Jello

“You can keep playing outside while I make the Jello, but you have to stay on the porch, okay?” The three-year-old’s face broke into a wide grin as he nodded. It wasn’t fair for a kid to have such cute dimples.

Kelsey went inside and set a kettle on the stove. She took a quick peek at the front window and saw her son pushing a rock across the porch rail like a race car. It’s fine, she thought. He’s fine. It’s good for both of us to practice a little independence.

Moments later the kettle whistled. She turned off the stove, poured the boiling water into the glass dish with the gelatin mix, began stirring absentmindedly until another tone caught her attention.

A car horn.

Panic rising in her chest, Kelsey ran to the front door, terrified of what she would find outside. A car was stopped right in front of their house. The driver was standing outside the vehicle, looking at something in the street.

Her son. Where was her son?

A dark shape on the ground shifted.

“Mommy?”

A small scream. Kelsey’s son stood beside her on the porch.

“Jello time, mommy?”

Kelsey sniffled, “Not yet, baby.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox
Image by Lynn Greyling from Pixabay

Zipper

“Why can’t I stay at home?” Zinny asked dejectedly.

Hannah answered my rote, “You’re still too little to stay at home by yourself.” Moving automatically, she grabbed a stocking cap from the hook by the door and shoved the hat down over her daughter’s mess of curly hair.

“Why can’t daddy watch me?” Zinny asked next.

“Because dad’s not home right now,” Hannah said, grabbing the bright purple coat from its hook and draping it over Zinny’s shoulders.

“But I want him to be home.”

Hannah restrained a sigh, saying simply, “I know, darling.”

Zinny looked up with large eyes that her mother refused to meet and asked, “Where is daddy?”

Hannah knelt to help her daughter with her zipper. “He had to go far away for work, remember?”

“He’s always far away at work,” she groaned.

“Yes.” Hannah yanked the zipper, and it didn’t move. She yanked again.

“I just want him to be home again.”

“Yes Zinny,” Hannah said through gritted teeth, “I know.” She tugged the zipper pull with short sharp movements.

“But why is he not home?”

“Because he’s NOT” Hannah shouted. They were on the same level, face to face, eyes filling up with tears.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Fatherhood

“You know sometimes I wonder if I’m really a good dad,” Mo said pensively.

Beside him, Mo’s best friend, Tug, scratched his belly and asked, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Down on the grassy plain below them a horde of youngsters tumbled, hooted, and howled. “What, you mean you never worry if you’re doing the best by your kids?” Mo said. “Setting a good example, preparing them for the future, all that?”

Tug gave a long lazy yawn. “Guess I never really thought too much about it that way. I mean they’ve got food, right? They’ve got shelter.  What more’s a father supposed to do?”

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I mean, what if being a really good dad isn’t so much about the big things like food and shelter; what if it’s the little things like making them laugh while you pick the bugs out of their fur or showing them how to get the best distance when they throw their feces?”

Tug paused in the midst of picking his nose. “You pick the bugs out of your kid’s fur yourself?” he asked the other chimpanzee.

“Of course,” Mo answered.

“Wow. You really are a good dad.”

Story by Gregory M. Fox