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News & Features » March 2018 » “Dear Ralphie” by Ledia Xhoga

“Dear Ralphie” by Ledia Xhoga

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, one-year-old Ralphie listens to Coltrane’s Giant Steps—and takes some himself!

Dear Ralphie
by Ledia Xhoga

Just a few months ago you were a pink-faced, crying infant. Now you’re calmer and big-bellied, looking more and more like the seated-and-laughing Buddha statue on my desk. I wish I could communicate with you, but I can’t. So I opened an email account in your name; I want to write you a few letters that you can read later.

This morning was a perfect day for writing my first email. You were trying to open a cardboard book with your fat fingers. I was listening to Giant Steps by Coltrane. The room was drenched in sunlight. The construction workers next door must have been goofing off. A rough textured spot in your book had all your attention. This is what I had always thought having a child would be like—moments of bliss that paved the way for deep contemplation.

I experienced an unusual calmness. To make matters even better, you looked at me and pointed towards the sun.

“Aight,” you said.

This was significant since the night before, I had been trying to teach you to say light while pointing at our living room lamp. You were indifferent to all my attempts, in fact after a while you looked puzzled by the repetition. I was sure you didn’t get it. But here you were now, showing me the sun, the natural source of light, the real thing, not some man-made substitute. You’re so smart!

Overwhelmed by inspiration, I sat in front of the computer.

Dear Ralphie, I started. As I was listening to Giant Steps by Coltrane, you took a giant step of your own . . .

Then your hand touched my leg. You had crawled up next to me. Holding on to the chair, you stood up. Mesmerized by the keyboard, you banged on it, deleting what little I had written. I pushed it away from your reach. Disappointed, you plumped down on the mat and started tinkering with two magnetic cubes. 

I had just finished rewriting the first sentence when the screen went blank.  Like a master illusionist, you had transposed yourself in the very far corner of the room, next to the power switch, and were playing with the red button. I carried you back to the mat and your toys. I was turning the computer back on when cold water tickled my feet. As I looked down, I realized that you had managed to crawl to the other side of the table and had knocked down the very plastic cup you were now chewing on.  I rushed to the kitchen to grab some paper towels. When I returned, my keyboard was on the floor; you were dipping it in and out of the water puddle. You were very thorough about the whole thing—making sure it was wet everywhere.

If someone would offer to explain to me one of the world’s biggest mysteries—Stonehenge, the Bermuda Triangle, D.B. Cooper’s disappearance—I would decline. I’d want to find out this instead: how could you grab an object so completely out of your reach?

It’s all good. I purchased a new keyboard.

You’re finally asleep and here I am—ready to write my first letter to you.


LEDIA XHOGA lives in Brooklyn. Her fiction has been published in various online publications, such as Hobart, KGB Bar magazine, Sonora Review, Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine, etc. Her work has been performed at Liars’ League New York and other venues. She also writes plays and screenplays, and she has a novella in progress.


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: Mar 27, 2018

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