Our nonfiction Runner Up to the 500 Word Challenge.
TOY BOATS AND HAIRLESS BARBIES
I notice her crawling in the backyard with a mouthful of dirt. I know she’s been riding the dog. I’ve also watched her collecting sticks, pebbles, leaves for her bowl. I press my ear to the glass door and hear her tell the dog that his soup is almost ready. The sun goes behind the back fence and she stumbles into the house, tired and filthy. Her hair is greased against her forehead, a tangled, matted knot in the back. She reads my mind as I look her up and down and say, “Alex, it’s time for a…”
Noooooo! She screams, making a dash for the staircase.
I catch her hand before she gets two steps away. I hold her down with my right arm and take out the barrettes with my free hand. She’s kicking and trying to bite my leg. Pinning her between my knee and the floor, I get both shoes and socks.
She’s screaming for real now.
I tickle her feet. She tries to keep hollering, but little giggles come out between yelps. I get the pants and undies and now it’s just the shirt. I yank it over her head, but she’s caught up in the collar. After a short but fierce struggle, her head pops free.
She’s crying now, big bubbly tears rolling down her cheeks.
I kiss her on the forehead and throw her over my shoulder. She’s pulling out fistfuls of my hair. I plop her down in the water. She’s grabbing the toy boat, filling it and hurling it at my face. I dunk her head and make a quick dash for the Jergens.
She’s coming up spitting and whaling her best fake cry.
Close your eyes, I shout. No! She pleads. I dump the boat-full over her head. She’s blinking her eyes and pretending to shiver. I grab the rag and give her a quick scrub. She’s just hunched over now, pouting. All done, I say, you ready to get out?
No! She screams and grabs the boat vroom–vrooming it around the tub.
I thought you didn’t wanna take a bath, I say. Ignoring me, she’s grabbing one of the hairless Barbies and leaning it toward the boat saying “Hello sir. I would like one ticket to the waterfall, please,” in a high squeaky voice. “That’ll be one hundred dollars,” in her man voice as she’s holding up the boat and glaring at me out of the corner of her eye.
Amy Fladeboe is an MFA candidate at Minnesota State University-Mankato where she also teaches composition. She is co-host of a radio show that interviews Minnesota authors called the KMSU Weekly Reader and is a contributing author to a spontaneous flash fiction writing radio program called Tales From the Poor House. Amy works in multiple mediums but mainly fiction. This is her first non-fiction piece to be published.