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News & Features » October 2016 » “This Is What Happens When a Writer Listens to Too Many Children’s Songs” by Katherine N. Friedman

“This Is What Happens When a Writer Listens to Too Many Children’s Songs” by Katherine N. Friedman

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, classic children’s songs lose their innocence.Katherine Friedman

This Is What Happens When a Writer Listens to Too Many Children’s Songs
by Katherine N. Friedman
21 Months

Some of her patients had parenting problems more than they had medical problems, but Dr. Simian didn’t say that out loud as she took Mrs. Monkey’s call.

“Two little Monkeys were jumping on the bed, and Juan fell down and bumped his head!” the mother wailed.

Dr. Simian sighed silently. Last time, after the third head injury, she had called Monkey Protective Services, but they had determined it was neither child neglect nor Munchausen by Proxy. As with the previous incidents, the doctor went through her list of questions and determined it to be a minor injury with no concussion. “Apply ice for fifteen minute increments and call if there are any signs of abnormal behavior.” As pointless as it seemed, she felt compelled to add her familiar refrain: “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!” 


The sky darkened as Bitsy looked at the seemingly endless brick wall, determined to finally reach the roof of the Medical Center. Then a long metal pipe to her left caught her eye. Perhaps it was some kind of shortcut? It was worth a try. She crept inside and began her climb.

Suddenly, she was swept off all eight feet. She gulped a mouthful of dirty water as she raced in the opposite direction of her goal, seeing and hearing and tasting nothing but water for a few interminable seconds that she feared would be her last.


The rain only added to the monotony, Marcel thought, as he watched the wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish. Every day was the same: the wheels went round and round, the people went up and down, the doors went open and shut . . . and the babies, they were the worst! Other drivers got babies so happy they clapped their hands, but the babies on Marcel’s bus only went “Wah, wah, wah!” all through the town. And even though their mommies told them “Shhh, shhh, shhh,” the stupid babies never seemed to shut up.

The sound of a siren snapped Marcel out of his inner lament. A fire truck pulled in front of him, blocking the street. At least this was a break from routine, he thought.


The rain beat against Rocco’s neon uniform as he scaled the ladder. He hadn’t believed the 911 caller’s story, but as he got closer he saw it was true: a swaddled baby in an old-fashioned wooden cradle was tied to a bough in the treetop. Was this a joke? Or a terrorist attack?

He halted at the top of the ladder as he imagined a swaddled bomb inside the cradle suddenly exploding. His heart pounded as he stared at the cradle through the rain. Then a gust of wind shook the branches, rocking the cradle. With a loud crack, the bough sloped downward. Instinct took over as Rocco lunged for the cradle.


Bitsy collapsed onto the damp grass, exhausted. Then, as quickly as it came, the storm abated and the sun shone brightly, drying up all the rain.

Bitsy looked at the clear sky, refreshed. Eight steps at a time, she crept back to the water spout. She wasn’t sure if it was tenacity or foolishness, but something was compelling her to go up again. This time, it was personal.

Slowly but steadily, she crept up and up and up, not stopping until she crawled onto the roof. She could see the whole town! As she gazed across the incredible panorama, the scene on the grass below caught her eye. A man in a brightly colored suit, surrounded by cameras, was clutching a screaming bundle to his chest.


Rocco held the baby tightly and kept his balance as the tree bough snapped and tumbled onto the street below, cradle and all. The baby blinked its grey eyes open, looked at him, and then began the beautiful, ear-piercing screams of a healthy infant.

They found no bombs, no notes, and no explanations. At least, Rocco thought, it was a good opportunity to remind the public about safe surrender laws. He was sure that within minutes the Fire Department would get a hundred offers to adopt “Treetop Baby.” He smiled as he imagined the follow-up story, featuring two loving parents cradling their newly-adopted child. Because everyone loves a story with a cute baby and a happy ending.  


KATHERINE N. FRIEDMAN  is a mother, educator, and writer who lives with her husband, toddler, and three-legged greyhound in Los Angeles, California. She loves to sing and dance with her 22-month-old daughter, even if those catchy children’s songs will never, ever leave her head. Her short fiction and non-fiction pieces have been featured in various online and print publications, and she hopes to publish her first novel soon. You can find out more about her at www.katherinenfriedman.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: Oct 11, 2016

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