Horrid Little Girl
Each night that she wasn’t working late, or studying for her Masters, or dating random hippies who never hung around for more than a week or so, that worn-out mum trudged up two flights of stairs to tuck her two kids into bed.
And each night, they begged her to read to them. It never seemed to be enough. After thousands of words, they still whimpered for more. Another page, another chapter, another story. Please mum, please!
And that mum worked hard to satisfy the endless demands. Blinking fatigued eyes to keep them open. Corneas dried out by overuse of her supposedly single-use contact lenses (that she often reused a couple of times to save money). Staring too long at words that blurred together.
Her kids eagerly snuggling closer into her side as if to absorb the stories physically. They were incorrigible. Or so she told them.
Truthfully, she loved that time. Maybe even more than they did.
At bedtime, there were no ferocious arguments in the back seat of the Datsun 120Y on drives that were too long to be comfortable. There was no yelling required to shut them up.
At bedtime, there were no stolen drags on cigarettes, kept secret from kids she’d lectured about the benefits of quitting. She’d “quit” three times.
At bedtime, there was no juggling attention between little people and big people, between housemates, lovers, and relatives. There were no chores to get done or bills to pay. No teachers to placate with promises to discipline her children more about not speaking their minds.
The eldest child, her daughter, was “a handful” according to teachers and babysitters alike. Precocious and willful. Stubborn, and occasionally violent.
None of that mattered at bedtime. Only the next word, the next page, the next chapter, the next story. Sagging back into the pillows one night, the three of them nestled together reading The Once and Future King, she told her little girl, “You know, you remind me of that poem. I can’t remember who wrote it.”
There was a little girl
And she had a little curl
Right in the middle
Of her forehead
When she was good
She was very, very good
And when she was bad
She was horrid
The little girl never ever forgot that poem.
This short story was prompted by our esteemed Director of Frivolity over at MuddyUm HQ: