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News & Features » December 2019 » “Gifted and Talented” by Eileen Vorbach Collins

“Gifted and Talented” by Eileen Vorbach Collins

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, cousins conduct a  science experiment that goes very wrong . . . 

Gifted and Talented
by Eileen Vorbach Collins
Seven-year-old and Eight-year-old Cousins 

Little scientists my ass! Left alone for a few minutes and they managed to do this. The bathroom sink of our funky little house is filled with a horrid concoction bearing an uncanny resemblance to a lava lamp.

“What the hell is this,” I screeched in my all too familiar motherhood-gone-awry voice. They cowered, but one of them, I can’t recall which, bravely spoke up. 

“We were conducting an experiment.”

The cousins were seven-or-eight-years-old at the time. Further interrogation revealed that the experiment involved a full bottle of cooking oil, some red and green food coloring, and my new shampoo (not the dollar store variety, but the semi-good stuff recently purchased on sale and with a coupon). Into that, along with some water, was an entire roll of toilet paper, all now clogging the poor old drain that was already sluggish from years of hair, sloughed skin cells, and hacked up balls of phlegm from the laboring bronchioles of the elderly previous owners. It was all suddenly just too much. I cried.

Little scientists should not be subjected to the histrionics of the adult in charge. It could stifle their talent and resourcefulness, blocking their creative juices as effectively as these two had blocked the drain. I had to get a grip!  

I took a deep breath and tried to do that thing with my lips that I’d seen a friend do when her children were plucking her last ragged nerve. She never, at least as far as I’d heard, raised her voice. She just got this look, where her upper lip went thin as a pencil stroke and her eyes went icy. She spoke very softly where you had to really pay attention to listen. I’d seen even her teenaged son go all submissive. Once, he was listening to a music CD that she found offensive. She froze him into the stare. He took one look at that tiny ribbon of lip and submissively placed the CD into her open hand. He watched rather impassively as she deposited it in the trash.  

 “She’s a witch,” I thought as I regarded her with awed admiration.

Anyway, back to the little scientists trying to reinvent the lava lamp or make a bomb, clone the cat, or whatever evil thing they were doing in that bathroom.

“Clean it up now.” My voice was louder than I’d hoped, and sounded rather feral. They trembled a bit. “You’re paying for this you know,” I said, glaring at my son, “and that shampoo is very expensive.” I could see I’d hit him where it hurt the most.

I left the room with a feeling of satisfaction. I’d come back later with a plunger and a snake. Hell, I might have to disassemble the P-trap. This stuff is not for sissies. Despite my anger and frustration, and resigning myself to the fact that I’d be using the store brand shampoo again, I was proud of my little scientist.

The colorful, bubbling mayhem percolating in the sink actually smelled kind of nice, with subtle hints of peppermint and gardenia. I went back for another sniff. The little Einsteins were lolling about with not the faintest idea how to go about cleaning up the sludge. That’s when I noticed the new family-sized toothpaste had been squeezed flat.

My eyes got glassy. My lip got thin. “GET OUT OF HERE,” I hissed, “Both of you. Now!”  

They looked at one another, eyes wide. Then they ran.


EILEEN VORBACH COLLINS is a Baltimore native and retired RN. She has a master’s degree in pastoral care from Loyola College. Eileen now lives in Florida where she worries that something far more ominous than a child’s experiment may crawl out of the drain. Her son, of course, grew up to become an engineer and is helping perfect the autonomous vehicle. Her nephew writes the scripts for TV shows you’ve probably binged watched.


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: Dec 10, 2019

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