December 5: 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.

December 5, 2023

From the shore came a loud, panicked cry — “MOOOOOOOSE!” My husband and I paddled madly, fishing poles tossed into the space between us. Our son’s eyes widened, and he clung to each side of our 15-foot Coleman canoe. We had left his sisters, ages 13 and 11, back at camp in the wilderness of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters.

I can still remember distinctly the lingering quiet that followed the cry. We focused on speed, the paddles cutting into the cold water as we maneuvered around rocky outcroppings. I scanned the shoreline, relieved to see two familiar blond girls at the water’s edge.

They told us they had been fighting; a sisterly dispute none of us remember. Brianna took off through the forest on her own, fuming about their disagreement. In the shadow of tall pines, birch, spruce, and balsam, she ran into a rock. A hairy rock. As she touched the curiosity, it moved and rose to a towering height. That’s when she hollered, realizing the rock was a moose she had roused from slumber. They parted ways, one running back to camp and her sister.

In the northern regions of the US, moose are popular, though sightings are not common. As Brianna learned, they can hide in plain sight. Every summer we camped with the kids, we looked for moose. When Todd and I moved to North Idaho, we encountered more moose. The biggest one we ever saw was at night on Tallache Road. We pulled up to the stop sign where we turned down a gravel drive and saw a shape outside of the beam of headlights, Todd turned the car and its lights on the object and we found ourselves facing a bull. His antlers were wider than our car and we backed up and wisely went on our way.

Around 4 am one summer morning, we woke to the blast of a logging truck’s horn. Todd shouted, “The moose!” He was right. A logger warned a moose to get off the highway and it ran threw the fence, ripping out 20 feet of wire that contained horses. The horses communicated, “Thanks, and see ya,” with snorts and tosses of heads. They all disappeared in a clatter of hooves. We eventually found the horses and we presumed the moose was okay. Often, a mama moose and her twins would feed along Elmira Pond as if part of the horse herd. Moose were our constant companions when we fished the Pack River. Our dog even got bit or kicked by one and bore a U-shaped scar from the encounter that left him shaking whenever a moose was near.

It’s rare to see a moose at Carrot Ranch Headquarters on the Keweenaw Peninsula. It’s rare to see a moose on our Lake Superior island at all. Sometimes, we get excited when a young bull swims across the channel, but they eventually swim back to the mainland. We look for moose every time we drive to the VA in Iron Mountain or to the bigger town of Marquette. They are a sight to behold, worthy of a sustained cry of surprise.

I do not shout when I spy a moose lying in my living room, mostly because I understand I’m dreaming. However, the Dream is not about Moose. Or is it? I’m observing a Shakespearean-era battle of wits between two men. One has revealed a secret to the other who promises to reveal his secret upon his deathbed. Something dramatic is afoot with these two dream figures, yet something else catchest my attention.

A moose!

Instantly the Dream shifts and Moose is at my feet, so large that her legs are unable to tuck under her in the narrow space. She’s lying down, I’m standing, and we are eye-to-eye. Her great big brown eyes stare into mine and every cell in my body frizzes with life. In the presence of Moose, I’m fully alive. Instantly, I’m searching for a hackamore (buckaroo gear). Within our exchanged gaze where words are unnecessary, I know she’ll let me ride her and I’m ready to go!

But back to the Dream. The one man who has revealed his secret has done so with deceit. He has an Elizabethan dagger up his sleeve and from my observer’s point of view, I know he intends to stab the other man, thus placing him on his deathbed to trick him out of his secret. The deception is as old as human interaction and I feel the injustice of it. Yet, I’m not the only one watching Moose is watching.

So, I share this Dream figure with you. Where will Moose take you?

December 5, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a moose. It can be an attribute of moose — big, protective, wild, gentle. Your story can express realism or fantasy. It can be a sci-fi or cli-fi moose. Is the moose loose or hidden? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by December 11, 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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29 Comments

  1. Melissa Lemay

    Ooh I’m going to have fun with this one.????

    • Charli Mills

      Moooose! Have fun, Melissa!

      • Liz H-H

        ????????????????

  2. Liz H-H

    Perhaps there will be micro-flashes about Moose and Skvirrel, eh Natasha?

    • Charli Mills

      But, of course, Boris!

      • Liz H-H

        ????????????

    • Kerry E.B. Black

      That’s where my mind went! Mooooose!

      • Jules

        Bullwinkle wasn’t my first thought… but I remember ‘im and that flyin’ Squirrel.
        And well of course them spy folk. 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Those voices are hard to unhear no matter how long ago I heard “Moose and Squirrel” in that accent!

      • Charli Mills

        I’m now speaking to the dog in an exaggerated 1960s Russian spy accent and her ears are twitching!

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Moose on the Loose?

    “Kid, sometimes I jist gotta wunner bout thet Shorty. A hackamore fer a moose! Jeez.”
    “Ya cain’t expect she’d use a bit on a moose.”
    “Don’t ‘spect her ta be ridin a dang moose!”
    “Should a figgered goat ropin’d lead to higher stuff, Pal.”
    “I ain’t likin the idea a moose on the ranch. Big, goofy-lookin critters.”
    “All’re welcome here Pal. Pal, how come more’n one goose is geese but more’n one moose is moose. Not even mooses.”
    “Sure hope they’s jist one.”
    “I hope it meets up with a unicorn. If ya know what I mean.”
    “Oh, no.”

    • Shorty

      Moose has met the Unicorn herd and they are all pink, peace and love. That’s not the so set on the western horizon, that’s the Moose/Unicorn campfire. Stories keep ‘em lively! Moose is wondering if she should get one of those unicorn horn hats from Stormy Kroger..

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Wow, Shorty! Jeez, you look an awful lot like Charli Mills.
        I’ll be on the lookout for a one-antlered moosicorn. That’ll be some beeeeeg skittles!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! They’ll be big and boldly colored!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Pal’s Moosins

      “Moose mixin with uni-corns… Ridin a moose… No, Kid, I don’t like this, not one bit.”
      “Relax, Pal, there ain’t no bit, ‘member? It’s a hackamore. Anyways, that moose’s Shorty’s ride. You kin still ride yer fav’rite hoss. What’s the big deal, anyway? Asides uni-corns, an now moose, we’ve written ‘bout cats, chickens, rabbits, flyin pigs, mice, an more.”
      “It’s disrespectful— a moose is a wild creature, best left alone.”
      “Hmm. Thinkin it’s you wants ta be left alone, Pal. But don’tcha see? The ranch is where ‘maginations run wild an free. Even if that means tamin a moose.”
      XXX
      “So, Kid, yer sayin it’s okay fer Shorty ta be ridin a wild moose?”
      “Thinkin it’s a wild ride, an it’s all hers. But she’s invited us ta ride along an ‘magine moose in any way we want.”
      “Jist sayin, what about what the moose wants? Sayin mebbe it ain’t okay ta tame a moose.”
      “An I’m sayin, mebbe it’s the moose’ll do the tamin. Sayin, Pal, jist go where the moose leads.”
      “Thing is Kid, this dang moose a Shorty’s gonna lead the ranchers in all directions. All kinds a wild stories.”
      “An gen’le stories.”
      “S’pose.”
      “S’all good.”

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Seein’s B’lievin, Or So I Hear

        “Well, Kid, I’m gonna ride out, try an see this moose fer m’self. Might be gone fer a spell.”
        “Mebbe not so long, Pal. Look’t there.”
        “Oh shift. Frankie! Stop horsin around with thet critter!”
        “What’re ya talkin bout, Pal? Jist tryin ta corral Burt, but he’s actin strange. Burt, come here!”
        “Best git yer eye checked, Frankie. Thet ain’t Burt. It’s a moose.”
        “Well maybe I’ll saddle it up, replace ol’ Burt with a mail moose. It’d be good in deep snow.”
        “Thet ain’t no male moose. An, it’s Shorty’s dream ride.”
        “Ya goat ta be kiddin.”
        “Write?”
        XXX
        “Let’s set an watch the moose from the veranda, Pal. Now it’s feeding at the beaver pond. That a calf with it?”
        “Thet’s Curly. Jeez, Frankie, ya really should git yer eye checked. Ya might need— would it still be glasses, or jist glass? How kin ya be sure yer gittin folks’ mail where it’s s’posed ta go?”
        “Eh, close ‘nough.”
        “Really? ‘Cause I got a whole bunch a cards congratulatin me on my new bambeano.”
        “Hey! Congrats, Pal!”
        “I ain’t got no bambeano! Them cards is fer the LeGumes.”
        “I see. I’ll deliver them soon’s Burt shows up.”
        XXX
        “Frankie, thought Burt always come when ya called him.”
        “He does, Kid. Or did, ‘til his hearin got worse.”
        “Ha, I know someone like that.”
        “What’d ya say, Kid?”
        “Nuthin Pal!
        “Hmm. Mebbe ropin this moose an gittin it ta hep ya with yer mail route ain’t a bad idea, Frankie. I bet Shorty wouldn’t mind.”
        “What’d Shorty find?”
        “A moose, Pal! A mailmoose!”
        “Bullshift, Kid. Cain’t train a moose like a hoss.”
        “Not with that attitude, Pal. ‘Member, all we have ta do is ‘magine it. Course, I s’pose we could jist ‘magine Burt with better hearin.”
        “Whut?”

      • Charli Mills

        Frankie needs a monocle! And maybe Moose is interested in mingling, and being of service…a hearing ear moose for horses and an extra set of eyes for Frankie’s eye.

      • Charli Mills

        It’s okay. Moose showed up already tame. Or evolved.

  4. Jules

    Charli,

    I didn’t know what a hackamore was… So I learned me somethin’ new.

    I went with a mini mash to come up with mix of game play;

    Children’s Game

    In the meadow clearing surrounded by mountains, the children played; Deer, Deer, Moose. There was a slight twist if the child didn’t get back safely round to the open spot, they had to be kissed by the one who tagged them. Girls gave air kisses, guys were allowed to give high-fives. But when there were opposites… a moonblushed cheek was offered.

    Grammy had closed her eyes, well mostly – She saw Gramps’ own embarrassed ‘moonblushed’ face as he kissed her cheek ever so gently. That my children, is how the two sides of the mountain became one happy family.

    © JP/dh

    • Charli Mills

      What a beautiful moonblushed story, Jules!

      • Jules

        It was fun to write. 🙂

    • Liz H-H

      Ah! Moonblushed cheek, and Hatfields & McCoys. Very sweet & I love it!

    • Colleen M. Chesebro

      I love the moon blushed cheek! What a great story, Jules!

  5. Liz H-H

    Glad to see so much enthusiasm for Rocky, and Bullwinkle Moose! I’m going with something I wrote earlier (2017) for CR, that emphasized the use of sound to see a scene. It has a moose, and a mermaid, and I kinda like it, years later!
    Using my pen-name, Tessa Kjeldsdottir, to bring it back…

    https://valleyofthetrolls.blog/2017/08/08/sunrise-flash/

    • Charli Mills

      Isn’t it awesome to recall gems from your own Writer’s Treasure Chest, Liz? That flash has a lasting, yet ephemeral quality to it in the moment shared between Moose and Not Squirrel. Thanks, T.K.!

      • Liz H-H

        You are so kind! And to think CR prompting got me to ocus on that place!

  6. Colleen M. Chesebro

    Oh, this was so fun! ???? Good memories!

  7. padresramblings

    My mind did go straight to the Moose and Squirrel as well.

  8. pedometergeek

    I have to say mine didn’t immediately head to Moose ‘n Squirrel, but to something a little different. Per usual, I got it in at the last moment, and I hope it turned out okay. Are we now supposed to post it in the comments again (I’ve been such a slacker lately; I don’t know all the rules any more). ~Nan

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