“The Playdate” by Kathleen McElligott
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, Kathleen McElligott hosts a playdate from hell.
Desperate for adult conversation, I volunteer as a room mom. I’m teamed up with Victoria, whose twins are Drew and Cameron. Victoria’s high maintenance, but she’s fine with the fact that Deshy has two mommies.
Victoria asks if the twins can come over for a playdate while she shops for the day. Deshy has been to their house—now it’s our turn. He’s not thrilled when I tell him.
The boys arrive without having eaten breakfast. Victoria apologizes and assures me they aren’t picky before zooming off in her convertible. Cheerios are not sweet enough. (No, we don’t have frosted shredded wheat or colored marshmallows.) And soy milk? Forget it. Toast is okay, but only after I’ve trimmed the crusts. Deshy watches in amazement.
After playing for a few minutes they’re back in the kitchen. “We’re still hungry,” Drew announces. “Do you have any bacon, Miss Trish?”
He’s being polite. Cute. I throw a half pound in the frying pan. “How crispy, guys?”
“A lot crispy,” Drew says, but when I pass the plates, Drew whines, “It’s too crispy,” and pushes his away. Cameron follows suit.
“How about peanut butter and jelly?” Surely Victoria would have told me if they’re allergic to peanuts, right?
After scarfing down peanut butter and jelly sandwiches washed down with apple juice, they head back to Deshy’s room. Every toy ends up on the floor: Transformers, action figures, Legos. They play quietly.
Suddenly I hear a scream, and I rush to see who’s injured and how badly. Drew is pummeling Cameron, trying to dislodge the Transformer he’s clutching to his chest. Cameron sobs and grits his teeth.
“It’s mine! I called dibs,” Cameron yells.
“What’s the problem, guys?”
They ignore me and continue fighting. Deshy watches wide-eyed while I try to separate the twins.
“Stop it!” I scream, and they do—long enough for me to pry the toy from Drew’s sweaty fingers. Ten Transformers are lying on the floor.
Drew folds his arms across his chest and lets out a “humph.”
A five-year-old with attitude, and the day isn’t half over!
“Let’s go outside,” I suggest. I’ve got to pee, but I’m afraid to turn my back on them. Finally, I slip into the house. It’s just a couple of minutes—what can they get into?
I’m about to pee when I hear, “Mommmeee!”
I’m sprinting out the door, zipping up my jeans.
Drew is jabbing a tiki torch into Deshy’s belly. I grab the bamboo pole.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I demand.
Deshy rubs his belly and sobs. I catch Cameron smirking at his brother being busted.
Drew flashes an unrepentant smile. “It’s a bayonet,” he says matter-of-factly. What he says next leaves me stunned: “And he’s a dirty Jap.” He points to Deshy, who’s pressed against me. Drew will be famous years from now . . . and it won’t be for winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Drew.” I’m in his face. “Deshy is not Japanese. He’s Chinese. But that’s not the point.” How to explain prejudice to a five-year-old? “What you said was very mean. Do you understand?” He stares at me through narrow slits. I feel a chill.
They can’t be out of my sight for a moment, but I’ve got them for another three hours and, damn it, I still have to pee.
“I’ll put in a movie and make a snack.”
“Do you have any war movies, Miss Trish?” Drew asks sweetly. Either he doesn’t have a clue or he’s deliberately pushing my buttons.
“No war movies, but I’ll find something you’ll like.”
They’re sitting on the sofa, a bowl of microwave popcorn between them. It’s the thing I swore I’d never do: plop my kid in front of the TV with food. But these are not ordinary circumstances, and if I don’t pee this minute I’m going to have a scalding UTI.
Maybe Kung Fu Panda wasn’t the best choice. The twins are practicing their moves in the family room. Cameron kicks and comes down hard. His foot lands on the edge of a blanket they draped over a chair to make a tent. I watch as the lamp crashes to the floor, sending shards everywhere.
“Nobody move,” I command.
The phone rings—it’s Victoria.
“Trish, you’re out of breath. Is everything alright?”
I’ll save the details for later.
“Fine,” I lie. “You’re on your way, right?”
“Trish, honey, there’s been an accident.”
“Don’t worry, I’m alright, but my car’s totaled.”
She’s not coming for the twins!
KATHLEEN McELLIGOTT is a retired nurse administrator with an MHA, the mother of four grown children, and the loving grandmother of seven. Her debut novel, Mommy Machine (Heliotrope Press, 2008), was recognized by USA Best Books 2009 in the Chick Lit/Women’s Lit category. The sequel, Friends and Family, is in the wings looking for a nurturing home. Her work has appeared in anthologies including Things that Go Bump in the Night (2004), Falling in Love Again (2005), Vacations (2006), Wild Things (2008), Fearsome Fascinations (2009), Seasons of Change (2010), A Bird in the Hand (2011), Deep Waters (2012), Music in the Air (2013), and The Mountain (2014), among others. She is currently training for a cross-country bicycle trip from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow her progress at kmcelligott.wordpress.com.
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: Aug 19, 2014
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