“Tantrum” by Krystal A. Sital
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, Krystal A. Sital’s daughter is not happy.
She flies to her room with that awkward run that’s typical of children under three. It’s the the quick thump-thump-thump of her feet on the hardwood floors that makes me smile. Colette was a late walker, so that kind of purposeful movement, even if done in anger, amazes me. Bang! She slams the door and it vibrates. I hear her screaming and know she’s flung herself onto the play cushion in her room, her body rigid, flopping from front to back.
When her pediatrician started discussing tantrums with me at her eighteen-month checkup, I waited for one to come. I’d recently witnessed another mother in Barnes & Noble attempting to reason with a breathless three-year-old. Tears were hopping out of his eyes like fleas disturbed in a mattress. Eventually, she just tossed him over her shoulder and hurried from the store. I’d stared. I didn’t mean to; I was just fascinated that he’d gone from cherubic to demonic for no reason. “That’s a tantrum. Just you wait, your turn’s coming,” my mother-friend of two had leaned over and said.
I’m on the couch when I hear Colette start kicking the floor. It’s her head next, I think, so I roll off the couch, holding my six-month-old pregnant belly in my hands as I stand. I peek in. Colette is as expected, her head nearing the edge of the soft cushion.
“Are you okay, my love?” I venture. Her silky strands of hair—not much at all, for she could still be considered bald—stand like lieutenants on her head, and I see why people still think she’s a boy. When she hurls that long Nooooooooo at me, she lifts herself with incredible speed and folds her body in half with such agility that I take a step back to smile again. The maple hue of her eyes flashes with decadence fueled by anger.
I can’t help conjuring up the image of her in that NICU bed—bones protruding through rice-paper skin, tubes tangled like a nest of snakes shooting from her body, the blaring of the monitors. The smile droops from behind my hand. Colette stomps to the door, shuts it in my face, and resumes her wailing. Though it had only been a year and a half since her abrupt entrance into this world, it’s hard to believe those stout legs and that fiery nature of hers were once frail. Her cries were once as wispy as hair strands brushing your arm in passing; if you weren’t paying attention, you’d never know she was there.
I want to pull her little body to me and envelop her with everything I am, but my belly now prevents me from pressing her to me as I once did. I talk to her about her sister growing in me, but she recognizes this shift as something negative. She can’t express herself, but I know she feels as though I’m being taken away from her.
“Colette, come out here right now.”
She emerges. “No! No! I. Don’t. Want. You.”
She’s not even two, I think to myself. To enunciate so well and mean it. We often joke that because she was so delayed in movement, she lied there for months absorbing everything, advancing her language skills in electrifying leaps. Now I’m not so sure it’s a joke. When she came two months early, her chances of survival were higher than others, but it was never assured.
“But I love you, sweetheart.”
“Go away. I want Grandma.”
“Nooooooo. I don’t love you.”
This she says simply and without rage.
She slams the door in my face. It vibrates again. My mother is the one with the energy now to take her places and do fun things with her. I’m tired, willing to give Colette up whenever the opportunity arises, and I think she sees me willing to let her go.
I barge into the room, pull her into my arms, and collapse on the floor. She kicks, shrieks, and arches, but I refuse to let her go. We fight one another till exhaustion takes over. Her wet lashes flutter to a close above her coral cheeks. Sweat sticks us together. I close my eyes and drift away with her.
Born to the twin isles of Trinidad and Tobago, KRYSTAL A. SITAL immigrated to the United States when she was twelve. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Hunter College, where she was a Hertog Fellow and was awarded the Memoir Prize and the Audre Lorde Award. Her work has been published in The Caribbean Writer, Tottenville Review, Vine Leaves, The Review Review, 100 Word Story, Underground Books, and elsewhere. She is the editor for Mothers Always Write, the prose and blog editor for Vine Leaves Literary Journal, as well as an adjunct lecturer at New Jersey City University and Fairleigh Dickenson University.
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 [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Apr 28, 2015
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