Have we reached the point where something can be vintage-Covid? Eight months in, I think so. This piece (which is absolutely fiction, although heavily influenced by life) hits that summer 2020 note. Written for a comp in which it didn’t place, and I don’t have anywhere else to submit it, so sharing it here. [500 words]
Five toes. I squeeze the biggest one. “Won’t this be tasty?”
“And this here? Mmm.” I lick my lips, pinching the savory flesh around his belly.
“Don’t eat me!” the victim pleads.
I sigh. “I have no choice. You’re too delicious.”
With a horrified shriek, he bolts. Footsteps thump above. Oh, brilliant. He’s gone upstairs again. I chase after, trying to keep my head in the game.
I’m not very good at this, but I’m trying.
Coming through the kitchen, I skid to a stop. What’s that burning smell? Shit, the sourdough! A plume of smoke greets me when I open the oven. A charred mass on aluminum foil, another lump of failure on a silver lining. I transfer the loaf directly to the trash bin. Turns out, I’m not very good at baking, either.
All is quiet as I creep up the staircase. He’s hiding.
I clear my throat, trying to sweep away the distraction of the ruined sourdough, which was meant for tonight’s dinner. Now I’ll need another plan. I could call for delivery, which would be easy, but not particularly thrifty. Damn this furlough. Oh well, I’ll figure something out. Right now, I must make my voice as menacing as possible.
“Here I come!” I growl.
I expect to hear the screech of terror from his bedroom, but to my surprise, it comes from his older sister’s room. Okay, I can improvise.
Teeth bared, I open her door.
“Eat her instead!” he begs, his voice muffled. He’s tucked behind his sister, who is lazing in her usual spot on her bed. A bait and switch. My clever little monkey.
“Mom, can’t you make him stop?” his sister whines, gaze glued to her tablet.
I feel her pain. Ashamed to admit it, but I’ve wished the same. This is exhausting. I wonder if she resents that I rarely played this way when she was his age. I’ve always told myself that I’m simply not a kid person. I love my children fiercely but I sometimes feel like a defective parent during pretend play.
Before this endless quarantine, it was easy to avoid. We were busy with work and school and tennis and piano, and none of those involved repeatedly acting out the saga of a bloodthirsty, yet ultimately merciful, monster. Now, the days yawn, and in the empty space we are everything. We are jungle cats and zombies and astronauts and witless fools caught without a sofa cushion to step on when the floor turns to lava.
“Mommy? Aren’t you gonna eat me?” His head pops up, curls mussed. His tiny voice is tinged with disappointment.
I plaster on my wickedest grin and whisper, “I’m gonna eat you both!”
Squeals of delight dimple his cheeks, which cling to the last of their baby fat. Delicious indeed. The hint of a smile teases his sister’s face, though she tries to hide it.
I’m not very good at this. But I throw self-consciousness to the wind and attack.