A Plush Rodent Named Eric (Flash Fiction)
By Dan Leicht
She bent down to pick up the blocks, not noticing they spelled out the word “humor”. Her son, age six, was asleep on the couch clutching a small plush rodent he’d named Eric. After stacking the blocks in the corner of the room, spelling in the process a brand new word not yet listed by Webster, she walked over to her favorite chair and plopped down. Beside her was a half finished novel by her favorite author. She opened the container of nuts beside her and grabbed a napkin from the basket atop the small cabinet. She created a mountain of cashews and walnuts on the napkin, dusted her fingers off on her pants, then opened the book. She leafed through a few pages to remind herself what’d been happening, relishing the chance to read while dinner baked in the oven.
He held the sword given to him by King Arthur firmly in his grip. “Take this sword, Young Jeremy,” said the king. “With it you shall vanquish the evil that lies within the Cave of Torment and save my kingdom.” Young Jeremy sheathed the sword and nodded to the king before strutting off to the kitchen. After a bountiful meal and a direct order from the king he was feeling most confident in his abilities, having Excalibur strapped to his back didn’t hurt either. Outside the castle a white stallion with a dark flowing mane was brought to his side by a man with a hunchback. Young Jeremy thanked the man and flicked him a solid gold coin for his efforts. “Stay true to the sword,” exclaimed the hunchbacked man. Young Jeremy nodded and climbed atop his steed. On the way to his mission he passed through the village and was greeted with cheers as the villagers all egged him on, wishing him good luck on his quest. One of the villagers, an elderly woman, handed him a cupcake covered in green frosting.
“Jeremy,” she said as she rubbed his shoulder to wake him up. “I’ve got some mac and cheese ready for you at the table.”
He rolled over, still holding Eric tightly against his chest as if the cotton-filled-companion were his trusty sword. “I was just getting to the good part,” he exclaimed mid yawn.
Together they sat at the table as he explained his dream to his mother. She listened carefully and remarked how brave he must have been in order to be trusted with such a task by King Arthur himself. Even though it was only a dream he still felt a sense of accomplishment, which showed in his smug expression and raised eyebrows as he bobbed his head while chewing his dinner. When he asked her if she’d had any dreams while he was asleep she replied only that all of her dreams had already come true, so sleep was nothing more than a means to fill up her energy tanks. He imagined her standing at the gas station pump while in her dreams, her body lying dormant on her queen sized bed all to herself. There was a question always lingering in the back of his mind, one he’d been storing away since starting his new school. Each day his friends would enlighten him with stories from their own homes, telling tales about their two parents and how much fun they had together. Jeremy had always been confused at the notion. Two parents? He’d always known only one. This particular dinner didn’t seem to him like the right time to bring it up, but with such a question nagging at him it wasn’t something he wanted to keep inside much longer.
“Why don’t I have two parents like the other kids at school?” he asked. Her expression caused him to become nervous. He hid his face by devouring spoonfuls from the pile of orange mush on his plate. She took in a long powerful breath that quivered her nostrils, held it inside for close to five seconds, and released it, blowing her napkin across the table.
In a calm tone she answered. “Your father left soon after he heard about you in my tummy. He wasn’t ready to be a dad, but still sends me money every month to help take care of you.”
“Why doesn’t he ever visit us?” he asked.
“Because he has a different family he’s taking care of. He has two other children with a different mommy.” Jeremy looked at her with an expression of total confusion. He was allowed to just abandon them for another family? How could such a thing be legal? Not wanting to push his mother further on the question so soon he shifted the conversation to something lighter.
“How’s that book you’ve been reading?” Sometimes she swore she’d given birth to a thirty-five-year-old man. She laughed and told him the book was just getting to the good part. He looked surprised to hear such a thing. “Aren’t you halfway through the book already? It should’ve gotten to the good part from the first page. Don’t worry, Mother, someday I’ll write a book for you and it won’t be as disappointing.” He cordially went back to finishing up his meal, the wheels already spinning in his mind about how he could turn his latest dream into a story. “If only I knew how to spell more words, I could get started on it right away,” he said. His mother burst into laughter and smiled so bright he couldn’t help but join in.