Saturday, December 17, 2011

When Just Right is Just Wrong

If Chuck Wendig's TerribleMinds is not already on your daily blog roll, it should be. Among other interesting tidbits, he hosts regular flash fiction contests on his blog. Each week a specific set of parameters is given and everyone is invited to play. You post your story of no more than 1000 words on your blog and link to it in the comment section of his.

This week, I couldn't resist. He linked to a set of 50 Unexplainable black and white photos on Buzzfeed. Many of the photos were disturbing. They were all weird. Perfect story material, right? Here's mine, along with the photo that inspired it.

Just Right
Onyx had never found Papa B’s bed too hard, but when her subversive sister, Goldie, uploaded her first self-produced video to YouTube, it had inexplicably gone viral. Papa may have been cast as a lumbering oaf who slept on an iron mattress, but he was no fool. He turned the den into a B&B and charged extra for Baby B’s room.

Mama B left when Papa sold the movie rights to Hollywood. No one was surprised. After all, they slept in separate beds. While Papa had laughed off the caricature Goldie made of him, Mama hated being seen as a frumpy housewife eating cold porridge and driving Papa off to his hard, lonely bed. The prospect of a nationwide movie release sent her over the edge. She took her share of the advance and hit the road.

Secretly, Onyx was glad. Other than the separate beds, she couldn’t speak to Mama’s relationship with Papa, but she had been best friends with Baby since the third grade. Baby was sad when Mama left, but truth be told, she had been motherless for years. Her real mom had died in childbirth, and a desperate, broken-hearted Papa had remarried, hoping to give Baby a mother.

Desperate and broken-hearted is no way to begin a relationship. Everything about Mama B had been wrong. She was bi-polar, and while Onyx would never fault a person for having an illness, she could fault them for refusing to treat it. Mama only took her meds about half the time which made her highs and lows even worse.

She was too happy or too sad, too mellow or too angry, too trusting or too paranoid. Goldie’s video had, in fact, been an homage to Mama’s earth-moving shifts. Unfortunately, one character trait was constant. She was too freaking critical, and it was all aimed at Baby.

Baby was beautiful, but you wouldn’t have known it if you heard Mama talk. She told Baby one day, that she was too fat to fit in the den and the next, that she was too skinny to survive the winter. Mama railed over Baby’s lush, perfect hair. It was too long, too short, too thick, too thin, too dull, too shiny, too, too, too…it was Mama’s favorite word.

Everyone knew Baby B was just right. Onyx knew it better than most, and she reminded Baby at every possible opportunity. She spent a lot of time in the B’s den working the desk, cleaning, cooking for the guests, and anything else Papa needed done. Goldie was off at film school on Papa’s dime, so her own house felt cold and empty.

Baby had gone into the new family business as well, giving tours and having her picture made with the guests. At night the two of them would curl up on Papa B’s big, very comfortable bed (Papa had taken to sleeping outside) and whisper their dreams for the future.

Onyx’s dreams had not included getting pregnant, but Brad had been so handsome when he checked in late on a cold February afternoon. The fire had roared cheerfully, warm porridge steamed on the stove, and Onyx had been alone. Reservations were light in the winter. People came to B’s B&B to see big Papa and just right Baby, not Goldie’s homely sister.

Brad had been different. He didn’t seem to care that he was in a celebrity’s den. He had eyes only for her. They had shared a bottle of wine over a bowl of just-right porridge, and before she could say, “My what big teeth you have,” Onyx found herself wrapped in Brad’s arms.

The magic of the night had been washed away the next morning when she woke alone in Baby’s bed to the sound of Papa B’s booming voice.

“Onyx! Where are you?”

Wearing her disheveled clothing from the night before, she had slunk out of Baby’s room. Brad sat grinning in front of the fire, and Papa caught on immediately.

“Oh Onyx, I thought you had more sense than this.”

Brad fist-pumped like the frat boy he was. “Big Brad Wolfe strikes again!”

“Get out and don’t come back!”

When Papa B roared, one ignored it at his own peril. Brad made a quick exit, but the damage had been done. When the stick turned pink, Onyx’s shame was complete.

Good friends make all things bear-able and no matter how low Onyx sank, Baby B was there with a kind word and gentle touch which of course was just right.


  1. I like this a lot. The twists of the old tale with that picture. Good job, Kathy. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. I like your twist on the fairy tales. Nicely done. (And I can totally see Goldie's YouTube video going viral.)

  3. Thank you! I had fun writing it.