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News & Features » March 2016 » “Lesson Learned” by Debra H. Goldstein

“Lesson Learned” by Debra H. Goldstein

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, Debra H. Goldstein receives an unexpected guest.

Lesson Learned
by Debra H. Goldstein

When the doorbell rang, I almost didn’t answer it. I wasn’t expecting anyone at seven on a Tuesday night. Besides, wearing a full apron strategically covering what could only be defined as the provocative parts of my body, even though I had my underwear on, is not how I go to the door to meet anyone—except maybe my husband, and that’s on the occasional evening when my mom watches our kids.

In this case, my husband was working and I’d grabbed the apron after putting my peanut-butter-and-pee-stained blouse and jeans into the washer. My immediate desire was to make sure two-year-old Josh was tucked in and sleeping so I could take a soothing bath. Unfortunately, neither Josh nor whoever was at the front door was on board with my goal.

I glanced at Josh playing on the floor in the den with a small toy, and decided he was safe for the moment. It would certainly be quieter if I didn’t disturb him while I unlocked the front door and got rid of the insidious ringer.

The police officer removed his finger from the bell as we stared at each other through the door’s little glass window while I fumbled with putting the key into the deadbolt. Finally succeeding, I stepped behind the open door, trying to shield my body from the officer’s eyes.

He stuck the toe of his booted foot into my front hall.

“Can I help you, officer?”

“Stevens.” He flashed a badge or some kind of identification at me, but I didn’t look at it. Instead, I maintained eye contact with him as I peered around the door. “Is there a Josh Maxwell here?”

“In the den,” I said, wrinkling my brow. I pulled the door all the way open and stepped aside so Officer Stevens could enter. I pointed in the direction of the den, but he didn’t move from my front hall.

“Are you Mrs. Maxwell?”

“Yes.” I felt his eyes move over my body and wished I could cover myself with a blanket. “We’re doing toilet training and things didn’t quite work out tonight . . .” My voice trailed off as I saw him shift his gaze from me to where we could both see the edge of Josh’s blond head.

“We had a 911 call to this home, ma’am.” He started down the hall toward Josh.

I followed him, almost tripping over his heels when he abruptly stopped just inside the den. Sliding around him, I positioned myself between Josh and Officer Stevens. Crossing my arms across my chest, I said, “There’s nothing wrong here. Someone must have made an error. I didn’t call 911.”

“I did,” Josh said. Stunned, I didn’t move when Officer Stevens kneeled next to Josh and took my cellphone from my son. He handed it to me. Not having a pocket, I simply held it while Officer Stevens asked Josh what kind of emergency he’d called about.

“Mommy’s mean.”

“I told him he had to go to bed.” Officer Stevens held up his hand to hush me.

“Or else,” Josh said.

“Or else?”

“Or else,” Josh repeated, “no cookies tomorrow.”

“Definitely an emergency,” Officer Stevens said.

Josh nodded. He turned to me and grinned. “That’s why I called 911. I gave them my name and address, just like you taught me, Mommy.”

Maybe I should have named him Damien.


Judge, author, litigator, wife, step-mom, mother of twins, civic volunteer, and transplanted Yankee are all words used to describe DEBRA H. GOLDSTEIN. She is the author of Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery (Five Star Publishing, April 2016) and the 2012 IPPY Award–winning Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus. Debra also writes short stories and nonfiction. She serves on the national Sisters in Crime, Guppy Chapter and Alabama Writers Conclave boards and is a MWA member. Visit her website at www.DebraHGoldstein.com.


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 29, 2016

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