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News & Features » October 2017 » “Pica” by Raul Palma

“Pica” by Raul Palma

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, Raul Palma’s daughter bites down hard . . .


by Raul Palma

After the park, we step into our home and small pebbles scatter everywhere. Probably, they lodged themselves into the cleats of our soles. Now it’s like a bag of marbles poured out on our hardwood. Little rocks roll into gaps that I won’t ever know exist.

I’m holding my daughter’s hand; she wiggles free. And she’s doing it again—shoving them in her mouth, chewing them to dust. I swear, it sounds like she’s dragging her teeth along the sidewalk. It might as well be a chalkboard. I can’t bare the sound. The way her mouth pops, I wonder, are they the rocks or her own teeth?

This is why, lately, I’ve been sweeping the foyer, passing the vacuum, kneeling there and searching out these little pieces of earth. How careless I’ve been, bringing more into the house. It’s enough to make me kick my shoes into the center of the living room, and yell “God Damnit,” even though we said we wouldn’t curse in front of her, and even though this frees more debris into the open space of her play area.

My wife gives me the please-do-something-about-this look, so I kneel, remove my gloves, wiggle my fingers which are bitten and torn-up near the cuticles. I say, “Spit that out!” But she’s a sweet and playful child; she smiles and covers her mouth. It’s like she enjoys this, clamping up, and hiding these rocks in the deep recesses of her half-toothed mouth. It reminds me of the park, our little game of hide-and-go-seek. And she looks so cute, eyes smiling, cheeks red with the thrill of the chase.

“Por favor,” I say, squeezing her arm. “Habre la boca!”

She crunches louder, almost laughs.

My wife takes the broom, the dustpan. Like me, she can’t bare the grinding. I keep thinking broken teeth, blood, nerve endings free from bone, a mouth that looks more like pavement than flesh. I shove my fingers into her with a level of force I promised I’d never use, and she bites with a level of force I didn’t know she possessed. It feels as though she’ll take my finger, leave nothing but bone. I have to shove it down her throat, press on the warmth of her tongue, and even then she doesn’t let loose. When she gags, I fish out that little rock, set it on the fireplace with the others, and I examine my finger, slick and bloodied, but it feels like a victory.

Then she hurls up the entire day—the sunlight in the bare trees; the green of the saplings pushing through the mulch; the ice-cream we shared; and the smile she gave me just before she stomped her feet and we entered our home.


RAUL PALMA is a diversity fellow at Ithaca College. He is also a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he is pursuing a specialization in ethnic studies. He serves as fiction editor for Prairie Schooner. Most recently, his work appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Rhino, and Sonora Review. His work has also been supported with fellowships and scholarships from the CubaOne Foundation, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, the Santa Fe Writer’s Conference, Sewanee Writer’s Conference, and the Sundress Academy for the Arts.


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: Oct 23, 2017

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