“The Clown Nose” by Stephanie Laterza
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, Stephanie Laterza’s work woes are given temporary relief.
“The kids are full of sugar,” Martin’s teacher announces at pickup time. “They had cupcakes for Kyle’s birthday.”
I suppose this explains why my son and his toddler cohorts are roadrunning around the classroom and catapulting off the low leather couches.
“That’s great,” I say, rubbing my eyes. After eight hours in front of the computer listening to constant layoff buzz, I probably should have had one more cup of coffee before leaving the office. If I’m lucky, Martin’s sugar rush will wear off by nine o’clock.
Martin runs over and jumps into my arms with the usual relief.
“Mommy!” he says.
After I smother his cheeks with kisses, I smile in resignation at the dollops of dried green frosting on his white polo shirt and jeans. I notice a red-and-white striped gift box hanging in Martin’s cubby. Inside the box I find animal crackers, candy dipping sticks, bubbles, and—the most authentic of circus toys—a clown nose. I can’t help appreciating the occasional freebies at day care. It’s like finding doughnuts in the break room after the boss tells you not to expect a raise this year.
On the train ride home, Martin removes the clown nose from the gift box after devouring the animal crackers.
“Mommy, help,” he says, offering me the clown nose with crumb-glazed fingers. I brush off the crumbs, squeeze the spongy red sphere, and clip it to the tip of his nose. He laughs. I snap a few photos with my iPhone, hoping he won’t demand to watch the video of his singing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” song in Spanish for the hundredth time.
Instead, Martin offers me the clown nose.
“Mommy, do it!”
I try on the clown nose. I wonder what my boss would do if I wore it to our next meeting with the new guy.
Martin laughs, then yanks back the clown nose.
“It’s mine!” he screams. I don’t know how I could have forgotten.
When we arrive home, I drop my leaden workbag by the door and rub the back of my neck. If I get canned, at least we won’t have to commute anymore, I tell myself.
Martin tries to bite the clown nose. I snatch it out of his hands as he opens his mouth.
“It’s not candy.”
“I want this!”
“Okay, but don’t eat it.”
I give back the clown nose. Martin focuses on the slit halfway down its middle.
“Don’t break it,” he says, trying to resist.
“No, don’t break it,” I say.
His hands mock both of our good intentions and rip the spongy ball in half.
“I broke the clown nose,” Martin declares while holding a red hemisphere in each fist.
“That’s not nice, Marty,” I say. “Why did you break the clown nose?”
He bends his wheat-blond head to his left shoulder and grins. We both know the answer is that it was there and that he could.
I sigh, longing to change the subject. I remember the potty training.
The negotiation begins.
“Marty, it’s time for pee pee potty.”
“Uh, no thanks,” he says, drawing out the uh the way I do whenever my husband offers me a slice of pickled herring or asks whether I’d like to go jogging on a Sunday morning.
“Go to the potty, then wash your hands. We just came from the subway.”
“I take the clown nose to the bathroom,” he offers.
I sigh and nod, imagining there’s not much Martin can do with a broken clown nose.
Martin sits down on his plastic white chamber pot and completes his task. I applaud.
“High five,” I say.
Martin gives me a high five with his left hand. This means, of course, that he’s had to transfer both slices of the clown nose to his spry right hand, which is unaccountable to either his left hand or to me. In my distraction, the unimaginable has happened.
“I put the clown nose in the potty,” he says with neither malice nor remorse.
His bright blue eyes fixate on my face. My eyes dance in their sockets with unbroken laughter. I tell him that what he’s done is not nice, very naughty, and very icky.
We break into wicked laughter.
I have no doubt: my son is the Aristophanes to my workday.
STEPHANIE LATERZA is a writer and mother who lives in New York. Her poetry is featured in the current and archived issues of the San Francisco Peace and Hope literary journal, has appeared in Meniscus Magazine, and is forthcoming in Literary Mama. She dedicates this piece to her supernaturally supportive husband and adorable, precocious, and mischievous son. You can follow Stephanie on Twitter @Stefani1218.
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: Sep 30, 2014
Featured: Music/Popular Culture/Art
- Drawing Autism
- The Half That’s Never Been Told: The Real-Life Reggae Adventures of Doctor Dread
- Censorship Now!! (LIMITED SIGNED HARDCOVER EDITION)
- 100 Posters/134 Squirrels
- Of Grunge and Government: Let’s Fix this Broken Democracy!
- This Is the Noise That Keeps Me Awake
- Will Work for Drugs
- The Jesus Lizard Book
- Go the Fuck to Sleep
- Primus, Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight into Primus and the World of Les Claypool
- What Else Is in the Teaches of Peaches – STANDARD EDITION