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Latinx People of Color Coming of Age

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

Mamá's lost her mind again. It happened sometime last night. I know because it's Saturday morning and her station wagon is gone, and the house doesn't smell like huevos rancheros, and I woke up an hour ago to find Papá sweeping broken lamp shards off the floor.


This is the third time it's happened, so we know what to do now, what to expect. Last time someone found Mamá swimming in a fountain in a park a few towns over. Papá went and got her and she was home by dinner, shivering and sneezing like a Chihuahua.

Maybe that's why he doesn't call Tío Benecio to come and watch Luis and me like he did before.


"You're in charge today, Hugo," Papá says from across the kitchen table. He pulls his muddy work boots as high as they'll go, tugs on the laces. When he turns my way, the sunlight from the window makes his face look tired and old, like a raisin. "You're a big boy now. The temporary man of the house. ¿Entiendes?"


I tell him I understand. I don't mention how last week, after I tried telling my brother the truth about Santa Claus, Papá yelled and told me he'd never been that inconsiderate when he was ten. I just say yes and keep my mouth shut and listen to the sound of Luis snoring in his bedroom.


"Good," he says, rising to give me a hug. When he wraps his arms around me, he smells like smoke and aftershave. "I'll be back soon with Mamá."


"Okay."


"Don't tell your brother what's going on. You know how he gets."


He doesn't let me go until I promise not to tell Luis.


Then he's headed for the door with me right behind him. Then he's starting his car and rolling down the windows and backing out of our driveway. Then he's too far away for me to see him, even though I'm still waving goodbye.


***


The first time Mamá lost her mind, a year ago, our uncle thought he was doing the right thing by telling us the truth.


After Papá sped off down our street spraying gravel everywhere, Tío Benicio sat Luis and me down on the sofa, stood in front of us, and told us that our mother had been spotted near a McDonald's downtown, pulling out her hair and shouting swear words at pedestrians. He told us the police had gotten involved, which is how Papá found out.


"Perdida," he said, pointing to the top of his head and spinning his finger in a circle. Then, for Luis, he said in English, "She's lost."


And right after he said that Luis jumped up from his seat next to me and he went, "Then let's go find her! Let's find Mamá!"


"You misunderstand," our uncle said, shaking his head. "I don't mean she's lost physically."


But then Luis did that thing all five-year-olds do. He stomped his feet on the hardwood until I could feel the sofa shaking. And when that didn't work, he kept saying it louder and louder: "Let's find Mamá!" And finally, when he couldn't get me to say it with him, he cried. He dropped to the ground and banged his fists against the floor and cried.


Only then did Tío Benicio give him what he wanted.


He led my brother and me to the kitchen, through the door, out to where our backyard meets the woods. He told us to wait right there, by all the twisty trees and the fallen branches. He went back inside the house and returned minutes later with our puffer jackets and a set of flashlights, even though it was March, and the afternoon sky was as blue as the Cookie Monster. After zipping up Luis's baggy jacket, he said, "Let's go find Mamá."


By the end of the day, I was grateful for the jackets and the flashlights, because we stayed out there until it was past dark and my skin had turned numb from the cold. Every time there was a noise—a twig breaking under our feet, a bug chirping—Luis would point his flashlight in that direction and shout "Mamá!" and we'd have to follow him because he would take off running. By then, the batteries in my flashlight were dead, and I tripped a few times and scraped my hands and knees when I tried to keep up with him. 


"Can we go back now?" I asked Tío Benicio after my fourth fall, showing him my sore hands. It was the first time I'd spoken since we went looking for Mamá. "I need some Band-Aids."


In the glow of the moonlight and his flashlight, my uncle gave me a look that I'd seen too often on my father's face. It was the "please-let-your-brother-win" look.


So I did that thing all nine-and-a-half-year-olds do. I told him it was okay, that I would go back to the house by myself, alone, in the dark.


Tío Benicio made another face, only this time it was like he just ate a lemon. He sighed. "It's getting late, Luis," he shouted into the darkness. "Let's head back now. We can order some pizza."


Luis complained that we hadn't found Mamá yet, but his hunger won that fight. He let our uncle take his hand and guide us back home.


And there she was, waiting for us on the sofa. A patch of hair was missing from the side of her head and her clothes looked wet, but it was Mamá. Luis shouted her name.


Papá took one look at us—at our dirty clothes and faces, our scratched bodies—and made a funny face of his own.


"Would you look at that!" Tío Benicio said. He glanced at the room like he'd never seen it before, looking everywhere but at Papá. "There she was this whole time. She was probably looking for us while we were out looking for her."


But even back then, when Papá asked to speak with Tío Benicio alone in the kitchen, when Mamá stood and scooped Luis and me in her bony arms, I doubted my uncle's words.


***


The Saturday morning cartoons are finished by the time Luis stumbles out of his bedroom. We eat cheese quesadillas for lunch. It's the only thing Mamá's taught me how to cook. Luis says his taste too buttery, but he still inhales both of them before I'm done with one of mine. With his mouth half-full, he asks where Mamá and Papá are.


"They went over to see Tío Benicio and Tía Abriella," I say, pleased with how natural the words sound. I've been practicing them under my breath for the past hour. "They should be back in a few hours."


Luis closes his mouth, gulps his food, and looks at me like I just grew a second head. We've never been alone in the house together, just the two of us. I'm hoping he doesn't realize that. I haven't come up with any more lies yet.


"Well," he finally says, "can we watch some TV?"


We spend the rest of the afternoon watching Nickelodeon game shows, rooting for the families that look the most like us to win. They never do. After the sixth episode in a row where our favorite family loses, Luis starts to whine, so I open the VHS storage cabinet and let him pick a movie to watch. He chooses the same one as always, some dumb movie about an elephant who can fly. I've never been able to focus on it to understand why or how that's possible, and that doesn't change today, but it keeps my brother from asking questions.


It's almost seven o'clock when the elephant movie ends, and all the sunlight is gone outside. The house is silent. Before I can distract him, Luis asks, "Aren't they supposed to be home by now?"


"Who?" I say, and look at the dirt underneath my fingernails, nice and calm-like.


"Mamá and Papá," he replies. "You said they'd be home in a few hours. But that was at lunchtime."


"Maybe they're watching a movie too."


Luis stares at me like he did when I told him about Santa, like maybe what I'm saying is true or maybe I'm just being mean and pulling his leg.


"Well, I'm hungry," he says, and his stomach rumbles at that moment as if to prove his point. "I wanna eat dinner."


"Okay," I say, and head to the kitchen. "Fine." I'm getting ready to wash the quesadilla skillet when Luis tells me to stop.


"I don't want quesadillas again," he says. "I want hot dogs."


"We don't have hot dogs."


"Yes, we do," he says. He opens the fridge, bends down, and snaps back up with a package of hot dogs in his right hand. "See?"


"Well, I don't want those," I say. "I want quesadillas again."


"No. You don't make them right. Mamá's are way better."


I can feel something in me starting to slide away as I grip the skillet tighter and start washing it.


"Mamá's not here right now," I tell him. The words come out meaner than I meant.


"Okay, well, she'll be back soon," he says. "If you won't do it, I'll just wait until she's here to make me some hot dogs."


"You're gonna be waiting a while then," I say. And before I can stop myself, before I can remember the promise I made to Papá, I add, "Because she's lost again."


At the same time that I finish washing the quesadilla skillet, Luis drops the package of hot dogs. They hit the floor with a soggy thud. Then they skitter over to my side of the kitchen when Luis kicks them while running out of the room.


"We have to look for her!" he shouts. I can hear him opening the hallway closet, swiping the coats and jackets while trying to reach the flashlights on the top shelf. "We have to find Mamá."


"No."


The hallway noises die down. "We have to, Hugo. She's lost."


"Papá left me in charge, and I say we're not doing that. It's too late and too dark out. He left to go get her anyway. They should be back soon."


Luis's feet shuffle across the floor and he pokes his head into the kitchen again. "But that's how it was last time. You heard what Tío Benicio said. She only came back because we were looking for her."


"No, she only came back because Papá brought her back."


"That's not true." But even Luis doesn't sound like he believes what he's saying. "That's not what Tío Benicio told us."


"It is true," I say. "She wasn't looking for us. She doesn't even care about us."


It isn't until the words are out of my mouth that I wonder why I said them, whether I actually believe that or if it's me getting caught in the moment. But now that they're out, I can't take them back, and as the big brother, I can't back down either.


"She doesn't care," I say, because it's like when I was telling him the truth about Santa Claus: now that I'm going I can't stop. "That's why she keeps losing her mind. She wants to leave us but Papá keeps going after her. He won't let her leave. She doesn't care about us anymore." 


When my brother makes a face, it's like nothing I've seen from Papá or Tío Benicio. His lips go into his mouth, and his eyes seem to stare at everything and nothing at all, and his shoulders get all droopy until they look like that flying elephant's ears. Then the only sound in the house is Luis dragging his feet against the hardwood. And then the only sound is the slamming of his bedroom door.


I stand at the sink, the skillet feeling light as a pencil in my hand. Moonlight shines through the kitchen window and hits the center of the pan, and I think I can see my reflection in it. Before I can tell for certain, the house phone rings.


"Change of plans, Hugo," Papá says after I answer. "It's going to take a little longer than I thought to bring Mamá home. It won't be tonight. The police," he starts, but all that comes through the line is his breathing and the faraway sound of other people's voices in the background.


"Okay," I say, because it's the only thing I can think of at the moment. Because I don't want Papá to think that I can't handle this responsibility. "We're fine here."


"Maybe tomorrow," he says. "Monday at the latest. We're working on it."


"Okay."


"You can call Tío Benicio if you two need anything," he reminds me. "You know his number, don't you?"


"Yes," I lie.


"Good." And before the line goes quiet and the dial tone comes, he says, "We'll see you two soon."


They're the last words I hear before I go to bed.


***


The squeaky floorboards wake me. I'm thinking I must've dreamed it and I'm trying to go back to sleep, but then comes the unmistakable sound of a zipper, followed by more floorboards groaning, and finally the rattle of a window opening.


It's completely dark in my room and I'm still rubbing the dreams from my eyes, but I have an idea of what's going on. Forcing myself to get up and walk to the kitchen, I lift the one of the window blinds just in time.


Through the gap I can see the shadow of my brother in the backyard, painted in moonlight and flashlight. He's got on his polar bear pajamas and his oversized puffer jacket zipped all the way up. His flashlight moves everywhere: the trees, the ground, the woods in front of him. He looks over his shoulder once, stares at the house for a few seconds, then disappears into the darkness of the woods.


He's going to look for Mamá when I told him not to.


That thing in me earlier, that sliding feeling, is back. And now I can feel something else snapping, getting loose. The sleepiness is gone. I'm fully awake now, fully aware of my body, in control of my hands as they push open the door to Luis's dark bedroom, shutting and locking his window. Then I make my way to the front door and lock that too. I don't stop until all the entrances are locked, until there's no way back inside the house. Only then do I return to my bed and wait. I won't sleep until I hear it.


Eventually, it happens. The front doorknob breaks the silence of the house. It clanks and jiggles under the weight of my brother's hand. Once, twice, again. The noise stops.


Then his hands are against his bedroom window as he struggles to open it. His hands smack the glass in a panic.


And then they're against my window. Quiet at first, but then the sound of his knuckles hitting the glass echoes in the night. I don't move. I imagine that when he gets tired enough, he'll go to the front porch where we've got a porch swing with a cushion and sleep there for the night. It's not so bad outside—definitely warm enough to sleep a few more hours with the clothes he's got on.


Still, Luis keeps knocking on my window, and I pretend I'm asleep so long I actually end up that way.


***


This time when I wake up, it's because of a car door slamming. I'm not expecting much, but I tell myself that it might be Mamá and Papá. And when I get to the living room window and pull back the curtains, that's exactly who I find parked by the sidewalk. Papá is at the wheel of his Jeep and Mamá is beside him. All her hair is gone this time, and her clothes look like hand-me-downs, but it's her.


Papá did it. He brought her back.


"Luis, wake up!" I shout, my voice clogged with sleep. "They're home!"


My words bounce off the walls, the sofa, the fireplace. There's no reply. The house is completely still, so I decide to wake him up myself.


Luis's bedroom is cold. I push the lump under his covers, then pull them back. In his place are his stuffed animals, the koala and the giraffe and the bear and the monkey, all squished together to resemble a six-year-old's body. I flinch. It takes me a moment to remember what happened last night, but when I do, I rush to the front porch to wake him.


He isn't there either.


They're both out of the Jeep now, coming closer. They take each step together. Papá's got his arm locked around Mamá's, like if he lets go even for a second, she might float away like a balloon.


"We're back," Papá says with a smile. "I'm sorry we couldn't get here sooner."


"Hi, Mamá," I say, but I don't recognize my own voice. It's scratchy and sounds too high to be mine.


Mamá greets me, holds me tighter than she ever has, and in that moment, I know more than ever that what I told Luis last night was a lie. She does care.


Papá uses his free arm to check his watch. "Geez, is your brother still sleeping in there? It's almost eleven."


That sliding feeling is back again.


I say nothing as they walk past me into our quiet home. Because right now, looking at them, looking at Mamá, I also know, more than ever before, that there's so much more than just your mind that can be lost.

September 03, 2022 03:58

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45 comments

Aeris Walker
11:58 Sep 03, 2022

I think this story is going places. It pulls you right in from the first sentence and moves along at the perfect pace. My heart went out to this family right away. I loved how your themes here were very heavy and mature, but were delivered so delicately because the story was told from the perspective of a young boy. There was a gentleness to it that tugged on your emotions, because you knew that life was about to get very difficult for this family and the kids would struggle to understand. The sibling relationship and dialogue was just sp...

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Zack Powell
15:35 Sep 03, 2022

Knowing you have children of your own, I appreciate this comment so much. I don't have any myself, and it's been a while since I was one, so I was wondering how this piece was going to come across. Beyond happy to know that the woods scene and the literal "lost" interpretation translated to the page. Thanks for such lovely feedback. Side note: The optimist in me was definitely hoping you were going to surprise us and sneak a submission into this contest. Hope your classes/activities are going well, though, and I'm looking forward to whateve...

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Aeris Walker
17:22 Sep 03, 2022

I also have 4 siblings, and we’ve literally locked each other out of the house before, so that was super realistic. Thanks Zack! It’s good accountability when others notice whether you write each week or not, but i guess the realist in me knew anything I threw together last minute would come across as rushed and unpolished. Definitely writing for this week—it feels weird now not to.

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Tommy Goround
07:01 Sep 07, 2022

Liked "rubbing the dreams out of the eyes." The story is engrossing. The dual POV of parents, uncle's and older brother make it better than 'kid only' stories. Nice touch with mother having no hair. Good visual. You exchanged one family member for another. Solid ending :::clapping (Sorry I didn't see this earlier)

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Kai Corvus
01:06 Sep 06, 2022

Oh, boy. Luis is just sleeping at a neighbor's house, right? It's really interesting to see this situation from the eyes of a child. Hugo doesn't really understand everything that's going on, even the feelings of stress that come from this responsibility being pushed on him, but you can still see how he deals with it in rather childish ways (like, for example, locking your brother out of the house - incredibly cruel, but can you really blame him?) So you're watching this story tumble out of control all while the narrator sits by much more ...

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Zack Powell
02:02 Sep 06, 2022

I'd personally like to imagine Luis is safe in this version of the story. Though if I were ever to expand on this and turn it into a larger work, that might not remain the case. Alas. Happy the child POV worked for you. I was this close to writing this story completely in past tense, but I really liked the immediacy of present tense and Hugo's instant realization that he messed up and his life is about to change dramatically. Because only a child (I hope) could get themselves in this kind of trouble. Thanks as always, Kai, and looking forw...

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Kendall Defoe
00:56 Sep 06, 2022

I really like this one. You remind me of a writer I read who wrote 'Down The Rabbit Hole' and (ha, ha) 'Quesadillas' (Juan Pablo Villalobos). Those family ties are all that matter sometimes.

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Zack Powell
02:40 Sep 06, 2022

Thanks! I'm always on the lookout for new authors, so thanks also for introducing me to a new name. I'll have to check those books out.

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19:47 Sep 05, 2022

Hi Zack, There are many remarkable aspects to this story- the vulnerability and strength of a family dealing with crisis, the heartbreaking pressure Hugo’s under, and that ending- it leaves me wobbling with vertigo. That sliding feeling- a powerful reference to fear and anxiety- just great. You sure have a knack for writing stories that wriggle under the skin.

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Zack Powell
20:14 Sep 05, 2022

I just came from your story, L., so this comment coming from you is like the biggest compliment. Very glad this piece worked for you, as it's one I'm quite fond of. "Wriggling under the skin" is what I was aiming for here, so thanks a bunch!

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11:36 Sep 05, 2022

Ok ok, I don't know why, but I always love your coming of age stories. They just make me want to hug the main character lol. *just a little heads up, I changed my user, this is awexis tho*

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Zack Powell
19:43 Sep 05, 2022

Thanks as always, Awexis. Or maybe that should be Ms. Wafflez now! The characters here all definitely are in need of a good hug or two.

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Michał Przywara
03:17 Sep 04, 2022

Ah, that ending, just beautiful. Horrible, but beautiful. When Hugo noticed his brother sneaking off, I assumed he'd follow him, and maybe that would lead to trouble or maybe it wouldn't, but it would be some kind of adventure. But this is so dreadfully better. The ending cranks up the tension because we don't have resolution - the worst is yet to come. Well, or it could be not so bad - maybe he stayed at a neighbor's. But that's not the point, us not knowing is a great, skin-crawling way to end things. It's a great use of the prompt, and ...

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Zack Powell
14:40 Sep 04, 2022

Thanks for the thoughtful feedback, Michał! Always nice to get your viewpoint on things. The conclusion was the thing I was most skeptical about. I personally love ambiguous endings (probably because my brain starts making up a bunch of scenarios about what comes next for the characters), but I know they're not everyone's cup of tea, so it's nice to know this one worked for you. And now that I think about it, there is a bit of a parallel with Poor Unfortunate Souls' ending, isn't there? I really like the idea of kids getting themselves into...

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Michał Przywara
18:03 Sep 04, 2022

Heh, looking at the world today, "getting themselves into big trouble because they're not mature enough to grasp the full scope of their actions" might apply equally to many adults :) :( :)

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Mary Sheehan
16:15 Sep 03, 2022

Awed by this story. I was gripped the whole time. Executed beautifully. You really understood Hugo; of course a child is gonna make a decision along the lines of, oh, my brother's outside banging on the window, I'm going to ignore him, he'll just fall asleep on the porch. An adult would never! They'd know of the real risk of harm, a five year old unsupervised is bound to wander off on a mission. This is so good. Definitely a winner in my eyes. I need to read more of your work, there is a lot I can learn from you.

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Zack Powell
23:32 Sep 03, 2022

Thanks for this, Mary. Just came from your story and I could write the exact same thing in response to that. I was equally awed, and I think you're someone people can learn a lot from too. Keep writing!

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H L McQuaid
13:32 Sep 03, 2022

aarrhhfllppp Was trying to think of a sound that captures my feeling at the end of this story. Ah, really good story, believable characters, interesting backstory, and very high stakes. Everything anyone could want in a story, unless they want an obvious happy ending. I'll just pretend Luis is at the neighbour's. :) Fantastic job, compelling story, great writing.

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Zack Powell
16:50 Sep 03, 2022

That's exactly the sound I made when I wrote that last sentence, so we're on the same page there. Wasn't sure about posting this one because it got so dark at the end, so I'm happy to hear it worked for you. I'd also like to think Luis is at the neighbor's house. :)

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H L McQuaid
10:49 Sep 04, 2022

Glad I'm not the only one who makes weird noises when writing. ;) As for 'dark', that got me thinking. I suppose it's subjective to some degree, but I'd say the story is real, gritty, and serious. It could bleed into 'dark' if something sinister happened to Luis, but we don't know (for sure) what happened. In any case, it's powerful story with a truly gut-wrenching ending.

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Naomi Onyeanakwe
11:59 Sep 03, 2022

Omg, this was so sad. In many ways. Poor first borns. And I hope little Luis is okay, though 💜 Thanks for sharing, well done, and good luck.

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Zack Powell
15:38 Sep 03, 2022

Thank you for the kindness, Naomi! I'd like to think Luis is okay too, even though the story probably implies otherwise. We can hope though, right? 😀

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Naomi Onyeanakwe
17:32 Sep 03, 2022

Yes, we can hope 😭

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Patrick Samuel
08:07 Sep 03, 2022

Zach, you keep impressing me with each new story. I don't know if you realize this but you have reached new heights with this one. This is as rich and gripping as a whole novel. At first poignant ("rooting for the families that look the most like us to win. They never do.") Then, when you realize where this might be going, suspensful and harrowing. I am, once again, impressed by the scope of your range, your sensitivity and sense of observation that allow you to go from one universe to another and always sound so authentic. This is deserving...

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Zack Powell
15:47 Sep 04, 2022

Thank you, Patrick! It definitely didn't feel like I was reaching new heights while writing it, though I'm quite pleased with how this turned out. Thanks for highlighting that "Rooting for families to win/they never do" bit, too. I'm trying to be a little more subtle/layered with my foreshadowing, so I'm glad you picked that up. Nothing gets past you.

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Riel Rosehill
07:20 Sep 03, 2022

Ooof this hit hard. Well done, Zaddy! Did you write this within a day? I wish I had the skill..! Great take on the prompt too! And, it gave me cheese quesadilla cravings... Now, let me gather my thoughts! Firstly, great opening sentence! (Not sure why, but it gave me deja vu?) Hook with a capital H. Insanity and how people deal with it has always fascinated me, so this worked a treat. And the first line of the second section after the line break too, this line (which was my favourite one) was brilliant: "The first time Mamá lost her mind...

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Zack Powell
15:24 Sep 03, 2022

For this one, I wrote the first 3.5 paragraphs on Thursday and everything else yesterday. So almost all in one day, but I can't take credit for that in good conscience. 😅 Isn't that funny how deja vu works? Because rereading that first sentence, I'm definitely getting that feeling too now, but when I looked at my other opening lines, this didn't seem to have a good parallel. Weird. Side note: We're twinsies! Your favorite line was also my favorite. I was trying so hard to make that the actual first sentence of the story, but it didn't work...

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Riel Rosehill
07:23 Sep 10, 2022

Heyy just here for our weekly chat - it's a ritual 😬 Hope everything is going okay for you (if you are just taking it easy and not pressuring yourself to post every week, good on you and I fully support it - saying that, I look forward to reading your next story. (Or if you're stuck with them you can just write all of mine instead because I'm not making any progress whatsoever..! 😂) Though prompts looked promising for this week - I quite like the sound of that awkward silence one, looking forward to reading the stories 😁 Have a lovely weeke...

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Zack Powell
12:49 Sep 10, 2022

❤️ I appreciate you checking in every week. Makes me feel important. 😂 Just taking it easy this week on Reedsy. Had a few solid story ideas I almost did for this contest (one Horror/Fantasy and one Creative Nonfiction), but I'll be totally honest: After not getting on the Recommended List last week, I kinda lost some of my motivation for the contest. (I know I said I had no expectations and all, but I reread the story and honestly thought it was pretty solid, so I'm still recovering from that. #hypocrite #petty #hotmessexpress) Spent most o...

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Riel Rosehill
13:36 Sep 10, 2022

Of course! You're an important part of my writing circle 😃 About this story of yours: I was baffled by it not being recommended, and so were some others. And then there were a couple writers who seemed to agree on why it was not - which, could be right, but it wasn't something I would have picked up on - if you drop me an email I'll give you details, I don't want to start comment wars over others' feedback but I do think you might find it benefits you knowing? Especially if that's why the story didn't get recommended, you just never know. ...

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Suma Jayachandar
05:29 Sep 03, 2022

Zack, You are back with what you do best; painting an intimate portrait of a family . And catching the nuances of the dynamics between its members so well that I read through the whole piece without pausing to breathe in. Such exquisite turn of phrases and the language -apt for the age of the POV character. Saying anything about the ending would be spoiling it for others. Another masterpiece! Thanks for sharing.

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Zack Powell
15:46 Sep 03, 2022

Thank you, Suma! Family dynamics are definitely my favorite thing to write - so many ways you can take it, so many different relationships to explore. (Probably helps that I have a brother myself, so I had a lot of inspiration to draw on here.) Glad the voice seemed appropriate for the character's age. Wishing you the best of luck in the contest too!

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Wally Schmidt
22:53 Dec 29, 2022

The unbearable weight on a child's shoulders when parents can't fulfill their roles is crushing and you captured that so well here. There are so many children around the world who need to 'step it up' for one reason or another -parent is a user, an alcoholic, a single mom, away in the military, has mental health issues-you name it and kids do a great job of it. But then the unexpected (I want hotdogs) causes everything to come crashing down, spiraling out of control and it is heart breaking. Using the child's POV gives the story a whole new ...

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Zack Powell
03:46 Dec 30, 2022

Thanks again, Wally! This is a tough situation to be in, for sure, and leaving kids to "step it up" and be pseudo-adults themselves is just too much responsibility. Glad the child's POV worked for you here - was this close to choosing a different perspective for this piece. Thanks again for the kindness, and happy future writing to you!

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Graham Kinross
12:36 Nov 16, 2022

That’s why you can’t leave a kid to look after a kid. I feel for the dad because my mum had a few breakdowns and vanished in the car a couple of times but nothing quite like this and I never had a little brother to look after. The mother in this clearly needs psychological help. I can’t tell what’s going on but either she’s under unbearable stress or she’s unstable. I remember trying to process this stuff when I was a bit older than the kids here and knowing that it would just reset it when my mum calmed down because the stress was still the...

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J.C. Lovero
15:49 Sep 13, 2022

Hey Zack! Finally getting around to this one on my TBR. As others have stated already, you really nailed the voice of the MC and brought us into the mind of a child. There were parts where I was reading and thinking “oh no, please don’t do or say that,” but for a 9.5 year old, it makes sense. Shame when kids have to grow up fast and lose some of that childhood innocence/ignorance, but alas it happens. Appreciate that you tackled the subject. Prose and pacing are great, as always. Thanks for sharing!

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Zack Powell
17:17 Sep 13, 2022

Always nice to hear your thoughts on things! I was cringing writing some parts of this story (the thought of locking the door on your brother in the middle of the night makes me go 😬), but that's kids for you, right? Definitely a loss of innocence going on here. Glad to have you back on here. Hope your cross-country move is/was/will be everything you wish for!

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Amanda Lieser
04:12 Sep 09, 2022

Hey Zack! OOOHHH this one is a goody! As a child of a mental health professional, my heart ached for each and every one of your characters. I was shocked and heartbroken as I put these puzzle pieces together. You did a masterful job of writing in a child’s perspective while weaving in the struggles adults understand and deal with. Beautifully written as per usual. :)

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Zack Powell
05:08 Sep 09, 2022

Thank you for reading, Amanda! Glad you felt for the characters - that's a huge compliment for sure. Best of luck in the contest tomorrow!

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L.M. Lydon
23:02 Sep 08, 2022

So poignant in the end (the ominous gap is actually more intense in its unresolved state, in my opinion). Your narrator is inherently unreliable due to age- he's old enough to see some of the complexities his brother can't perceive, but not quite old enough. It's a fine balance.

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Kelsey H
08:56 Sep 08, 2022

I am always so happy when I see you have written a story about family relationships, you are just so good at it. The characters always feel so real and I end it wanting to keep going and knowing what will happen to them next. My favourite thing about this was the child's pov. I think it is hard to get that balance right when you are writing a story aimed at adults but in a child's voice, so it is neither overly 'cute' or too mature. I loved all the metaphors he uses, how they describe something so perfectly but are also the exact sort of c...

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Zack Powell
20:54 Sep 08, 2022

Were I not challenging myself to expand my writing range, I'd probably just submit family drama stories every single week. My absolute favorite. Love the dynamics so much, and there are so many different, interesting combinations you can get out of them. Glad the pov worked here. The first thought I had when I finished writing this was "Maybe I should just go back and change the whole story to past tense so as not to limit the character's vocabulary," but some of the lines (the raisin one especially) and the immediacy/suspense of the ending...

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Kelsey H
21:15 Sep 08, 2022

I am impressed at how much different stuff you write though, I just stick to my comfort/preference zone every time. Although I can enjoy reading horror/sci-fi etc, I wouldn't even know where to start with writing it. Thanks for your comments on my story too, I took it down as I wasn't happy with the ending and felt like it was awkward and a bit too sentimental. But since you say you liked the ending maybe it actually didn't come across that way ... now I regret not getting to read your comment on it and taking it down so fast! Will probabl...

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Mike Panasitti
03:38 Sep 08, 2022

I'm catching up on last week's reading. Not only does the young main character have to cope with an unhinged mother, he (and we) must, in conclusion, grapple with the fact that he might be to blame for his younger brother's disappearance. Great take on the prompt and crafted in such a way that keeps the reader moving from beginning to end...and motion is the substance of story.

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Zack Powell
23:59 Sep 08, 2022

I can relate to being behind on reading. So many quality stories, so little time. You even miss a few days on here and your TBR doubles in size, amirite? Thanks for the read on this one, and I'm glad to know the motion kept up here. Pacing is my worst enemy.

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