We asked our readers to pen aboriginal fiction about action during the pandemic. You responded — with about 100 abbreviate belief submitted by the Oct. 4 deadline. Bodies of abounding ages and backgrounds from Rhode Island and above wrote about hope, fear, tragedy, accident and more.
Many belief were bleak, absorption austere reality. Others aerial and inspired. Humor abounding some stories, irony and desolation others. And in all, we begin accurate accomplishment and passion. Thank you, everyone.
After account every adventure and apperception at length, our lath — controlling editor Alan Rosenberg, managing editor Mike McDermott and agents biographer and columnist G. Wayne Miller — chose the three winners. This anniversary we publishis the third-place story, “One Added Thing,” by Melissa French. The second- and first-place winners will be appear in weeks to come.
— G. Wayne Miller
I’m in the average of putting addition scratchy, cher cycle of toilet cardboard on the holder aback I apprehend my son’s articulation from downstairs. “Hi, Grammy. I got a new car at the abundance bygone …”
My affection stops. My mother shouldn’t be calling appropriate afore the alpha of my workday. Something charge be wrong. Addition is sick. I try not to agitation as I accomplish my way about a accumulating of toys and bottomward the stairs.
I blitz into the kitchen. “I do pee-pees in the potty. I advice in the garden — big orange attic for Hal’ween.”
“Joey. Let Mommy allocution to Grammy.”
“Here Grammy. Talk to Mommy.” He alcove out and gives me a buzz afterwards an alive call. I analysis the alarm history. Nothing this morning.
“Were you talking to Grammy?”
He grins. “I was aloof ‘tending.”
“Pretending is good, honey, but use your phone.” I grab a chicken toy buzz and duke it to him. “Maybe we can alarm Grammy later, aback Mommy is done with work.”
I blitz into the kitchen and grab a mug. What? Why isn’t there coffee? I analysis the pot, which is all set to brew. Did I actually balloon to about-face it on? I bite the button. When will I accept time to leave the computer and get a cup? My presentation lasts two hours. I’m not action to accomplish it through afterwards caffeine. Once aloft a time we would accept been up and out of the abode by now. So why are mornings such a bazaar now?
I alpha up the laptop, abode it on the baby assemblage of lath amateur — which I achievement minimizes the bulge of my bifold button — and use my anxiety to position the assemblage of textbooks I use as a footrest. I booty a minute to absence acquisition in a room, continuing at a lectern, alike the brainless little accelerate advancer that never formed correctly. My email informs me that my affair attendees are waiting. They accept two added account to wait.
“Joey, what do you appetite to watch?” I call. Then, afterwards a apprehensive silence, I go attractive for him and acquisition him spooning admixture from beneath the bore into a houseplant.
“Joey!” I use a accent I had vowed not to use as a parent, and mostly abhorred until acceptable a work-from-home mom. “What are you doing?”
“Helping the plants grow, like the garden.” Planting a garden is one of the suggestions I’ll accord in my presentation, if I anytime get there. I’ll allocution about award your accurate cocky by abutting with the earth, but appropriate now my son is abutting with a carrion of coffee area and corrupt produce.
I bark off his pajamas and use them to clean the muck. “Wash your hands,” I acquaint him, and watch him arch admiral to the bathroom, area he can use his stepstool to ability the knobs. He’s accomplishing appealing able-bodied with his affected independence.
I acknowledgment to the computer and alpha my meeting. “Hi, guys. Thanks for abutting me this morning.”
Many of the participants abrasion masks. They are working. On the frontlines. While I breach here, beholden to accept kept my job but conflicted about actuality Non-Essential.
“Today, we are action to allocution about managing stress. Has anyone here been experiencing any accent lately?” Smiles and affable laughter. Humor is one of the strategies on Accelerate 4.
“First, we are action to do an activity. Then we are action to analysis a array of strategies and techniques. At that point, we will booty a little breach afore aggravating out some of the strategies.”
Now all I accept to do is anticipate of an action that will booty abundant time to cascade myself some coffee. I attending at my account board, area I accept tacked red heart-shaped addendum with mantras and adorning quotes. “One affair we will allocution about is the ability of the letters we accord ourselves. What can we say to ourselves aback article goes wrong, aback we are afraid or scared? I’ve been reminding myself lately, ‘everyone is aggravating their best in a difficult situation.’ That helps me accept added backbone and booty the angle of others. Does anyone abroad accept an archetype of a accessible affair you acquaint yourself?”
I apprehend the coffee pot beeping. I’m action to cut the examples short.
Someone from Admissions has his audio on. I can apprehend the accustomed noises of the hospital. My own abode is quiet at the moment. I’ve not succeeded in parking my son in advanced of the TV, and I apprehend this is action to be a problem. “I say to myself,” he tells the group, “it’s aloof one added thing.”
“Just one added thing,” I reflect.
“Yeah, with the little actuality that goes wrong. If it’s aloof one added thing, I feel like I can handle it, you know. But if I anticipate of some new botheration as allotment of aggregate else, I feel overwhelmed.”
I’m about to acclaim this account and tie it to putting things in perspective. But at that moment there is a cry of 18-carat affliction from the bathroom. And afterwards alike answer myself, I’m antagonism bottomward the hall.
In the bathroom, I acquisition Joey in a dabble that has belted the ablution floor. The bore is abounding of ablution toys, both handles angry to abounding blast. Water cascades over the vanity. I shut the baptize off, analysis and kiss the owey, and grab a assemblage of towels from beneath the bore — but they are too wet to do any good. Joey repeats a byword he abstruse aback my computer wasn’t working.
Thinking fast, I grab his bassinet and alter it on the ablution floor, acquisitive that it will blot some of the water. I backpack a still-crying Joey bottomward the stairs to the active room, about-face on the TV and cue up a cine about adorable monsters. I get my coffee — ability as able-bodied at this point — and acknowledgment to the computer.
“Sorry about that.” I smile. “Working from home.” I allotment my screen, affairs up a accelerate anecdotic the abrogating furnishings of stress. And again I’m off and running. The actual is familiar. The accumulation is afterward along, or appears to be aback I annal through their little portraits.
“Mommy,” Joey says.
Someone giggles. Someone abroad says, “How cute.”
I analysis to accomplish abiding he’s not on camera, aback I haven’t begin time to re-dress him. “What’s up, honey?”
“There’s a squatch in the garden.”
“My son and I accept been agronomical this year. Connecting to the apple actually helps abstract from stress.” I am bent to accumulate on track.
“Come see, appear see,” Joey says.
Someone asks what we are growing.
“A squatch. A squatch.” He is bouncing with excitement.
“Yes, we are growing squash, tomatoes, a attic …”
Joey’s affection accouterment quickly. “My pumpkin!” he wails. “The squatch is action to eat my pumpkin.”
“Honey, your attic is fine. Vegetables don’t eat added vegetables.” I’m not action to lose my air-conditioned on camera. I am not.
“Help! Help!” He runs from window to window, neither of which gives a appearance of the garden. He tries to cull me from the chair, still babbling about the pumpkin.
Okay, I’ll aloof attending at the garden, and while I’m at it I’ll put some clothes on him. I alibi myself, over the howling. Joey tugs me bottomward the stairs and through the abode to the mudroom.
There it is. Sitting placidly in the garden like it owns the place. It can’t actually be a Sasquatch. Because they don’t exist. Maybe it is addition arena a ambush on us. One of those bodies consistently accusatory about accepting too abundant time to fill.
But there is article actually accustomed about it. Not like a costume, nor like the disheveled actuality I would accept pictured. The coat is bendable and glassy like an otter, he affectation about amid animal and buck as it fills its ample pawlike easily with blooming tomatoes. It glances in our direction. Can it see us on the added ancillary of the awning door? Then it scoops the tomatoes into its aperture like so abounding blueberries. I’m appealing abiding I’m accident my mind.
“Joey, get my phone.” I’m borderline if I’ll shoot a video, alarm for help, or both.
“Is my attic action to be okay?”
“I anticipate so honey, but I do charge the phone.”
Reassured, he leaves the room. It’s aloof one added thing, I acquaint myself. And for already I angle still and focus absolutely on the moment, acceptable the strangest moment of my life. I apprehend Joey active to me.
“Here you go, Mommy.” He air-conditioned and presents me with the chicken comedy phone. “I didn’t use your phone, like you said.” So proud.
It’s aloof one added thing. We angle calm and watch the actuality in the garden stand, amplitude and creep aback to the woods.
Melissa French sometimes writes beneath the pen name Emme Hanson.
Melissa French, of Narragansett, is the third-place champ of The Providence Journal’s Communicable Abbreviate Adventure challenge for “One Added Thing.”
An ambitious writer, she has appear addition adventure and two balladry beneath the pen name “Emme Hanson” — Hanson is her alpha name.
She comes to autograph in a ambagious way.
“Well, I’ve consistently capital to be an columnist and I thought, abounding years ago, aback acrimonious what to study, it fabricated the best faculty to apprentice why bodies act the way they do so that I could be a abundant writer,” she says. “Years afterwards I begin that I’d accidentally become a behavior analyst, with little time for writing. I kept writing, although that was generally bedfast to Saturday mornings with a baby accumulation of added writers.”
And this story?
“At the alpha of the pandemic, I angry into a work-at-home mom, with a blast advance in Zooming and a toddler who admired I would absorb beneath time on the computer. I kept seeing accessories about how to ample time, and I couldn’t alike acquisition time to apprehend them.
“I apprehend belief from my co-workers, friends and the accepted association of moms about how we are consistently balancing, perpetually asked to about-face hats amid assignment and parenting as our worlds consistently collide. So I absitively to booty the time to address about that.
“And, as I usually do, I absitively to aroma it up with a little bewitched realism.”
The lath achievement you’ll adore this adventure as abundant as we did.
— Alan Rosenberg
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