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News & Features » September 2020 » “Jackson’s Bad Choice” by Kristen Petry

“Jackson’s Bad Choice” by Kristen Petry

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, a sick day leads to some unintended discoveries.

Jackson’s Bad Choice
by Kristen Petry

Yawning, seven-year old Jackson woke up from his nap; smiling, stretching and luxuriating in his sick day. He was lying on the couch in the family room; the window drapes closed against the Florida sun; the dimness restful. Earlier that morning Mom had called Mrs. Hernandez in the school office to tell her he was yakking all over the place. Now that seemed to have passed and he felt almost normal.

Down the hall in her workspace, Jackson heard Mom talking on the phone.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Franklin. Code requires a fence around swimming pools. You won’t even notice it when the hedge grows in. It’s a safety thing.”

Well, duh, Jackson thought. Without one, a gator could get in and go for a swim. That had happened to their next-door neighbor and when Animal Control came to remove it, WINK News showed up and filmed it. That had been very exciting, but now, Jackson, awake for a total of thirty seconds was bored and beginning to consider his options. According to him, he was the only second grader in the world who didn’t have an iPhone so there was no checking out Instagram. On the other hand, Mom sometimes allowed him to play games on her iPad but that wasn’t gonna happen ‘cause she was still on the phone.

“I really advise against that,” she said. “The covenant of restrictions for your neighborhood doesn’t support removing all of your trees.”

Uh oh. Mom was using her polite voice, but under it there was a tinge of annoyance. If Mr. Franklin didn’t shape up, he’d really be in for it. Jackson sat up on the couch, pivoted on his behind, and swung his feet to the floor.

Let’s see, he thought, I could play with my new transformer or set fire to some paper napkins in the kitchen sink. Caleb Crandall had done that when his mother wasn’t home, and he said Bounty burned in different colors than the store brand. That was tempting, but Mom was just a room away, so he figured that wasn’t viable. On the other hand, PBS was fair game so he grabbed the remote and switched it on.

“Oh crap,” he said out loud because nobody was around to say, “Tim-o-thy,” all drawn out and loud with their eyeballs bugged out and their brows raised to the middle of their head.

It was eleven o’clock. The kids’ shows were done until they came back on later. In their place, an old lady sat behind a sewing machine explaining how to make a tote bag. Snorting, Jackson pushed the guide button and scrolled through a few channels, stopping at Family Feud. “Mostly harmless,” Mom had called it, though sometimes she covered his ears with her hands. Satisfied, Jackson flopped onto the couch, watching as the goofy announcer steadied himself behind the podium to ask the first question.

“What did you believe as a child that you found out wasn’t true later?”

There was a contestant to either side of the announcer’s podium, a woman from the Jovial Johnson Family and a man from the Sensational Smith Family. She slammed her buzzer first.

“Santa Claus!”

Ding! The first slot on the answer board flapped open. Jackson’s jaw dropped, his blood drained, and he thought he might start puking again.

“The Johnson’s get first crack at this one,” the announcer said. He headed over to their buzzer counter and boomed, “What did you believe as a child that you found out wasn’t true later.”

“The Easter Bunny!” Sister-Sarah said.

Ding! Correct! The second answer on the board flapped open.

“What did you believe as a child that you found out wasn’t true later?”

“The Tooth Fairy!”

Ding! Correct! The third answer on the board flapped open.

More responses followed, but Jackson wasn’t listening anymore. His eyes filled with tears and snot ran down his throat. Hating the announcer man with his big ugly face and huge giant lies, he headed toward the kitchen to set the napkins on fire.


KRISTEN PETRY‘s work can be found in Mangrove Review, Castabout Art and Literature, and Flash Fiction Magazine to name a few. Her college student son — whose name isn’t Jackson — never burned anything on a pyre in the kitchen sink. At least to her knowledge. Neither has she, though she enjoys relaxing near the fireplace on cool Florida nights.


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: Sep 1, 2020

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