Can't Get Enough of What You Don't Need

Submitted for Contest #49 in response to: Write a story about a person waiting for an answer to a question.... view prompt

31 comments

Submitted on 07/03/2020

Categories: Funny

“Stop that. It’s disgusting.” I rolled down the car window for some fresh air. As if the smells emanating from my son’s laundry bag weren’t nauseating enough. 

“Mom, it’s not my fault,” laughed my 19-year-old son, secretly proud of his foul emissions. “The dining hall serves only three types of food: fried, deep fried, and grease fire.” 

“How about eating more fruits and vegetables?” I suggested, in my overly-helpful-mom tone, the one that even annoyed me. “Surely the university has a salad bar somewhere on campus. Eat something unprocessed once in a while. Try a banana or an orange?”

“They’d just fry that, too.” 

“I’m not driving for the next four hours with you doing that,” I snapped. It was a meaningless threat. “Stop eating so much junk,” I snagged the bag of Skittles from his hand. “You can’t get enough of what you don’t need,” I wisely said, then I poured half of the remaining Skittles into my own mouth. 

“All right, all right,” he relented, avoiding a prolonged discussion about his bowels. Deftly, he changed the subject. 

“So everyone in the freshman math class is freaking out since the professor supposedly busted people for using Chegg. But what’s the difference between checking your answers online or meeting with a TA or paying a tutor? What is cheating anyway? Aren’t we in a collaborative learning structure these days? I propose that we, as a society, should just work collectively in groups to accomplish our collective purposes.”

“That’s some elegant bullshit,” I muttered. 

“Thank you,” he seemed pleased with himself, as are most college freshmen. It was silent for a bit, as the highway signs and billboards flashed by. 

“At some point you are going to have to define what cheating means to you,” I started, attempting to change my tone from moralizing to matter-of-fact. “Throughout my life, I’ve found that a cheat is a cheat is a cheat.”

“That sounds reductive,” he stated flatly, looking over at me with one eyebrow raised, marking my naiveté. 

“There it is: reductive. I swear they must teach that word at freshman orientation and require students to use it in every conversation. Politics is reductive. Religion is reductive.”

“Fine, that sounds repetitive,” he reaffixed his gaze on his iPhone’s screen.

“My point is that people who cheat on school assignments will probably grow up to cheat on their job applications, their taxes, their spouses . . . Cutting corners leads to nowhere good.” 

“Right. We are all going to hell,” he mumbled.

“There is no hell,” I poorly attempted to follow his whipsawing discussion threads. 

“Hell is other people,” he snapped, then farted loudly to make his point. 

I rolled down the window and we didn’t speak for about an hour. 


“I’m hungry,” he said plaintively. 

I stopped at the next exit and he ate his body weight in burgers, chicken nuggets, and fries. 


“Dad said you’re writing again.”

“Well, there’s time now that you’re all gone. Empty nesting is good for encouraging one’s hobbies, I suppose.”

“Cool,” he said, more to his iPhone than to me. 

“Does dad read your stuff?”

“Your dad reads the Bar Journal. I don’t think he much cares for my musings when he can read about the limits of statutory authority for tax audit estimates.”

My son and I both laughed.

“If you want to make money, you should write children’s books,” he offered.

“I don’t want to make money,” I said quietly.

He looked at me suspiciously. “How easy would it be to write a children’s book? Just pick an animal that everyone likes—like a panda. Give it an alliterative name: Peter Panda. Have it search for food: Peter Panda Finds a Pizza. Then work in numerals: one pizza crust, two scoops of sauce, three mushrooms . . .” 

“I don’t want to write children’s books,” I repeated more firmly.

“You can make bank, Mom,” he assured me, like an overly confident used car salesman.

“How about I just write for myself?” I asked, flustered. 

He blinked blankly at me: it did not compute. 

“I know!” he said. “You should write a self-help book. Every girl at college would buy it. Call it Conquering Your 20’s: A Woman’s Journey.” 

“Hard pass,” I grimaced. “Anyway, you have your demographics wrong. If I wrote a self help book—and that’s highly unlikely—it would be targeted to suburban women. For a title, I’d just pick three verbs, like: Ponder Accept Believe.”

“You have to mention chocolate in the title,” my son added. 

“You are so right. How about Chocolate Prayers and Red Wine Blessings?”  

“Sounds like a bestseller,” he agreed. 

“Look, not that you want to hear this, but most middle aged women just want raunchy romance novels,” I said. 

“Gross.”

“It’s true. They want to curl up with a paperback novel with a spray-tanned, half naked anabolic steroid user on the front cover,” I stated, “preferably with long flowing hair, aggressively embracing a reluctant maiden. Bodice ripping, optional.”

“What’s a bodice?”

“It’s a lace up top,” I replied. “The cover girl needs to have long hair as well because it’s all part of the fantasy. Women start losing their hair by the handfuls in their 40s, so they daydream about having long locks for some pirate or lumberjack or debauched duke to pull.” 

“You are saying that women have rape fantasies,” he concluded. 

“I am telling my college-aged son that college-aged girls absolutely do NOT have rape fantasies,” I nearly yelled. “Are we clear on this?!”

“We are clear.”

“Say it. College-aged girls do NOT have rape fantasies.”

“College-aged girls do NOT have rape fantasies, but apparently old ladies do,” he smirked.

“Now who’s being reductive?” 

“Seriously, I don’t get any of it, Mom. A good-looking guy flirts with a girl? That’s romantic. If an ugly guy attempts to flirt? It’s harassment. How does anyone negotiate sexual politics? How can you play any game when you don’t know the rules? I don’t want to be on the news for some miscommunication.”

“Maybe dad can draw up some consent forms for you to photocopy,” I said half-jokingly. 

“It’s not funny. I don’t want to be accused of anything. I don’t want to do anything bad,” he sulked.

“I agree. It’s not funny. But I would assume you know that drunk people cannot consent, and I would assume you treat your partners with respect,” I said, not worrying about my moralizing tone, which was back in full force.

“It’s just—how do you even meet someone, someone decent? The girls who I’m attracted to can’t carry on a conversation, and the ones who are smart and funny aren’t appealing to me.”

Holy shit, you are a typical, stupid 19-year-old boy. “Well, dear, you need to figure yourself out first. The Greeks carved Know thyself on the temple of Apollo for a reason. Shakespeare wrote: To thine own self be true. If you can figure yourself out, then you won’t be false to any man. Or woman,” I added. 

“But how do you find the one?”

“Who says there’s just one?” 

“You know what I mean,” he said, dejectedly. “You and dad. You seem to have it all figured out.” Oh, my beautiful boy. You don’t even know what you are saying.

“Yep, we do.” Exhausted, I decided to offer him platitudes instead of painful truths. He could learn those later. “Everyone you meet has relationship advice to offer. You’ll have to gather it, think about it, and figure out what works best for you.”  

Ponder Accept Believe?” he replied, ironically. I punched him in the shoulder. 

“This is all I can tell you that I know for sure,” I paused. “If you want passion, date yourself. Find a girl who thinks and acts just like you.”

“Okay,” he said, putting his iPhone down. “That makes sense.”

“But know that passion burns very hot and doesn’t last very long. If you want a long term relationship, you'd better find someone who complements your personality, the yin to your yang. 

“Dualism,” he said.

“Right,” I whispered. It’ll strip the problematic passion right out of your relationship, leaving it nice and bland.  

“So you are saying since I’m bad with money that I should find a wife to pay the bills.”

“Oh, absolutely,” I wryly retorted. “And she’ll probably be an introvert, so you can drag her along to parties where she’ll feel completely uncomfortable, but at least you’ll be together.” Then I grinned at him, ignoring the tinge of bitterness. 

“Makes sense,” he said again, more to finish the conversation than in agreement. He put his car seat back, turned towards the passenger window, and fell asleep in minutes. 

The final hour I drove home in dusk, comforted by the faint snoring of a much-beloved son, glutted with the richness of youth and beauty.

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31 comments

Len Mooring
03:16 Aug 19, 2020

Listen to your son, you have a future in fairy tales. 'Make bank?' I thought, she who can do no wrong, screwed up. Wadayerno, she didn't. Superb again. My knitting is progressing, I can drop one and pearl one, now.

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Deidra Lovegren
09:24 Aug 19, 2020

Make me a lovely scarf. Pink 🧶 on its way over the pond.

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Scout Tahoe
04:04 Sep 03, 2020

Haha! I was reading your winning story and noticed you were advising people to read this, so I thought: why not? I am so glad I read this! Deidra, I want to have this exact same conversation with my future son. Keep writing! :) p.s. Would you mind checking out my new story? Thanks!

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15:43 Aug 17, 2020

P.S. Would you mind stopping by and reading my recent, "Strange Inmate"? THANKS :D

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Deidra Lovegren
15:48 Aug 17, 2020

Of course. I love reading your work :)

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16:00 Aug 17, 2020

💜💜💜 :D

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15:42 Aug 17, 2020

Dei I absolutely love this story!!!!! (like all your others). The talent in your writing is crazyyyy, and your plots and the wordings, just PERFECT. Beautiful mix of humor, philosophy, truth and crazy human theology. I like IT! The boys sophistry is just HILARIOUS. Their conversation is so funny and witty.....oh gosh. YOU.CAN.WRITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! God help me if I don't see your work on the bookshelves soonest..... But I'm going to have to disagree with the mom there, ain't no heaven without a hell :)

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Deidra Lovegren
15:47 Aug 17, 2020

Amen, sister.

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15:57 Aug 17, 2020

🙌🙌🙌

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Phil Manders
06:32 Aug 16, 2020

Hi Deidra Me again! I’ve not worked out how to write like this yet, it’s basically a conversation. And it’s very good. I’ve been experimenting from the start since joining reedsy and I thought to write a good story you need to add lots of details to create the scene. Clearly that’s not necessary if the dialogue is strong. Good work.

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Deidra Lovegren
07:57 Aug 16, 2020

Thanks 😊 Phil! I just conjure up two people and let them free on the page. They usually take over the plot if I stay out of the way.

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Thom Brodkin
17:54 Aug 15, 2020

You either write from experience or you are a master at putting yourself into the minds of your characters. It feels that authentic. Part of me thinks this isn't a story it's a memory. I say that as a high compliment, I promise. Your ability to write believable dialogue makes me jealous. I only put a few lines of dialogue in to each of my stories because I think if I didn't it would be the first criticism I would receive when I ask for feedback. I guess what I'm saying is you are a fantastic writer. You are what I aspire to be. A...

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Deidra Lovegren
18:16 Aug 15, 2020

I have three sons (18-22) who are lovely heathens. I'm sure I've said most of this stuff in one way or another, all pearls before swine.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:16 Aug 15, 2020

You're a good writer. Just fix your damn commas.

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Thom Brodkin
18:23 Aug 15, 2020

See here is my theory on commas, you should have one, for every ten words in your story. Where they go, is not important as long as you have the right ratio. Did I get that wrong? :-)

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Thom Brodkin
18:23 Aug 15, 2020

See here is my theory on commas, you should have one, for every ten words in your story. Where they go, is not important as long as you have the right ratio. Did I get that wrong? :-)

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Deidra Lovegren
18:25 Aug 15, 2020

Don't. mess. with. commas. You realize if we respond to each other another 4000 times, we will have Zilla Babbitt looking over her shoulder...

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Thom Brodkin
18:26 Aug 15, 2020

It's good to have goals.

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15:38 Aug 17, 2020

You're a MOM? wow, cooool.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:46 Aug 17, 2020

All moms are cool. We freakin' made everybody's body.

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15:56 Aug 17, 2020

RESPECT 🙌🙌🙌 We kids really need to be giving our mommas what they DESERVE!!!! 🙌🙌

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Laura Clark
22:11 Aug 14, 2020

Why haven’t I commented on this? I read it last week. Huh, maybe my phone didn’t save it. Anyway, this was great and the characters were authentic and well rounded. Really liked the flashes of insight into the mother’s life that the son doesn’t pick up on and the relationship between the two. Fab.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:13 Aug 14, 2020

I have 3 adult sons. Age 18-22 is a total shitshow! 🥴🥴🥴

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Laura Clark
22:20 Aug 14, 2020

Oh Christ. I can imagine. I hope you’ve told them about your win so they can be appropriately proud of you. Also, if you get a chance (and want to, of course) I have a new one up.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:41 Aug 14, 2020

Of course! Heading over now.

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Cypress Grey
23:22 Jul 24, 2020

I really loved the humor and wisdom in the piece but it ended too soon!

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Deidra Lovegren
23:34 Jul 24, 2020

Thanks 😊

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