short 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.

short fiction

The Uncontrollable Curse (Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions Book 2): Presenting… an Excerpt

Alyssa inhaled a lavender scent that tickled her nose. She opened her eyes to see lilac-colored vapor enveloping her face. Gasping, she hopped off her bed. But the mist followed her and covered her body.

            It touched her straight, pale-blonde hair and formed droplets that dripped off the strands that fell to the middle of her butt. The mist also sank into her skin through her muted purple T-shirt and leggings. Grunting, Alyssa squeezed her aching, narrow shoulders. The vapor drifted away through the closed window, without staining anything.

            Where did this come from? Alyssa thought.

            Normal mist would have marked a closed window, so the vapor had to have come from… wizardry. Alyssa’s breathing grew faster. Six months had passed since magic had left her life. It was October! Magic should have stayed out, leaving Alyssa to live sorcery-free.

            On April eighteenth, the day after Alyssa’s thirteenth birthday, her wizard mentor, Mathias, had provided two enchanted objects meant to protect her from magical peril. She’d brought them with her to Illinois after her godfather and legal guardian Alex had lost his job in Ohio and had been offered a new one in Cook County, minutes away from their home here in Will County. And yet, somehow, somebody had found a way around the artifacts’ protections today.

            That did it! Alyssa’s eyes drifted to her closet. The door was cracked open. Duct tape hung from a shoebox. Alyssa covered her mouth. Somebody must’ve broken in and opened the door while she had gone to Chicago today. The city was about an hour away from here, Will County, and Alyssa had taken a nap after returning here in the afternoon. Something should’ve woken her up earlier.

            Alyssa crept over, breathing faster. Her hands sweated and trembled as she opened the door. She jumped back. The objects were missing from that shoebox.

            Why hadn’t the magic light stick steered the thief away, especially if he or she were magical? It must have been a sorcerer. Otherwise, the window would’ve broken or Alyssa would’ve noticed other clues. And shouldn’t the warning dome have glowed orange at some point today, even if the criminal had taken hours to prepare to steal it and the stick? They couldn’t have been disabled. There had to be a way to get them back.

            Earlier today, in the morning, Alyssa had left to go shopping with Alex. Perhaps Alex needed to install an alarm system. Couldn’t he have hired someone to set it up and have it ready by now, at around six PM?

Alyssa searched the closet, but she saw no signs of her objects. She groaned.

            Whoever had started that mist either must have taken her objects or had sent somebody to do so. She looked around her room.

            The walls remained their mauve color. The furniture stayed where it had always been. Her poster of celebrity, Sapphire Silver Button, hung next to her bed. An airbrushed picture of her name hung across her closet. Everything on her desk and dresser stayed still. But no clues suggested any sign of somebody else here.

            A swish sounded, suggesting a wizard had appeared here. But he or she made no sounds.

            Alyssa picked up her Android phone and contacted her previous mentors – from when a magician named Master Beau had kidnapped her and taken her to Fiji in late March, so that she could’ve helped him rule France.

            First, she searched for Mathias’s in her email. No results came up. The same thing occurred with her other helper, Isabelle. That left Simon, the English marble figure, the third mentor. Nothing.

            Alyssa exhaled. Simon should know better. If he hadn’t warned Alyssa about Master Beau or had asked Isabelle and Mathias to guide her in Fiji, would she have made it today? Because he knew a lot about different subjects, especially technology, Simon should’ve emailed her. As a marble figure, even if he resembled a mini angel, he could gather information from people’s minds and signal people, as well as animals, as quickly as the speed of sound. Even when he’d frozen in Fiji, he hadn’t lost that skill.

            Even if Simon had too much to do now, he would have found Alyssa another mentor. Alyssa sighed and put her phone down.

                Something tickled her palms. She gasped and swung them back. White light glowed from within her hands. Her jaw dropped, and the rays shot out and landed on the floor by the door. The beams vanished, revealing bouncing tiles.

            Alyssa’s chest constricted and her skin tightened. She gaped at the leaping pieces, her mouth still open. Shallow breaths came out of her mouth. This had to be a dream. She couldn’t have performed magic. Ordinary people without sorcery in their blood couldn’t do that.

            Alyssa kept her eyes open and focused her attention on the tiles. Her heartbeat sped up. Without any magic in her blood, she could never become a sorceress. Everyone who’d ever been related to her had zero supernatural powers. She would’ve found out by the age of nine, when wizard children learned to control their sorcery, that she was an enchantress. But—magic did advance like technology over time and gained new possibilities.

If you enjoyed this excerpt, please be sure to pre-order the book here. Thanks!

short fiction

The Deal: A Flash Fiction Piece

I had received a D on my science test. My teacher, Mrs. Wellington, had given me extra help prior. But for some reason, biology ended up a weakness of mine.

            I considered it strange since I had enjoyed studying animals growing up. I would read about them, talk about them, and beg my parents to take me to zoos and aquariums.

            I entered my house. My mom got off the phone.

            “Jade, we need to have a talk.”

            I sat with my mom.

            “You promised me straight A’s for all of ninth grade.”

            “I’m sorry,” I said.

            “I think I’m going to have to make you miss your class trip to Ocean Life Park.”

            “No!”

            “You want to have fun, you need to maintain good grades.”

            I covered my head.

            “All right, if you really want to go, here’s the deal. You get A’s in all your classes for a week. Plus, you do every chore exactly as I ask. No mistakes. If you do everything right, I will let you go on that trip. If not, you are going to miss the trip.”

            I gazed at my mom. “Deal.”

            “Good. Now can you wash the dishes, please?”

            “Yes.” I stood up and rinsed each one. My shirt got soaked along with my hair. Nevertheless, I continued.

            After drying the dishes, I went to my room and did my homework. My mom knocked on the door.

            “Yes?”

            She opened it. “Jade, you forgot a knife in the sink.”

            I gasped. “No, I… I couldn’t have.”

            “Come see for yourself.”

            Gulping, I followed my mom downstairs. We entered the kitchen and approached the sink. Yup—one butter knife remained.

            “I guess you’re going to kiss that trip goodbye.”

            “Mom, I’m sorry. I-I didn’t see it.”

            “We made a deal. We’re not going to break it.”

            The phone rang. My mom answered it. I stared and breathed. It couldn’t be my dad on the other line.

            “The trip is cancelled?” my mother asked.

            “No,” I said.

            My mother remained on the line.

            “Oh, okay.” She hung up. “Jade, your school trip to that ocean place has been canceled.”

“I knew it.”

“The deal is broken.”

“I sighed.”

“But we can consider going there as a family… for dad’s birthday.”

I grinned.

short fiction

Job Opportunities: A Flash Fiction Piece

I sat on our summer home porch. Night fell as I stared at my father’s submarine. He lost his life from a bee sting two days ago.

            My mother came out and removed her diamond ring. She sat with me. “Sarah, we’ve got to give up this house.”

            I opened my mouth. “What?”

            “I don’t think I can afford it anymore.” My mom sniffled. “I don’t even know if I can hold a job much longer.” She burst into tears.

            I petted her back. “I’m already sixteen. I can try and help support our family.”

            “No, you can’t.”

            “Holly recommended a position for me at her orchard last week.” I referred to my best friend. “I can make this work, Mom.”

            My mom breathed. “If you think so.”

            “Thanks.” I stood up and returned inside. I packed my belongings. Tears stung my eyes as I thought about my dad. Who would take his submarine? And would we ever get this summer home back—or any summer house in general?

            After I finished packing, I followed my brother, Timothy, downstairs.

            “Sarah, is it true that Holly is going to give you a job?” Timothy asked.

            “She said she might.”

            “How do you know you’re going to get it?”

            “Well, I have known Holly since kindergarten.”

            “That doesn’t mean anything.”

            “You’re only twelve, and you met your best friend in third grade since he was new then.”

            “Why does that matter to you?”

            “Because I’ve known Holly longer!”

            Timothy stared at me. “Gee, Sarah. You need to relax.”

            “I can’t. Not without Dad.”

            “Please stop.” Timothy’s eyes watered.

            My phone rang. I answered to Holly.

            “Hey, Sarah, sorry to hear about your father.”

            “Thanks, Holly.”

            “Anyway, I’ve got some bad news too.”

            “What?”

            “The job I offered you isn’t available anymore.”

            I gasped.

            “My cousin took over it.”

            “Holly, how could you do such a thing?”

            “We needed someone as soon as possible.”

            “B-but—”

            “Sorry, Sarah, but you’ll just have to look for something else.” Holly hung up.

            I looked down and sighed.

            “I told you,” Timothy said.

            “Shut up!” I inhaled and exhaled.

            My mother returned inside. “Kids, are you all packed up and ready to go?”

            “Wait, we’re moving out tonight?” asked Timothy.

            “Yes,” said my mom. “Sarah, did you hear from Holly?”

            I nodded. “But she gave the position to someone else.”

            My mom gasped. “No.”

            Her phone rang. She answered it.

            I tuned out, assuming that it had nothing to do with me. But my mom looked at me. “Sarah, Mrs. Johnson has a job opening for you.”

            I opened my mouth. My mother’s friend offering me a job opportunity?

            “All right then. Thank you, Martha.” My mom hung up. “Sarah, Mrs. Johnson expects you next week.”

            “Why not sooner?” I asked.

            “Because she has to take care of other things,” my mother said. “But we may get this house back.”

            I smiled.

movie, TV show

You’re Never Too Old to Love Something

As children in different stages of our youth (early childhood, grade school age, and adolescence) we all had different tastes in different pop culture and entertainment. When we were babies and small children, about ages 3 – 5*, we loved pretty much the same movies and TV shows, such as “Barney and Friends”, “Sesame Street”, Teletubbies” and “Blue’s Clues”. And as we got older, by around 6, our tastes split up as we discovered our personalities and differences. Some of us watched Cartoon Network, such as “The PowerPuff Girls”, “Scooby Doo”, “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Codename: Kids Next Door”. Some of us enjoyed Nickelodeon and their programs, such as “Rugrats” “Spongebob SquarePants” “The Fairly Odd Parents” and “Danny Phantom”. Some loved Disney Channel and their shows, like “Lizzie McGuire”, “Hannah Montana”, “Kim Possible” and “Phineas and Ferb”. And others mixed and matched channels.

By about 10 – 11, some kids might find those shows childish and watch to move on to older shows, which can be an issue as many are too inappropriate for children. Tweens might be a common time for kids to get attracted to unsuitable content (or at least was when I was that age). It’s probably gotten younger over the years as society changed kids’ tastes and how quickly their favors matured. But there probably is and never will be an average age a kid gets attracted to stuff that’s too inappropriate from them and adults have to stop them. It likely varies a lot from as early as 2.5 – 3 years old and as late as young teens. But that’s another topic.

By early teens, 13 – 14, depending on their parents or guardians’ rules, some may outgrow all kids shows as they are ready for PG-13 content, such as occasional swearing. At 15 – 17, a kid may be interested in R-rated movies. Parents might deny the film them at the younger end of that range. By 18, they’re ready for a purely mature taste in entertainment.

But that’s just an example based on psychological development as well as the individual’s environment and taught mindsets. In fact, many kids and adults do not follow that expected standard. I most definitely didn’t want to. Sometimes, I got to follow my tastes my way. But that was more recently in my early adulthood.

In fact, during my youth, I was constantly being judged by others. Worse, I was being pressured to “grow up.” As early as 10, I was taught that I was too old for family-appropriate movies. For instance, I was 10 when I saw the movie “Home on the Range” in the theaters. Six months later, I wanted to get it on DVD. But my mom was shocked and said I was too old. I was in sixth grade then, and I was really annoyed. She was treating like it was geared toward early childhood and was as young as “Teletubbies”. At 11, I was told I was too old for “Rugrats” (the spin-off didn’t matter in this case). At 12, I was told I was too big for Waffle Boy games (based of the Waffle Crisp cereal) and “The Fairly Odd Parents”. At 13, I was told I was too old for “Happy Feet” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” – the film.

For years I would believe that. I would even avoid many Disney movies because I was “too big”. It wasn’t until young adulthood I revisited my childhood cartoons and stopped considering myself too old for them. I wish I didn’t have to live with that insecurity for years. I would either avoid them like the plague, or watch them secretly, but insecurely. But I never should’ve had to.

In fact, many of my peers then enjoyed clean TV shows and movies such as anime and even Nick JR. I’m not kidding. Because of what I was taught, I would tell other kids they were too old for shows like “Dora the Explorer”. They were unhappy.

If only my family had empathized with me and understood that I did NOT choose to like the “childish” entertainment forms. Instead, they treated it like it was at least as bad as watching something inappropriate. It is not.

While there are negative psychological effects if a young person watches something inappropriate, there is nothing for watching something you’re “too old” for. Yes, children need to be taught what behaviors they are too big for. But they should get to watch what they love as long as it’s appropriate. And adults can watch anything, including clean entertainment.

It’s okay to love something that others believe are geared toward younger children. Just because something is clean and has no mature content, that doesn’t mean it’s only for little kids. Older kids and adults deserve the right to watch what appeals to them.

You should be able to watch something, regardless of rating or cleanliness, with no problem—with 100% confidence. Don’t let others judge you. In fact, I wish I had never been judged the way I was. For instance, I used to keep it secret from my peers in middle school that I liked “Danny Phantom” because I was constantly judged.

Now, with the exception of Disney, if I want to watch a family-friendly show or film, I go into another room and keep the volume low (this is only if I’m home). If someone comes inside, I pause the video and turn the device away from the other person. And I don’t like it. I want to be confident with watching a clean movie or TV show without someone criticizing me.

Don’t be afraid to walk into a bar with a “Mickey Mouse” shirt. Don’t be afraid to go into a casino with a “Shrek” tattoo in a visible area. It’s all right to love “The PowerPuff Girls” at 25 (my current age). It’s fine to love “The Fairly Odd Parents” at 30. And it’s more than acceptable to be passionate about “Shrek” at 60.

I am abandoning all the pressures to outgrow my likes for clean entertainment. But it’s very difficult and is going slow. It might take several years. Hopefully, it doesn’t. I am never too old for what I like. The only exceptions are stuff like “Barney” and “Teletubbies”, where there is little to no conflict and problems are resolved in a mild cute way. Those shows were definitely intended for early childhood.

And here’s a bonus fact: many “kid’s” TV shows and movies have jokes or references that only adults could get. “Bee Movie” is an example.

So remember, love what you love. Don’t be insecure. Don’t let others judge you. Don’t force yourself to stop enjoying something because people say you’re too old. Be who you want to be. And most importantly, who you are.

*This varies a lot, especially in recent years. It’s just an estimate. No two children of the same age are alike in their entertainment tastes.