Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » August 2019 » “Oh Gifted Children” by Christopher Walker

“Oh Gifted Children” by Christopher Walker

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 group of mothers gather to share the exploits of their talented kids . . .

Oh Gifted Children
by Christopher Walker
One two-year-old, two four-year-olds

“Fortunately we got to her in time, you know, before the blaze could spread,” Jessica said. Her eyes sparkled as if that was where the flames had gone before they were extinguished.

“And you say it was all because little Margitte had observed you straightening your hair with the new ceramic set Jason bought you?”

“Precisely, Emma, precisely,” Jessica said, leaning forward conspiratorially, patting Emma on the knee as she spoke.

“So gifted,” Emma murmured.

“I suppose so,” Teresa chipped in, “but it’s a shame to have wasted such a beautiful doll on a simple lesson like that.”

“Oh no, I don’t see it that way at all. Margitte will remember this incident for the rest of her life, I can assure you. She’s already committed the event to her diary,” Jessica said, though Teresa, sitting opposite her at the table in the café, held her knee out of reach.

“My Francis hasn’t done anything quite as dramatic as setting fire to his toys,” Emma said, much aggrieved, “but he did decorate the walls of the living room with his finger painting.”

“We talked about that last week,” Jessica said. She scowled. “And besides, it doesn’t count. You left the paints in the living room with the lids removed, so you were guiding him with too heavy a hand. I don’t consider that true learning at all.”

“No, no,” Teresa said. She was keeping quiet, hoping to draw attention from the fact that her own child, two-year-old Matthew, had adjusted well to sleeping in his own bed, and did nothing without first asking his mother’s permission. She felt like a failure—she had provided so few “learning opportunities,” to borrow Jessica’s phrase, that Matthew was turning out to be just another regular little boy. He may well have been gifted, but his gifts seemed of a much tamer sort than either Margitte’s or Francis’s.

“Where is Stephanie?” Jessica said suddenly. Indeed, Stephanie’s chair sat vacant. The others had ordered their coffee and cake already, and until Jessica had raised the point they had carefully left Stephanie’s absence unremarked.

Suddenly there was a commotion at the door, and in flew Stephanie.

So sorry I’m late,” she said, clearly not meaning it. Her face was flushed; she was grinning from ear to ear.

Stephanie flung her coat over the back of her chair, eliciting a groan of disapproval from Jessica.

“How’s everything?” Stephanie said, looking at each of the mothers in turn.

“Jessica’s just been telling us about her four-year-old,” Emma volunteered.

“Ah. What has she learnt this time?”

“Not to use a ceramic hair straightener on her dolls,” Emma said.

“A valuable lesson,” Stephanie said, though it was not entirely clear whether she truly thought so.

“And what about yours?” Jessica said just as Teresa was opening her mouth to speak. “Your four-year-old, I mean to say. At preschool, isn’t she?”

“Yes, as well you know,” Stephanie said. Jessica was refusing to send her daughter to any school before she was legally obligated. Home, she often said, was where the learning opportunities were all clustered. “As it happens, I’m late because I was just called to a meeting with the school principal. Not a happy man—not happy at all!”

Teresa and Emma smiled with Stephanie, but said nothing for fear of upsetting Jessica.

“Well, it’s obvious you have something to tell us about little Susanna, so, out with it, don’t keep us waiting all day,” Jessica said, and then she cast her eyes about the café in search of the waiter, as if their missing coffees were of greater importance than Susanna’s learning opportunity.

“It’s marvelous, really it is,” Stephanie said. “I took your advice, Jessica. I must thank you. You said I ought to read to Susanna more widely, and we’ve done just that. We got hold of a copy of Marxism for Preschoolers and Susanna took to it so well that—you’ll never believe it—she’s unionized her classmates!”

The waiter appeared, placing before the mothers their various orders. Stephanie ordered a skinny latte while Jessica took a moment to recompose herself. Jessica looked crestfallen.

Then Stephanie leaned in closer, as if unwilling to share the most delightful nugget with the café at large.

“There’s even talk,” she whispered, “of having Susanna expelled.”

Stephanie leaned back, triumphant. Jessica dropped her spoon on the floor.

***

CHRISTOPHER WALKER is a writer and English teacher based in the south of Poland. He has been published in a number of literary journals and anthologies, and has self-published several novels of his own, available through Amazon.

***

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: Aug 27, 2019

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



Featured: Black Interest