“Thanksgiving Mom” by Colin Cohen
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 young woman experiences some Thanksgiving magic.
It suddenly occurred to Rudi that not only was she alone in a strange and empty city, but it was Thanksgiving.
Then, she heard a sound—the sound of crying—and rushed toward it. She rushed until she found a weeping girl of
four sitting on a sidewalk, with filthy brown hair and clothes just as filthy.
Rudi sat beside her—and asked what was wrong. But the only response was tears.
“Where your parents?” Rudi continued.
“My mom,” the girl mumbled, “she’s supposed to be here!”
This caused Rudi to remember her own childhood, or lack of one. At the same time, the girl looked at Rudi—in
Rudi smirked, and said, “Guess you’ve never seen someone like me. What’s your name?”
“I have a good friend named Vicki.”
Vicki shrugged, before muttering, “Happy Thanksgiving.”
“You, too. You live around here?”
Vicki shook her head, so Rudi glanced around and said, “We better get you cleaned up.”
She then stood the girl up and the two wandered until they came upon a motel. There was no one around, so they
went to the nearest room and found its door unlocked.
“I’ll start a bath,” Rudi told Vicki after dropping her backpack onto the bed.
“I don’t need a bath,” barked Vicki.
“You need one.”
While scrubbing Vicki, Rudi felt an odd sensation.
She always thought such chores would be joyless, but instead it made her feel warm and alive, and she didn’t want
this to end.
“I’m all wrinkly,” Vicki growled, while showing Rudi her fingers.
“All right,” Rudi murmured, before drying the girl off with a towel, which she also wrapped around her. Rudi
afterward picked up the clothes and said, “I’m gonna find a washing machine.”
When Rudi returned, she saw Vicki putting on makeup taken from the backpack. Much like Rudi, she had on
mascara and dark eyeshadow—along with deep-red lipstick.
“I’m glad I didn’t have any peroxide with me,” Rudi quipped. “Or scissors.”
Vicki just continued with the makeup.
“Your mom’s gonna freak when she sees you.”
The response was terse: “I’m hungry.”
The two found an empty restaurant, and stopped inside its open door.
“Anyone here?” Rudi called out, but when no answer came, she looked at Vicki and shrugged.
Undeterred, Vicki rushed toward the kitchen.
“Where you going?” Rudi yelled.
“I’m hungry!” Vicki yelled back.
“You can’t just walk into someone’s kitchen!”
“Sure I can!”
Rudi chuckled, and followed Vicki into the kitchen—and she saw her staring into a refrigerator. She stared into it as
well, before saying, “No turkey.”
“I don’t eat meat,” Vicki replied.
“Me, neither,” Rudi mumbled.
“We can make an omelet.”
Vicki then grabbed handfuls of eggs, and, after Rudi got some cheese and onions, the two headed to a grill.
“We can bake a cake, too,” Vicki insisted.
“I don’t know how to bake a cake,” Rudi insisted back.
“There’s a cookbook,” Vicki retorted, while pointing nearby.
“You can read?” Rudi gasped.
“My mom taught me. Said she wanted to give me a leg up, and a couple of arms, too.”
“Your mom sounds wonderful.”
“She’s the best in the whole world!”
“I’m bored,” Vicki uttered, as the two struggled with the cake.
“Me, too,” Rudi uttered back.
“Let’s sing something.”
“All right,” Rudi agreed, despite never liking children’s songs even when she was a child. “What do you wanna
“How about ‘Gabba Gabba Hey’?”
“You know the Ramones?” Rudi gasped.
“They’re my favorite,” Vicki declared, before belting out the song as she wildly danced.
Rudi joined in, and, when the song reached its climax, Vicki splashed flour into Rudi’s face—and a food fight
ensued, with laughter overwhelming everything.
After dinner, the two cleaned up, and Rudi left some money. Then, they exited the restaurant and Vicki began
“You wanna go back to the motel?” Rudi asked.
“Nah,” Vicki answered, before sitting on a sidewalk.
Rudi joined her, and noticed they were sitting in the same spot where they met.
“We really need to find your mother,” Rudi muttered.
“We don’t have to,” Vicki said, with another yawn. “You’re my mother. Or will be.”
Shocked, Rudi spun toward Vicki. But she was gone, and Rudi thought it had all been a dream. Until she saw the remnants of food on her shirt and felt the thankfulness—not for what she had, but for what she’d become.
Colin Cohen is the author of the short story “The Last Days of Kafka,” which was published by Lettre International, and the writer of way too many unpublished novels.
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: Nov 22, 2016
Category: Terrible Twosdays | Tags: Go the Fuck to Sleep, magical realism, Terrible Twosdays, flash fiction, fiction, age four, short fiction, GTFTS, Survey Says? Your Parenting Stinks, 4, thanksgiving