#86 The Black Baby by Kelly I. Hitchcock

“Mommy, look! A Black baby!” bellowed my four-year-old son, Silas, in a volume characteristic of all children his age. “He’s so cuuuute!”

I felt my insides immediately freeze, unsure whether to be mortified or not. Outwardly, I kept idling my shopping cart along the grocery store aisle, being careful not to quicken or slow my pace, eyes pretending to look around for the brand of ground thyme I like but can never remember before stealing a glance at the woman wearing the tiny baby in a carrier. We couldn’t have looked more different. She was tall; I am short, not even able to reach the lone packet of Red Star yeast she effortlessly extracted from the top shelf and dropped into her cart. She had shimmering dark caramel skin; I have pasty, dull skin with freckles. She had thick African braids bundled up like a crown on her head, making her look even taller; I have thin brown hair that clings to my head like it’s afraid to go out into the world.

Her eyes didn’t meet mine, not even for a split second, and because she was wearing an N95 face mask I couldn’t tell from her facial expression whether she’d heard my son’s outburst or seen the instinctive recoil in my eyes. I guess I could thank my own brightly patterned face mask for hiding the flush in my cheeks. I could see my glasses fogging from the heat in my face and the mouth-breathing in my mask. What was I thinking bringing him with me? The entire trip to the store had thus far been a nonstop panic attack as I tried to keep Silas from touching any and all surfaces and I struggled to find half the shit on my shopping list. My husband had told me I should just get the groceries delivered while he worked his eighth straight day of twelve-hour shifts at the hospital, but we were critically low on everything in our house, particularly the gummy bunnies that ensured I could get ten minutes of uninterrupted work done before getting a repeat inquiry about my favorite dinosaur. Even the songs buzzing overhead at the grocery store were preferable to hearing the songs from Frozen on repeat.

Had I been the four-year-old child in Silas’s shopping cart, I know my own mother would have silenced me immediately and then punished me for embarrassing her later (and I certainly wouldn’t have dared ask for gummy bunnies, let alone gotten them). But even at four years old, I wouldn’t have dared make an observation like that because I already knew that we didn’t talk about people like that. Silas would never know the kind of casual and overt racism on display daily in the house I grew up in. His father would never tell “spook jokes.” Even if he someday tried to discover if the rumors about his great-grandfather’s involvement with the KKK were true, no one who knew the truth would say a word, even if they lived long enough to tell about it. Things like that, people like that, were not spoken of.

I wondered if, when he or she is old enough, this tall, caramel-skinned woman’s baby will point at strangers in the store and proclaim “Look, Mom! A white baby!” Probably not. And even if that happens one day, this mom would probably just grumble “Yep” and move on. It’s not like Silas has never seen Black babies or Black adults before. He’s been in the same daycare center since he was 12 weeks old and has been classmates with Black kids, Hispanic kids, Asian kids, Indian kids. He’s had Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Indian teachers. His classroom alone could be the BIPOC diversity photo on the daycare home page, and yet here he was, writhing about in a shopping cart the way the diagram on the seat flap warns against, loudly identifying passing infants by race.

It must be because he’s been cooped up in our house for the past 10 weeks, I thought to myself. Or was it even longer? The construct of time during the pandemic had long since ceased to follow any logical pattern. I was the only other person Silas saw or talked to most of the day, which bled into the next without structure, unless you counted the rare occasions his Dad got to spend a few minutes before bedtime with him. And we looked just like him. That had to be it; he hadn’t seen his preschool friends in so long he’d forgotten people like that existed. For my part, I couldn’t wait until daycare reopened so he could see his friends, I could work an actual normal workday, and maybe I could, for once, not feel like I was failing in every aspect of daily life. I wondered if the mother of the cute Black baby felt the same struggles I was feeling – constant anxiety about my family contracting COVID, failure to get an hour of work done in a twenty-four hour day, simultaneous excitement about getting my kid in daycare and paralyzing fear about the implications of being exposed to two germ factories – because I already knew she felt struggles that I’d never begin to understand.

I smiled at my grimy, stir-crazy son. “Yes, Silas. It’s a very cute baby.”

© Copyright 2020 Kelly I. Hitchcock. All rights reserved.

Kelly I. Hitchcock is a literary fiction author in the Austin, Texas area. She has published several poems, short stories, and creative non-fiction works in literary journals, and is the author of the coming-of-age novel The Redheaded Stepchild and Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook. Her newest novel, Community Klepto, is currently in the works. She’s a graduate of Missouri State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing.

Where Are You, Mother? by Yash Seyedbagheri

You tell me it’s about space, a need to create your own life. Dad and sister Nancy will give me a better life.

Nancy calls me sweetheart. It sounds rehearsed for someone whose favorite word rhymes with “duck.” Dad communicates in grunts. Flatulence.

You taught me to admire Joyce Carol Oates, play Debussy. You said I was special. Said you’d see my words on a bookshelf.

You said fighting with Dad over freedom had nothing to do with me.

Why don’t you talk?

I store fleeting words. Do well. A mother can love from afar.

Talk to me. Please.

© Copyright 2020 Yash Seyedbagheri. All rights reserved.

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Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA program in fiction. His work is forthcoming or has been published in WestWard Quarterly, Café Lit, 50 Word Stories, (mac)ro (mic), and Ariel Chart.

Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

#85 Now I’ve Heard Everything by Bonnie Schroeder

“What kind of dog is that?”

“German shepherd.”

“Naah—they don’t come in black.”

“Well, that’s what she is. Recessive gene.”

“Huh? No, she’s a mutt, Lady. You got gypped.”

“Oh, all right—I’ll tell you the truth. She’s an Arcanian Bat Hound.”

“Wow! Really? I’ve never seen one before. Uh—where’d you get her?”

“I had to import her, got special permits and all. Arcania doesn’t export them normally.”

“I bet. Uh—where’s Arcania?”

“Eastern Europe. Tiny country. You’ve never heard of it, right?


“That’s because it’s a shadow state—keeps its existence a secret.”

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Mise en place or yours? by Paula Johnson

They met at a potluck and bonded over Larry’s incredible cookies. “Scharffen Berger,” he murmured later as he kissed Justine’s neck. “Chocolate chips…for adults only.” She fell hard when he explained how he ground his own flour from organic wheat.

He planned the perfect meal for popping the question: Arugula salad with figs, prosciutto, and truffle oil. Coq au Vin with homemade egg noodles. To finish? Dark chocolate semifreddo drizzled with salted caramel syrup.

She said yes to seconds, and to forever with him. No traditional fondant-entombed wedding cake for them—each table at the reception was presented with a Croquembouche.

© Copyright 2019 Paula Johnson. All rights reserved.
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Paula Johnson is the founder and editrix of The Rose City Sisters website. Join her email list  and get invited to her book launch party!

The Key to Success by Pat Becker

Photo of a vintage metal rollerskate

She found a skate key.

It wasn’t hers. She was too young to skate. But she managed to get her sister’s key.

She grappled with it in her tiny hands, trying to do what you did with a skate key. She jammed it into the bottom of a skate with her clumsy hands. In a whoosh! it was gone. More skillful hands came and took it. Her first memory!

She didn’t witness the invention of fire, but, by god, she got her grubby hands on her sister’s skate key. Later, she would get her grubby hands on many other things.

© Copyright 2019 Pat Becker. All rights reserved.

Pat Becker is a former journalist, freelance writer and publicist. She currently spends her time writing scripts and producing films.

To Carl and Scott, Winter 1954-1955

I had known him for three months. If I wanted to see him on weekends, I’d have to learn to ski. My sister had size 12 ski boots she would loan to me. His high school classmate wanted to sell her old skis for $5. I emptied my piggy bank, went to the ski shop on Holly Street and bought a pair of ski pants. I had my cotton jacket that looked okay with the pants. I had my red plaid wool scarf and a pair of mittens. I was ready to go to the mountains with my boyfriend.

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Texas Toast by Paula Johnson

Adam took his name seriously. He knew he was the first among men. His hairline was eroding faster than the Galveston coastline in his home state of Texas, but he was a sharp dresser and a smooth talker. Ladies loved his drawl.

At a Two-for-Tuesday happy hour, he sent a Cosmopolitan to a stunner in the corner. She stopped by to thank him.

“Can I tell you a secret?,” he asked. She nodded.

“You remind me of a young Scarlett Johansson.”

“Want to hear my secret?” she whispered. He cocked his head.

“You remind me of my old grandpa.”

© Copyright 2018 Paula Johnson. All rights reserved. Photo by Alexandre Godreau on Unsplash.
• • • • •
Paula Johnson is the founder and editrix of The Rose City Sisters website. Join her email list  and get invited to her book launch party! (First she needs to finish writing the book.)

Empty Nest by Susan Miller

“Mommy! Look!”

From the yard I watch my daughter lift her wings and jump from the deck. She hovers for a moment then tumbles to the grass. Robin climbs back up the steps. I wave and smile.

“Mommy! Watch me!”

Face scrunched with concentration she spreads her wings and launches into the air. Sunlight filters through the membrane of her wings, casting glitter across the yard. I see her silhouette against the blue sky as she soars higher.

I hear her voice as it drifts from the clouds.

“Mommy! I did it! I can fly!”

© Copyright 2018 Susan Miller. All rights reserved. Photo courtesy of Pexels.

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Susan Miller lives in South Dakota in a Green House.  She loves yoga, weaving, gardening and genealogy.  In her free time, she travels, drinks craft beer and enjoys bird watching.  Susan is married and the mother of sons.

FAQs by Paula Johnson

Is this PolySci 204? Are you Professor Adams? Can I sit anywhere? Is the textbook online? What’s the WiFi password? Where can I plug in my mini Himalayan salt lamp? Do you grade on a curve? Do you want to pet my Emotional Support Animal? Are you allergic? Can I eat in class? Can I vape? Is texting my term paper okay? Can I save seats for my sorority sisters? When are your office hours? Can my mom audit this class? Why is the syllabus three pages long? Can I leave early? When is the last day to drop?

© Copyright 2018 Paula Johnson. All rights reserved. Photo courtesy of Pexels.
• • • • •
Paula Johnson is the founder and editrix of The Rose City Sisters website. Join her email list  and get invited to her book launch party! (First she needs to finish writing the book.)

Ascent by Linda Gorman

Jason finned frantically toward the surface, his teeth clenching his mouthpiece, as terror wrestled with guilt.

How could he do that? To the love of his life. Desert her…

Kick, kick! 

…as she struggled in the maw of that great beast.

Jason’s gaze was fixed on the surface. But in his mind, he could see only Caroline’s face. Contorted with horror—and worse, betrayal—as the man she loved abandoned her.

Faster, faster!

Jason knew that image would haunt him for the rest of his life—which the air embolism traveling to his brain would make mercifully brief.

© Copyright 2018 Linda Gorman. All rights reserved.
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Linda Gorman is an editor, writer, and blogger who lived in the City of Angels for 21 years before escaping to Vancouver Island in 2016.