“What’s taking so long?” Shelly yells through the closed window.
“Patience is the greatest virtue, Shelly,” Howard answers.
“There are cars here, you could have stopped at a gas station, this is public indecency.”
“And risk driving with a full bladder?”
“Shut up, Howard.”
Howard obliges. Silently, he finishes his business, zips up his fly, climbs back into the car, and hits the gas.
The road is wide and nearly empty, a highway somewhere off in the country. The couple is seated in the front, their son Mikey in the back. Shelly’s heated seat feature is on.
“Honey,” Howard says.
“What do you want?” Shelly asks.
“You know it's a particularly hot day outside, why are you blasting heat up your ass?”
“Sorry, let me rephrase that. Shelly, dear, why are you blasting heat up your butt?”
“Look, Howard, I’m not out here trying to sabotage this camping trip. I want to enjoy it just as much as you do, maybe even more, I just get cold sometimes," Shelly says.
“Why can’t I do anything without being criticized by you?”
“I’m sorry dear, I didn’t mean to upset you, heat the whole goddam car if you want.”
A tense moment of silence, then Shelly says something to seal the deal.
“You’re not a real psychologist," she says.
Howard is a school counselor who wants to be a psychologist. He works in an oversized, understaffed public high school. After an incident involving a teacher, a student, and a swiss army knife, he started bringing pepper spray into work. He isn’t very good at deescalating tension, but he tries. One time he got a big, thuggish male student upset when he accidentally called him honey. He calls people honey any time there’s tension. He met his wife, Shelly, in college, back when he was still pursuing a career in psychology.
The rest of the car ride is silent. Mikey looks out the window. It takes him a while to figure out that he’s no longer just tuning his parents out, they’ve stopped talking. They drive past a field of grass, then a field of wheat, then a field of sunflowers, like canvasses colored green and beige and yellow. Finally, they arrive at the campsite.
Mikey feels that it’s a lame conclusion to the four-hour drive. He didn’t want to go at all, his parents told him he needed to go to get out of his comfort zone and go outside. He didn’t want to talk back to them, that was way out of Mikey’s comfort zone, so he agreed to go on the camping trip.
The campsite is just one white rocky path with little cabins lining each side. At the end of the path is a fork in the road, one direction will lead you to a yard filled with firewood, the other side is the lake. Mikey studies the map his parents gave him.
“Do you know where lot 12 is, Mikey?” Howard asks.
“Mikey, please answer your father when he talks to you!” Shelly says.
“Calm down, dear, I’ve already spotted it.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down, Mikey needs to start communicating. How’s he going to make friends if he never speaks?”
“Drop it, honey, just drop it.”
“Good,” Howard says, “now, game-faces everybody, let’s start this vacation off the right way.”
Shelly makes a funny face.
Mikey shoulders his blue backpack, filled with books and snacks and water, and carries it over to the cabin. His parents hop out of the car and follow him.
They climb up a ramp that leads to the door. The walls of the cabin are made out of wood, covered in some sort of green leather, the color of moss. The structure is round, like a circus-tent.
It takes the family ten minutes to get their stuff out of the car and into the circus tent. Mikey is the first to notice all the bugs, he reaches into the front of the car and grabs a can of bug spray his dad keeps there.
“Shit, honey, there are so many flies here,” Howard says.
“Thanks a lot, Howard,” Shelly says.
“Huh,” she mocks him, “I wasn’t noticing the bugs until you pointed them out.”
Howard takes the can of bug spray from Mikey, sprays himself, his family, and the sides of the wooden ramp. When that’s done and their site smells like a chemical landfill, and Shelly has pointed it out to Howard, and Howard has failed to deescalate the situation by calling Shelly honey, the family decides to have a bonfire.
It’s going to get dark soon, Mikey and I are gonna go get some firewood, where’s the red wagon?” Howard asks.
“No, Mikey should go alone,” Shelly says.
“Why?” Howard asks.
“He needs to get out of his comfort zone a little, stop being so scared of everything, we’ll give him the map and send him out,” Shelly says.
“Look, honey, that’s not a good idea.”
“Oh yeah, school counselor, you think our son can’t handle the trip himself?”
The conversation stalls, Mikey doesn’t say anything. He isn’t afraid to go into the woods, it would be nice to get some peace. Mikey’s mom wins the argument, so he grabs the red wagon and sets off.
The parents continue arguing long after Mikey is gone.
“Mikey needs professional help, not a journey into the woods, I want to take him to see a psychologist,” Howard says.
“No! I will not have our boy convinced that there’s something wrong with his brain, there isn’t, and I will not have him drugged up,” Shelly says.
“Trust me, I studied psychology in college, I know what’s best for him.”
“Don’t start this again Howard! You spend all day talking with obnoxious, melodramatic, prepubescents, you’re not a psychologist.”
“Shelly...do you think it’s our fault that the boy’s this way?” Howard asks
“Don’t do that to yourself, Howard, we’re doing everything we can to help him out."
“He doesn’t say much, maybe he has selective mutism, maybe autism...,” Howard says.
“No! I will not have you diagnosing our son with some mental illness you don’t know anything about. He just needs to meet somebody he wants to talk with, one friend, that’s all. Not a psychologist, a friend.”
Howard rests his head in his hands. His wife comes closer to him, wraps her arm around his shoulder.
“Mikey will be fine, we should stop worrying about him, he probably knows what’s best for himself,” Shelly says.
“I love you…” Howard begins.
“Don’t say it, Howard,” Shelly says with a smile.
“Honey,” Howard says.
“I hate that you always call me honey.”
“Shelly, I think you’re forgetting something," Howard says.
“Right, love you too...honey.”
Mikey arrives at the lumber yard. There is no fence, just a clearing in the woods with a huge pile of chopped wood and two dumpsters. Mikey keeps his head down as he walks, not wanting to trip.
The leaves shake with fear, the ground shifts as wood chips are scattered in all directions. Mikey plants his feet into the ground while he walks. He doesn’t distinguish between the sound of the wind and the thing walking behind him. Something taps him on the shoulder, a gesture Mikey notices, but chooses to ignore. He doesn’t want to face his reality, it’s uncomfortable. Who knows that kind of evil creature is standing behind him.
“Hey, I’m Liam,” the thing behind him introduces itself.
They settle into silence, as silent as the woods can get, that is. There’s always something shifting, lurking, moving in the forest.
“Not much of a talker, huh? That's quite refreshing, my parents never listen to me. Some people are good at listening, others are good at talking, I’m the latter.”
Mikey picks up a log with both hands, horrified that he might get a splinter, and loads it into his cart. He takes hold of the wagon’s handle and moves it up and down three times. He repeats this process again and again.
“Why do you do that thing with the handle?” Liam asks.
Mikey is busy scanning the logs, looking for the right one.
“You’re like my dad at the supermarket buying watermelons. He’ll scrutinize them, just like you, sir. I call people sir, I hate it when someone calls me dude or bro, so I don’t do it to others.”
Mikey drops one of the logs. Liam picks it up for him and puts it in the wagon, Mikey frowns and takes it out.
“I like you, sir, you value your independence, and that’s a good thing,” Liam says. “I’m like that too, in fact, I’m on the lamb from my parents right now.”
Liam’s parents had left him in the cabin to go swimming in the lake. Liam begged to go with them, but they refused.
Liam gets frustrated that his friend isn’t saying anything, he tries to engage by talking more about himself.
“I like playing the piano, and also watching Star Wars.”
Mikey hears this last part, Star Wars, like a radio finally getting tuned into the right channel. He likes Star Wars.
“You wanna have a lightsaber battle?” Liam asks.
Mikey is listening to him now. He’s only eleven years old, Liam is probably the same age, but the idea seems childish and dangerous. Liam hands him a stick, takes one for himself, and starts swinging at Mikey. Mikey just blocks.
“Come on, do something! Anything!” Liam swings the lightsaber from the right, then the left, Mikey blocks both hits. Liam takes a straight shot, narrowly missing Mikey’s stomach. Mikey doesn’t ask him to stop, he’s dodging and parrying like a real Jedi.
Mikey fights back and lands a hit on Liam’s hand.
“Ow,” Liam says. He shakes his sore fingers a couple of times.
“Sorry,” Mikey mumbles.
“Oh, so you do talk? Don’t worry about it, let’s keep going.”
Mikey is scared. He doesn’t want to get hit. What if Liam hit him and it left a bruise? Would his parents let him play with Liam again?
“Mikey, drop the stick now!” Howard walks into the lumber yard as if on cue.
“We were worried sick about you,” Shelly says, “you’ve been gone for so long.”
The boys drop their sticks. Liam’s fingers are bleeding, Shelly notices this first and approaches him.
“Where are your parents?” she asks.
“They’re waiting for me at our campsite.”
That’s a lie, Liam’s parents finished swimming and decided to drive into a nearby town to go bar-hopping, maybe see a movie.
Mikey walks over to the red wagon and tips it over, spilling all the wood he’d worked so hard to collect.
“Get in,” he tells his friend.
Liam obliges with a big smile.
Mikey turns to his parents, both pale and shocked.
“Can my friend sit at our bonfire?”
Howard and Shelly stare at their son, then at each other.
“Yes, as long as his parents are fine with it,” Shelly says. Howard is still speechless.
“They are, sir, ma’am, I’d be happy to join your family... for a campfire, I mean.”
Mikey grabs the handle of the wagon and pushes it up and down three times. Liam gets in.
“I’ve always wanted a brother,” Liam says.
“Yeah,” Mikey says.
The four of them head back to the campsite, Mikey and Liam lead the way. Howard is as pale as a ghost, Shelly as happy as a clam. They kiss on the lips.
“Ew,” Mikey says.
“Yeah,” Liam agrees.
Liam is thrilled to spend an evening with family, even if it isn’t his.
“Told you Mikey’s okay, he just needed a friend,” Shelly whispers to Howard.
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Hey Itay, i was wondering if you could maybe help me a little bit? its for a story and i need some help
Ohh, I'd be happy to help. What do you need?
Well i need ideas for a story. the only things ive been able to think of is a princess and powers. as shes able to shape shift and read minds
So do you need help figuring out how that idea could fit in with one of this week's prompts and some details for that story? Also, if you're looking for more ideas in general, Reedsy has a lot of prompts you can go through, pretty sure there's even a random plot generator.
The random Plot generator hasn't worked out for me i've tried a few times yesterday and today. I just need ideas and more details for it in general tbh, then when the new prompts come out later i'll just try to add it into one of the prompts like i've always been able to
Okay, quite honestly fantasy is not my strong suit, but I can help you brainstorm. You could do a story where a princess who can shapeshift into animals is having trouble controlling certain animalistic reflexes, like when someone makes her angry she turns sort of into a wild animal, which is a problem because she can tell any time somebody is thinking something bad about her. You could try a story where she is able to foresee someone's death but can't stop it, even somehow causes it while trying to save the person. Don't feel like you have ...
Great job! This story was super cute! It was very well written.
Wonderfully written! I really enjoyed it
I love this story! I'm studying communication disorders in school right now, and I really like that you included a child with communication difficulties in the story. I think you did a great job of showing the stress it can put on families, and on the children who are having difficulties themselves.
Wow, I'm so glad you noticed this was about the stress communication disorders can put on a family, that's what I was going for, so thank you for that! I'm really glad you enjoyed the story.
Aww, this was such a cute story, with wonderful dialogue exchanges between Howard and Shelly. You really brought the personalities of the parents, as well as Mikey and Liam to life, I could picture them so clearly. The language you use is simple but effective. Just overall, amazing work!
Thank you 😊 If you get a chance I’d love to hear your opinion on my other new stories
This story made me smile wide. :) Excellent job with this Itay. New friendships blossoming always warms my heart. It was like I was reading a mini-movie. Mikey's parents were adorable. This was tear-worthy, bravo!
Wow, thanks a lot!
Your very welcome!
I'm glad i went to go and check if you made any other stories. Like the other one's i've talked to you about this one is also really great and you should just continue to make more stories like this and on here. i don't think you have to wonder about what i'm going to give you anymore but are you still excited for it? i'm going to give you another 10/10 ^^ keep writing friend :)
Let’s go, it’s another 10! Thanks B.W, always appreciate your kindness.
Yep ^^ and no problem, you and the others always deserve this from how great your stories are :) tbh i kinda rate my own stories a 2/10 or a 3/10
2 or 3?!?! your stories have so much imagination in them and you’re always improving. Not to mention the fact you write so much every week, it’s dizzying!
Yes a 2 or 3. I know i have imagination with them and i guess i have been improving a little bit (though i never see it) i don't feel like any of the stories are that good though and i know i write a lot of stories every week at least 3 or maybe 4 sometimes but i feel like i'm annoying everyone a bit with how much stories i'm putting out and going to tell them about the story (s) and going to check them out a lot in the same day or for 2 days if i do a few one day and another few the next day.
Can't speak for everyone here, but you're the one who inspired me to try and write multiple stories some weeks, which has helped me improve. Also, I'm happy to check out all your stuff and leave feedback, it gives me a chance to practice my editing skills 😄
Okay itay its out :D go check out "Adventure with friends" and tell me what you think ^^ along with "crossover"