Flash fiction: Childhood by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt was created using a random generator. Use these five words in a writing: suntan, paint, waterfall, inflation, exposure. This week’s prompt comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series.

Like so many, Val is at home in social isolation with her family during these strange times, which serves as inspiration to this prompt. She wishes the best for readers of this post, and for everyone around the globe.


By Val Muller

She was on the way to work when she got the call. It was a strange conversation, sounding at first almost like a telemarketer, but the voice on the other end sounded determined, somber. Not the careless, detached way telemarketers often sound.

After she hung up, the words echoed in her mind. Possible COVID-19 exposure. Self-quarantinde for 14 days. The symptoms, shortness of breath, trouble breathing… those were happening now, already. She took a deep breath and forced herself to calm down. Those were symptoms of stress, too, and what was more stressful than that phone call?

She was instructed to pick up her children from school, and the man on the phone—she’d already forgotten his name. It had letters in it, she remembered that. Maybe an R? Or a B, perhaps?—was going to call her husband as well to make him aware of the situation.

Her phone buzzed again, and she pulled to the side of the road to get a handle on things. It was a text from the boss. The whole office had been exposed. They had known, hadn’t they? When Mary came in wheezing and coughing… she said it was just allergies. And they believed her, though their nerves had been set on edge.

And what were they supposed to do? Start a witch hunt against anyone who sniffled?

As instructed, she called the school. She was to have a teacher escort her children out of the building and to her car. She was not to enter the school building, or any building, until she had spent 14 days symptom-free.

The kids were thrilled. She shook her head. Boys. They asked if they could order fast food using their app. She considered this. The app allowed payment online. The food would be brought to their car. She nodded in a daze and let them order.

After lunch, they asked if they could spend the day in the basement playing video games. In her shock, she allowed it. On the phone, the school secretary disclosed rumors that schools were likely shutting down soon, anyway, so the boys wouldn’t be missing much in-class instruction. She didn’t tell the boys that, of course. Let them have this day to be carefree. They were old enough now—grades 4 and 5. This event would likely mark the end of their childhood.

And how would she spend today, the last day her boys were children? At first she panicked at the computer, ordering a delivery of groceries while fielding texts from her husband about his preparations for coming home to telework for the next two weeks. Then she cleaned out the refrigerator and freezer. They would be in this for the long haul, it seemed.

Then she headed for the entryway closet. Cleaning always calmed her. It gave her something to do, a goal. She started with the winter clothes. They were likely done for the season. Spring had come early, it seemed. She packed all the hats and gloves and scarves into the plastic sleeve and tucked the sleeve on the top shelf. Something was wedged back there, preventing the sleeve from fitting.

It was the box of paints. She’d bought it for the boys when they were younger, hoping they’d pick up her love for art. But they took instead to video games and sports. She took the paints and closed the closet door.

Outside, springtime acted like the world was not in a global panic. The birds chirped as if they had never heard of a virus. The sun warmed her skin, and she felt the suntan already bronzing her bleached winter skin as she set up the small wooden easel on the picnic table.

The neighbor’s line of pear trees were in bloom, fuzzy white against a clouded blue sky. In their rock garden, they had turned on the little waterfall that pumped a stream of water so that it trickled over a pile of rocks.

This was zen. So she picked up her paintbrush to capture the moment. Tomorrow would bring what it would, but for now her boys were living a peaceful childhood moment.

And as she dabbed at the paper with bits of white on blue, so was she.

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/



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