Daycare

Untitled [Flash Fiction]

This untitled work is my first attempt at writing creatively for any flash fiction audiences that may be out there.   It is a story of a father who doesn’t appreciate the things in life that he should, with dire consequences.  The word count is just over 1,210 words, but I’m sure there are some adjustments that can be made to bring it under the mark.  While it is a difficult topic for a story, I hope you, the reader, are able to take something away from the story I have written as I have done from other flash fiction writers out there.  Without further adieu!

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“Are you ready yet?” a father asked.

“Okay, daddy. I’m ready,” his little boy replied.

He reminded his son, “did you remember to grab your water bottle from the counter top?”

The sound of little feet racing back into the kitchen to grab a forgotten water bottle answered him, the little boy’s bulky Spiderman backpack wobbling back and forth from all of the commotion, almost as if it were trying to break free from the little boy. He finally came back to the front door, his water bottle — and a cookie — in his hands.

“No wonder it took you so long. Come on, we’re going to be late,” he scolded.

“Okay, daddy.” Giving him his hand, the little boy walked briskly to keep up with his father as they made their way to the daycare conveniently located down the street. He never had the time to eat his cookie.

“Come on, I have several meetings to go to today, and you’re going to be late for the morning circle,” the father said with a sense of urgency in his voice. The little boy could do nothing but struggle to keep up with his impatient father, taking two steps for every one he made.

As they drew near the daycare, car doors were slamming, as more impatient parents — some mothers, others fathers, all dressed for business — were herding their children into the day care. The buzzer at the door allowing everyone in was ringing constantly; the tone of it seemed to match the irritation the adults were having with their reluctant children.

Once they were inside, the little boy ran at a sprint into the hallway toward his classroom, his bulky Spiderman backpack wobbling crazier than ever from all of the commotion. In fact, every child’s backpack was moving this way and that in an almost hypnotic motion, the rhythm of everything happening at this one moment as everyone came into the daycare a cacophony of orderly chaos. Some mothers were helping their little girls into their slippers; some fathers were helping their little boys out of their jackets; most of the little boys and girls were rushing to keep up with their impatient parents.

“Did you brush your teeth this morning like I told you?” the father asked while he helped his little boy out of his worn-out and dusty sneakers.

“Yes, daddy,” he replied, his tone drowned out by the commotion coming from a fussy little girl having her jacket taken off by her mother.

The father placed his little boy’s sneakers under the bench in their designated spot and walked him to the door to where the daycare assistant was greeting the little boys and girls as they were coming in. Rather shyly, his little boy shook her hand like his father always instructed him to do, and walked into the room where the other little boys and girls were waiting for their day to start.

The father watched his little boy go up to the other children for a moment, a moment that seemed to stand still amidst the chaos of the other parents pushing their children into daycare. He wanted to speak out to his little boy, to call him son and to tell him that he loved him very much. That all of the eagerness to see him to the daycare was not to be rid of him, but to see him someplace where he could make friends, someplace where his son would be safe while he worked to sustain his family’s livelihood. He knew, though, his little boy wouldn’t understand at such a young age.

The moment was over as quickly as it had begun — his little boy’s attention was focused elsewhere — so he turned at a brisk pace toward the door. He walked to his house the way he and his little boy had come; he grabbed his briefcase and his satchel, both waiting patiently for him by the front door. As soon as he had come in, he was closing the door on his way out. He climbed into his parked car, put his keys into the ignition and drove off at a pace faster than he should have been driving in this part of the neighborhood. He made his way to work.

His day was finally over. It was a productive day, he thought. He had been to meetings with numerous people; he had had teleconferences with people from other parts of the world; he even had lunch with the vice-president, who told him about a promotion they were considering him for. He thought about this and what it would mean for his family. It would mean more job security; it would mean more responsibility; it would mean more hours and more traveling. But then, his mind went blank, and he drove the rest of the way home, forgetful of the important things he was supposed to remember for the next day. Finally, he pulled into his driveway, parked his car and went into the house to drop off his briefcase and satchel. He made his way at a much slower pace toward the daycare, where his little boy would be waiting for him expectantly. His shirt was hanging out of his trousers and his shoes were untied. He even had a five o’clock shadow that looked unkempt, but he didn’t care. He had worked all day. He had an excuse for his appearance.

At a much slower pace, he walked up to the daycare and tried to open the door, but a sudden wave of exhaustion overcame him. He staggered as if he had been hit by an unseen force, an invisible barrier that was keeping him from advancing any further. He supported himself on his knees, slouching and breathing heavily as he did, the world spinning as he watched the door open in slow-motion, the director and her secretary coming out to assist him.

“It’s him again. Should I call the police, ma’am?” the secretary asked, her voice filled with annoyance and a mild touch of concern.

“No,” the director said, directing her attention toward the father, “but you need to understand, sir, that we are very sorry for your loss, but there is nothing we can do here to help you. Maybe you should speak to someone, you know, professionally — to help you through your problems, sir,” she recommended, a hint of nervousness in her voice.

“I… I don’t under… understand?” His question and his delirious state only made him look pathetic and weak in front of these two young women. He didn’t know what else to say or do but slouch there in front of the daycare door and look pathetic and weak. In fact, there was nothing else he could do. His helplessness was so overbearing, that he did the only thing he could do; he started to sob — uncontrollably.

“Sir, you’re in denial. You need to get help. You lost your wife and your son in a car accident three months ago. We’re truly sorry.  Is there anyone we could call?” but, the two women could only watch solemnly as the man, stripped of his purpose and his future, collapsed to the ground and cried, and there was nothing he could do to help himself.