Funny stories in under 500 words.

My Ferocious Instinct



The five-year-old boy tugged my mom’s arm. She was on the phone and I was curled up on a rug in the corner of the kitchen, my nose buried in Tolkien’s Hobbit, reliving, for the eighth time, the terrifying moments with Smaug the dragon. My siblings were outside and Dad was working, but I didn’t miss them. I had everything I needed. Sunshine pouring hot on my back. Spaghetti sauce popping gently as it bubbled. The smell of freshly chopped parsley. Mom—beautiful, kind, and able to remove splinters like a pro. I was still at the age where loving her was my ferocious instinct, and I often lingered nearby.

The dragon in my book blew fire at anyone approaching the treasure he hoarded, and I raised my head when the boy spoke. “Mom,” he said to my mother.

Not all the foster kids who stayed with us called my parents Mom and Dad, but Chris had on his first day. One day I would have trouble calling my own cherished parents-in-law by the terms Chris vaunted. Looking back, I can see he probably wasn’t trying to claim my parents as his own, scheming to displace me as the youngest child; maybe, after being shuffled from home to home enough times, he simply lumped all the mothers into one category. He might have used mom the way I used ma’am. I didn’t think it through back then. I just sensed a thief approaching.

Mom held up a finger. Wait. She was wearing a tube top, with mud from the garden visible on her canvas shoes. Short blond hair fell around her tanned face.

He pressed on. “Mom!”

“Stop it, Chris,” I hissed, uncoiling myself. “Wait ’til she’s off the phone.” He had been living with us for two weeks and everyone, even Dad, was still giving him everything he wanted. If I nicked a tree with the lawnmower or left one lousy hammer out in the rain, Dad would act like I’d murdered one of his chickens; but Chris could do no wrong. It was time the kid learned.

“Mom!” he said, holding her arm and bouncing. “Mom, mom, mom, mom, MOM, mom, MO-OM, mom—”

I flew towards him but stopped short when Mom pressed the mouthpiece against her jeans at looked at him. “What is it?” she said, with only a hint of exasperation.

He beamed and whispered, “I love you, Mom.”

She laughed, tousling his hair. “I love you, too, Chris.” She caught my eye and pointed at him, as if to invite me into the joke.

Smaug guarded cold jewels, creating in him a cold heart; my treasure was throbbing with love. I had to admit, the kid was kind of cute. I furled my wings. Soon I would tell the story to my friends, bragging about my new adorable brother.

Mom put the phone back to her ear and I went back to my book.

Chris ran off to sit on my dog.

This story was written by Heather Gemmen Wilson, who earned an MA in Creative Writing and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Her memoir sold over 20,000 copies and has been translated into 10 languages. She published over 20 children’s books. She enjoyed a 20-year career as a book editor before teaching writing courses to undergrads.




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1 comment:

  1. Good thing for fictional stories Heather!!! Just talked to your Mom about this story and I remembered her telling me what really happened when Chris tried to get your Mom's attention!
    We had a good laugh over that this morning. Awesome story! I didn't realize you were still writing books! Amazing!

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