It's a Toss Up

Submitted into Contest #180 in response to: Write a story that hinges on the outcome of a coin flip.... view prompt


High School African American

I stood in front of the class and recited "two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both, long I wondered, long I stood..."

I thought it was funny because the day before I was asked to make a big decision that would affect the rest of my life, although I was just 12 years old.

You see, my mother and father were splitting up. They both wanted me to live with them. They told me that the decision was up to me where I would land.

I wanted to scream at them, "You can't leave this kind of thing up to a kid!" But I didn't do that.

I was known as a precocious kid, so nobody would believe me anyway.

I was always "popping off" at the mouth as my mother called it. But now, I didn't have much to say. I told them that I would give them my decision at the end of the week.

It wasn't like the time that I had to decide on a puppy at the pound. I just picked the one with the curly tail. We named him Piddles, and I still loved him.

Don't get me wrong, I still loved my parents too. But which would be the best to live with?

I asked my favorite science teacher Mr. Steinmetz which I should choose. He said, "Oh no, you're not dragging me into that one! I suggest you use a scientific method. Gather data, and then decide."


"Yeah, why don't you list the pros and cons of each one."

"Good idea," I said.

I got out a pen and paper and started to write. I drew a line down the middle, and I wrote Mama on one side and Daddy on the other since that's what I called them.

In mama's favor was that she always made me lunch, did my laundry, drove me to school, and invited my friends over for dinner. Her cons were that she was always nagging me to pick up my room and telling me to get off the phone. In daddy's favor was that he was always saying I was his "best girl" even though I was an only child. He took me hiking and gave me my allowance. His cons were that he sometimes ignored me when the game was on. Didn't matter what game, as long as a ball was involved. He wouldn't let me stay out past curfew. I scratched that one out because mama wouldn't either.

I decided to ball up the paper and throw it away. This wasn't helpful.

I remembered that my history teacher once had me interview my grandmother to find out what life was like when she was a girl. I decided that I need to gather data that way. I told mama and daddy about my plan. My mother rolled her eyes and my father just laughed but they both said they would do it.

I decided to interview them separately.

"Mama, what makes you a good mother?"

"I love you," she said.

"I know that already," I said. "But what makes you a good mother?"

"I can take care of you. Remember that time you wanted to go roller skating, and you never went before? I held onto you the entire time so you wouldn't fall?"

"I remember falling," I said.

"Yeah, because I never went roller skating before either," she said.

"Right," I said, and we both laughed. That's another thing in my mother's favor, I thought. She was funny.

I asked daddy the same question or at least a similar one.

"Daddy, what makes you a good father?"

"I love you," he said.

I sighed, and I folded my arms. "I know but you never say so."

"I did just now Little Buddy," he said.

I really liked it when he called me that.

He cleared his throat, and continued, "I'm a good father because whenever something is spooky to you in the house, I'm the one who checks it out. I protect you."

That's true. When I was little, dad was the one who checked under the bed and the closet so the monster wouldn't get me at night. He never said that I was "silly" like my mother did. He was always at the end of every slide to catch me too.

I still didn't know what to decide.

My best friend was Shirley. I called her up on the phone, and I told her what I had to decide.

"That's messed up," she said. "They shouldn't put that on you. Tell them you're not going to do it."

"I already told them that I'm going to do it," I said. "I can't back out now. What would you do?"

"Mine is easy," she said. "I don't like my mother."

"Right, I forgot," I said.

"Hey, why don't you flip a coin?" she suggested. "You know like they do before a big game to see who goes first or whatever."

"That's a great idea!" I said.

I grabbed a quarter, and I went looking for my parents. They were both in the kitchen, heads together, and whispering.

"I'm going to toss a coin," I announced.

They both looked at me, eyebrows raised.

"You know, so I can see who I want to live with," I explained.

"What?" my other asked, although I thought the answer was obvious.

"You see, I love you both, and I can't decide, so I'm going to let, what do you call it--fate decide. You know like in those games that daddy's always watching."

I pulled out the coin. My hand shook a little.

"Heads and I'm with daddy, and tails I live with mama."

The coin twirled in the air. It seemed like forever, but it must have only been a few seconds. My whole life was going to change when it hit the tile floor, I thought.

Just as this crossed my mind, the coin disappeared into my father's fist.

"I'm sorry Little Buddy," he said. "I can't let you do this. It's not right."

"You were right," my mother said in a tiny voice. "We should never have put this on you."

My father crouched down, eye level with me now:

"We're sorry," he said. "This whole thing has made us rethink splitting up. We both love you, and we both want you."

My father hugged me close, and my mother joined in.

When I think about it, this is what I really wanted.

January 07, 2023 12:22

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Mary Lehnert
18:28 Jan 14, 2023

Oh yes. A happy ending. What a nail biter. Suspenseful? You got it . Very well done. Good luck in the contest. You get my vote. Mary


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Wendy Kaminski
14:56 Jan 14, 2023

What a great entry for the prompt, Mary! And also just such a very sweet ending to what seemed like it was going to be a devastating story, no matter how the decision turned out. Some really cute and fun lines in there, too, like "Yeah, because I never went roller skating before either," she said. Funny! Also the friend who pointed out she didn't like her mom, anyway. Terrific first entry on the site, and welcome to Reedsy - good luck!


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