“The Postscript” by Melissa Ostrom
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, Melissa Ostrom is in for a surprise.
by Melissa Ostrom
On the last day of November, Chip spent his hour commute composing a suicide letter in his head, absently passing pokey sedans, picturing his boss’s face when the dickhead heard about the tragedy, imagining Ginny’s shocked reaction. It was no one’s fault. Yes, I hated accounting and always wished I’d pursued my dream to become a writer, however impractical that might have seemed to the family, but I never blamed Dad for urging me to get my CPA license. The past tense didn’t make sense for the opening. He had to be alive to write it. But he liked the effect.
Ginny’s green Volvo occupied his parking spot. His pulse quickened. He hadn’t seen her since August, when he’d helped her move her belongings to a new place. They’d tried hard to keep the breakup amicable and had at least partially succeeded since, by the time they’d finished heaving her mattress up three flights of stairs, maneuvering through the narrow, sweltering passages, and sidestepping around the sharp turns with creative angling, pitching, and swearing, they’d companionably thrown their exhausted bodies across the pillow-top surface and then, after a moment of panting proximity, companionably thrown off their clothing too.
Ginny still sat in the car. His tap on the door prompted a red-eyed glare.
She rolled down her window. “I’m pregnant. It’s yours. You can help. Or not. Whatever. I don’t care.”
Then, as his mouth soundlessly opened, she peeled out of the lot.
The mattress reentered his apartment a month later, when the evening sky didn’t look much darker than it had throughout the determinedly bleak day. After the hauling and yanking, there was no pillow-top reveling, no companionable anything. Ginny straightened, pushed her sweaty bangs off her forehead, and darted to the bathroom. Her morning sickness couldn’t tell time. It showed up whenever it felt like it.
Fewer than five months later, so did the baby, three weeks before her due date. Tanya Marie entered the world, indifferent to the frenzy of terror she had whipped up when she’d stalled in the birth canal and half-strangled herself with the umbilical cord. She spent her initial months developing a fervent passion for the nighttime, feeding heartily by the hour, like a vampire baby set on sucking the life out of her wrecked parents. Then, at six months, she learned the knack of rolling and played hide-and-seek for the first time, putting her new skill to use by depositing herself under the bed, leaving her weeping, trembling mother and father to call the police and report a kidnapping. Naturally gifted in finding and finagling dangers, she wrapped up the remainder of the first year eschewing building blocks and dolls for the wires behind the computer desk, the dead fly on the windowsill, and the accidentally dropped Jujyfruits under the kitchen table. She scorned the gate at the top of the stairs, the safety latch on the cleaning-supply cupboard, and basically any words intended to defy or deter her, including no, don’t, stop, put-that-down, and oh-shit-oh-no.
And Chip forgot about his lost dreams and former ambitions. He no longer dwelled on his depressed state or imagined how sad everyone would be when he died. Indeed, he no longer indulged in suicide fantasies. He couldn’t. There was no time. He was too busy trying to keep Tanya alive.
MELISSA OSTROM has taught high school and college English for the last eighteen years. Her short stories have appeared in many journals, including Lunch Ticket, decomP, Monkeybicycle, Juked, and Corium, and her first novel, Genesee, is forthcoming from Macmillan in the spring of 2018. She lives in rural western New York with her husband and children.
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 2, 2016
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