7 Sizzling Sundays of Summer Flash Fiction CONTEST, Week 4

PhotobucketThe Sundays keep on sizzling at WU! We are blown away by the FANTASTIC flash fiction stories submitted for our Flash Fiction contest (if you somehow missed the announcement, check out the rules and fabulous prizes HERE).

The entries just keep getting better and better, which is making it tough to pick out three finalists this week. Thanks to all who submitted stories based on last week’s prompt. As always, we have our honorable mentions:

Allison Corser (“There’s a ghost who lives in our second-floor hallway.”)
Zoe (“The Red Room”)
Claire Fuller (“Oskar”)
Andrea Fleming (“Teddy looked up at her with one glass eye”)
Taylor Ross (“When you are a little girl, you’re afraid of simple things.”)
William Lailey (“The monsoon arrives, and it floods.”)
Julie Jay (“Don’t go far,” my daddy said…)

And this week’s three winners, in no particular order are:

Janeen Owens (“Babe, I have a routine call.”)
CB Soulsby 
(“I find her in full color around the alley.”)
Andrea Ellickson 
(“A monster lives in my bedroom, and his name is Gary.”)

Congratulations to Janeen, CB, and Andrea! Your stories have made our finalists’ round, and will be part of the big WU vote in early August.

Can winners enter again? Yes, they can. We hope all of you enter again! We look for stories that tell a complete beginning, middle and end, and who let the prompt unboxed their creativity in surprising ways.

And now without further ado, this week’s visual prompt, again provided by the talented Debbie Ohi, is…

Remember the full rules can be found HERE, but if you’re in the mood to flash and run, cliff-notes rules are below:

  • The story must be inspired by that week’s visual prompt.
  • Each submission must be 250 words or less. 
  • Each story must contain a beginning, middle, and end.
  • All submitted work must be original–not published anywhere else, and written by you, for this contest.
  • Post submissions in the comment section of the prompt post. Each week, the deadline will be 72 hours after the prompt is posted on Sunday morning, meaning Wednesday at 7 a.m. EST.
  • No more than two entries per person, per week will be eligible for that week.
  • The top three stories from each week will be selected by a mix of votes in the form of Likes in the comment section and our own discretion.

This week’s contest closes Wednesday July 25, 7 a.m. EST. Good luck and happy writing!

Drawing courtesy © Debbie Ridpath Ohi, illustrator of the soon-to-be-released book for children, I’m Bored.

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Writer Unboxed began as a collaboration between aspiring novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton in January, 2006. Since then the site has grown to include ~40 regular contributors--including bestselling authors and industry leaders--and frequent guests. You can follow Writer Unboxed on Twitter, or join our thriving Facebook community.

Comments

  1. says

    Thank you so much! I’m really enjoying this competition and really grateful for everyone’s support. Congratulations to all the honourables and other winners. Right, time to get cracking on with this week’s piece.

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  2. Julia Jay says

    ‘Why are you sitting there?’

    ‘You know why.’

    ‘Tell me?’

    He cannot speak.

    She stares around the room they had prepared so eagerly, at the dusky pink walls, a teddy bear in palest blue sitting on wicker chair, bereft, but perfect to comfort with the softest of fur. The sounds of the children next door float through the open window, healthy, full of life as they laugh at water sprayed, running with screams but secretly wanting to be caught, to be soaked through. A childhood delight.

    She fingers the tiny shoes waiting to be worn, the mobile over the cot swimming as the colours pool; swirling reds and blues mixing, merging, and dissolving in form. She takes the tiny blanket from where it lies on top of the dresser; the blanket needed now close at hand, near her heart.

    ‘Don’t be long.’

    ‘I’ll be as long as it takes.’

    As long as it takes to put her to rest; their beautiful, innocent child, so full of life, with the wisdom of the universe held in her eyes. The child who lived long enough for her to witness a smile; the smile that now breaks her heart in two.

    She sits outside, down by the tree where she cannot be seen, holding the blanket close as she rocks back and forth. As she empties the pills into her hand she repeats.

    ‘Momma’s coming. Momma’s coming soon.’

    The man sits staring at where the baby had been; gurgling happily in her dreams.

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  3. wilson hara says

    Oh boy! He couldn’t stop smiling if he tried, his face has developed rigor mortis from the lack of sleep and all the smiling. He is a grandfather and the only thing required of him is to love. Manners, ballet nonsense, college, all that is not his problem. He will feed the baby, change diapers IF required, play. And then in a few years he’ll teach her stuff – as long as they let him.

    He’ll have to change certain things, the things that make his daughter roll her eyes. He’ll have to keep up with the times. And perhaps those Kardashian girls. He won’t be able to swear, and he’s pretty sure he’ll be made politically correct or something better and maybe even a … feminist?

    In another few years, when she’s seven, he’ll tell her about the war and he’ll tell her about his father and that war and the one before that, assuming she’s still listening. Peace. He will ask for peace. What else? There is so much to be done. Tomorrow, or the next day, he might start yoga.

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    • wilson hara says

      any criticism very welcome! Right now my only critic is my daughter and she said she liked the first part so I asked her to be more specific. Specifically, she answered : she liked the first 2 words. Oh Boy!

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      • says

        “In another few years, when she’s seven, he’ll tell her about the war and he’ll tell her about his father and that war and the one before that, assuming she’s still listening.

        Brilliant passage! You said so much with just those four words.

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  4. says

    I once had a little girl, just like you. She slept in that same cot.

    She’s downstairs right now, chopping apples with my wife—with her mom—and they’re talking womanly things. That reminds me: watch out for that apple tree. The top branch takes a funny turn. It would be easy for a little thing like you to climb up there one day and take a tumble. Believe me, it’s happened.

    Before we know it, you’ll be wanting a cell-phone and be off to dances, all giggly over boys,… and driving. That scares me more than the apple tree. Not yet, though. So don’t worry. I know you’re smart and you’ll figure things out.

    Life’s a fine thing—and we’re going to do it all again, now that you’ve shown up.

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  5. Melanie B Cee says

    Jonas looked down at his sleeping baby girl. He thought his heart would burst, he was that proud. How such a miracle happened to him, he wasn’t sure, but he was grateful. She was perfect. Her golden eyelashes lay on her chubby pink cheeks like gossamer strands of spun sunlight. Her little fists, clenched in boxers’ pose twitched as she dreamed baby dreams of another time and place. Jonas wondered how he would do as a father and vowed to give her the best that he had to offer. He and his wife weren’t wealthy, but they would give her a greater gift, that of love. He wondered what the future held for her and hoped fate would be kind to her. He leant over the cradle and stroked her silky cheek with a careful finger. She kicked her tiny feet in response and her hazy blue eyes flashed open for a second. Precious beyond measure, more dear to him than all the gold in the world was his daughter. He thought back on his own childhood and how the world had tossed him some pretty rough situations to handle, and he knew then that all the trials he had endured were to prepare him for this, perhaps his toughest role. He thought of his own father, stern and remote, a farmer who was harsh with his own children and Jonas vowed not to ever let her experience that loss. He would always be there for her.

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  6. Colleen Wood says

    “Herbert!”
    “What?”
    “What the hell are you doing?”
    “Nothing!”
    “Are you plaing with that doll again?”
    “No!”
    “Are you in the attic, right this minute, looking at that god damn doll again?”
    “No, dammit, leave me alone!”
    Herbert listened to Elsie’s heavy footsteps climb the attic stairs.
    “Herbert, you WERE playing with that god damn doll again.”
    “I’m only looking at it. There’s a difference.”
    “Some men drink, some men hump women, you, you play with dolls.”
    Elsie made her way back down the stairs.
    “Herbert! Put away the dress up clothes when you’re done!”

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    • says

      Finally got around to sitting down and reading everyone’s entries, and this made my morning. That dialogue is just fabulous. Thank you! :)

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  7. says

    “Understanding”

    I run my finger down his tubby little arm, following the contours of the rolls of baby fat. It’s been seven months now, since he was born.

    He’s got my eyes. I knew it. I knew it from the moment I saw Jenny waddling through town in August. It was eight months after the Christmas party. Oh, she denied it when I asked. Told me the baby wasn’t mine. Said it was her husband’s. Said: “Get the hell away from me, Chris. Jesus. I told you it was over at the New Year party.”

    I understand though. I’ll forgive her, in time.

    My son stirs a little, and gurgles. He’s going to be a man’s man. We’ll play football together. I’ll grin when he mimics me and makes old man faces. We’ll look back at pictures of the pink blanket and laugh. I’ll say it was the best I could do, and he’ll understand.

    A strobe of blue flashes over the wall, illuminating a splatter of red. It looks dark purple. I should have thought of that color for this room. A loudspeaker crackles into life.

    “Christopher. We’ve posted a phone through the letterbox. Pick it up, buddy.”

    I snort and look down at Jenny. Her eyes are wide over the duck tape, but she’ll come around. She’s already recoiled from her husband.

    I look at him. Cold. Still. Leaking.

    My hand relaxes on the gun resting on my knee, and I make soothing shushing sounds into the crib.

    (250 Words)

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  8. says

    “IT”

    Once upon a time there lived a very Old Man. “He was born old,” unkind people said behind his back. “I wonder if I was ever young?” the Old Man thought. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. Nobody was old enough to remember, and the Old Man had forgotten his own memories.

    One day the Old Man woke up as usual, feeling old and tired. He was counting his pains and aches, and was on the nine hundred ninety ninth ache, when he saw It. “What is this thing?” the old man thought, forgetting all about the aches and pains. “I haven’t seen anything like that before…Or have I?” It was very small. It had eyes, but they were closed. It was sleeping.

    The Old Man tried to be quiet, but his rusty old bones squeaked, and It woke up. It looked straight at the Old Man. It had big eyes. “What color are they?” the Old Man thought. He thought hard. He rubbed his forehead. “Blue! That’s it. My eyes were blue once. That’s right. I remember now.” It smiled, and the Old Man smiled back at It.

    It stayed with the Old Man. Each day It grew a little bit bigger, and the Old Man grew a little bit younger. They were happy together. And the Old Man lived to be a thousand years young.

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  9. Julia Jay says

    I have a photograph, worn from handling and the tears that drop, smudging the image received.

    He is sitting by your cot, staring in, and can hardly take his eyes away.

    I stood in the doorway listening to his wishes for you.

    ‘I want the world to be yours, my girl,’ he said, in softest tone.
    ‘I want the colours to be vibrant; a world of pink and gold and cream. I want you to gasp at the blue of the ocean, to climb the highest mountain, to touch the clouds with your ideals and for them not to be make-believe.
    I want carousels and fairground rides to carry you high as you squeal your delight. I want you to excite at precious jewels and to dive to ocean floor to see the coral reef. I want you to fly, child of mine, to touch heaven on a breeze.
    And then most of all I want love to be seen in a flower, a leaf, a stone, a crystal clear stream, a tree curling against the light. I want hills of green to make you dream big. I want fireworks seen from space to mark each triumph, each laugh and each joy.’

    The photo came back with the letter confirming his death.
    The original I keep safe for when you are grown, so you’ll know that it wasn’t a dream; the words that you heard from this man who adored. He’s looking down on you now, so live well.

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  10. Suzanne Borchers says

    “Long journey over the ocean, huh?” Edward smiled with relief at his new daughter.

    “Remember we’re not going to tell her that she’s adopted until she’s five.” Rosemary walked up behind him to rest her hand on his shoulder. “We agreed.”

    “Yes, dear.” Edward straightened the pink blanket’s edge.

    “One of the rules was that I would take care of her and that you would earn the money, remember?”

    “Yes, dear.” He placed his arms back on the crib.

    “I’ve waited so long for her. I love her already, but I believe that strict rules are necessary in life.”

    Edward smiled at his wife, his eyes soft. “Yes, dear.”

    “I’m going to heat her bottle and then I’m going to feed her.” She moved out of the room.

    Edward listened to her footsteps fade before he smoothed his daughter’s wispy hair back from her forehead. He leaned over and kissed both chubby hands. He looked at her pink crib with its prominent hearts and the fuzzy pink blanket. He glanced down at his blue shirt.

    “She needs rules.” He smiled. “I bet as a girl she always colored within the lines.” He whispered, “You and I will help her blur the lines.”

    Edward reached into a pocket and pulled out a purple rattle. He placed it next to one chubby fist.

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  11. says

    “My precious granddaughter, if you remember only one thing Grampa teaches you to carry you through life it is to never give up working toward accomplishing your dreams.”

    The infant purses her lips.

    “No matter what I write, I cannot win the Writer Unboxed contest, but I will never give up”.

    The baby smiles.

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  12. says

    “Son, you can be anything you want…”

    He was calm. Hands folded on his lap, feet crossed over each other, leaning back in his chair. One look in his clear brown eyes, and the casual observer would see not a worry in the world. The only change in his demeanor was a brief, and occasional flexing of his shoeless feet or leaning his head forward long enough to focus on the lone framed picture that was the only decoration on the desk. The ornately framed picture was with him all of his life, only coming out of the frame once after his father passed. He had it copied for his paternal grandmother whom he was fond of.

    After taking in the picture for a few minutes more the man would shake his head slightly looking bemused while leaning back again looking at the ceiling. To the casual observer the relaxed man appeared either to not have a care or seemed to be waiting for something. They would be correct on both accounts.

    As brilliant, painfully bright lights flashed outside the man’s oval-shaped office he idly wondered if the father looking lovingly over his son, or the mother taking the picture had any idea that their beautiful creation would become a participant of the end of the free society they raised him to believe he would one day run. Whatever words that would have been said were lost as the light became the end.

    “…..you can even be the president.”

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  13. says

    One perfect moment. All it takes is one perfect moment.

    Harry leaned his elbows on the edge of the crib and leaned forward. He let the scent and silence soothe him. There was no pain here, no sadness. Just peace, hope, and love.

    But the peace wouldn’t last. It never did.

    “Harry? Where are you?”

    Harry stole one more look at the pretty little doll in the crib and stood up. “I’m in here, dear.”

    Stacey appeared in the doorway. Her dark hair was loose and tangled, her feet bare, and her body barely covered by a wrap-around satin robe that hid none of her bony contours. “I was looking for you,” she said. “It’s time.” Her lips were red and raw, the sores in the corner of her mouth swollen and leaking infection.

    “I’m coming, dear,” said Harry. He forced a smile.

    Stacey turned. Harry tried not to notice the way her head seemed too big for her emaciated frame as she sashayed down the hall.

    He ran his hands through his greying hair and sighed. Perhaps this time it would work. Perhaps this time would be different. Perhaps this time there would be two blue lines instead of one.

    Harry spared a final glance at the crib. One day, it would be a real child. One day, Stacey would smile again.

    He followed his wife to the bedroom, his hands already working at his belt.

    One perfect moment, he reminded himself. All it takes it one perfect moment.

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  14. says

    Title: She looks like her Mother (163 words)

    Grandpa, are we okay? I know Mommy’s not here, not anymore. You’re my protector now, my mother, my lifeline, but sometimes, Grandpa, you scare me.

    Last night when you stood over me, with the light behind you making you look tall and grim, you were holding my pillow, squeezing it in your hands, hard. What were you thinking? You seemed so sad. I tried to reach out to you. I smiled and gurgled a love song, but the tears in your eyes must have blinded you. You stood for the longest time, holding the pillow near my face, and then you threw it away. As it fell to the floor, you said something I didn’t understand. And then… and then you brushed my cheek with the back of your hand, pulled the blankey up over me, and turned out the light.

    I love you, Grandpa. And I hope… no, I know you love me. I can tell by the smile on your face.

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  15. says

    I just love my great granddaughter. She is ‘great’ in more ways than one. When I am with her, I feel so very great. This day is just one of many. I took her to the carnival to ride the rides. I took her on a mild ride. She is only six years old, and I didn’t want to scare her. She enjoyed it.
    Next we went on a more exciting ride. Again, she took it like a champ, hanging on, screaming, and grinning widely between shouts of joy. We continued going from ride to ride, each one becoming more of a challenge. Each one, she took in stride as if she had not a fear in the world.
    When the only remaining ride was the Hammer Head, I asked if she would ride it. She responded with an enthusiastic “Yes”. After attempts to warn her how scary it might be, she still accepted to ride it. How could I deny her? She climbed into the carriage and seemed no more concerned than being belted into the seat of the car. It went. She screamed with hair blowing wildly in her face. Looking into her face I saw screams and shouts of joy, not fear. There seems to be no match for that of a small child having fun.
    If one has not seen the glee and thrill in the eyes of a child in the midst of their fun and joy, one has not witnessed the blessing of angels.

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  16. David Moertl says

    Pillow Talk

    The problem is that the bed was much larger than imagined. It also did not have side rails.

    John’s adult son lay semi-comatose in the bed with a bad hangover. John smiled as it was not him in the bed and in that condition.

    John sang a song to his son and smirked, making up the words and the tune to annoy and mock his son.

    His son could hardly move and had no choice but to take it. War had started but it needed to wait.

    His son imagined his father at his cribsibe and wished for a simpler time.

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  17. says

    “And this is Cara during her first bath,”
    “Mom, no!” Cara yelled as her mother flipped through the oldest of the family photos with Jack, her new boyfriend. Her face was surely the as red as a tomato and her mother and Jack just chuckled together while staring at Cara’s naked buttom. Cara covered her face from embarrassment. They had only been together for a few months and now that it had truly gotten serious she had decided it was time to introduce Jack to her mother. Had she known every documented moment of her life would be illuminated that night she might have waited a bit longer.
    “Who is this,” Jack pointed out, stopping on the last page. Cara saw her mothers smile fade as she looked down at the picture and take a deep sigh as if breathing out all the emotion tied to the photo.
    “That is Cara and her father. It is the only picture they have together. He was diagnosed with stage four cancer four months before Cara was born and died just four days after she was born,” Cara watched her mother carefully as tears filled her eyes while looking at the old photo of the emaciated but smiling man holding the tiny new life.

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  18. Brittaney Noble says

    He stared at his daughter’s bundle of joy and all he could think was: Cancer. Cancer with a capital C. When would this little miracle have her mother ripped, kicking, and screaming from her arms? 36? 56? His wife had passed away at 42 from the damned disease. So long ago yet it felt like yesterday. On bad days it felt like his daughter was racing like a bullet towards that decade yet on the good days she was his little girl again with her big loopy grin.
    Cancer.
    “Lucky we caught it so early Paul…”, his doctor had explained about his own cancer. His legacy to his daughter. Coupled with that of her mother’s, his daughter was doubly doomed. Maybe they would catch it early with her too. Maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe she would live. Maybe she wouldn’t. He wouldn’t be around to find out. His head rested on the crib edge as his thoughts left him weak.
    His daughter would die early no doubt. This child would grow up without her mother’s loving embrace, surprising wisdom and never ending laughter. His granddaughter would be left only with old family albums to devour like candy, greedy for the smiles and twinkling eyes of her lost loved ones. Yet despite what he knew about his granddaughter’s future, the lump in his throat and the tears burning his eyes, he felt happiness at the sight in the crib before him. And hope.

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    • Brittaney Noble says

      i realize there is a similar theme between mine and Caitlin’s but I couldn’t wait to post!

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  19. Bernadette Phipps-Lincke says

    The man with iron-thin features looked into the cradle, and Dr. Rory Davis swore he saw the man’s glasses fog.

    Tears? Impossible.

    Creighton Fuller had a reputation as a ruthless shark. In the past forty years—Fuller —the son of a prostitute in Amsterdam’s red light district, had risen to become the man who’d bought the world—and sold it back at a vast profit. In fifteen years, there hadn’t been a corporation, a global real estate deal, or even a war that didn’t have Fuller’s thumbprint all over it.

    In the process of building his empire, Fuller acquired five ex-wives, three impossible children, and four mistresses—two –due to gag orders — referred to as “alleged” by the press. Now, family and business acquaintances whispered behind Fuller’s back, what media blatantly pronounced in whirlwind headlines:

    FULLER DIAGNOSED WITH PANCREATIC CANCER.

    Creighton Fuller would soon take his place in the ranks of men who had climbed to impossible heights—only to fall by the scythe of the grim reaper.

    It hadn’t been an easy reign as kingpin—and Fuller had declared he had no deserving heirs— but Dr. Davis had never seen Fuller cry—until now— in his moment of final triumph. Fuller had used his vast wealth to bring all the best scientific resources to his bent, and bought his resurrection.

    Tearfully, Creighton Fuller—the dying man who owned the world—leaned over the heart-etched cradle and kissed the tiny, reaching fingers of his heir, his clone.

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  20. says

    He poured himself a glass of milk, keeping the fridge open with his heel so that he could smoothly put the gallon jug back. With the fridge open, he counted the trees he was killing. One-one thousand. One tree. two-two thousand. Two trees.

    By his count, getting a glass of milk killed about 9 trees. 9 trees were enough for a forest glade, he supposed. Enough that you wouldn’t get lost in detail – these were just trees, no forest to distract the mind.

    He drank quickly. One smooth gulp. When he was a kid, his mom told him that milk was a power drink. “Drink these and you’ll be a superhero.” He grabbed a bottle from the dish rack, filled it with formula, put it in the microwave for a moment. He tested it on his wrist.

    The glass from his milk still stood on the counter. Again, he grabbed the milk from the fridge, poured another couple ounces into it, put it back, grabbed the formula and walked up the stairs, a container in both hands.

    In her room, the cooing had stopped. It had been soft, not angry. A gentle reminder that there was a fragile life that needed something. But now, she was quiet. He could hear her breathing softly, the night was so silent – every step on the carpet was a soft hush. He sat down on her never-used plastic toilet and waited. He had his superpower formula, and hers, when she needed it.

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  21. Zoe Beech says

    ‘I’d also be depressed if I drank that all day,’ Mick said, as his grandson sighed in his sleep.

    ‘In fact, don’t think you should even be drinking it, but don’t tell your mother. Most people nowadays are lactose-intolerant.’ He shrugged. ‘I’m old, what do I know.’ He sat on the hard chair, thinking of that mornings argument.

    The sound of the second hand filled the room, slower than ever. Dinner was four hours away – if you could call lumpy mash and peas dinner. Monday nights were when he most missed his teeth. He remembering the dinners they used to host.

    Mick leaned forward, grinning. ‘One day my boy, your life will really begin. When you’re snapping lobsters apart and drinking the fizz of champagne. You’ll lather gooey fig jam over Camembert and smile at the most exquisite waitresses you’ve ever seen.’

    He jumped up, hands spinning in a frenzy as his glasses slid down his nose. ‘You’ll crunch into canapés, bruschetta, prawns! By jove, you’ll never turn back!’

    The shouting ushered the baby into shrieks of terror. Mick scooped him up and whispered his favourite fruits into his grandson’s ear; perhaps he’d been too ambitious beginning with starters. The screaming intensified.

    After a blaring minute, Mick’s daughter shuffled into the nursery, bleary-eyed. Glaring at her father, she manoeuvring her son into eating position. And instantly he was silent and smiling.

    ‘Poor old buggar.’ Mick shook his head. ‘He just doesn’t know any better.’

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  22. says

    My Old Man

    He was old, my father. But my mother wasn’t. When we went to the zoo or for ice cream, people would comment about how nice it was to see a father, daughter and grandson enjoying the day. His face would turn the color of a rusty tailpipe and when we were out of earshot he’d let loose.

    “Idiots,” he’d say.

    He took me to the movies once, but he stomped away from the ticket window when they asked if he wanted the senior discount.

    “If I wanted a discount, I’d ask,” he said.

    He drove a two-seater convertible when we weren’t with him. He had a gym membership and personal trainer so he was strong enough, but he never picked me up. He never held me.

    He never said he loved me.

    He took me to the golf course and pushed me forward to meet his friends with his chest puffed out. “This is my son, Tyler.” If someone mentioned his other wives and children, he changed the subject.

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  23. Richard Russell says

    It was his baby now. Asleep, content, swaddled and warm, it slept soundly, happy. He stared at it and knew his fondest wish had come true. He had always wanted a baby, a tiny human to mold into his own image. Now, he had one, a gorgeous one, the baby of his dreams. Before, when he was married, he had told his wife that someday he would be a father, that he would be the father his own parent had never been. She had laughed when he said that. He could never be a father because she would never be a mother, and no other woman would have him. No other woman had ever had him, but that didn’t stop him from getting a baby. Money made the world go round, and he had enough money. Still, the mother hadn’t wanted to part with his baby. That’s how he thought of the child—his baby. So, he had had to persuade her. She shouldn’t have protested anyway; he gave her the money. He took it back too. She couldn’t spend it, not in the shape she was in. He snickered. She wasn’t in any kind of shape at all. She hadn’t been in shape at all, right? He remembered it that way. If she had been in some shape, then the police would already be knocking. And whoever was pounding on his door couldn’t be the police, not in the shape she was in.

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  24. says

    I thought I was clever and my mother didn’t know – I barely knew it myself. I hadn’t been sick in the mornings, my body was still thin, my stomach flat. I might have missed a period, but I told myself that I hadn’t really been counting.
    “When your brother was born,” my mother said that evening as she chopped onions, “I was all on my own. He came too quickly to leave for the hospital or for anyone to get here.” She sniffed, but I wasn’t sure whether she was crying or it was the vegetables doing their work. I carried on peeling the carrots.
    “I was very frightened,” she continued. “I didn’t know what to do – the baby was coming right then.” She wiped the back of her hand across her nose. “I opened the bedroom window and shouted to a man walking down the street. He came in the back door, but by then the baby had already arrived. Do you know why I named him Oskar?”
    I shook my head.
    “It was that old man’s name,” she said. “He came to visit many times – he would rock the crib for hours until the baby slept.” My mother put down her knife and laid her hand over mine, stopping the scrape of the peeler. I stared at the strip of dirty orange skin, curling between the blades.
    “The old man, Oskar, didn’t have any children of his own,” she paused. “There’s nothing more important than family Peggy.”

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  25. says

    She was the cutest baby in the whole world.

    Oh, sure, every parent says that about their first born. He knew that, had considered it, weighed it from every angle. Before she was born he’d promised himself that he wouldn’t be one of THOSE parents, carrying tons of baby photos on his phone – ok, he’d do that, he just wouldn’t force everyone to look at them – or sharing every little thing she did on Facebook.

    And, for the most part, he’d succeeded. But she was still the cutest baby in the world. She had the most adorable dimples, and her laugh was like fingerbells rung by an angel. Sure, Davison over in Accounting said nearly the same thing about his new son, and the CTO’s executive assistant had pictures on her desk that were very nearly as cute as his daughter.

    But after the Siang-jui meltdown there had been a lot of problems with newborns, lots of miscarriages and still-born and malformed or missing limbs. The radiation cloud had spread all over the world, affecting in utero development in ways that no one could predict. So he knew, just knew, that his perfect little daughter was the cutest baby there was anywhere.

    And it didn’t even matter that her face was on upside down.

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  26. says

    I wake up, and it’s too late. I don’t need a doctor to tell me, I just know. It wasn’t as if this finality crept up, unnoticed. It approached slowly, over a lifetime, quietly making its presence known at the edges of my consciousness.
    When I was a boy, they told me to watch my sister-in-law’s baby for a couple of hours. I had no idea what to do. The kid screamed, so I stuck a bottle in its mouth, reckoning it’s hard to fuss and holler when someone is dribbling milk down your throat. It worked, but I knew people would disapprove, if they could see the disdain on my face.
    Nothing convinced me, during the years that followed, that babies and small children were anything but greedy parasites, growing by sucking the life out of their parents. Like most other addictive drugs, parenting had the paradoxical effect of turning its junkies into nervous wrecks while making them ecstatically happy.
    “Have children,” everyone urged me. “Don’t worry about the expense.”
    Seriously. Whatever. Babies everywhere.
    Easy for them to say – all these breeders with their pregnancy photos, baby showers, exhausted-mom-and-newborn pictures filling massive albums on Facebook, and – of course – the minute documentation of every milestone in the kid’s life. There are times when I disconnect the wires, and smile inanely at these images from another world. And then there are times I am just sick of it.
    I had a career instead of a baby. And now it’s too late.

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  27. says

    “Please, Dad, you’ve come this far,” Martha begs.

    But Joe hesitates, the Harris chin firm.

    “Come meet your grand-daughter.”

    Her soft voice barely sidles past the roar in his head. What lies on the other side of that door is not his grand-daughter. Call it what it is. An Abomination. Engineered. Perfect. And the weight of the pistol pressed against his ribs is a hard reminder.

    Joe follows his youngest inside: his pride and joy really; the stubborn one; the tough one; the one who fought every day through school because her face didn’t fit; the one who’s breaking his heart.

    And there it is in the cot. So soft, and pink, and so perfect.

    He nearly loses it then.

    This isn’t Martha’s daughter. No stubborn jaw, no angry flush of red hair, no Harris frown. Just a small pink doll of a thing, like something squeezed out of a tube, no rough edges, no character.

    He’s seen what the Science Boys could do in the Service, and now it’s here, in his family.

    He leans over. Reaches his hand down, and it grasps his finger in its sleep. The scent of talc wafts up, and memory punches him breathless – that baby grip – just like Martha.

    And then she wakes, and Joe truly sees his grand-daughter for the first time.

    “She’s got your eyes,” he manages, before the tears come.

    Heterochromia.

    One green eye, one brown.

    Smartest word he knows.

    And it proves those Science boys know squat.

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  28. says

    The Gambler

    On the whole, my last life didn’t go so well. By the end I figured out a few things though, and I don’t mind sharing. Paying attention in school is good. Quitting is bad. Pops was right about that. Working a dumb job really long hours is harsh. Gambling on horses is worse. Looking back on a lifetime of lousy choices… Well, that just sucks.

    I needed to take some time off, go someplace where I’d have a little space. So that’s where my soul hung out. Lots of freedom, too. You can rest there, but you can also learn a lot from other souls. Then, when you’re ready, you get to choose your parents and try again.

    I decided I’d go with super rich parents. No money worries. Then I met some of their kids. Jeesh! Their choices were as bad as mine. I took more time then. I pondered what a kid really needs to grow up right. Like how a tiny plant grows into something useful, sturdy and beautiful. I thought long on it.

    Finally I made my choice. I know it’s a gamble, but so is life. This time around my money’s on Mommy and Daddy, because they look at me like I’m a miracle. Like I’ll always be amazing. It’s on me too, that now I’m ready to use their love the way a sprout uses sun and water and good earth. Odds are, we’re a solid bet.

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  29. JC Sullivan says

    Love the dark gambling motif and the new twist on chosing one’s parents. Thanks!

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  30. JC Sullivan says

    Surprises

    Rocking the hand-painted crib, I look at the gurgling baby with what I hope would pass for fatherly pride. This was my first experience at raising a child. Yet I had vowed long ago that if ever given the opportunity, I’d prove that you don’t have to have personally known your own father to be a great dad.

    I searched the teensy boy’s face for anything that resembled my own. How fragile he was. How precious, but there was something that begged for protection. Could I handle all this responsibility? Some decisions, like having children, were indeed irreversible.

    In the kitchen, my beautiful wife asks me what I want for dinner. Funny, food is the last thing on my mind.

    “Let’s crack that bottle of good champagne. We have a lot to celebrate.”

    She is surprised, “Honey, that’s a great idea. I wish I had thought of it.”

    I smile at my little bundle and stroke his face. A gift from God. The champagne cork pops. Did my son wink at me?

    She hands me my flute to toast.

    “To new beginnings” I say. She smiles. I look into her face for clues, any hint that she catches my act.

    As I kiss her, my eyes lock with my son. Yes, I silently relay, I will be the best father in the world. No one will ever know that you’re not my own flesh and blood.

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  31. Ian Reed says

    Meg’s Still With Me

    Meg went last summer. It wasn’t right. Summer means sunshine. People don’t die at that time of year. It’s for parties, celebrating life and spending time with those we love, isn’t it? I miss her so.
    She never met the new member of the family, because the baby only came into the world three weeks ago. But already Meg and her grandchild have a lot in common. Whenever I put my hand close to her this tiny bundle of mischief clutches my thumb and grips it tightly. Then she gives a happy gurgle. It reminds me of Meg’s delight when I made her laugh, or the way she used to squeeze my hand if I rolled over and brushed against her while she was sleeping. I’m sure there would have been a special bond between them. The little one’s name is Margaret, too. Our daughter says she named her that because the baby is the image of her grandmother. Meg would be glad to know that. It might be my failing eyesight, but you know, the more I sit here watching this sleeping face, the more I realise my daughter is right. It’s a face I know so well. I’ve known it for forty-seven years.
    It’s comforting to know that Meg never actually left. She just changed. She’s got younger again. That thought brings a warm contentment. Soon she’ll look like she did when we met. Meg’s going to live on after all.

    (243 words)

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  32. Jeanne Kisacky says

    A pink crib with hearts. Ugggh.
    I heard the stories for days after the high-pitched whine that made my whole body feel funny:
    “We’re going to have a girl!”
    “It’s a girl!”
    “We’re doing the whole room in pink. All soft, all cuddly.”
    All the cooing. All the giggling. On and on, over and over.
    I liked the voices, but I kicked a lot, trying to let them know they were wrong. I was NOT a girl. And I didn’t like pink. And hearts were gonna make me throw up, even more than I would normally have done in my babyhood.
    But then, after I kicked so hard at that last mention of PINK, everything changed and my world went from dark to light, moist to dry.
    It’s not so bad, after all. The crib is pink, and yeah, there are hearts. But I don’t see them from where I’m lying. I just see this funny, but nice, face with a big smile on it. Maybe he knows why I was kicking so much those last months.
    I think I need to sleep. And maybe, like he just promised, one of these days the crib is gonna be blue. With yellow stars. As if it will change my future.

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  33. says

    “Do you think sex hurts?”

    “I guess,” said Lottie. “Yeah, it’s gotta.”

    “It’s just natural, though, right?”

    Lottie nodded, “I think.”

    She brushed her doll’s hair gently.

    “And having a baby,” said Pippa, “That’s gonna hurt too?”

    “Duh.”

    A cross silence.

    “Just kidding.”

    Pippa shrugged, bending over her doll with a bottle.

    “My Mum said she nearly bit Dad’s finger off having me.”

    Lottie stared.

    “Really?”

    “Yeah. But Daniel was a breeze.”

    “If we have babies,” Lottie said, “they can be best friends like us, and we can live next door.” She brushed a stray hair from Daisy Doll’s face.

    “Maybe we can’t have babies….”

    Lottie put down the brush.

    “Why not?”

    Pippa looked around, then whispered, “My Gran couldn’t have babies.”

    Lottie frowned.

    “But she had your Mum.”

    “No.” Pippa shook her head. “She only had Mum after Grandpa went to see Ma Witchita.”

    “No way!”

    “Shhh,” said her friend.

    Lottie shushed, and waited.

    “Ma Witchita gave him a potion for Gran.”

    “Is that what he told you?”

    Pippa looked away.

    “Sort of..”

    Lottie waited.

    “I heard him talking to Daniel last night.”

    “He does that a lot, doesn’t he?” said the other girl. “He likes babies.”

    Suddenly Pippa threw her doll to the ground. “He likes Daniel more than me. He cried.”

    Lottie looked at Polly Doll, face down in the dirt. “What’d he cry for?” She rocked her own baby back and forth.

    “Ma Witchita’s coming to take Daniel,” Pippa whispered.

    “And Grandpa wishes it was me!”

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  34. says

    Javier looks at his granddaughter for the last time. At least that’s what he tells himself every time he comes to see Luminosa.

    The blindness will come in a few months, a few years, and until then he wants to watch this baby’s toes crinkle with laughter. Javier does not pick up little Luminosa, he was never so fond with his own children, but he sits for hours and watches with absolute concentration those wondrous eyes.

    There will be plenty of time to hold her when his sight fails him. He memorizes her blond curly hair that may one day turn straight and brown when he would no longer be able to see such changes. Still he memorizes the curve of her lips, the smudge of carrot juice at the corner of her mouth, the apple cheeks.

    On this clear bright morning, Luminosa laughs in the darkened room. Javier sings a sweet lullaby that he remembers from his own crib when sight and sound were an adventure. His slight Spanish accent softens the words and sends her to sleep. Javier reaches for the baby, a bundle of warmth. So very gently, he rocks her in his arms and discovers the new territory of touch and sound as darkness and light descend upon his sight.

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  35. says

    Finding a job

    “Oh, you’re such a pretty girl… yes you are.” Said the father looking at his sleeping baby daughter.
    “I have plans for you, you know. When you’ll grow up, I want you to be an attorney. Or maybe a banker. Hmm…. how about a… politician?” He said with a smile. The girl was still asleep in her crib.
    “You didn’t like that last, huh? Me neither, snookums.” And he gently touched her nose. “But don’t fret cause I have plenty of other job proposals for you. A psychotherapist? A nuclear engineer? A computer programmer? Oh, wait, those are mostly guys’ jobs.” The baby started making a small snore.
    “How about a masseuse, or an athlete, or maybe a cheerleader?” That’s when she opened her eyes.
    “Oh, so you want to be a cheerleader?” She giggled.
    “Not in this lifetime, pumpkin. I’d rather you live on the streets than be a cheerleader. Got that?” He pointed the finger at her face and she grabbed it with her tiny hands, giggling even more.
    “That’s cute, but you still won’t be that. Oh, why is this so difficult? I don’t even care anymore. You can be anything you want to be, just don’t ask me again. Okay?”
    The father left, but the baby giggled on, until she fell asleep.

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  36. Allison Corser says

    Ping Pong Blues

    “Poor Old Li, now he’ll never have a grandson.”

    Old Li didn’t mind about not carrying on the family name; there were plenty of ‘Li’s in China. But he’d always dreamt of teaching ping pong to a grandson. Old Li believed that ping pong made you smart, it trained your brain to seize opportunities and adjust at split-second speed. It was better than chess. Kids who played ping pong grew up to prosper in any career they chose: entertainment, politics, business.

    This newest girl-child had been his last hope for a grandson.

    So when Old Li bought the pink basinet second-hand from the wonton seller, when he bartered for a soft pink blanket at the neighborhood market, everyone made a grim face and said, “He’s trying to make the best of it. What else can he do?” Old Li half agreed with them. Disappointment was a part of life.

    One afternoon he was asked to babysit. Old Li gently rocked the pink basinet, watching a ping pong tournament on TV. The athletes were so fast on their feet, so ambitious. So impish, with their pixie hair-cuts. Even the girls. The girls. Old Li looked up.

    What’s stopping me? His lips trembled. What’s holding me back, other than my own folly?

    The baby made a delighted noise and raised a tiny fist in the air. Old Li looked down and said, “When you can walk, Little Treasure, Gramps is going to teach you how to play ping pong.”

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  37. says

    Annie was tough, despite being short. They had been married, after all, for fourteen years. Long, childless years.
    “Twins!” Henry exclaimed.
    “You’ve said that for the hundredth time, now,” Annie smirked, gliding to the edge of the cradle, to sink down with a rustle of silk.
    The expression upon his wife’s face was playful, sprite-like – eyes shining with the purest delight. She shook her head, amazed, and smiled. Henry sighed – a happy release. He could not believe the children were normal. They were the pinkest, chubbiest, most squirmy little bubbling, cooing, and occasionally fretting couple of cherubs one could ask for.
    Before the babies emerged, he would have found it difficult not to dwell upon his duties. Napoleon was on the Belgian frontier. The Duke of Wellington’s troops were massing round Brussels, awaiting the Prussians. Henry would have to leave to join Headquarters, soon.
    “ʼTis amazing,” he said, crouching next to Annie, sliding his arm round her shoulders. “We’re quite blended together, aren’t we?”
    Annie laughed, wrinkling her nose as she allowed the little girl to clutch her finger with her tiny, fragile hand.
    “Miss Moira has quite the grip,” she remarked.
    Henry cocked his head to one side, examining his son, Joseph, lying in the crib next to Moira. Picking the boy up in his hands, Henry cradled him – warm, vulnerable, innocent, and curious.
    His regimentals, sabre, and pistols were packed. But Annie’s loving gaze stilled his thoughts.
    “Not just yet,” she whispered. “Spare us a few more days.”

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  38. Larissa Thomson says

    The letter lay lightly in his lap as he looked down on the soft pink form that lay cooing in the crib. A shrink-wrapped, leather-bound tome sat beneath him, under the chair.

    He picked up the letter, re-reading the small black type:

    “Dear Mr. Emerson,

    We want to congratulate you on the purchase of your new Austin Marvin BB9 and want to celebrate with you on this outstanding occasion.

    We trust that your package arrived without incident. If you do note any nicks, scratches, or dents however, these should be reported immediately to the delivery facilitators.

    A manual has been provided which will explain procedures for the care and maintenance of your new BB9 and which will help ensure proper functioning and satisfaction. This particular manual covers the first two years of the life of the model. After this point, a new manual will be sent to your address which will cover up until five years of age, or to school entry, whichever comes first. At that point, we will send manuals every three months. These will contain the most current philosophies, practices, and revisions related to the care and raising of persons.

    We think you will enjoy the emission and noise reduction options you have chosen, as well as the many features and elements you selected that are so unique to your model.

    An expense this great demands outstanding service. We aim to provide such service.

    Sincerely,

    Eugenia Medley”

    He looked down at the manual. “Where to start?”

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  39. says

    ACCIDENT PRONE

    David steals a glance over his shoulder. His wife is still in the bath. He looks down at his baby girl. She looks up at him, trusting eyes above bruised cheeks.

    “Your Mama said it was an accident, what happened to your sweet little face. Said the same thing the other night, about your arm. Accidents.” The truth tears at his heart, claws at his ribcage, desperate to be set free. “Were they, sweetheart? Were they really?”

    She whimpers.

    “Something broke inside her mind when you were born. She has such trouble loving you.” Strands of sorrow and fear, as fine and fragile as his daughter’s hair, weave through his whispers. “I love you both so much. I want to believe her, baby girl. But I…”

    “The little bitch is lying.” Marie lurks in the doorway. Hanks of wet hair drip over her loosely tied robe. “She’s the monster.”

    “Honey, you know she can’t talk.” David rises on shaky legs. “You’re exhausted. I’ll make us tea and then you can rest.”

    Marie’s glance lingers on the crib before she shuffles into the kitchen. She paces, muttering dark, terrifying things. The kettle whistles. He lifts it, hands trembling.

    His daughter’s cries reach for David through the baby monitor. Marie slams it to the floor. She whirls toward the baby’s room. He spins around, kettle raised.

    His wife’s scalded screams, her sizzling skin, drown his words. But still, he rehearses.

    “It was an accident.”

    *****

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  40. wilson hara says

    He feels like he’s been given a second chance. He can hardly remember what happened the last time. He’d been writing his third book – aka The Bastard – he was drinking, taking drugs, cocaine, xanex, anything really. He was supposed to have been watching the baby and he did, he’s pretty sure he checked on her, she was asleep. But the fact is she was dead. In her crib. He hates that word. No one directly blamed him, not even Tammy. That time can be described succinctly as Hell; watching his wife break. That was when he stopped drinking and using drugs and that too was hellish.

    And then, a miracle. He smiles down at the sleeping baby. The birth had been terrible, Tammy had insisted on a natural birth and there he was with his camera and a stupid grin. By 4 am she was begging for an epidural and by 6 the surgeon was slicing through her stomach. Tammy would be fine. The baby was here.
    Gently, he pulls up the blanket and she opens her eyes.

    “Hello sweetheart” he croons.

    He puts his finger in her tiny hand and she holds onto it tightly, staring into his eyes.

    “Hello, little one. Are you hungry?”

    “You said you’d take care of me” she answers, tightening her grip.

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  41. says

    “Why?” Amanda flung her hand out across the counter, swiping everything to the floor. Six beer bottles shattered.
    Why was her husband in a coma? Or why did he drink and drive? Or why did he drink at all?
    His daughter had married an alcoholic. Nathan blamed himself for that, as he did every hardship in his daughter’s life.
    She put a hand out to steady herself on the tiles. The other went to her face. The short, wracking sobs were almost silent.
    Nathan walked over, rested a calloused palm on her delicate sweater. He knew when he lifted his hand the fabric would cling to the rough edges of his skin. Her sobs quieted.
    “Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise,” Amanda said. Her voice was low, bitter. “Do you know my friends keep saying that?”
    Nathan stood still, waiting. The man had only been in a coma for three days.
    But good things did come out of bad, sometimes.
    “When your mother…” Nathan cleared his throat. His Mirabelle. Amanda had never known her mother.
    “It’s okay, Dad.” Amanda brushed her tears away before his could start. She knelt to pick up the broken glass. He felt her sweater tug at his skin.
    Amanda put the biggest pieces in the garbage, fetched the dustpan, and began to sweep the smaller pieces. She brushed most of it into the bin. Nathan caught her hands as she turned back to get the rest.
    “You wore a good disguise.”

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  42. says

    Walker heard his daughter’s footsteps coming down the hall, and quickly retrieved the book on the side table. He pretended to read as she passed the bedroom door, looking up to catch her passing glance. She continued down the stairs. Squeak squeak squeak.

    He put the book back down on the table, and peered again into the crib. He didn’t want to look anywhere else; he didn’t want to waste one minute. He drank in the image of his sleeping granddaughter. The delicate eyelashes, just barely touching her impossibly round cheeks. Her mouth, closed tight with her top lip sticking out just a little bit farther than the bottom. He wanted to paint a picture of this very moment. Compose a symphony. Write a book.

    As a kid, he’d tried so very hard to look at the sun for as long as he could, but his eyes had been no match for its brightness. As a dad, he had often avoided holding his daughter. He was the provider, after all, it was his job to be away, to be earning their place in the world.

    He never realized that the sun’s direct rays could be contained in an infant’s sleeping body. Time sped up. He fought back tears of regret.

    He looked up to find his daughter, now standing over him. She bent down and took him in her arms, smiling graciously. It had been a long time since he’d seen her smile like that.

    “Thank you, dad,” She said.

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  43. says

    Albert Casey knew a knock at the door at this hour meant trouble. He knew he’d open it and see the single mom from across the hall, the pale, mascaraed, nineteen-year-old hiding, like him, behind a gruff exterior.
    He hoped it didn’t have anything to do with the baby. He unlocked and slowly opened the door, and was met with the hard stares of two police officers. The younger one spoke.
    “According to the young lady in 3C, you babysit for her child.”
    Albert wasn’t sure why he went along. “Yes, yes, quite often. Is there a problem, officer? Is everything all right?”
    “Problem earlier with the boyfriend. Ran off before we got here. She’s a little bruised but okay. You may want to check on her.”
    They left and Albert went over.
    “Are you all right?” he asked, surprised she let him inside. The left side of her face was red and swollen.
    “I’ll take you to the hospital.”
    “No, just watch Megan, please. Can’t deal with her crying just now.”
    “Pretty name,” said Albert at the crib, rubbing the baby’s back. She stopped crying.
    “That’s pretty good,” mom said.
    “I’m only next door, retired, time on my hands.”
    Her face hardened. “That’s okay.”
    “Hungry?” he asked. “I’m hungry. Megan, too.”
    They ate pancakes. Megan drank her bottle.
    “Let me help?” Albert said.
    “No thanks.”
    “Like my pancakes?”
    “They’re all right.”
    “Life’s not easy.”
    You’d know?”
    “First hand. Worked in the courts.”
    “She’s asleep.”
    “Your turn, mom.”

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  44. says

    “Hey buddy.”
    He leaned over and gently smoothed a curl on the baby’s forehead.
    His son looked up at him, eyes still a brilliant blue, and smiled at the familiar voice. Once he’d smiled at his mother’s voice too. There were only a few of them left now. Such a beautiful baby, so many futures imagined for him, but only one left now.
    “Sorry we messed up. We read about the fighting overseas, the slaughters, the threats of viruses. But we ignored it all.”
    He picked his son up.
    “We believed it when our leaders said to trust them, that there were diplomatic and economic issues we didn’t understand. Most of them are dead now too.”
    He looked around the little room, windowless, with flickering lights and the hum of a fan.
    “So here we are, just you and me.”
    He smiled as his son waved a pudgy hand around, then managed to poke a tiny thumb in his mouth. The radio was quiet, the remote camera just showed bodies now. He could smell them too – there must be a leak somewhere. Soon the virus would seep in, bringing a slow and agonizing death.
    “At least we had a few months together, buddy. Love you.”
    He fumbled for the vial, and held his breath as he squeezed it under his son’s nose. Within seconds the blue eyes faded, the tiny pulse in his neck stopped. He laid his son down, then brought the vial to his own face.

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  45. says

    Albert Casey knew a knock at the door at this hour meant trouble. He knew he’d open it and see the single mom from across the hall, the pale, mascaraed, nineteen-year-old hiding, like him, behind a gruff exterior.
    He hoped it didn’t have anything to do with the baby. He unlocked and slowly opened the door, and was met with the hard stares of two police officers. The younger one spoke.
    “According to the young lady in 3C, you babysit for her child.”
    Albert wasn’t sure why he went along. “Yes, yes, quite often. Is everything all right?”
    “Problem earlier with the boyfriend. Ran off before we got here. Baby’s fine. Mom’s a little bruised but okay. You may want to check on her.”
    They left and Albert went over.
    “Are you all right?” he asked, surprised she let him inside. The left side of her face was red and swollen.
    “I’ll take you to the hospital.”
    “No, just watch Megan, please. Can’t deal with her crying just now.”
    “Pretty name,” said Albert at the crib, rubbing the baby’s back. She stopped crying.
    “That’s pretty good,” mom said.
    “I’m only next door, retired, time on my hands.”
    Her face hardened. “That’s okay.”
    He asked, “Hungry? I am. Megan, too.”
    They ate pancakes. Megan drank her bottle.
    “Can I help?” Albert said.
    “No thanks.”
    “Like my pancakes?”
    “They’re all right.”
    “Life’s not easy.”
    “You’d know?”
    “First hand. Worked in the courts.”
    “She’s asleep.”
    Albert lifted the baby. “Here, your turn, mom.”

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  46. Tammy Wiles says

    “You had a rough start little man. Hopefully things will get easier from here on out. Me and your great grandma, I mean your GG, she wants to have a special name for you to call her, we have been waiting a long time for your arrival. We have been wishing for great grandchildren to spoil.” Bert gazed at the infant and smiled as the baby grabbed his finger and sucked his lips together missing his mouth. Bert laughed.
    “We will watch the Cubs together so when you get to standing we can start playing catch. And I have the perfect sized putter for you to use so we can practice our short game on the greens at the Country Club. The putter was your grandpa’s;it just needs a little polishing up.” Bert sighed as the baby yawned. “Sleep now little man, we will have plenty of time together… I hope” Bert whispered to his new great grandson just as the nurse brought in the wheelchair.
    “Did you have a nice visit with your son’s grandchild?”
    “Can I have just a bit more time nurse? There are a few things I still have to tell him about.”
    “No, sorry Bert. Doctors orders, you don’t want to put anymore strain on that poor heart of yours do you? You need to get your rest so you can go home and spend more time with that new baby.”
    Bert stroked his thumb gently over the child’s tiny hand once more and slowly let go. The nurse guided him into the wheelchair, loosened the brake and turned toward the door. Bert glanced over his shoulder for one last look at the sleeping baby wrapped in blue, and thought, we’ll be playing catch and celebrating great putts in no time…in no time.

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  47. Kate Endres says

    I can’t believe you’re finally here! We’ve been waiting for so long.
    Sandy and I always wanted a little one to raise. When God didn’t give us one the normal way, we started filling out paperwork. Page after page of signatures, followed by interviews and more paperwork. Then, the waiting.
    We had to wait so long, I decided to review everything I learned in shop class. Which saw was best for each cut, and which cuts made the strongest connections. I’d just bought the wood when they called us. But, we had so many things going on, we didn’t buy the tickets for a week. By then, that little girl had gotten sick, and we had to cancel our tickets.
    I worked slowly, cutting, turning, and smoothing, on top of my other job. Little by little, it took shape. Just as I finished the last coat of paint, the phone rang. We bought our tickets that night; we weren’t going to lose our chance again.
    When the nurse placed you in Sandy’s arms, your smile lit up the room and transferred to Sandy’s face. When she passed you to me, that smile burned my eyes, and I started to cry. Just a few more signatures before we bundled you up and got back on the plane.
    And now, here you are. God’s perfect gift, lying in the crib I made just for you, my dearest Sun Li.

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  48. says

    It’s really not fair to Sylvia. It feels like her happiness or mine. But if I stay, I think I’m delaying the inevitable. If her father and I don’t actually separate, we’ll just continue to keep to ourselves in the house and surely she would notice that her parents hardly ever speak. Or maybe she is in that self-absorbed stage and has no clue anything is wrong.
    Ugh. I remember when she was born. Rex sat over her crib and stared, his face transformed with vulnerability. He had never looked at anyone or anything like that. Certainly not me. I had hope when I saw him like that. Hope that we would be the happy family I had dreamed about.
    I sound terribly melodramatic, don’t I? Rex never hit me and he rarely yelled but I’m thirty-two years old and the only man I’ve ever slept with hardly ever sleeps with me. Literally! He’d rather sleep on the floor than next to me.
    It’s not all about the sex, okay? Rex has stayed the same over the years and I’ve grown into someone else. But if I’m being completely honest, it’s a little bit about the sex.

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  49. says

    My father was the first person to accept me as I was. Though he would tell anyone who would listen that he was disappointed I wasn’t a boy, he said he knew from the moment he looked down upon my crib that I would be different from my sisters. How he knew this, I’m not sure but he certainly was right.
    Ramora and Devora are…prissy to say the least. All they care about is having the newest gown and brushing their hair ‘till it shines. They’ve never rode a horse. Can you believe that? They only ride in carriages. How anyone can go without feeling the wind rush through their hair and the ground thunder underfoot, I’ll never understand. Even my mother rode a horse on occasion. Dad would convince her and they would ride together into the forest, her face glowing with happiness.
    It was Dad, of course, who taught me to ride. I remember standing at the fence, longing plain on my face as I watched him on his handsome black stallion. He scooped me up and we rode together, much to the disapproval of my sisters and maid. After that he taught me everything he would have taught a son. That is why it’s up to me to protect the kingdom.

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  50. says

    Dr. Howard Burke paced in front of the enormous fireplace, his hands folded behind him. “Emily, come here, please!” he summoned.

    His daughter scurried in.“Yes, Father?”

    “Have a seat, dear. We need to discuss a matter of urgency.”

    Emily glanced toward her mother, who was reading the newspaper on the sofa. “Okay, Father.”

    Dr. Burke cleared his throat. “It has come to my attention, from a most reliable source…” he began, eyes shifting toward his wife, “that a boy has expressed an interest in you.”

    “A boy?” Emily blushed. “Who?”

    “A Mr.Shawn Dempsy. Are familiar with him?”

    “Yes. He’s cute.”

    “Well, I happen to know that Mr. Dempsy is not a… proper fit.”

    Marta Burke looked up at her husband over her reading glasses.

    “A proper fit?” their daughter asked.
    .
    “Exactly. You see, he has but a very limited education. No college, not even a high school diploma. He doesn’t have a vehicle nor the license required to operate one. And I don’t know when he’ll ever get a job!”

    Burke’s wife folded her paper and tossed her glasses on a cushion. “Howard! Really, is this necessary?”

    “Marta, the day we brought Emily home from the hospital, I kept vigil at her cradle and watched her sleep. Right then, I vowed to protect her from the rouges and ruffians in the world.”

    Emily’s eyes darted between her parents. “Does this mean I can never see Shawn again?”

    Marta Burke sprang to her feet. “Howard, get a grip! They’re only six years old!”

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  51. Ben McArthur says

    Jennifer peeked in to make sure she was sleeping. She was, but she wasn’t alone. He looked up with a smile.

    “She has your nose.”

    “What are you doing here?” She spoke through clenched teeth.

    He was seated on the hand-painted stool she had made for Gina’s room. She wanted to slap him for it, for touching anything that belonged to her daughter.

    “Why, I came to see you, of course.” He reached down and brushed a thin tuft of hair from Gina’s forehead. “She’s so beautiful.”

    “Get out. Now.” She wanted to scream, to slap him across his smug face, but she didn’t want to wake Gina.

    “Aww, is that any way to greet your father? After such a long time…”

    Three steps from the back door, the gunshot sounded. Brice didn’t bother with the keys. He took the last few steps in a run and kicked in the door.

    “Jennifer!” When she answered, it wasn’t loud.

    “Up here.”

    His service revolver out, he took the staircase in leaps. He grabbed the door jamb and swung into the room. She had Gina in one arm, the glock held firmly in her right hand.

    “Are you ok?”

    She pointed the gun at the body sprawled across the floor. Brice could barely see the pool of blood that was beginning to stain the purple carpet.

    “It’s my father.”

    “I thought your father was… dead.” A smile crept into one side of her mouth.

    “He is.”

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  52. says

    “You’re my last chance at being a good mother,” Evelyn said to Ady. She had named the baby Ady because it meant noble. What Evelyn had done was wrong, but she also deemed it noble, and that was how she decided on the name. She sat on a stool beside Ady’s crib, watching her sleep.

    She thought about the day she had taken Ady. The weather had been magnificent. The sun was warm and soothing. All the mothers had been out with their strollers and baby bags in the park. Evelyn had thought that the signs were there. Fate and opportunity had conspired to bring her to that moment with Ady. Ady’s stroller had not been abandoned, but her birth mother had turned off just long enough.

    Evelyn believed in second chances. She would make Ady her little star. She hadn’t done that with her own daughter, Hope. She tried to be a good mother, but back then she cared more about herself. That has stayed with her for her entire life. She smiled at Ady. This time, she would get it right.

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