Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #12

Child’s Play
by Precie

“Mommy! Where are they?”

“Where’s what, buddy? Did you lose something?”

“No, I didn’t lose them, Mommy. They have to be here.”

“What, Nicky? What are you looking for?”

“My treasures. I had them right here in my pocket.”

Why can’t he take better care of his toys?

“Did you have them at the park?”

“Yes!” Amazing how he has mastered the are-you-stupid? tone at such a young age.

“Sweetie, you probably dropped them while you were playing. Now get your jammies on. It’s time for bed.”

I go to the bathroom to get his toothbrush ready, but he doesn’t come. When I check on his progress, he’s crouching behind the rocking chair, his hands covering his face.

“What are you doing, bud?”

Through the slats, I see tears stream down his face as he looks up.

“I need them, Mommy.”

I tamp down my irritation and force my “patient mommy” voice as I pull him out from his hiding place.

“Honey, they could be anywhere right now. We can look for them in the morning, but you shouldn’t have taken them to the park. We’ve talked about this.”

He slips from my grasp and collapses, sobs shaking his torso.

“They’re just little plastic jewels,” I say. “You have plenty of other toys.”

“I need those,” he wails. “It’s you and me and daddy. I have to take care of them. So daddy will come home safe.”

At sunrise, we’ll go check the park.


Aimee Laine said...

I'd have gone to check right then with that explanation. :) LOVELY! What a tug at the heartstrings!

Michael Morse said...

I love the way you captured the desperation in the child and the understanding from the mother. Beautifully told.

Anonymous said...

No, no, no, you're not missing your boys, much, are you love? ;)

As ever, Precie dearest, a sweet, poignant tale written by the hand of a Master ('cause I didn't want to call you a Mistress.)

Aniket Thakkar said...

A sweet tale, but not sugar coated. The thoughts tell that Mom is really trying to do her best under the circumstances. Then again, I want to know more what these circumstances are...

Beautiful writing nonetheless.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I love stories of innocence. You've done a superb job showing the mother's "tired" attentiveness and the child's concerns.

PJD said...

So many phrases in this are perfect. I only wish you'd brought the father in sooner, given us a sense of where he is. Is she frustrated that he's away? Is he gone and never coming back?

Jade L Blackwater said...

Nice stuff Precie - good authentic voices for mother and son, and I like the pivot mother makes at the end. Not just "tomorrow" - SUNRISE.

Precie said...

Aimee--thanks! Yes, that would have been my gut reaction too, except it's dark already. It would be the needle in the proverbial haystack, but also blindfolded. :)

Michael--thanks so much!

Rosey--well, *you* could call me Mistress and get away with it. ;)

Aniket--thanks! I was hoping to avoid sugar. :) and, yes, I totally understand your wish for more background. I think I had maybe space for two more words...


PJD--perfect phrases? Cool! I was just shooting for realistic. :) And I do see what you mean about the father...can't fit much but probably could have snuck in that he's away for a while, not just late coming home from work.

Oddyoddyo13 said...

I'd already be out the door! Very moving.

PJD said...

Sorry in my first comment for being so terse. I was typing on a blackberry in a train that was approaching my stop. I really like this, and the way the child acts. The author is clearly someone who has paid close attention to children and understands the caregiver role. That's why I thought some of the phrases were perfect. I particularly liked crouching behind the rocking chair, through the slats, tamp down my irritation, we've talked about this. Definitely a sense and vision of captivity (him) and helplessness (her).

This is really good flash because it gradually develops the tension and then hits wham with the kicker at the end, revealing what's really going on.

I still wish the father had come in earlier, though. :-)

pegjet said...

I was okay with the father not mentioned until the end. The son's desperation and the mom's reaction had more punch without the explanation, and I immediately "wrote" where dad was in my imagination--I made him a soldier, away. Mom wanted him home safe too, and "sunrise" was a beautiful touch, as opposed to "tomorrow".

In my opinion, a contender.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I agree with most of what's been said. I love the dialogue - external and internal. You can feel the love and the tiredness, the reaching for more patience and understanding.

I got Dad being away at war, but that's more about our time than what's in the story.

Mentally, I had her reaching for a flashlight before I read the last line. Works either way. Emotions do not always bend to logic.

Precie said...

Jade--thank you!!!


PJD--no, no, not terse. But I appreciate your fuller explanation. :)

pegjet--thanks very much!

Sarah--thank you! Yes, the urge to go out right then is strong...part of that struggle between exhaustion and love, reason and emotion. :) PS--I think I may just end up writing "ditto Sarah" as my comments for other entries. :)

Deb Smythe said...

You really nailed the mother-child interaction. A poignant day in the life portrayal. You got a hold of my heartstring, that's for sure.

Nice writing.

Chris Eldin said...

Realistic and poignant conversation between mother and child. Nicely drawn, Precie!

Sandra Cormier said...

To a child, the smallest tremor is an earthquake.

Exquisitely written.

Craig said...

The strongest voice so far and it really compliments the excellent use of dialogue.

Unknown said...

I absolutely love that I get a strong sense of character from both mom and child through mostly dialogue and very little internal thought. And not mentioning the dad until the very end was perfect. Love this one....

Lee said...

That was outstanding. I have young children and can completely sympathize with the mother in the story. I'd be doing the exact same.

Unknown said...

Hi Precie!

Awwwww, so sweet, so sad... grim realities of our childhood. I would have grabbed a spotlight and gone for a midnight treasure hunt.

Dottie :)

fairyhedgehog said...

I really liked this. I could feel her irritation fighting with her understanding of his feelings. It felt so simple and natural and yet I had the sense of a much bigger story here.

McKoala said...

Oh, yes, the 'patient mommy' voice, been there, done that!

I like this story; it's a deceptively simple and lovely slice of family life.

Whirlochre said...

Builds wonderfully, ends with gentle punch.

JaneyV said...

Oh Precie - you are such a good writer. This piece is just so beautiful. With the lightest of touches you revealed such a simple and poignant tale of the ways that we cope when our loved ones are pain or danger. The boy kept his family together by attaching them to 'items of value' that he could keep safe in his pocket. What a gorgeous thought.

Peter pretty much said it all except that I liked it exactly as it is.

Joni said...

You've got the parental mix of patience and exasperation down!

Touching story. I like the realistic feel.

Vincent Kale said...

I love short stories that get the message across using mostly dialogue. This is a great example of that.

I'm okay with the father being mentioned at the very end. Like others, I pictured him as a soldier away at war. After reading it again, other options popped up. Obviously the child knew his father, so, is he dead? Did he run off?

Depending on the nature of the father's absence, the story changes tone. To me, that opens up more points of discussion. Perfect!

Catherine Vibert said...

Oh Precie, just gorgeous! I started crying at the end. I got that daddy is off fighting, but that's just me because you didn't say, but that's what I felt. The vision of him behind the rocking chair crying was so vulnerable and touching, really capture the emotions of a child, I just need to go hug something small right now. Great job Precie, I can't find a single word or idea to critique.

Laurel said...

I can't believe it! Blogger has been chomping all my comments up!

At any rate, I loved this. The voice is so real (sounds like me, most of the time) and the little childhood drama turns out to be something so much bigger in what the stones represent to him. So sweet and easily pictured in my own children. Great work.

SzélsőFa said...

kudos to you!
this is definitely one of my favourites (and i'm reading from backwards!)
i don't think the father as a soldier. just an ordinary someone out on a business trip perhaps. nothing special.
but it is special for the kid.
a touching story well told with all the psychological insights.

bekbek said...

Beautiful. I'm in the "father at the end is just fine" camp; it almost feels like a topic that isn't talked about much, the way we sometimes shy away from the scary things and they go unsaid for days and days and then hit us like a brick when they come up again.

I would not change a single thing.

Precie said...

Thank you thank you thank you, all!! I hope to get a chance soon to respond to all of your comments.

PS--to anyone who has tried to Friend me on FB, I really appreciate the thought, but I have a personal rule about only friending people I know in person/offline. Sorry. (and, yes, that means I know Aerin--she's even more gorgeous in person.)

Thanks again for reading...and for all the wonderful feedback!