It’s been a while since I’ve done one of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges. This week’s was to write a story (no more than 1000 words) about “bad parents.” Here’s my go:
Tanya and Jerry Get Away (747 words)
“Look, all I’m asking is that you not swear in front of her so goddamned much!”
Tanya had to shout so Jerry could hear her over the roar of the car’s engine, but Jerry was pretty sure she’d be shouting no matter how fast she was driving. He thought about pointing out her own language slip, just then, but quickly thought better of it. Instead, he craned his neck to look in the back seat. Little Madison was conked out, safely strapped into her car seat and clutching on to Mr. Bunny Rabbit.
“It doesn’t have that much of an effect on her,” he said. “She’s two. She’s a – whaddyacallit – a tabula rasa. Her brain’s still forming. It’s like a new day for her every five seconds.”
“Pretty sure that’s goldfish, Jerry.”
“Okay, so maybe not that often. The point stands.”
“The point,” said Tanya, “is that if she starts pre-school with a potty mouth, it’s gonna make us look like pretty terrible parents.”
“I’m sure she won’t be the first toddler to drop an F-bomb during show and tell.”
“So, you admit she’s listening?”
“I admit nothing,” said Jerry. It was a never-ending argument. Somehow the arrival of a miniature person in their lives meant a complete personality overhaul on his part. No more fart jokes. No more swearing. No more hosting poker night with the boys. No more screaming monkey sex in the middle of the afternoon.
Jerry, on the other hand, thought they owed their child the benefit of seeing the real people behind the parental units. Children, he knew, were remarkable little bullshit detectors, and he would be damned if his kid was going to grow up thinking her parents were a couple of phonies.
“Anyway,” he said, “you coddle her too much.”
Tanya’s eyes narrowed and she floored the accelerator. A wailing sound had begun behind them, and it was picking up in volume.
“You never say ‘no’ to her. Ever.”
“Of course not,” she said. “It’s, like, the worst thing you can say to a child.”
“I thought the worst thing to say to a child was, ‘Santa’s dead.’”
“I’m serious, Jerry. I read all about it somewhere. ‘No’ is a violent word in a child’s world. It’s abuse. It stifles their curiosity and creativity. She needs to be encouraged to explore.”
“She needs to be given some boundaries. That’s how kids know we love them and care about them. She wants us to say no.”
“Boundaries?! You would put her in a cage if you could!”
Goddamn crunchy-granola shit. Jerry’s teeth hurt from the grinding.
“Don’t twist my words!” he yelled. The engine and the wailing had become formidable competition. “Look, all I’m saying is that if Maddie doesn’t get used to hearing ‘no’ from you now, she won’t be able to hear it when she really needs to.”
“She’ll never need to hear that!”
“Oh, really? So when she’s in high school, and she comes home with some greaser douchebag who’s too old for her?”
Tanya only glared at him.
“And when she says, ‘Can I borrow the camera, we’re gonna shoot some internet porn in your bedroom?’ You’re going to scream, ‘No!’”
“And she’s gonna look at you like you’re speaking Farsi, ‘cause it’s a word she’s never heard come out of your mouth before!”
“And then she’ll be all like, ‘Whatever, Mom. C’mon, greaser douche, let’s go raid the liquor cabinet.’ And all you’ll be able to do then is cry . . .”
Tanya was staring rather pointedly in the rear-view mirror. The wailing was threatening to pierce their eardrums. Jerry looked behind him. Madison was still sound asleep and drooling on Mr. Bunny Rabbit. Out the back window, he counted three sheriff’s cruisers. On the floor of the car in front of Maddie’s seat were the bags holding her freshly procured college fund.
“Hold ‘er steady,” said Jerry. “I’ll waive ‘em off.”
Jerry grabbed the shotgun at his feet, leaned out the window, and took aim at their pursuers. He pulled the trigger and the barrel roared. The right front tire of the lead car blew out and the car went skidding off onto the shoulder, taking out another car behind it and slowing the third one down.
“Hah!” yelled Jerry, triumphant. “Take that you donut-eating motherfuckers!”
Jerry slumped back down into the passenger seat and rolled his eyes.
It was going to be a long getaway drive.
[Originally titled this one Tanya and Jerry Shouldn’t Procreate, but that felt wrong.]