The strangest thing happened while I was waiting to start this Mini Sledgehammer. I arrived very early, which is strange in itself, and then it got to be 6:57, with no writers! I thought I was going to experience my first empty Mini Sledgehammer. Then as the clock clicked over to 7:00, four writers showed! And their stories definitely did not disappoint. Thanks for coming out, everyone!
Character: Someone dressed in a banana costume
Action: Reading Where the Wild Things Are
Setting: A city park
Phrase: “Well that was unexpected.”
Newbie Rachel Wingeier won over the judge with a clear beginning, middle, and end–and some nice prompt creativity too!
by Rachel Wingeier
I’m not sure exactly how it came to be, but it was mid-afternoon in mid-October and I was standing in a busy parking lot, dressing my son, Charlie, in a banana costume. He was too excited to wear his new costume to wait to unveil it on Halloween. He was five. He wanted to wear it now. And “now” to a five-year-old doesn’t mean let’s don it tonight at home. It means let’s drag it on over our dirt-encrusted clothes straight out of the slippery plastic bag with the hard plastic handle that we somehow just broke while walking out of Target.
“Really?” I asked, hoping the uncertainty on my part would spur him to change his mind.
“Yeah, Mom. Please? I really, really, really want to wear it *at* the park.”
I paused and studied him in the long autumn light. Recently I’d been feeling like I wasn’t the mother I should be or could be toward him. And having declared that morning that I was going to be a more in-the-moment – and thereby more-fun-to-hang-out-with mother – I sensed this was my chance…and acquiesced.
“Alright. Take your shoes off.”
He started jumping uncontrollably with a glee reserved for five-year-olds who live in the moment and do not yet care what is situationally appropriate. “And what is situationally appropriate, after all” I thought. “Didn’t Brad Pitt spend his days in a chicken suit? So what if that was for money. This is for the pursuit of happiness.”
And I was happy. I was happy that he was happy. I was happy that in his moment of joy he only head-butted me once. But I was only semi-happy that he – Mr. Giant Banana – fit in his booster seat. At first I thought I could get away with an “Oh, no…that’s terrible. You don’t fit? Well, maybe next time. What do you want for dinner?”
But he did fit. He squeezed in, and, eventually, squeezed out, and we found ourselves at Summerlake Park. He ran over to the playground and made his way up the stairs, the banana suit hampering his movements like Victoria Beckham pencil skirt. The other children welcomed the sight of a giant banana in their midst.
I sat on the bench, practicing reading my Spanish version of Where the Wild Things Are, trying to sound more authentic for when Story Time came at the local library. That’ll teach me to add my cell number to a volunteer sheet with events unspecified at sign-up.
As I stumbled over the words, a mother from school sat down next to me with a chuckle. “Well now! That’s unexpected! No one is going to believe this when I tell them.”
“Hi Martha. Yeah, he can’t wait for Halloween. I wish I could get that excited about something.”
“Me, too. But we probably did once. When it was our turn to be young.”
Charlie kept playing, looking over to me occasionally, shouting out musings to me incoherent over the voluminous wind. Twice I was caught nodding at inappropriate times during his running commentary. This upset him. He chided me with a, “Mooooommmm…” from his perch at the top of the slide.
But he had to forgive me. He was dressed as a banana.
Then I realized, part of being a fun-to-hang-out-with-mom is actually listening to his nonstop chatter and making him feel valued. So I made another effort.
“Charlie, honey. I really can’t hear you. Please come here.”
And he tried.
And it ripped.
The banana suit was done for. And Charlie sat motionless, before bursting into tears.
In an instant, I met him at the slide. “Oh honey, it’s okay.” I raced to find a way to find the bright side of this catastrophe. “You know what Mommy is really good at?”
He shook his head through his tears.
“Sewing. And I would love to have you help me fix this so you can wear it to the park tomorrow.”
He managed an “Okay,” and then The Smile returned. Maybe not as gleeful as before, but there was an ever-increasing hope in it.
And I thought to myself, by being in the moment, I had rescued this moment. Day One. Great success. Good job, Mom.
© 2012 Rachel Wingeier
Rachel Wingeier has published poetry as well as trade articles in career magazines and is currently working on her first screenplay. She lives in Portland, OR, with her husband and two young sons.