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News & Features » July 2018 » “What’s ‘Rele’ is Real” by Alice Shi Kembel

“What’s ‘Rele’ is Real” by Alice Shi Kembel

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 five-year-old tampers with the evidence. 

What’s “Rele” is Real 
by Alice Shi Kembel
Five-year-old and one-year-old

When my youngest son is one year old, he poops out a rock. I do not have the good fortune to witness this event, but my babysitter sends me a text to inform me of the discovery in his diaper. I ask her to save the rock so I can see it, but when she goes to extract it from the diaper, it is gone. It turns out my five-year-old has secretly fished the rock out of the poop and washed it off. It is a valuable part of his rock collection, and he doesn’t want it to be thrown away with the dirty diaper.

Our babysitter hands me the rock when I walk through the door. I hold in my palm a shiny, polished, reddish-brown rock, slightly larger than a gumball, smooth and cool against my skin.

“Wow, this is huge!” I say, marveling that it has traveled through the baby’s digestive system without any indication of discomfort on his part.

“It’s my red jasper,” announces the five-year-old, who has been closely monitoring the rock ever since it has been confiscated from him. “Can I have it back? It’s part of my rock collection!”

“I have to save it for now,” I tell him. “I might need to show it to the doctor to make sure the baby is okay.”

“But when can I have it back?”

“As soon as I bring it to the doctor and show it to him.”

“When will that be?” he asks with a whine.

“I don’t know. I’m going to call the doctor and see if he needs me to bring it in. But I promise to give it back to you!” I grab a sandwich bag from the jumble of boxes on top of the refrigerator and slip the rock inside. With a black Sharpie I scribble “The Pooped-Out Rock” on the label and set it on the kitchen counter.

The next morning, the baby wakes up fussy with a runny nose, and I immediately suspect an ear infection. He has already suffered from four this winter, and I am beginning to assume that it is inevitable every time he catches a cold. I set up an appointment with the pediatrician, and want to put the pooped-out rock into my purse so I don’t forget to bring it to the doctor’s office. The bag is missing from the counter.  “Jack?*” I call.


“I need your red jasper rock, please. I’m taking your brother to the doctor this morning, and I want to show it to Dr. Glinder.”

“Okay,” he says, and disappears momentarily, returning with the bag and handing it to me. It feels suspiciously light. I hold it up. Inside is a paper cutout approximately the same shape and size of the red jasper rock, colored on both sides with red marker. Taped to the outside of the bag is a small piece of paper. On it are the words “The Rele,” scrawled in five-year-old handwriting, stuck in front of the words “Pooped-Out Rock.”

“‘The Rele Pooped-Out Rock,'” I read aloud, suppressing a laugh. “Wow, Jack. Very creative. But I need the REAL pooped out rock, buddy. I promise you’ll get it back.”

“All riiiight,” he says, disappearing again. He returns with the real “rele” rock and drops it into the bag with the fake “rele” rock.

“Thanks, Jack—you can have it back when you get home from school today,” I say, putting the bag into my purse.

“Okay,” he chirps, and scampers off.

This is a true story, one that represents my real “rele” life. I’ve discovered there is beauty in motherhood, but sometimes it shows up in unexpected places and it’s covered in shit. And I can only laugh or maybe cry, and wash off the shit and tuck it in my purse and carry it with me.

*This name has been changed to protect the innocent—or rather, the guilty.


ALICE SHI KEMBEL lives in Boulder, Colorado. She is the mother of three boys as well as a Speech-Language Therapist, swimmer, traveler, quilter, hiker, and fruity cocktail lover (three boys, remember?). Her writing has been featured in Patch.com, Parenting on the Peninsula, Voices of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Experience, U.S.A. Masters Swimming Magazine, and The Family Narrative Project. She is pursuing advanced degrees in potty humor, Nerf gun classification, and Star Wars trivia while also seeking representation for a memoir that chronicles her experiences as a mother drowning in a sea of testosterone.


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: Jul 2, 2018

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