Funny stories in under 500 words.

For All The Little Children

That day, the small room felt smaller. The white walls whiter; the smudges on it smudgier. The letters of a “Jesus Loves the Little Children” banner hanging over the cluster of Vacation Bible School student polaroids buzzed like the ladybug nightlight in Natalie Walker’s bathroom. She happened to glance up from her work, but then she sat still and quiet while the morning maelstrom did its thing. 

Her focus was so focused she didn’t care that across the table Lily sat crying over her photocopied picture of Joseph in his Coat of Many Colors because, as Lily told Ms. Marvin between sobs, she couldn’t get the gl-glue to come out the h-hole and-then-and-then it spilled everywhere! Neither did she notice Timothy bouncing and singing, “Ooooooh, I don’t wan’er you can have’er sheez too fat for meee…sheez too fat for meee”—the only line he could remember after learning it from his great grandfather the night prior. She did not care that Ms. Marvin told him he shouldn’t sing that song, it could hurt someone’s feelings, and then accidentally looked at Jill who had just popped a piece of dry macaroni into her chubby gob and crunch-crunch-crunched while she glue-glue-glued.

Neither did she notice Solomon, the classroom hamster, running on his wheel, stopping short, going round upside down, then running again—his stubby legs a blur that moved in tempo to the children’s choir rattling, “…the love-of-Jesus-love-of-Jesus, down in my heart—WHERE?—” from the Tonka Player beside the cage.

Even though this cacophony would be enough to distract any person, and was partially the reason Ms. Marvin drank red wine at night, none of it could pull Natalie’s attention. Attention that could always focus on craft time—her favorite time because Ms. Marvin had the best art supplies. Like those extra soft crayons she called pastries? Or pastrels maybe? And those markers that smell like blueberry and bubblegum and licorice. And Ms. Marvin had four kinds of dried macaroni. Four! And her glue-sticks—unlike the status of every other glue-stick in the whole wide world—were never empty.

But today, as much as she wanted to glue dollar-store-treasures onto Jacob’s Coat, and thought today would be like any other day, it was not. Her brain felt as flippy-floppy as her bike wheel did that one time it blew out on Crane Peak Hill. Cathunk-cathunk-cathunk. Her thoughts were flappy pieces and maybe if they hadn’t been so broken she would have remembered changing for pool time yesterday. If she had remembered that, then maybe the bulletin board would’ve made sense. But, not one of the things made sense. Not the crying, the singing, the crunching, not the hamster doing his backflips, and certainly not Joseph in his Coat of Many Colors awaiting his bedazzlement. How could anything make sense while on the bulletin board, impaled by a yellow tack, between Billy C. and Billy G.’s goofy mug shots, for all the little children to see, hung Natalie Walker’s purple, polka-dot underwear.

This story was written by Ashley Morrow Hermsmeier. Ashley has an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University and is currently a writing teacher in Oregon. Her short story “When the Bees Come Back” was the winner of Gemini Magazine’s 2015 Flash Fiction Contest and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work has also appeared or is forthcoming in Michigan Quarterly Review, Weber—The Contemporary West, and Flash Fiction Magazine (read her stories "Something Hideous" and "This Happily Ever After"), among others.



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