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News & Features » May 2019 » “Patched Up” by Beth Anderson

“Patched Up” by Beth Anderson

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, Beth Anderson is using a business card to clean up a boo-boo.

Patched Up
by Beth Anderson
Four-year-old

Two minutes. Are two minutes too much to ask? Two minutes to talk with a grownup without having to worry about you? But no. I take my eyes off you for two lousy minutes and next thing I know you’re huddled under the slide, sobbing like somebody stole your cupcake. 

“Mommy’s here, sweetheart. What happened?”

God, I hope no one else has noticed how I’ve neglected you. Wait—seriously? You knocked that scab off your knee again? How will it ever heal if you keep falling down and scraping it raw every time you step on the playground?

Ugh, I need something to stop the bleeding. Your dress? My shirt? Is there anything in this stupid purse that will work? 

“Here, sweetie, put this over your knee. No, I don’t have a Kleenex. This? It’s a business card. I give it to people when I meet them for the first time.” 

Not that I’ll be giving anyone this particular card. Who knew that the 220# cotton stock I ordered to look classy would be extra-absorbent?

Did you have to fall down this morning? Granny’s had to delay her visit out here twice because Grandpa’s heart won’t stop racing like a Preakness winner, your father left this morning for another work trip and I haven’t been able to sleep for the last two weeks without taking a Xanax-Ambien combination that is probably destroying my short-term memory. Did I mention I wasn’t planning on going back to the house after dropping you off? My hair is fixed, I’m wearing makeup, and I actually ironed this shirt you’re doing your best to decorate in blood, dirt and tears. 

“We’re going to walk to the car now, okay? No, don’t cry. The bleeding’s almost stopped. It’s going to be fine, just hold my hand. Yes, you can watch ‘Paw Patrol’ in the car.”

Never miss an opportunity to request screen time, do you? Now how am I going to get a band-aid on that knee, something neither your preschool teachers nor I seem capable of. I can’t believe I used to manage a dozen advertising campaigns at a time for Fortune 10 telecom, but I can’t get a strip of latex on a four-year-old. When will your little brain be able understand logic and comprehend that band-aids don’t hurt, anyway? Kindergarten? Could you try to be advanced for your age?

“We’re home!”

What is that smell? Rotten chicken?

“Have a seat here on the bed. Do you want a Paw Patrol band-aid or a Dora band-aid?”

Judging from your reaction, I’m going with none of the above. Could you be any more of a drama queen? Seriously, between this, the nail cutting, and the hair brushing, you’d think I was Hannibal Lecter.

“Without a band-aid, your knee won’t heal. Do you really want a scab on there forever?”

Oh boy, now you look really traumatized. Why did I say that? This going to be one of those moments that imprints itself in your memory and keeps you from getting into a good college.

“Please, sweetheart. I promise—I swear—it won’t hurt.”

I can’t give up now, you’ll think you can just scream anytime you don’t want to do something. Which is basically true. Look at how you’ve trained your sister—you open your mouth and she surrenders like the French during World War II. I can’t really blame her. She’s just trying to protect her ears.

“If you put it on, I’ll give you a treat! Candy in the morning!”

No? You know, in another situation, I might admire your fortitude, but this is absurd. You’re late for school. I’m late for work. I had to come back to this stupid, smelly house, and I’ve irredeemably traumatized you forever, all over one half-inch, knocked-off scab.

“I’m putting the band-aids away . . . let’s just get you dressed so you can get to school in time to play in the garden. What do you want to wear?”

Something that will take another ten minutes to pick out, I bet.

“Leggings? You want leggings to protect your knee?”

That’s . . . actually a pretty good idea.

“With this dress? I love it.”

I really do love the way you look in that dress. God, I’m going to be sad when you grow out of your baby fat. Who’s going to snuggle with me once you grow up?

“Can I have a hug before we leave?”

Sometimes I wish I could hold onto you forever. 

Is there anything more perfect than this?

***

BETH ANDERSON is the rare Washington, DC resident who is a neither a lawyer, a politician nor a federal employee (not that there’s anything wrong with those people). She writes fiction and essays and is a night person. She doesn’t think of herself as particularly outdoorsy though she once spent nine months living aboard a sailboat. Sometimes she plays Just Dance when her daughters aren’t home and she actually kind of likes singing along to the soundtrack from Frozen. Find her on Twitter @bandersonmedia.

***

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: May 7, 2019

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



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