Contemporary Fiction

To say that Edward Ayers’ current predicament is complicated is an understatement of grandiose proportions. To understand what is going on with Edward, you first have to understand what life has been like for him up until now. Edward was born into a wealthy family. His parents were never around much when he was younger, but he found that he never got into trouble if he bribed the servants not to tell on him. This carried over into adult life. In school, he learned that he didn’t need to study, he just had to find the smartest poor kid in any given class and offer them money to “help” him out. Once he graduated school, he was appointed to his dad’s company as CEO. A lot of the lower executives who’d been vying for the position were pissed about him just skating in and getting it, until he gave them all bonuses for their “hard work”. He never even got so much as a parking ticket, because all he had to do was find the pressure point of the person issuing the ticket. Everyone had a price. Even in relationships Edward found that enough expensive presents could allow him to get away with anything he wanted.

Edward has been married and divorced five times, and he has children with all his ex-wives. He decided to run for political office on a whim and (of course) his campaign was easily run. His campaign manager Charlie has just told him that his constituents prefer to vote for a “family” man and that his divorces are a little difficult for them to swallow. “If you could prove you have a loving relationship with your children…” Charlie suggests.

Edward does not have a loving relationship with his children. He has the kind of relationship that his parents had with him, non-existent. Now you see the predicament that Edward finds himself in. He must affect a loving relationship with people who are practically strangers to him. Edward first calls Marie, she is the mother to his youngest child Xavier. Edward picks Xavier first because young children are easy to please. All you need is to get them what they want most and they’ll love you forever.

“I’ve been thinking about how I never get to spend any time with Xavier.”

“Since when? Since it’ll help your campaign?”

“Look, I know you haven’t had a break in a while. How about I get you a nice spa package while Xavier and I bond?”

Don’t be too hard on Marie for accepting his offer. He is, after all, the one who pays for everything Xavier needs. He’s the reason Xavier is going to that posh pre-k instead of slumming it in public school. And, after all, he is Xavier’s father. Edward then calls Jennifer. Jennifer is the mother of his second youngest, Claire. Jennifer takes a little more convincing, but she relents when Edward offers her that new Gucci bag she’s been eyeing. So far, so good. Everything is going according to plan. Edward has three more calls to make and he’s able to convince all the mothers. He hires a photographer to follow him on his “family day” to capture all the bonding experiences. He has just one more problem. He knows nothing about any of his kids. He doesn’t know what they like, he doesn’t know how they’ll dress, and most of all, he doesn’t know who they are.

Most of them he hasn’t even seen since they were small. Marie divorced him before Xavier’s first birthday. The other four divorces all happened before the child was four years old. None of them remember him as more than a guy who sends them a gift once a year on their birthday. But Edward doesn’t even pick the gifts his children get. He has an assistant for that. To top that off, Edward has no idea what spending a day with all five of his kids will entail. If he did, he might have elected to take them all out on separate days.

“Mr. Ayers.” Xavier says tugging on his suit jacket.

“Please, call me Dad.” Xavier shakes his head at this request.

“Don’t wanna.”

“Okay, then. What do you need?”

“I gotta go potty.” Right. Edward remembers spending a lot of money on diapers when they were smaller. Probably because they have tiny bladders. He turns to Claire, Sophie, Zack and Phoebe.

“Will you guys be okay while I take this one to the restroom?”

“Whatever.” 12-year-old Phoebe rolls her eyes.

“I gotta go too.” Claire says. Edward looks around and finds a woman.

“You want to make some money? Can you take my daughter to the bathroom for me?” The woman gives him a look that says he is a contemptable man and then she turns to his other kids.

“Are you guys okay? You need me to call someone?”

Phoebe tucks her phone away in her jeans pocket. “I’ll do it!” she says. “Okay girls, we’re all going. Together.”

Edward takes Xavier and looks to 9-year-old Zack. “You need to come too.”

“Why? I don’t hafta go.”

“I can’t leave you. You know what?” Edward finds the photographer he hired. “Look after him for just a minute, and no taking any pictures while I’m gone. Okay?”

In the restroom, Edward finds that Xavier isn’t the best at aiming yet. He decides to leave it and just give the employees of the establishment some extra money. When he gets out, five-year-old Claire is posing for the photographer and Zack is examining a toy stand across the street. Edward is no expert on parenting, but he’s pretty sure that’s a bad sign. “I told you to watch him.”

The photographer shrugs. “I’m not a babysitter.”

Phoebe rushes out of the restroom. “Claire! I told you to stay.” Sophie comes out drying her hands and looking the picture of innocence. “You know I had to help Sophie.”

“Why can’t Sophie do it herself. She’s older’n me.”

Phoebe looks to Edward who shrugs. He was actually wondering the same thing. “Never mind. Wait, why is Zack across the street?”

They all hold hands and look both ways to cross and get Zack who complains that they were taking too long and besides he knows how to look both ways before crossing. “I’m not dumb.” He looks at Sophie as he says this and sticks out his tongue. “Unlike some people.”

Edward feels like he should say something to correct this behavior, but he has no idea what that might be. The photographer, meanwhile, asks “How much of this do you want me to capture?” he is clearly enjoying every minute of this.

He buys Zack the toy he was looking at. Five minutes later, Zack is bored with it and throws it down. “You’re stupid and you’re not my dad,” he complains. “I want to go home to my real mom and dad.”

Claire and Xavier start agreeing that they, too, want to go home because they miss their moms and both of them get quite loud. This noise starts upsetting Sophie who begins to rock back and forth to calm herself. Phoebe tries to calm Sophie, and Xavier starts throwing a full-blown tantrum. Edward tries to pick him up and he bucks hitting Edward in the jaw. Claire sees this and laughs, then Zack joins in. Edward begins to wonder if he could hire some child actors to play his children for the photo shoot. Then he realizes that any of his constituents who cared to research might be able to find out what his actual children looked like, and the papers would have a field day with that if it ever got out. In the end, he decides to cut his losses and bring the children back to their mothers.

That night he calls up Charlie and tells him the family thing is a no go. But Edward does not know that the photographer has taken some pictures of the day, lots of pictures. Since Edward stiffed him, he has now decided to get revenge by selling them. The next day, all Edward’s hopes for winning the election have been doomed once people see the pictures in the local tabloid showing him generally failing at being a parent. Charlie confirms that Edward has dropped significantly in the polls. There’s no coming back from this one.

August 17, 2022 21:15

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Samuel Eppley
05:38 Aug 18, 2022

One thing i love about your stories is how you immediately introduce the conflict at the beginning of the story. It really provides a clear picture of where the plot is headed. You did a really great job on explaining the struggle of Xavier when he is faced with a problem he could not get himself out of. I love reading your stories and hope you keep on writing.


L. E. Scott
12:44 Aug 18, 2022

I think you meant Edward. Xavier is his preschool aged child


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