in your image. I come across these creatures a lot on my walks in the Peak District but I’m wondering whether you actually have them in America?

    • Charli Mills says:

      Anne, I’d be so excited to come across Highland cows on a walk. Your hikes in the Peak District, portrayed in your writing, are already captivates me. I didn’t realize such beautiful creatures roamed the landscape, too. I have a Highland calf that I tend as a dream image, and they remind me of the oxen settlers once used to cross the prairies or log. Highland cattle are rare out West in the US. Mostly, ranches prefer Black Angus and Hereford cattle with Longhorns and Brahmas occasionally mixed in. Hikers in Montana refer to cows as “slow elk.” But D. Avery may have a different experience in New England, as one of her recurring characters raises the breed. Any other US writers know of Highland cows in their region?

      • We have a few Highland cattle around here in western New York State, but mostly at open range “safari” farms.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Safari farms? I’m curious to know what those are, Sue! Thanks for filling us in on New York state.

      • We have two “exotic” farms near me. One is a private collection some rich guy has for fun and the other is a public venue where you can have weddings among the zebras and different types of four legged critters or take a wagon ride to see them. My grandson and my visited a few years back.

      • Charli Mills says:

        What curious places to vist! Or get married. Ah, you’ll be giving me ideas of things to do with a grandchild!

  7. And, the Around the Campfire Journal is due to hit the publishing circuit soon. So much going on. There’s much to be said for births, rebirths, and dream tending. Write on!

  8. I’m very interested in this “dream tending” as I have recurring dreams with the same themes. It will be another learning experience.
    Waiting for news of a grandchild was worse than waiting for my own, as I didn’t know what was happening in another town. I’m sure you will let us know shorlty after you do. Expecting all to go naturally and quickly.

    • Charli Mills says:

      It’s deep psyche work, Sue. I’m excited to learn more about something I’ve always felt and noticed but didn’t have vocabulary to describe. I believe that dream tending is exactly what creatives do when an image (visual, story, sensation, inspiration, character dialog, setting, tone, idea, etc.) urges us to embody it through some sort of artistic expression or movement. I also believe that readers/viewers/listeners in turn embody the plot/characters/display/dance/music and expand the original image. Dreams are communal; art is collaborative. And dream tending is to learn the skills to further deepen and expand the process, getting better acquainted with our individual psyches and the collective unconscious. I told my son after Finlandia closed that if there was such a thing as depth psychology and creative writing, that’s where I’d redirect my focus. We both laughed thinking it was unlikely. Ha! Well, that’s how I discovered Dream Tending and Deep Imagination. The icing on the cake is that with all our diminished mental health support for veterans and families, dream tending is a good fit for veteran community group work. It’s also a “heart language” for continuing to engage with indigenous communities. Writers, veteran, and kwe — all the people who inspire me to create and work can benefit from what I’ll be learning so I hope it will be a win-win for us all.

      Thank you for reflecting that waiting for a baby to be born elsewhere is not easy! It’s very distracting and I easily lose what I’m doing or thinking because I start wondering about Boo…Definitely, I’ll let everyone know when I do hear!

      • I would imagine my recurring dreams are trying to show me something, or help me understand but it’s not anything I want to learn about without having an empathetic person close by.

  9. About three weeks late, but I wrote a shaggy story. It’s as follows:

    The Yaks

    Our family was heading to Great Britain. We flew into London for a couple days before heading to York. Next up was two days in Edinburgh before going to Glasgow where we’d visit Rob’s cousin, Forrest.
    My younger son wanted to see yaks, showing me a postcard of Highland cows.

    Forrest wanted to take us to Loch Lomond, but I asked to see yaks, too. Forrest drove to a field of shaggy-haired cows standing by a fence. One lifted his tail and let loose with a thick stream of urine. He was happy seeing them up close and personal.

    Nancy Brady, 2023

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