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Funny Kids Inspirational

When I saw this Reedsy prompt, I decided I would tell the tale of how I became a writer.


I was seven years old when my father, Tom, got a promotion and my mother, Debbie, told my sister and me that we would be moving to Hamley Court. Kelly took the news typically stoically, her only concern being whether that would mean her having to change schools. After Debbie reassured her, my mother began describing the house. Interior decorating plans were of no interest to me, but my ears pricked up at the mention of a garden. I had questions.


“Does this mean we can get a pet? Will there be room for a swing? Can I build a treehouse?”


Debbie held up one of her slender hands (Dad used to say she burned off all her calories worrying about us kids) to indicate I should button it.


“We’ll see. First, you girls need to start organising your stuff into boxes.”


I groaned. Kelly’s face broke into a rare smile and she went to retrieve one of her writing pads from her draw full of them to start making a to-do list.


* * *


The phrase that would change my life appeared one day a few weeks later, in the bathroom fixtures aisle at the home improvement megastore. Dad and I were hunting for a toilet roll holder with the “oval-shaped hook; NOT the rectangular”. We’d repeating Mum’s phrase to each other all the way there in the car, laughing at our own exaggerations of her high-pitched tone. It was the sound we had come to dread, the warning siren that indicated we were not treading carefully enough on the mother hen’s eggshells.


Tom was looking at the angrily scribbled diagram Debbie had given him before we left and holding it up to a holder to see if it was a match. His phone beeped. He sighed and pulled it out of his jacket pocket. He didn’t say what it was but it was evident it was another item on Debbie’s infinite shopping list.


Turning back to examine the holders like they were an evidence board of a crime investigation, he muttered, “The trouble with your mum is that she wants the moon on a stick”.


This made me curious for which aisle we’d be heading down next but I was disappointed to find we only went to the checkout.


Later that evening I went into Kelly’s room (we had separate rooms at last!). We both had the same elevated beds with the storage space underneath. Mine was used, as I recall, for beanbags and discarded socks. I called it ‘my den’. Kelly’s was filled with a desk, swivel chair, a rocket shaped lava lamp, stick on glow in the dark stars and was called her ‘study’.


I told my sister about what Dad had said when we were out shopping earlier. After much discussion, we decided it was the key to making mum happy. At last. We all thought the move into the big house would have done it, but she seemed even more on edge than usual. There was always something that had to be done. No wonder she pined for the moon. We both looked out of Kelly’s window at it, this yellow-tinged rock that solemnly watched over the Earth. All the peace and quiet Debbie could hope for, no shopping to worry about as the aliens would probably get her used to eating their food, gadgets that self-cleaned and no irritating husband to nag. We would have Dad all to ourselves! We thought of the rollercoaster life we’d have of trips to the park, swimming pool, football matches (well, probably just me that would accompany him on those) and living off takeaways. Kelly was worried about who would wash our clothes, but I said if we could work out a way to get to the moon, we could probably work that out as well.


It felt like we spent half a year researching our methods, although it was probably only a fortnight or so. After finishing her work on her school geography project that the rest of us were leaving until the night before to start, Kelly researched the history of how humans have attempted to fly. She tried telling me about the early stages of her findings but I told her not to bother me when I was busy building a tower.


Yes, while Kelly was searching on the internet whether she could attach a drone to a spacesuit and doing cost-benefit analyses, I was hauling the junk I’d find abandoned outside people’s gardens and stuff I found in the shed up the tree to my ‘treehouse’ (I’d only got as far as nailing a few planks up there before the moon mission started). I figured I would build up and up until I could spear the moon. I pictured her glee as I presented it, drawing it from behind my back with a flourish, the world’s greatest magician presenting the world’s biggest lollipop.


Neither Debbie nor Tom asked what we were up to. They had a home to finish assembling and just assumed all was as it was normally for us kids – one diving into books, the other tearing up trees. Until the day of the footstool.


The wisdom of my age made dragging the chunky little cushioned footstool from the living room seem a very practical idea. In reality it was a lot heavier than I realised and it took me a lot of puff to get it on top of the pile. It made a difference of…well, probably a foot. But to my height that made a lot of difference. I was keen to hustle up there and see if I could see anything new from the higher vantage point. Another neighbour’s patio, or a parked car that wouldn’t have been in my eyeline yesterday.


It turned out the cardboard box that had contained the new dustbuster that was ordered, could handle the weight of a footstool okay, but not that of a seven year old who pigged out on two Nutella sandwiches and about a litre of cola before their climb to the summit. As I went tumbling down through the branches, I remember realising the sun and moon were out at the same time, spinning over and over, alternating between flashbulb brilliance and calm insouciance.


* * *


The first thing I saw when I woke up in hospital later that day were the worry lines on my mother’s forehead. My father was standing a little further back, gently squeezing the toes of my leg that wasn’t in a cast when he’d seen my eyelids flickering. Kelly was sitting on a cheap plastic chair and trying to find something in her rucksack she could use to stop its wobble.


Debbie made loud exclamations of joy when I stirred, an act for the benefit of the hospital staff I believe, because later she bent down to me and hissed.


“Just what did you think you were playing at, Karen? You know you could get me into trouble with child protection services if you pull any more stunts like these?”


“Deb–” Tom began.


“Not now, Tom!” It was his turn to get the hand.


Kelly spoke, making us all jump a little. Well, me the least, what with all the bandages.


“Tell her,” Kelly urged.


I looked at my mother, who glared back at me expectantly. I took a deep, raggedy breath.


“We…we were trying to reach the moon.”


“The moon?”


“Yes, because of what Dad said.”


“What Dad said?” Debbie always turned into a squawking parrot at times like this. “I should’ve known it was you that put her up to this.”


“Me? What have I got to do with it?” Seeing the death stare in his wife’s face, Tom turned to my bruised one for sanctuary. And an answer.


“It’s because of what you said in the big shop Dad. You said Mum wanted the moon on a stick. So I…well, Kelly too…we were trying to reach it for her.”


Debbie’s mouth fell open. Tom went to cover his with his hand, but that didn’t stop a sound that sounded a bit like a bark of laughter seeping out.


“Oh, Karen. That thing I said, that’s just a figure of speech.”


“A figure?” I asked, starting to make the outline of an hourglass with my hands before the pain got too much.


“No, it’s like, a metaphor? Have they taught you those in school yet?”


“I don’t think so,” I replied in a very small voice.


“Oh god Tom, what if she’s dyslexic or autistic or whichever one it is? Are we going to have to get her tested? Will we have to get her private tuition? What if–”


“What if she’s just got a great imagination?” Debbie actually shrank back a little at this unthinkable interruption. She began to contest it, but there was something in the widening of Tom’s eyes that warned her to zip it, as perhaps their daughter had experienced enough trauma for one day.


From that day on, I still liked to be active, playing sports and building things (only not in the sky) but I also started keeping notebooks (Kelly, now a scientist, reluctantly spared me a couple), writing down my dreams, keeping a diary, making up fantastic fictions about my classmates and the neighbourhood kids. All because someone who believed in me told me I had a great imagination. And that’s how I became a writer.


Only it isn’t, I made the whole thing up. See? Great imagination. 

January 08, 2021 18:14

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16 comments

Daryl Oliver
14:27 Jan 21, 2021

Great story! I think I could see the whole thing. When "you" woke up and your dad had his hand on your foot, I thought you were going to say that was how you ended up in a wheelchair. I might have even shed a tear for that. True enjoyment!

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Karen McDermott
15:13 Jan 21, 2021

Hi Oliver, thanks so much for reading. I'm glad you enjoyed :)

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Elizabeth Inkim
23:45 Jan 19, 2021

Hey Karen! I enjoyed your storyline and dialogue. My favourite line was, "flashbulb brilliance and calm insouciance" and the ending absolutely killed me it was so good; you really had me there. Your character voices, tone, and sentence structure were incredible. After reading your story, I think that you might enjoy some of mine, particularly "A Kaleidoscope of Memories" and "The Savage Truth of Fear". My latest story is called, "Tables Turn, Bridges Burn", and I would love to know what you think about any or all of them; your choice.

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Karen McDermott
15:15 Jan 21, 2021

Hi Elizabeth, so pleased you enjoyed my little tale :) am heading on over to check out one of yours. Great titles btw!

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Elizabeth Inkim
15:50 Jan 21, 2021

Oh, thanks, I've really been working on increasing my readership; and other than great stories I think a good title is a great hook.

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13:07 Jan 19, 2021

... I really thought that was real for the entire time! So... how did you become a writer? No offense, but I'm sure it's not as imaginative as this story! (I think all writers love to romanticize how they became a writer, but it's always just very plain). Great story!

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Karen McDermott
15:13 Jan 19, 2021

Haha, quite right, the real reason is very blah. Basically the print media died so my copywriting stint came to an end, then there was a pandemic which gave me a lot of free time suddenly ;) How about you? And thanks for reading my story btw!

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15:33 Jan 19, 2021

I started writing because I had a chain story with my sister and brother and was like "You know what this needs? A 700-page backstory". The pandemic just gave me more time to write, really.

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Thom With An H
21:09 Jan 18, 2021

Ok, so I know I shouldn't ask you to read two stories in the comments of just one story but in my defense you don't have another new story for me. :-) If you have a second could you check out "The End of the Beginning" for me?

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Karen McDermott
21:42 Jan 18, 2021

Haha, I'm working on one :) Will take a look when I can. Already looking forward to it.

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Fiza Hasan
08:16 Jan 18, 2021

What an interesting read! I love that you pulled the readers in claiming it was a true story, and ended it off with the line that it wasn't. I laughed a little at that. I thought Debbie was a great contrast to Karen (who might be you) because of their difference in imagination. Same goes for Kelly (who might really be your sister) and Karen. I'm looking forward to reading more from you.

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Karen McDermott
12:13 Jan 18, 2021

Thanks for reading :) glad I could make you laugh, I love to get a giggle out of readers (or if I'm in a cruel mood, a tear!). I had about eight imaginary friends growing up as an only child, so Kelly and Karen probably embody elements of their personalities as well as some of my own, haha.

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Breahna Lesemann
03:20 Jan 15, 2021

I got you on my Critique Circle! I like your details that formed the characters. You did well with making them seemed real and rounded. I think that you needed a view more visual details of the setting. I can very clearly see the character, but I think I could visualize things better if you added a few specific details about the settings her an there. For example you mention that boards have been nailed to the tree. You could dedicate a line or two describing if they are haphazardly nailed to the trunk or made some sort of platform that the...

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Karen McDermott
12:02 Jan 15, 2021

Hi Breahna, thank you so much for the helpful feedback :) I'll work on bringing in a few more details of characters' surroundings. I got the phrase as an ex used to say to me "you want the moon on a stick!" which I'd never heard before up until that point. I'm glad I could put a fun twist on an annoying memory, hehe.

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Thom With An H
14:26 Jan 14, 2021

You should add the line, “or did I?” at the end. Seriously though this was such a fun read and not just because of your fake dad’s name. 😀 I know you say this wasn’t a true story but it still felt like it was and isn’t that the point. Great job. Great read. I’m a fan. Now if you could check out my story “The One”. It’s both true and not. I’d love to hear what you think.

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Karen McDermott
16:49 Jan 14, 2021

Hehe, thanks for the feedback Thom! I'm looking forward to checking out your story soon :)

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