One Fuzzy White Slipper

I was going through some old short stories I wrote and found this one. It was a (rejected) entry in a past round of NPR’s Three Minute Fiction contest. I like it and would love to know what you think.

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door.

What was the goddamned dog barking about anyway?

She had slammed the door so hard that it opened with some difficulty. The frame was cracked and a bolt was missing from one of the hinges so it didn’t work right anyway, like so many things in her house now, but her thunderous escape into the spare bedroom had wedged it tight.

She stormed down the hall, as much as anyone can storm in fuzzy white slippers.

Why won’t that dog just shut up? Just a couple of minutes, that’s all I want. One minute. Anything.

Already she had forgotten what book it even was. It really didn’t matter. She had only managed to read a couple of pages before the barking started.

She had tried to ignore it. He was probably just barking at a squirrel or a crow or nothing. But he just kept barking, every couple of seconds and in rhythm, with this strained almost-whine at the end of each bark. And she couldn’t ignore it.

Her slippers dragged across the tile floor. The padded strips that stretched over the tops of her feet were tired and worn and barely hung on. Each step scraped like she was limping on both legs. They weren’t even really fuzzy anymore. Most of the fuzz had been rubbed away or mashed down into what looked like a dirty bath mat. But she wasn’t ready to give them up. They were a gift from her husband and she had loved them then. They were so warm. Now they were just old and sad and the easiest thing to put on when she woke up on the couch to Jacob’s crying.

She couldn’t believe what she had said to her son. And the way she had said it. With each step her shoulders dropped and that ache in her stomach came back, the same one she feels every time she yells at him like that.

But I’m so tired. I just wanted him to stop. I just needed a minute.

She looked through the divided panes of the door out to the small backyard and the dirt and the fences. He was too young to be out there by himself. She knew that. She would go get him and tell him that Mommy is just tired. Mommy is sorry. He’ll be all right.

The backyard was filled with that awful bark and the sound of the cars on the street behind the neighbor’s house. The sun was low and traffic was heavy. People coming home from work. Husbands and wives talking about their days. Sons racing to meet their daddies at the door. Those other houses and those other daddies. No cars are coming here. Her face scrunched up from the glare and the reminder and she walked into the backyard.

The sand box and the toy trucks in the corner were quiet. She called to Jacob. She turned toward the sound of the barking and tripped on a ball or a tractor or something and her left slipper fell off. She called his name. Around the side of the house, to the barking and the back gate. He must be. She called his name. The gate was closed and the dog just kept barking and barking and staring at the gate and barking and she called his name and again and again. Into the sun and the sound she called his name and her breath left and she stood alone in an empty yard in one fuzzy white slipper.

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About Mitchell Brown

I am a stay at home dad with my two daughters who are a lot stronger than they look. When I'm not cooking, cleaning, dancing, reading, teaching, playing or protecting my eyes and groin, I am writing about this whole experience in all of its ridiculousness.
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9 Responses to One Fuzzy White Slipper

  1. dorkdad says:

    Man, that touches on our deepest insecurities and our darkest fears, both in the same 3 minutes. I’m ashamed, terrified and exhausted all at the same time. Compelling, in a way that only a parent can appreciate. Yuck. I don’t like even thinking about any of that stuff… which is what makes the story so effective.

    -DD

  2. Meka says:

    Don’t ever do that….i hate not knowing what happens next!!! Id throw that fuzzy sleeper at you right now if i could!

    Ok.. i like it:) the mom in me is terrified at what happens next but i absolutely want to keep reading.

    I wonder….do you see things,events, people and stories play out in your head? Is your world a story waiting to happen? How absolutely thrilling and how gifted you are.

    • Thanks, Meka. I guess I am seeing and thinking about stories all the time. They are everywhere and I find myself sort of writing them in my head everywhere I go. My head is a damned strange place hang out.

  3. Camille says:

    ugh, did you have to use the name Jacob?

  4. Wolf Pascoe says:

    I liked it. Strong description, strong situation. Felt like the husband had died and she was raising Jacob alone, and doing a messy job of it. Shift into present tense in the middle threw me. I was really worried something terrible had happened to Jacob, and was glad this wasn’t a story about that.

    • Thanks, Wolf. I intentionally left why the husband was gone out of the story. I did, however, intend for the fate of the son to be relatively clear (at which I obviously came up short). With him missing from the yard, the gate being closed and the dog agitated, I meant for there to be a sense that he was taken. Thus, her standing alone in the yard. My fiction needs work (which is why I keep doing it). Also, the shift in tense was to move the reader along with the mother from dwelling on the past to her moment of panic. I very much appreciate your feedback, sir.

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