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News & Features » March 2018 » “Central Park General” by B. Kim Taylor

“Central Park General” by B. Kim Taylor

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, a mom passes her kids off to a somewhat militaristic stranger for a little bit of quiet time in the park!

Central Park General
by B. Kim Taylor
Four-year-old and nine-year-old

I was in a Central Park playground one autumn afternoon with two extremely high-energy young sons when a local dad offered to organize a game with them and other kids in the park.

“Sure!” I said, “Thanks!”

I plopped down on a bench and whipped out a book. I was grateful to the mystery dad, who looked a little like Hugh Jackman. Broad shouldered and athletic, Hugh lassoed together four other boys and two girls to create some sort of chase game. As I settled in to read, I glanced over and could see them all hunched in a huddle, going over the rules of the game.

Then Hugh reeled off all of their names, like a five-star general, barking out “Jim! Jasper! Sue! Evan! Krissie! Mike! Addison! Marvin!”

I marveled over his memory. Excited, the kids nodded, waiting for his command. “Troop One, mobilize!” he barked, spittle flying.

Four kids dashed for the slide area.

“Troop Two, mobilize!” More kids ran in the opposite direction.  

He pumped his fist in the air. “Let’s go get those bastards!”

I put my book down, concerned.

Hugh and the kids raced off to catch “Troop One,” and since the kids were giggling and squealing with delight, I returned to my book. Maybe they hadn’t noticed the bastards reference.  

Soon Hugh tackled a boy in front of me, wrestling him down and pinning his arms, screaming, “Say Uncle!”

I put my book down, concerned.

The boy cheerfully said “Uncle!” so Hugh raced off toward another child

I returned to my reading.

Then I heard my eldest son scream “Uncle! Uncle!” and glanced up. Hugh was on top of him in the grass.

I put my book down and stood up.

Hugh leapt up and off my son, and began to chase one of the girls. My son was laughing. Relieved, I sat down and returned to my book.

A few paragraphs later, the game’s action centered on the sandbox in front of me. In a loud voice, Hugh said “We’re going to storm these fuckers as a cohesive unit, then fan apart just before the swing set and blow their friggin’ minds! Does everyone get the mission?”

Smiling, the kids nodded. They were excited. But . . . fuckers? Had he really said that?

I looked at his intensely serious expression as he screamed, “Troop Two, mobilize! Don’t put up with that sneaky-ass shit, Addison! Race after him and let him feel the sharp sting of payback!”

I decided Hugh had to be divorced, which would explain the anger.

 He was scowling as he crept, panther-like, through some tire swings tethered to ropes. Suddenly he seemed more like a meth-crazed nut than a local dad.  

 I then wondered, were any of those kids his own . . . or had he just popped up in the park?

With that possibility in mind, I couldn’t concentrate on my book. So I sat, wide-eyed, and watched for two more hours as the children laughed and Hugh jumped, crouched, tackled, led platoons, and barked orders.

“Don’t hide your bony ass there—everyone can see you!”

 “Are you deaf or just damn insubordinate? I said Go!”

“No one likes a shitty loser, Krissie. Don’t be a cry-Barbie! Run!”

When the time finally came to remove my sons, I said, “Sorry we have to leave.”

Panting, Hugh smiled and wiped his forehead with a muscled arm. “No problem. We still have enough players to keep going.”

“That’s quite an elaborate game you’ve invented. Um . . . are some of these kids yours?”

“Oh, no,” he laughed. “No.” Then he shook his head as though the very thought was patently absurd.

 I felt as though my head had been pricked with something sharp.

“No?” I asked, trying to buy time and a solution, glancing over at the kids I had to leave alone with him.

“No,” he repeated, his hands on his hips in true general style. “I don’t have the patience for these little monkeys. Never did.”

Then it hit me: Where were the parents of these children? Hours had passed. Were they allowed to play alone in Central Park?

“Hey, where are all of your parents?” 

One boy piped up with, “They left us with my Uncle Chuck. It’s my birthday! He’s taking us to a movie later.”

Hugh (Uncle Chuck) nodded, pleased with his role.

“Well, thanks for entertaining my boys!”

“No problem,” Hugh said. “I hope you had some quiet time to yourself.”

“I sure did.”

***

B. KIM TAYLOR is an award-winning screenwriter and author of the forthcoming book, Wheel of Misfortune: My Favorite Shorts, which includes this short story. She lives in New York City and raised two children in Greenwich Village. She has been published in the New York Times, the Yale Press Encyclopedia of New York City, Bustle, Time Out New York, and other media, taught creative copywriting at Mediabistro, and delivered corporate seminars on how to create engaging content across all platforms. She sees a definite correlation between strong-willed, stubborn toddlers and future leaders, so hang in there – it will pay off.

***

Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Mar 13, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



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