On the first Friday of every month, the Australian Writers Centre reveals a new set of story prompts. Writers have 55 hours to submit their best 500-word (or fewer) story.
Serenity with children. The caption, in delicate font, was etched over an exquisite photo of a young child in rolled up jeans and a straw hat peering into a pond, looking at tadpoles, frogs and lilypads. Dappled light. Tall trees. Nature.
Jacqui stared at the picture on her phone. Facebook had a lot of nerve putting such propaganda online. She was sitting in her car, outside the piano teacher’s house at 5.07pm, aware that 6 minutes of Caitlyn’s piano lesson had been wasted sitting in a traffic jam.
Serenity with children? Really??
She looked at the picture again, and lifted her eyes to look around her car. Sand from Saturday’s Little Nippers session, school hats, an unidentifiable smell, a school note (how long had that been there??) and a yawning 5 year old son who was about to complain that the grapes tasted weird.
Jacqui knew that the grapes tasted weird because, let’s face it, they weren’t chips. Perfect parenting meant ‘nude food’. Nude food meant reducing your carbon footprint. It also meant a grouchy 5 year old at 5.11pm on a Tuesday afternoon. Jacqui was also getting grouchy because the ‘keep cup’ had not kept her coffee hot.
She leaned forward to rub her foot, which was still hurting after the lego dance before breakfast. It hadn’t been a great start to the day. Caitlyn had ‘friend issues’ and didn’t want to go to school, and Jack had lost one of his shoes. The clearly labelled baskets looked great on Pinterest, but Jacqui soon realised that a five year old would rather play school-shoe-frisbee with the dog, rather than put his belongings into a pretty basket.
Her phone buzzed. She glanced down, and swiped away the image of the perfect child enjoying the great outdoors, who clearly didn’t have any homework to do. It was the alarm set at 5.30 for the end of the piano lesson.
Jacqui jumped out of the car and knocked on Old Miss Porter’s door, ignoring Jack blowing raspberries on the car window. Miss Porter must have been teaching piano for at least sixty years. It’s amazing that her swinging jowls never hit the keyboard. Miss Porter clearly wanted a chinwag (or more likely, issue a pointed reminder of the need to practise…), but Jacqui whisked them away, feeling simultaneously rude, guilty and relieved.
She hurried home, letting the back seat bickering wash over her. Before 8pm, the kids had to have a bath, finish their homework, do their reading, eat something (scrambled eggs) and be in bed. All with military precision.
Tonight was the first night of the side hustle, a great idea conjured up by her and Pete after deciding to take control of their debt. The business idea was simple – what do parents complain that they never have enough of?
At 8.30, the doorbell rang. Jacqui opened the door to her first paying customers, walking them to the door of the loungeroom, all evidence of domestic life hidden from view, lit with candles. An hour of silence.
It was a blissful hour. No music. No conversation.
And money in the bank.
Going to bed, Jacqui turned to Pete and suggested squeezing in a trip to the country on the weekend for the kids to explore nature. Jacqui was determined to structure simplicity and schedule serenity.
Grateful to the Australian Writers Centre for sparking creativity each month with the Furious Fiction competition.