March 5: Story Challenge in 99-words

Written by Charli Mills

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

March 5, 2024

Well, this is awkward. Carrot Ranch is moving.

Don’t panic! Wait, that’s what I need to hear. Okay, I’m not panicking. You’re not panicking. The moving van is here and I don’t know where we are going.

Headquarters remain at Roberts Street in Hancock, MI where the Anishinaabe have made their ancestral and modern homes among a plethora of wildlife, Northwoods, surrounded by the deep waters of Lake Superior. Here, water is life and imagination is real.

The move is virtual. If all goes well with the movers, remains the key to the weekly challenge, followed by its collection of 99-word stories. What is awkward is the process.

The website has been glitchy on WP ever since the theme used to build the Ranch became obsolete. It’s true, Carrot Ranch is aging. We’ve been wrangling words here in 99-word constraints for ten years. Yep. A decade. Some of you get comments or stories lost in the backhopper. Others find the form a finicky eater of links. It’s time to repaint the place, refocus the mission, and make room for dreams and veterans.

What does that mean to the Weekly Challenges? Hopefully, not much other than I can’t migrate a website AND collect submissions in the backdoor. I have a new backdoor. But I can’t use it until I move the website. But I can’t move the website without alerting you, nor can I collect your submissions from a backdoor that closes mid-challenge.

For this week only, you will submit via email. Not ideal, but it is what it is. Everything *should* go on without a hitch in our giddyup.

A new structure is waiting. One I’ve built with fancy tools smarter than I am, but rest assured, I’ve employed not AI. At least, not knowingly. I don’t fully understand the magic of switching hosting platforms, but the experts at Site Ground will be making the move and the pages will be in disarray. Over the next weeks, pages will go down, reappear, and welcome new pages. Some things will be archived, like past Rodeos and past collections. Anything published at Carrot Ranch will stay visible, but the links may change.

Be patient as the awkward move gives way to messiness because there is a vision for what is next at Carrot Ranch — we are a literary community, making literary art accessible through writing, constraints, and collaboration. We are writers, poets, memoirists, and dreamers. And every week, Carrot Ranch holds a container for our community at play. Challenges will continue to post on Tuesdays and the ensuing Collections on the following Thursdays.

It’ll be unwieldy at first. The Ranch might “disappear” from your internet view. Carrot Ranch will no longer be in the WP Reader. There are plans for challenge and collection notifications. Pages will transform. New content will appear. But for now, welcome to the awkwardness of transition. After ten years, we are ready to cacoon and re-emerge.

There’s the movers!

March 5, 2024, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write an awkward story. You can expand and demonstrate awkwardness in the action, dialog, verse, setting, or characters. You can explore the theme of what makes something awkward. Or submit a BOTS (based on a true story). Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by March 11, 2024. ***THIS WEEK ONLY*** Submit by email to wordsforpeople (at) gmail (dot) com. Use your Higher Intelligence to decode the email address. 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 use this guidance for how to submit your story:
    • In the E-mail Subject line, write in All Caps: MARCH 5 CHALLENGE
    • In the body of the text, include your story title, byline (the name you publish under to maintain your copyright), 99-word story (please include formatting, including line spacing between paragraphs and dialog), and a link if you want to include your website or blog post. I will acknowledge the receipt of your story by March 12.

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  1. Melissa Lemay

    Congratulations on 10 years!????????

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Melissa!

  2. restlessjo

    Good luck! I probably need to jettison mine and start afresh, but it’s more of a diary so I’ll battle on. See you on the other side.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, to jettison and start anew or to refresh and grow. See you on the other side, Jo!

      • restlessjo


  3. Anne Goodwin

    Moves are awkward, both physical and virtual. I’ve actually ended up with two websites (urgh). Fingers crossed for this.

  4. Hugh W. Roberts

    Good luck with the move, Charli. It’s great to see ‘The Carrot Ranch’ on the move to new heights. Change is good for everyone, otherwise we become stale. Keep moving forward, not standing still. I’m looking forward to seeing the new site.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Hugh! Onward and upward and hopefully an end in sight for the WP glitches.

  5. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Dressin Fer Success

    “Heard Shorty’s news, Kid?”
    “Yep. Shouldn’t ya be roundin up the herd, Pal?”
    “Jist makin sure you ain’t doin anythin untowards.”
    “No worries. Reckon Shorty’s got us headed onwards an upwards.”
    “Unexpected. What’re ya doin, packin yer wardrobe? Shouldn’t take too long. We only ever wear the same thing.”
    “I noticed that whilst packin, so I’m makin a ward robe. Ya kin wear it backwards or forwards, inward or outward. It’s seamless.”
    “So it would seem. Shapeless too. Kinda like this flash. Kid, ya’ve used half the prompt ward, sorry, word, sev’ral times, but not the prompt.”
    “Hmm. Awkward.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Ok, Pal, I got my seamless ward robe on. I’m ready ta hep with the move. Reckon the other residint characters know ‘bout it?”
      “The answer ta thet’s blowin in the wind, Kid. If’n I ain’t mistakin, the LeGumes are headed our way.”
      “Ello, mes amis! Dees ees quite a beeg movement, no? We weel have a new house!”
      “Hopin the new bunkhouse is jist like this old’un.”
      “Doc Ranger says change ees awkward, Pal. But in dees case eet ees necessary. We must transplant ourselves.”
      “Transplant? The Poet Tree!”
      “Kin ya dig it?”
      “Have ta. Roots an all.”

      “Here’s Frankie an Burt, the one woman, one hoss Carrot Ranch pony express.”
      “If by ‘express’ ya mean ‘ta convey or communicate’, thet works, but if’n ya mean speed, well ya might consider a dif’rent word. But yep, here they are. Hey, Frankie.”
      “Hey. I got wind from the Legumes ‘bout this big move. Reckon I’ll ride around ta the others an spread the word. Wouldn’t wanna leave anyone behind.”
      “Okay. Frankie’s gittin the word out. Kid’s tendin the Poet Tree. I’ll roun up all the cattle an hosses.”
      “An the unicorns. Ya gotta roun up the unicorns.”
      “Thet was a little awkward. Cain’t believe I fergot the uni-corns.”
      “Ya know, Pal, I reckon the magical critters a the ranch’ll find their way ta the new spread. Anyways I got bread in the oven.”
      “Yer bakin bread now? What fer?”
      “Breadcrumbs! We fergit anyone, they kin trail us.”
      “Hmmff. Oh, here’s Ernie. Hey Ernie.”
      “Howdy ever’one. I’m all packed. Figgered I’d come by an help gather the carrots an carrot seed ta bring along. Whut happens ta a virtual ranch gits left?”
      “Mebbe the old ranch’ll be like a ghost town, dust an tumbleweed whisperin old stories.”

      *An awkward silence fell over the gathered group a fictional characters as we contemplated our beloved ranch, deserted. It was Logatha LeGume, who could be be a loose cannon, who fin’ly spoke. Even though we was outside the bunkhouse.*
      “Mon Dieu, Keed! Ees that a sheet you are wearing?”
      “Sheet? No! It’s a ward robe, kin go ever’ which way. It’s purty comfy too.”
      “Could you make eet queelted? A leetle one for the leetle squirt.”
      “Might be fine fer the Legumes’ bambeano, but jeez, Kid. Eye fer one cain’t tell if yer comin or goin in thet outfit.”

      *There was anuther awkward moment. It did look like Kid was wearin a sail. An there was lots ta do with us all jist flappin in the breeze. But we’d all turned inward at the thought a the ‘riginal Carrot Ranch bein a ghost ranch. Then Kid spoke.*
      “Reckon Carrot Ranch is like sourdough. It’s bread that’s sustained us. We ain’t gotta bring bread, jist gotta bring along our livin, breathin starter. It’ll grow an make more bread wherever we are, bubblin with the spirit a old stories and the knead ta create new stories. We won’t go hungry.”

      *Kid weren’t done yet! *
      “I was at the Poet Tree, thinkin I had ta work at the biggest, most important shovelin job a my life. Thinkin I had to git all the roots up ta transplant thet beautiful ol’ tree. Then I noticed a sucker.”
      “Hey, Kid! Who you callin sucker?”
      “Not you, not anyone. I saw how the Poet Tree not only has deep spreadin roots unnergroun, it also sends shoots ta make new trees— clones.”
      “Who you callin clown?”
      “Clone. The Poet Tree’ll git itself ta the new spread.”

      branchin out
      immeasurable reach
      storied roots


      • Charli Mills

        Yep — “headed onwards an upwards.” D. Avery, have I told you lately how lucky I am? Thanks for playing with the Ranch characters. Especially Frankie and Burt, the Carrot Ranch one hoss pony express. You’re a good ranch tender! And the finest of all the Vermont yarnists.

    • Michael B. Fishman

      Thank you. My fault for listening 10 minutes before rolling off to bed…

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! This is definitely the earworm traveling with the migrating ranch!

  6. Sarah Brentyn

    Whoa… Ten years? I wonder how long I’ve been blogging. And how long I’ve been flashing here?!! Good luck with the move and I’m sure the makeover will be gorgeous. You’ve always had a good eye and I’m sure the repainting/sprucing up will be lovely! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Right?! 10 years! Carrot Ranch has been flashing since March 5, 2014. You arrived shortly in April or May of that year, I believe. White Flowers? I think that was your firs CR flash and I still get tingles. Your writing has an impact of longevity. Thanks, Sarah!

      • Sarah Brentyn

        A quick look at my sidebar says I’ve been blogging at Lemon Shark since 2014 which is just… How?! And I moved there from BlogSpot or whatever it was called so. I’m feeling old. So, yes, I’ve been at Carrot Ranch for ten years, too. Since it was a baby. Wow, how she’s grown. 🙂 Thanks for this lovely ranch, Charli!

  7. pedometergeek

    Wow, that’s awkward, Charli, but it will work out. Ten years? I wonder if my WordPress site will need to be revamped. I’ve been here since July 2014 (after Red Room closed abruptly, and my Red Room friends and I scrambled to save our content on hard copy). However, those blogs convinced me that I WAS a writer since I had written the equivalent of a book or two (256,000+ words in posts during the time I was at Red Room).

    Good luck, Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      With changes or disruptions to themes, WP is forcing clients to change. Three years ago I purchased Divi Builder which is their professional theme and aligned with the block editor they rolled out. Everything else is now “classic,” meaning unaligned and unsupported. You are Carrot Ranch classic, Nan and that holds meaning and value! Absolutely, you are a writer! Wow — awesome achievement you made at Red Room. Thanks!

  8. Jules

    Life is a challenge and change is constant;
    here’s; Return of the Insects (and an awkward memory)

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! That’s life in an nutshell, but an oak also grows from an acorn. Great awkward insect memory, Jules.

  9. Nicole Horlings

    Sounds like some complicated stuff on your end, Charli. I hope it all goes smoothly, and there’s no expected hitches. We’ll patiently deal with any awkward rockiness on our end. I’m looking forward to seeing how things are once the move in complete!

    • Charli Mills

      Each step is fraught with “WP does not play well with others.” Which is really stupid because Carrot Ranch still remains, technically, a WP site, but it will be a Divi Builder construction and hosted at one of the recommended platforms (Site Ground). I’m trying to understand it, and best that I can is like I’m working for a huge corporation but making a lateral move to a different department. You’d think the company would make that move smooth for all involved. But no… Thanks, Nicole!

    • Charli Mills

      That’s fabulous!

  10. Colleen Chesebro

    Yay for Carrot Ranch! I’ll be at 10 years in April! I’m so excited about this move. Wishing you a grand re-entry into a new blog home.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m thinking we all might need a 10-year party this summer! Thanks, Colleen!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Oh that would be would be great fun!!

  11. Michael B. Fishman

    “welcome to the awkwardness of transition”
    I’ve been consciously avoiding that type of thing for as long as I can remember. And I’m old! I’ll do my best to try and welcome it now though because The Ranch abides!

    “What does that mean to the Weekly Challenges?”
    Honestly? I didn’t understand anything in the four sentences that followed that one. But this all sounds good and exciting and I’m looking forward to the final product. Congratulations on ten years, that’s a lot of notches on your belt and quite an accomplishment. Here’s to ten, and then some, more!

    • Charli Mills

      Michael, I have no idea what those sentences mean either, lol. I’m bereft of articulation for what it takes to move a website with public facing pages and a dashboard to run it all. It’s even more complicated than I thought, even with hired movers. Thanks! I got a wide belt, so plenty of room for more notches!

  12. Norah

    Good luck with the move. I moved readilearn to SiteGround without a hitch. They were fabulous – so helpful in making it happen. Since then, a developer has moved readilearn away from SG onto a more affordable platform. Things work. Or don’t. I hope it all works well for you and the Ranch.

    • Michael B. Fishman

      “Things work. Or don’t.” I think that realization is one of the keys to happiness.

      • Charli Mills

        Radical acceptance, Michael. I’m practicing.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Norah! I love Site Ground, and they’ve been great for other website projects (client). In order to accomplish the next phase, I purchased the WP Business plan a few years back. Very expensive, same as Site Ground. But at Site Ground, I can build as many websites as I want. Their hosting is top-notch secure. Divi Builder is a professional theme I’ve purchased three years ago and I did install it here at WP, but decided SG was more affordable for my goals (which seem to be moving targets, these days). You’ve been Carrot Ranches, “One” here from the very first prompt! I accept that as a beautiful serendipity!

      • Norah

        They are good. Enjoy your new ‘site’. 🙂

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