“The Importance of Being Naked” by Samuel Murphy
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, Samuel Murphy deals with a very public problem.
As a father, I don’t believe I have yet had my finest hour—and as a father of four little girls, I doubt I ever will. It’s not that I haven’t gently wiped away a tear or two, or bandaged a skinned knee, or made my share of macaroni and cheese and peanut butter sandwiches. I have. But it’s out in public where I mostly fall down.
One fine Sunday afternoon, the whole family attended an event at our church. Our little Devin (daughter number two), being just four years old at the time, occupied my lap as we sat in the front row of the church’s gymnasium. I, wearing my best suit, and she, all dressed all up in her frilly pink dress, settled in and waited for the show to begin.
“Welcome, welcome, welcome,” said our pastor as he strode onto the makeshift stage. “Today we have a very special treat. For the next hour or so, you will all be entertained by an extraordinary acrobatic program arranged just for you. And the best part is, this troupe has come all the way from China.”
Hearing this, Daughter Number Two jumped off my lap, turned around to face me, hiked up that pretty pink dress all the way to her waist, and shouted, “Daddy, Daddy, I have a china too!” As if to underscore the point, somewhere along the way she had somehow disposed of her My Little Pony underwear.
Thank you, Jesus.
I would like to say that those parishioners within earshot grew deathly quiet at this point, but the truth is, there was this inexplicable silence in the gymnasium between the pastor’s last utterance and Daughter Number Two’s quite loud declaration about having a china. This was appropriated because those folks who might not have heard her were indeed able to hear her.
Completely humiliated, mortified, and embarrassed—we’re Presbyterians, after all—I scooped her up in my arms and ran out of the gymnasium to a small anteroom where we watched the program in quarantine. Not my finest hour.
Needless to say, this was not an isolated incident. Daughter Number Two loves to be naked. Always. Always.
When I mow the lawn, there she is, marching proudly behind me as she pushes her plastic lawn mower . . . naked. Watching TV on the couch beside me . . . naked. Lying side by side on the grass watching the twinkling of the evening stars . . . naked. Washing the car together, she covered in soap and nothing else because she’s, well . . . naked. Me, coming home from work and watching her standing in our very large fish aquarium laughing and laughing and laughing some more, and then sitting down in it . . . naked.
Like many who live in nice, quiet neighborhoods, our back property is guarded by a six-foot-high privacy fence. Behind this fence, we installed a trampoline. Everyday, there was our darling little daughter, gleefully jumping up and down . . . naked. Neighbors in their cars, joggers, and bicyclists could always count on seeing her nakedness bob up over the fence, all smiles and giggles, then disappear for a few seconds before showing her naked self again . . . and again . . . and again.
Now, my wife and I are both well-educated professionals. But no matter what we do, no matter what we say, no matter what four-year-old logic we try to impart, nothing works. She just laughs and laughs and laughs as we chase her down our street . . . naked.
“Mr. Murphy, this is Dottie Engles from Bear Creek Elementary. Would you please call me as soon as you can regarding Devin?”
No, I don’t know how to fix this mess. When we are in public, and she gets naked—again—I fuss and moan and cajole, but I have simply not mastered this little slice of fatherhood.
But I have made adjustments: I bring a small blanket with me whenever we go anywhere. I never buy any clothing that uses Velcro. I layer her clothing with undershirts, blouses, and sweaters. I bring along a stuffed animal for her to carry, so it will be a little more difficult for her to free up her hands. These little gimmicks mitigate things, but don’t always have the desired effect.
By the way, did I mention that she has a very forceful personality? Lately I’ve been chasing the always-naked Daughter Number Two and the newly naked Daughter Number Three through Macy’s. I’m gonna need more blankets.
SAMUEL MURPHY is the former president of the William Murphy Advertising Agency and the author of the humorous and satirical RealAdviceForTheUnemployed, currently on sale at Amazon. He has also authored many short works giving rather skewed but real advice on family matters, employment, child rearing, and relationships. He has just completed his second, yet-to-be-published nonfiction work, RealAdviceForTheNewlywed. He lives in Florida with his wife, four daughters, and many, many animals.
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 25, 2014
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