fiction

Confessions of a Zookeeper Parent: A Flash Fiction Piece

Summer is coming, and my eighteen-year-old son is about to graduate high school. My twenty-year-old daughter is completing community college and will go off to a SUNY school this fall.

            However, I am fighting against letting my son go to his senior prom or have a graduation party. Why? Because he barely passed this year. He should consider it a miracle that he can graduate this year.

            My daughter also passed just by the skin of her teeth. She’d had to abandon her dream of going to an ivy league school last year.

            As a zookeeper, I wish I could take my children to work with me and teach them responsibility with helping out. I was considering a farm trip where they’d have to collect eggs from chickens and clean up a barn. However, I can’t afford it this year.

            And I don’t think the zoo I work at would allow me to bring my kids, even if they’re overage. They’d probably say that it’s too dangerous. It makes sense to me as most of the animals we have to deal with are unsafe. They’re technically not meant to be tamed and around humans.

            I can’t think of a position they could do that would keep them safe as well as teach them responsibility. Helping out with directions would be too easy for them.

            I might know someone who could keep them busy and give them little, if any, time for fun. He’s a farmer, but he lives in Nebraska. I’m in New York, and I had trouble finding affordable tickets to fly anywhere, especially since it’s a peak travel season.

            Well, I can’t think of any big, famous tourist sites in Nebraska. A lot of people I know like to go to Disneyworld, Alaska, and other popular destinations for the summer. I’ll try looking at plane tickets to Nebraska online. If I can get permission from this farmer to let my kids help him, maybe then I’ll send them off there. I’m going to be a tough dad.

fiction

Unlucky Twelve: A Flash Fiction Piece

Image from Pixabay

Days like this make me want to cry. It was my twelfth birthday and I’d hoped for a fantastic time.

            However, instead things had gone wrong. I’d received my math test back with a grade of fifty—an F. Another thing that’d ruined my birthday had been when I’d fallen down on the basketball court and my pants had come down a bit. Everybody had laughed at me.

            My parents had lectured me about the failing grade I’d earned on my exam. I’d even cried after. They’d yelled, too.

            Who’d want to spend their birthday in misery? Yes, there were people who’d had worse birthdays, such as Shakespeare. He’d actually died on his birthday.

            Still—this is a day I wanted to forget. My older brother had been treated nicely on every birthday he’d had that I could remember, including his twelfth.

            Yes, turning twelve wasn’t as significant as turning thirteen, when you actually became a teenager and could do teen activities. You also could no longer be considered a little kid.

            If my twelfth birthday hadn’t gone right, I could only hope that my thirteenth one would turn out better—a lot better.

            In fact, my parents hadn’t gotten me a cake tonight. Why? Not because of my poor math test grade. But because they’d been busy supporting my brother at his basketball tournament. So, they’d forgotten.

            A few people at school had wished me a happy birthday here and there. But overall, I wish I could have my memories of this day wiped and not remember a single thing.

            Maybe I could have a party at some point later. I hadn’t thought about doing something. But perhaps that could make my mood better. I would have to come up with an idea. Then I, Ally Preston, would feel happier.

fiction

A Twist in a Pitch: A Flash Fiction Piece

I came up with a pitch to an animation studio. It was about a small town where you couldn’t shout, “Shut that rooster up!” or even just tell the farmers to quiet their roosters. Otherwise, you’d get fined.

            I walked into the room with executives and breathed. Then I explained my idea.

            “Thank you, everyone,” I said.

            But there was silence. A few people shook their heads.

            “Sorry, Miss Taylor, but we’re going to have to pass,” said, Mr. Craig, the boss.

            I inhaled and exhaled again. “All right.” I walked out of the room.

            I knew that rejection happened a lot. In fact, I was even aware that it was normal.

            I got into my car and drove home.

            Several minutes had passed. I arrived at my house—only to hear clucking next door. I leaned toward the sound. There were chickens in my neighbor’s backyard.

            Mr. Jones stepped out. “Hey, Lola, I heard about your cartoon idea. It sounds pretty good.”

            “Thanks,” I muttered. Then I paused. “Wait—how do you know about my idea?”

            “Mr. Craig told me,” he said.

            My eyebrows raised. Mr. Craig had been the boss at the studio and he’d rejected the idea—unless Mr. Jones referred to a different Mr. Craig.

            “He’s actually a good friend of mine,” said Mr. Jones.

            “Wait, what does he do?” I asked.

            “He’s the head of the local animation studio,” Mr. Jones answered.

            “He rejected the idea, though.”

            “For a TV show,” Mr. Jones said. “However, he will gladly make it into a web series.”

            I smiled. “Really?”

            “Yes,” replied Mr. Jones.

            “Tell him I said thanks.”

            “Sure thing.”

fiction

Excerpt: The Unruly Curse (Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions Book 2)

Lilac-colored smoke poured in through the slight opening under Alyssa’s bedroom window. Alyssa leaped back. She swore the window had been closed when she’d come in here a few minutes ago.

            The gas clouded into her room, blocking her sight. It washed onto her, causing her to squint and lean back. She coughed, rubbed her eyes, and opened them. The smoke faded. Someone must’ve pulled a prank, and not just any kind—one that involved…wizardry.

            Alyssa’s breathing sped up. She shut the window and gazed at the huge yard and long driveway. No one was outside—not even Alex, her godfather and legal guardian.

            Perhaps the trespasser had escaped or had hidden somewhere—maybe behind the tree on the lawn or somewhere else on the property.

            Alyssa hurried out, brushing ash from her muted purple shirt. She entered the ground floor and opened the front door. “Hello?!”

            There was no answer.

            “Whoever set that smoke off, it wasn’t funny!”

            The silence continued.

            Despite the freezing air this autumn evening, Alyssa stepped onto the front porch. A piece of paper appeared out of nowhere, making her jump. She picked it up, anyway.

            Welcome back to magic.

            Her chest tightened. She hadn’t encountered a single instance of wizardry in six months! Plus, she had two objects that were supposed to protect her from such encounters.

            She dashed back up to her room and opened the closet door. Tape hung from a shoebox, and the items that she had left in there…were missing.

            Heart jackhammering, Alyssa moved shoes and other boxes around. The two things might’ve fallen when she and Alex had moved here from Ohio in the spring after Alex had lost his job there. No one could have stolen them while Alex had taken her to Chicago this afternoon, right?

            As Alyssa picked up the same shoebox, her palms warmed up, and light beams shot out of both hands. She screamed as the rays smashed into each other, and then faded, revealing a tiny, rainbow-colored, bouncy ball.

            Alyssa’s body stiffened, as if paralyzed. Her jaw hung as she gaped at the bouncing ball.

            How could I have done magic? Alyssa asked herself. I’m not a wizard.

            As the object jumped onto her knee, she yelped and fell back. It had left a multi-colored stain on her leggings.

            She sat up. The toy sprung onto her narrow shoulders and then to the top of her head, where it cracked like an egg.

            “Ow!” Alyssa covered that area and then ran her fingers down her straight, pale-blonde hair, checking for any unusual, hard textures. She lifted the ends up from the area a few inches past her hips, where the length fell to. There were tiny plastic ball-bits stuck in her tresses, so she pulled them out.

            Alex knocked on the door. “Alyssa, are you ready for the party?”

            “Not yet.”

            “It’s almost six o’clock, sweetie. The tent in the backyard is already set up.”

            “Something’s wrong with me!”

            Alex opened the door, already wearing his suit. “What’s the matter?”

            “I…I…”

            Alex had tied his shoulder-length light-brown hair into a ponytail. “What’s going on?”

            Alyssa whimpered. “Ma…ma…”

            “Are you all right?”

            She shook her head.

            Alex looked away and covered his goatee. “Your closet’s a mess.”
            “I did magic!” Alyssa’s breathing quickened.

            Alex opened his mouth. “No way. That doesn’t make sense.”

            “I did!” Alyssa sucked in inhalations. “I’m not making this up!”

            Alex tilted his head.

            “I told you about magic back in March! I was kidnapped and taken to Fiji by an evil wizard! And then one of the mentors gave me a couple of little things to keep me safe!”

            “Wait, what?”

            “The objects are gone! Somebody must’ve stolen them!”

            Alex clapped both hands over his mouth.

            “I looked everywhere in my closet! I can’t find them!”

            Alex removed his hands from his mouth.

            “How could you forget these things?!”

            He remained mute.

            “What the heck?!” She sat on her bed, and her breathing still hurried.

            “I’m sorry.” Alex closed the door and left.

            He’d wanted to hold this party over the summer. But his agricultural-engineering and country-singing jobs had kept him from setting a date.

            Alyssa considered the ways in which she might remove these powers. Maybe one of her previous mentors would know a way. Like technology, magic became more advanced over time.

            Alyssa picked up her phone, went onto her email, and searched for Mathias, the wizard who’d provided her with the magical objects. Nothing. The same happened when she searched for Isabelle and Simon.

            Her device rang and she answered.

“Hey, Alyssa, I hope you’re all right,” Simon said in his English accent.

            “Something’s wrong with me. I…I did magic, even though—”

            “I was calling about that.”

            Alyssa raised her eyebrows. Then, she recalled how marble figures, which resembled statues, could gather information from others at the speed of sound, even if they were unconscious.

            “Why didn’t you call earlier?”

            “I wanted to get more information about your new powers.”

            “How can I get rid of them?”

            “I’m not sure.”

            Alyssa exhaled. “There’s got to be something.”

            “I’ll look into it. In the meantime, try some gloves.”

            “You sure that’ll work?”

            “I believe so. That’s one of the things I found out.”

            “On the wizarding internet?”

            “No. From someone who’s friends with the guy who jinxed you.”

            Alyssa gritted her teeth. “Someone jinxed me? Who is he and why did he give me magic powers?”

            “I’m going to have to find out more about that.”

            Alex knocked again.

            “Alyssa, you better get going,” said Simon.

            “Wait.”

            But he’d hung up.

            “Ugh!”

            “Alyssa, who are you talking to?”

            “One of my wizard mentors.”

            Alex opened the door and stepped in. “I can’t cancel the party tonight. The staff won’t let me.”

            “Well, my mentor, Simon, told me to wear gloves.”

            “You think that’s going to work?”

            “He said it should and to give it a try.”

            Alex pressed his lips together.

            “He helped me defeat that sorcerer in Fiji.”

            “When’s the last time you talked to him?”

            Alyssa hesitated. “Not since April. But he was the one who told me about the wizard hunting me down when I was living with Uncle Bruce.”

            “Can I talk to him?”

            “Sure.” Alyssa gave him the phone. “He was the last one who called.”

            Alex pressed on the screen and held the phone to his ear.

            When Alyssa had lived with her uncle, Bruce, in March, she’d informed Alex about wizardry. She’d even told him around the time he’d been granted legal custody over her.

            I guess I forgot to tell him about who my mentors were, she thought.

            Alex hung up. “He’s not answering.”
            “He must be finding out more information about these new…powers.”

            “I’ll let you wear the gloves, but I really don’t feel ready to trust Simon.”

            “Well, I trust him. If it weren’t for him, I might not have made it.”

            Alex sharpened his eyes.

            “Everyone back in New Jersey trusted him, too.” That was where Alyssa had lived until the day after her thirteenth birthday in April.

            “Even Uncle Bruce?”

            “At first, no. Then Simon sent him a note and he trusted him… until that warlock wiped his memories with a storm.” Alyssa looked down, thinking about Uncle Bruce, who resided in an assisted living home. The memory-wiping spell had been blocked years ago, but some powerful magicians could use other ways to get past it. Alyssa still didn’t understand how the storm’s power had erased Uncle Bruce’s memories.

            “After you’re done getting ready, I’ll call Simon from your phone again,” said Alex.

            “How about I just write down his number?”

            “Do what you need to do.” Alex walked out.

            Alyssa sighed as she peeled her clothes off. While Uncle Bruce had treated her and her cousin, Hailey, with little respect and had placed unfair rules on them, Alex cared for her like his own daughter.

            Alyssa’s parents had named him not only her godfather, but also guardian in the event that something might happen to them. The loss of her mom and dad in that car crash when she was seven had changed her life. Despite what the will had stated, Alyssa’s then-babysitter had convinced the cops to let her stay at her aunt and uncle’s house nearby. The state of New Jersey had made Aunt Laura and Uncle Bruce her new guardians.

            However, when Alyssa was nine, Aunt Laura had died from an allergic reaction to a chocolate filled with raspberry cream that she had barely touched. She’d had a fatal allergy to berries. Then, Uncle Bruce had toughened up his attitude, although he’d always had a stern way of parenting, and had rarely smiled. It just hadn’t involved as much yelling and restrictions before Aunt Laura’s death.

            Because a sorcerer called Master Beau had wanted to enslave Alyssa, he’d erased Uncle Bruce’s memories so that he couldn’t protect her. Master Beau wanted her to find items and ways to help strengthen him for ruling France after the French government had banished him for committing a serious crime. Alyssa had never discovered what the offense had been, though. She still deemed her life to overwhelming for a thirteen-year-old.

            She wore her wide-strapped blue-and-black dress. Her fingers sweated as she tied a blue ribbon in her hair and secured it back halfway. Her hands also shook as she put on her jewelry and makeup.

            She opened her closet and put on her dress shoes, a pair of leather gloves, and then went downstairs. Scooter, the yellow lab, barked by the door.

            Alyssa opened it. No one was outside.

            “Who’s there?!” called Alyssa.

Music played in the backyard.

“I’m not stupid!” Alyssa shouted.

            “Alyssa, what are you doing?” asked Alex.

            “I’m yelling at the man who cursed me!”

            “Wait…someone—”

            “Yes! Simon told me!”

            Alex gasped, covered his mouth, and shook his head.

            “I wish I didn’t have to go to the party anymore.”

            Alex took his phone out of his pants pocket and stared into it. “I got a text from your mentor, Simon. He says he’s not a hundred percent sure if the gloves will help. But he’s almost certain.”

            “Did he find out how I can get rid of these powers?”

            “He’s still working on it.”

            Alyssa inhaled and exhaled.

            “Sweetheart, just give the party a try. If you feel uncomfortable, you can go back inside.”

            “What about that speech we’re supposed to give?”

            “It won’t be long.”

            “But I don’t like speaking in front of crowds.”

            “You only have to say a few sentences. I promise.”

            Alyssa sighed.

            “We should head outside.”

            Alyssa followed him.

            I hope the gloves actually work, she thought.

            She continued to look around for the warlock who’d hexed her. He could be wearing an invisibility poncho, or he could have disappeared in a snap.

Alyssa passed the swimming pool and continued down the small hill into the tent. Orange, yellow, and brown balloons covered each pole. A DJ played music near the entrance. A white cloth covered each table, including the round ones for sitting at and the rectangular ones for serving.

As Alyssa shoved her way through the crowd, she saw her friend, Sydney Watson, gaping at her phone, her elbow-length chestnut curls covering her freckled face.

Stomach tightening, Alyssa sat next to Sydney.

“What’s up?” asked Sydney.

“I don’t want to be here.”

“What’s the problem?”

“I…I…it’s too weird.”

“Tell me, anyway.”

“It’s…it’s…m-magic.”

Sydney tilted her head.

“You forgot? I told you about it when we first met.”

Sydney inhaled. Her eyebrows lifted.

“What’s wrong with you?!”

“You didn’t tell me a lot about it.”

“Well, yeah, because I’m technically not supposed to.”

“You said in April that you defeated a magician. I thought it was the kind at magic shows.”

Alyssa shook her head.

“Wait—so what was it really?”

“Nothing.”

“If this is something serious, you need to tell me.”

“Okay, it’s…it’s…”

Sydney nodded.

“It’s something from a stranger.”

“What?”

“A…an issue with my hands.”

Sydney pressed her lips together.

“I’ll stop there.”

“Alyssa, you’re hiding something.”

“I think it would be better if you stayed out of it.”

“Look, I’m your friend. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

Alyssa remained mute.

“If you want us to help you, then you shouldn’t hide things like this.”

“Who said anything about help?”

“Hello, guys,” said Lily Browne, another friend of Alyssa’s. Lily trotted to them, smiling. Her dark brown hair bounced against her waist. She joined Alyssa and Sydney. “This is going to be so awesome.” She giggled.

“I hope so.” Alyssa looked down.

“What’s the matter?” Lily asked. “Had a bad day?”

“Not until right before the party,” she said.

“Aw.” Lily patted her shoulder. “It’ll be okay.”

“Why don’t you tell Lily about what happened to you?” Sydney asked.

“No,” Alyssa answered.

“You can tell me,” said Lily. “I won’t judge you.”

“Maybe later,” muttered Alyssa.

“Alyssa, you really should tell us what happened to you,” said Sydney.

“We won’t tell anyone else,” Lily said. “We promise.”

Alyssa stayed quiet.

A short, tanned-skinned girl entered the tent. It was Krystal Gordillo, Alyssa’s third-closest friend. Krystal ran her fingers through her dark brown hair. “Stupid wind messed up my hair.” She tied her locks, which fell to the middle of her back, into a ponytail. She sat with Alyssa and the other two. “Does anyone else hate when the weather messes up your look?”

That’s what you want to talk about?” Sydney asked. “Krystal, grow up.”

“Yeah, parties are all about fun.” Lily beamed. “You should enjoy yourself.” She sipped her Sprite. “I’m hoping to get my science-of-happiness badge for Girl Scouts. We get an extra treat if we help others become more confident.”

“But I’m a mess,” said Krystal.

“Better than what Alyssa’s dealing with,” Sydney said.

“What happened?” Krystal asked her.

“For the last time, I don’t want to talk about it!”

“Alyssa, not cool,” said Sydney.

“Yeah, I just got here,” Krystal said.

“Can we just change the subject?” asked Alyssa.

“Maybe you’re hungry,” Krystal told her.

“Yeah. Let’s go get some snacks.” Lily stood up.

The four gathered appetizers and beverages. Alyssa nibbled her veggie sticks and chips, and got up.

“Where are you going, Alyssa?” Krystal asked.

“Bathroom.” She put her coat on and ran back inside the house. But she didn’t need the bathroom—she just wanted a break.

She returned to her room, where ink spelled out “Errol was here” on the floor. Her mouth opened and she panted.

If you enjoyed this excerpt, be sure to order the story here.

fiction

If Chicks Hatched in a Refrigerator: A Flash Fiction Piece

Image from Pixabay

Grocery stores usually sell un-fertilized eggs, although some do sell fertilized ones. We all know where eggs come from. So, when I was little, I used to imagine what would happen if we bought fertilized eggs.

            While this would never happen, and probably wouldn’t be funny one bit, I had once considered it humorous if chicks hatched in my family’s refrigerator. My mom would probably scream and jump. The chicks would also make messes all over the house. And who would take care of them?

            My parents never wanted pets, though they let me have a fish until it died, about a month after buying it. But there is no way they’d want to raise chickens. We also don’t know any farmers nearby.

            Nevertheless, chicks hatching inside the fridge is something that’ll never happen. Even if the eggs are fertilized, I am pretty sure there is something that keeps the embryos from developing.

            Therefore, that idea is complete fantasy. While I never had a pet, except for the fish, I must admit it’s still peaceful in my house. No mess to clean up, no animals needed to be fed—I get more free time.

            Soon, I’ll be graduating from high school. Then I’ll be off to college hours away from home. I only have a couple months left with my family. At the end of August, they’ll be saying, “Goodbye, Esme, and good luck with your studies.”

fiction

All About Aliens: A Flash Fiction Piece

The school warning bell rang and I hurried to my science class. Today was the last day of classes for my senior year of high school.

After studying science for many years, I realized that how films portray aliens isn’t exactly the most realistic. I know—it’s fiction. But I’ve come up with a theory on what aliens would be like if they actually existed.

Well, first off, they would not fly spaceships. They also wouldn’t speak, not even their own language—I don’t think so. They might not be able to even breathe on Earth.

Just like we earthlings couldn’t travel to other planets safely, I don’t believe aliens could travel to our planet easily, either. Yes, there are studies that suggest that there may be life on other planets, such as Mars. But still—can we be a hundred percent certain, as of now?

I entered the classroom and sat at my desk. My crush, Daxea, sat near me.

“Pssst…Henry, we’re watching a movie,” Daxea said.

“Oh, wow,” I said. “What movie?”

“Class, we are watching The Sad, Little Aliens,” said my science teacher, Mr. Pinkett. “So, please relax, and enjoy the movie.” He inserted the DVD.

I watched the film, my eyes tearing up as some tiny aliens cried. It seemed that they were babies and their parents had died.

A memory flashed into my mind. My dad died when I was ten…in a motorcycle crash.

I covered my face, tears streaming down my cheeks.

Daxea touched my shoulder. “Henry, are you all right?”

“Leave me alone,” I whispered.

I left the classroom and went into the bathroom, where I washed my face. When I returned to the room, there was a scene where a young boy carried the baby aliens into his house.

“Mom, Dad, look what I found,” said the child.

The parents stared.

“Gabriel, what are those things?” asked the father.

“I…uh…don’t know,” Gabriel said.

“Put them back where you found them,” the mother said. “They don’t belong in the house.”

“But their parents are gone,” said Gabriel.

“Listen to your mother,” the dad said.

“Please, please can I take care of them?” asked Gabriel.

“Absolutely not,” the mom said.

Gabriel paused. “I’ll do anything for you if you let me care for these things. I promise.”

The parents hesitated.

“If you promise,” the father said.

“Thanks, Dad,” Gabriel said.

I smiled.

fiction

If You Gave Your Mom a Snake Party: A Flash Fiction Piece

I don’t know about you, but my mom is super-grossed out by snakes. She has freaked out around them every time.

            A few memorable times include my brother’s eighth birthday party, when he got his picture taken with a snake around his neck. My mother ran away, saying, “Ew, ew, gross,” several times.

            Another moment that stands out to me is when we were buying food and supplies for our dog. The cashier had a tiny snake around his fingers. My mom asked if it was fake or real. The guy said, “It’s real.” My mother freaked out.

            The event that stands out to me the most is when we watched the news and they announced a snake massage at a zoo in Australia. My mom sent me the link to my email. Her personal message was, “Ewwww! Gross!” It cracked me up so much that I almost lost my breath.

            Anyway, last year, I thought it would be funny to throw my mom a snake-themed party for her birthday. I decorated the house with snake streamers, snake-balloons, jungle trees with fake snakes, and a game called pin the rattle tail on the rattlesnake.

            So, I invited some friends and family to our house. When my mom came, we all yelled, “Surprise!” My mother was speechless when she saw the snake decorations. She said to me, “Rayna, you know I don’t like snakes.”

            But the funniest part of all was when we sang “Happy Birthday” and I carried a cake—that resembled a live snake—literally. My mom deepened her frown, making the inside of her bottom lip come out. My brother videoed the whole moment. Everyone kept singing as my mother looked more grossed out than ever. After we sang, I told my mom to make a wish. But she was too grossed out to blow out the candles. My brother laughed. He blew them out instead.

            The inside of the cake was red velvet filled with cream cheese. My mom wouldn’t eat the cake.

            While I planned to consider the party a silly prank, my mom banned us from hosting her surprise parties ever again. She then gave us a lecture on how a snake-themed party was very inconsiderate. From that point on, I learned to respect her dislikes, including snakes.

            My mom is fine with turtles. But I will not buy her a turtle gift for her next birthday, Christmas, or any other occasion. I promise to treat her birthdays with respect and consideration from now on.

fiction

Mice and Rats: A Flash Fiction Piece

I sat at the train station. Something moved on the tracks. It was nighttime, so I couldn’t see what it was. It might have been a rat.

            Unlike most people, I’ve always found mice and rats fascinating. I stood up and stared at the movement. Yup—it was a rat.

            I wished I could take a picture of the critter. But everyone would’ve consider me crazy. While I still didn’t mind mice and rats, I couldn’t pull my phone out of my purse.

            Just a few weeks ago, my husband had called an exterminator for a rat. He had fit in with the majority, who disliked mice and rats.

            Anyway, the exterminator had come. He’d been about to put out rat poison when I’d seen the rat and had said, “Before you put out that rat poison, I’d like to take a picture of the rat.”

            The exterminator had looked at me like I’d had five noses. He’d put out the poison before I could even photograph the rodent. And I hadn’t wanted to take a picture of it after it’d died.

            Not only had the exterminator considered me crazy, but so did my husband. I was aware that mice and rats carried disease. Nevertheless, I’d still considered them interesting.

            If I were ever alone, and I saw a mouse or rat far away from me, I would love to photograph it. But I was never alone in Queens, not even in my home. I lived in an apartment. While the others were in their own sections, I could still hear their voices, TV’s, music, and more.

            I hoped to move out and live on Long Island at some point—in a place of my own. Purely for me.

fiction

The Spelling Assignment: A Flash Fiction Piece

I stood in the classroom and observed the second graders as they presented different stories. It was my first time student-teaching. I was a college sophomore, which is the youngest you can observe classrooms in schools.

A familiar little girl stood up and presented her story. I looked at her as her bangs covered her eyes and her thick bobbed hair covered her cheeks. She reminded me of someone I’d babysat from four years ago. It couldn’t be Emma Da Silva, who used to play with a stuffed polar bear she’d called Spike.

The child faced the class and read the story. “For our spelling homework, I wrote about a polar bear named Spike.”

I gazed at her.

“Once upon a time, there was a polar bear named Spike. Spike wanted to play with the otters and the elephant seal on the glacier. There was a rainbow in the sky, which made Spike happy. But the other animals said no when he asked if he could play. Spike was sad and cried. His mommy came and gave him company. She walked with him back to the other animals and made them say sorry. Spike ran toward them and they accepted him. They lived happily ever after. The end.”

The class applauded. Mrs. Jackson, the teacher, stood up. “Wait to go, Emma. But you missed some of the spelling words.”

“No, I didn’t,” Emma said.

“You missed the words, bitterness, community, social, alligator, and cooperate,” said Mrs. Jackson.

“Aw,” said Emma.

“Sit back down,” said Mrs. Jackson. “We’re going to move on to something else.”

I approached Emma as she returned to her desk.

“What is it, Miss. Whitney?” Emma asked me.

I hesitated. “That was an interesting story you wrote.”

“But I’m going to get a zero,” said Emma.

“Well, I remember a little girl who also had a stuffed polar bear named Spike,” I said.

Emma tilted her head. “Are you talking about me?”

I flushed.

“You used to babysit me?” asked Emma.

“Is your last name Da Silva?” I asked.

Emma nodded.

“I… I did babysit you.”

Emma brightened her eyes.

“Jaylin, get back here,” said Mrs. Jackson.

I returned to the chalkboard but continued to gaze at Emma. That story made me smile.

fiction

Rudy’s Racoon Birthday Bash: A Short Story

My brother, Rudy, turned six today. Unlike many people, Rudy admired racoons. That’d led him to wanting a racoon birthday party.

            I’d assisted my mom in buying supplies, such as those racoon hats. The party stores sold no racoon balloons, plates, or anything related to them. So we had bought black and silver balloons and had placed racoon faces on them—printouts from the internet.

            Rudy had also wished for a pin-the-tail-on-the-racoon game. So my mom had made that on her own.

            We set up the house. My mom had asked me to assist in the event, even though my friend, Alice, had invited me to her pool party.

            At fourteen, that intrigued me more than a small child’s birthday bash with an unusual theme.

            The doorbell rang. Rudy’s friends showed up and put on the racoon hats. Then they ran around.

            Once all the little kids arrived, my mom said to me, “Esme, you’re in charge of the kids.”

            “Why? What are you doing?”

            “I’m teaching you responsibility.”

            I blushed, recalling the poor grades I’d received in school that’d almost made me fail eighth grade.

            As Rudy’s friends played the games, Alice called me.

            “I can’t talk right now.”

            “I’m going away tomorrow and won’t be back for two weeks.”

            “Alice, I already told you that I can’t make it.”

            A boy fell and cried.

            “I’ve got to go.” I hung up and rushed over to the kid. “What happened?”

            “I tripped,” he sobbed.

            “Hang on, I’ll get you a Band-Aid.” I hurried to the bathroom, only to run into my mom, who walked out.

            “Who’s crying?” my mother asked.

            “Dylan,” said Rudy.

            “Where was Esme when this happened?” asked my mom.

            “Talking on the phone with her friend, Alice,” Rudy answered.

            My mom glared at me as I gave Rudy a dirty look.

            “Esme, I told you to look after them,” my mother said.

            “I’m sorry. But Alice was the one who called me.”

            “Give me your phone.” My mom held her hand out.

            I gave it to her and dragged my feet into the room.

            “You’ll get it back after the party.”

            I flushed and gave Dylan the Band-Aid. “All right, who wants to play a game where you don’t run around?”

            The children groaned.

            “We can come up with something.” I gasped. “How about arts and crafts?”

            “Can it be about racoons?” Rudy asked.

            “Yes, but let your friends make whatever they want too.”

            I gathered some paper, crayons, scissors, glue sticks, and googly eyes. Then I brought it to the playroom.

            “What can we make?” asked Dylan.

            “Anything you want,” I answered. “Just be careful with the scissors and don’t run with them. No grabbing things from the other children, no coloring on anything other than the paper, and clean up after you’re done.”

            The kids engaged in drawing, coloring, cutting, and pasting. They made rainbows, houses, butterflies, and other cute creations.

            After they tidied up, they showed my mom their crafts.

            “Very nice, everyone,” she said. “Did Esme watch you?”

            They all said that she did.

            “She helped us,” said Rudy.

            “Wow.” My mother turned to me. “Thank you, Esme.”

            “You’re welcome.”

            I assisted in serving pizza, cake, and goodie bags. Then my mom returned the phone to me. Alice had texted me.

My pool had an issue. So we can’t swim today. Do u want to come in 2 weeks?

I replied.

Yes. TY so much. See u then.

“Thank you for helping out today, Esme,” my mom said.

“Thank you,” Rudy added.

“You’re welcome.” I grinned.