Chocolate Chips

Prompt: Tailor

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“Your mother wants to be a spy?”

“She keeps applying,” said Chai. She gave her younger brother Flax, who’d been walking quietly beside her on the leash for the past few minutes, a chocolate chip. She read that when leash-training dogs, anyway, that the trick was positive reinforcement. You correct bad behaviour but do not punish. You reward good behaviour, which in Flax’s case was an occasional chocolate chip.

“How do you apply?” Jon asked.

“They give you tests. But they hire people who already work for the government, and so she’s also trying to land a federal job.”

Chai felt the odd drop from an unthreatening rain shower. It was cooling, refreshing. The walks home after picking up Flax from nursery school were so much less stressful now, and Jon was easy company. She would offer him a sandwich when they got to her house— far from the delights of Carly’s basement, but the best she could do.

Chai said, “She has an interview at the federal prison.”

“I thought she was a teacher.”

“She is, but she wants to be a spy.”

“What is her actual name?”

“Her actual name? You mean her name name?” Chai slipped a milk chocolate chip into Flax’s mouth and ruffled his hair. “You are such a good boy, Flax! Poppy. My mother’s name is Poppy.”

“Why is everyone except you named after a seed? There’s Poppy, Pumpkin, Flax, and then you.”

“Well, legend has it that as first born, I was a giant pain. Long labour, painful delivery, complications all around. She tells me about it every so often.” Chai shrugged. “When it came time to write my name on the form, she got confused. She was tired and drugged; apparently they drugged mothers. Painkillers. I’m lucky I’m not addicted to morphine.”

“No kidding.”

“My father was no help.”

“Why not?”

“He was drugged too. In fact they had to admit him around the time my mother was discharged.”

“Your family is kind of interesting, compared to mine,” said Jon.

“So that’s why I’m named after a tea instead of a seed,” said Chai.

Flax stopped in his tracks. “Come on, kiddo,” Chai said, tugging ever so gently.

In one expulsion, Flax emptied the contents of his stomach onto the sidewalk. It was chocolatey brown.

“I’ll try baby carrots next time,” said Chai.


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Chocolate Milk

Prompt: Caper

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Why hadn’t she thought of this before?

When ever she picked up her brother Flax from Sunny Sun Pre-School at 3:45 pm, he was a fireball of energy, because he’d been awoken from a long nap at 3:30 pm, was over his drowsies, and now wanted to find the world and change it, in the way almost-three year-olds do. His caretakers always smiled at her during the hand-over, with something like pity but not quite pity, because mostly they felt relief. She was an energetic teenager who’d only just come from a leisurely day at school, not a professional child-minder who’d had a very long, very exhausting day with hyperactive toddlers who tended to test the limits of reality and patience.

Never mind that Chai was tired too, dehydrated from dry, too-warm classrooms, dulled by robotic teachers, stressed by social angst, possibly on her period, and unable to study with Jon and Carly in Carly’s basement because she had to pick up her younger brother from Sunny Sun. She then faced a ten minute walk home, where she played the role of border collie to Flax’s herd of sheep. He had an uncanny talent for slipping his tiny hand out of hers and tearing off somewhere, trailed by Chai with her backpack heavy with textbooks and an uneaten lunch.

So this time, as soon as they were out of the nursery, she slipped his unsuspecting arms through a sea blue nylon harness, and clipped a leash to it.

“No, you don’t,” she said to Flax, as he raced to the end of the lead, lost his balance, and fell on his ass. He didn’t cry. He tried it again, and fell again. Chai shortened the leash so that the abrupt fall at the end was less violent, and Flax, bless his tiny brain, kept trying until Chai crouched down in front of him, took his flawlessly smooth cheeks between her hands, and said “Baby boy, you are tied to me now, see? You can’t just run off. See this?” (Holding up the loop at the end of the leash, wrapped around her wrist.)

Flax said, “Fuck this!” just the way their mother said it. He didn’t talk a lot, but when he did he was expressive.

He then earnestly tried to separate himself from the harness, with no success, since the clip between his shoulder blades kept the truss in place.

“Pretend you’re a doggie,” Chai suggested. “Want to go to the doggie park?”

Flax paused for a moment, then shook his head and looked, surprisingly, like he might cry or have a tantrum.

“Let’s just get home,” said Chai pleasantly, standing up again, taking his hand, and stepping into the crosswalk. Flax bolted, right into the path of an old, green Chrysler Imperial with out of state license plates, which was making a right hand turn.

Chai found that legendary super-human strength and yanked the leash so fast and so hard that Flax flew over her head and landed on a grassy boulevard behind her. Toddlers are like drunks, loose and flexible, so he broke no bones, nor suffered any injury but a bruised elbow and upper arm.

The driver of the Chrysler was less fortunate. Chai held Flax under her left arm, and with her right hand she reached into her backpack, took out the heavy, warm glass bottle of chocolate milk she hadn’t consumed at lunch, and smashed it into the driver’s side window. The window didn’t break but inexplicably popped, and warm sludge covered the driver’s glasses and dribbled down his nose, which Chai then punched.

Their mother was actually home before them this Thursday because of a stray dog on the school grounds, and as she dumped chicken pieces, potatoes, and capers into a sheet pan, while checking email on her cell phone, asked, “How was school today, my chickens?”

“Chai killed someone with chocolate milk,” Flax, out of the harness, said in a sentence that broke his world record for syllables.

“That’s nice, honey,” said their mother, setting down a bottle of olive oil and impatiently stabbing a few letters on the screen with her forefinger. “Oh, more spam. Fuck this!”