French Fries - A Short Story by Flit

>> Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This is another of my short stories, previously published on and as well.

And yes, this one is (mostly) true.

Originally, I used made up names for my little darlings but somewhere along the way I changed them and now when I read it (at writers’ festivals and so on) I usually go with their real names. It seems silly to change just the names when the story is based on real events.

Both of my daughters have blogs on, btw…. Jess writes about her job as a early childhood education provider , and Tamara is working on a public relations theme . They’re all growed up now (ha! as IF!) and both have graduated college.

No critters - or children - were harmed in the making of this story…although french fries became a banned substance at our house for a very long time!

French Fries

“Oh, you must miss them” people used to tell me when my kids were away for a few weeks in the summer. Uh yeah. Right. Miss them. Not! I loved it when they went to camp, or to my sister’s, or to – well, just about anyplace I could send them. As long as they were safe and happy wherever they were, that worked just fine for me.

No hockey, no baseball, no last minute runs into town for a piece of Bristol board for a school project assigned three weeks ago, due tomorrow. No constant bickering over every little thing. No competition for my attention. No fighting over who gets to pick what restaurant we go to or what bedtime story or what TV show to watch. No TV in fact; it goes off the day they leave, and stays off. No noise! And most important of all, no stress – by comparison, anyway. I love my girls, really. But some days…!

Like the day Tamara made French fries; that was fun. For some reason that I don’t remember, I had let her stay home that day. A headache or something, most likely. Jessica had gone to school and would be taking the bus home; usually I drove them, but that day I was supposed to have had a late class, and she didn’t want to wait for a ride. My class ended early, but she would have already left on the bus, so I just headed home. We lived about halfway between Barrie and Orillia, then, on the 7th line of Oro, in an apartment above what used to be a motel, but at that point was just a bunch of mostly empty rooms. It wasn’t a great location, but the apartment itself was pretty nice; everyone had their own bedroom, and it had a great balcony with a view. Of course, the view was of a gas station and the highway, but beggars can’t be choosers, or so I’ve heard. The place we had been living in had been sold and we had been forced to move several months before. There wasn’t much available in the city at that point– and what there was had so much competition for it that a single mom with two teenagers and a dog, working only part time while going to school to be a geek…well, I wasn’t a prime candidate for tenancy.

Anyway, so I’m driving up the highway and I’m almost home and there is a fair bit of traffic, which is pretty usual for dinnertime. An ambulance comes up behind me with its sirens and lights going; I pull over, and let it go by, thinking that people that don’t get out of the way are such jerks and idly wondering if there’s an accident up ahead. Um, nope – not an accident. The ambulance is going to a fire. And not just any fire, but a fire that just happens to be in my area. I’m driving northbound on the highway and I’m almost to my house, and I see flashing lights and fire trucks in front of it. Please let it be the gas station or the restaurant or….Oh! Nope, it is most definitely my house. My dog barking her fool head off on the balcony. My front door open, with firemen with hoses heading up the stairs. And my kid on a stretcher being pushed across the parking lot towards the ambulance, which still has its flashing lights going.

And I, of course, am on the wrong side of the blasted highway and I have to drive past my house, take the next exit, stop at the stop sign and wait until it’s clear to turn left and go over the overpass from which I can’t see a blessed thing. And then I follow the road around and there is another stop sign and the school bus has just gone by and had its stupid flashing lights on and kept all the cars waiting while the kids crossed the road and now there is a backlog and I have to sit at the stop sign and wait while my house is on fire and my kid is in an ambulance and the lights are flashing and I can’t see and I can’t get there and…

Finally I am clear to turn left and then right onto the bumpy mess that our landlord considers a road and I am in such a panic I almost don’t register that Jessica is running down the road ahead of me and I don’t want to stop to pick her up but I do anyway. I yell at her to hurry and she does; she has seen the fire trucks too, from her school bus and she is near hysterical, not about her sister, but about her animals. “If any of my animals are dead she’d better hope she is too!” She is not helping, and I ignore her and screech to a stop behind the ambulance and startle the paramedic who is adjusting an oxygen mask over Tamara’s face.

The paramedic must have figured I was the mom and I was a tad stressed; he is telling me that she’s okay, she’s just inhaled a bit of smoke and she’s upset so they’re just giving her oxygen just for a few minutes and then Tamara is crying that she didn’t mean to and she’s sorry and Jessica is still ranting about the animals and …eventually… my heart starts beating again and I remember how to breathe.


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