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News & Features » April 2019 » “C.heckmate” by Daniela Elza

“C.heckmate” by Daniela Elza

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, even illness can’t hold back a child’s honesty.

by Daniela Elza

Breathing is difficult today. In the waiting room we sit, my sick four-year-old and I. For a w.hole nineteen minutes now the paper-white silence has been punctuated by the cold of the man a.cross from us. His germs approaching at the speed of a sneeze, and in an instant, growing in my head to the size of a herd of eleph.ants. I feel held up against the wall. Time slows down. The more I think of it, the slower it d.rags its feet across the drab carpet of the office hallway. 

The nurse, fin.ally, ushers us into a small room. At last, space to take a deeper breath. Even if it is recycled, air-conditioned air, it is still “fresh” for a building whose windows do not open. I encou.rage my son to breathe. We play rock-paper-scissors, pre.tend we are out to have a fun time together.

The doctor comes in, mumbling. Something about “not enough time.”  Something about “being behind schedule.” I manage a s.mile.

“Good afternoon Dr. . . .” The name escapes me.  He’ll not be the same one next time, even though we come here to see our “family” doctor.  

Dr. I-don’t-know-what-your-name-is is balding. He doesn’t look up from his preoccupied back-and-forth s.huffle. He moves like Time, only faster now, and in both directions. He r.eaches to shake my hand. I’m introduced to the perfectly round patch on the top of his head. I fight the urge to pull out a perm.anent marker and draw a happy face there.

My son is busy eyeing him while he goes through the ears, nose, light in the eyes, tongue depressor, lungs. With every re.quest to “take a deep breath” my son’s bare chest struggles, sucking the skin against his collarbones. The doctor talks to me with one eye on my son, both of his eyes on the doctor. We exc.hang.e diagnoses: his illegible, mine unspoken.

On our way out, my child b.ounces next to me, his lips and tongue lollipop blue, my pocket heavy with another antibiotic prescription. He tugs at my shirt with a question as urgent as having to pee.

“Mama, why does that doctor wear skin on his hair?”


DANIELA ELZA has lived on three continents and crossed numerous geographic, cultural, and semantic borders. Her poetry collections are the weight of dew,  the book of It, and milk tooth bane bone, of which David Abram says: “Out of the ache of the present moment, Daniela Elza has crafted something spare and irresistible, an open armature for wonder.” Daniela earned her doctorate in Philosophy of Education from Simon Fraser University. She works as a Writer-in-Residence at the Bolton Academy for Spoken Arts. Her next poetry collection will be published in the spring of 2020. 


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 to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Apr 17, 2019

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,