One Quirk Later Flashfiction–macaroni and gob-rats

Hello, friends!

So first of all, I’m going to start trying to post every week instead of every other week (hence the fact that I’m posting today). How long will this last?? Who can say.

But on to more important things! Today, as you may have cleverly deduced from the title of this post, I am once again linking up with the illustrious Jem Jones for her One Quirk Later Flashfiction Series!

I had so much fun with these flashfiction pieces last year, and I was quite pleased to see Jem’s post announcing the next prompt. Be sure to check out her blog, and please do join in the fun!

Here is the prompt:

A few things you don’t need to know before you read what I wrote:

  • I had SO MUCH FUN with this one
  • I had no ideas at first… And then I had all the ideas
  • So…It got long. Longer than flashfiction is technically supposed to be, but shhhhh
  • Ok, but wow I love these kids
  • Can I write more about them?? (I ask as my current WIP looks on in tragic abandonment and jealousy)
  • (I’m KIDDING, I’m not abandoning my WIP)
  • (But it is being so difficult, wow)

* * *

The children tumbled into Amanda Steinburgh’s apartment with such a racket it was a wonder the furniture—so accustomed to the quiet sound of one pair of feet—didn’t flee in panic.

Is that how long I’ve been alone? So long I’ve started thinking of my furniture as sentient?

Arms full of groceries, Amanda had difficulty navigating her way to the kitchen. There were only three kids, but they moved so much there might as well have been ten.

“Is this where you sleep?” one of the girls asked, scrambling over the back of the couch to land on the cushions.

The other girl followed, then leapt off the couch, her eyes fixed on the lamp on the side table. “Is that a pixie glow lamp?”

“Of course not,” the boy said. For some reason he was checking under the couch and the chairs. “Pixie glow lamps are stupid expensive.”

The girl was already beside the lamp, lifting the shade to inspect it. She sighed at the sight of the ordinary electric bulb. “Well, that’s boring.”

“Is this where you live?” The first girl asked.

“Is this where you take all the kids you kidnap?” the boy asked darkly.

“I haven’t kidnapped you,” Amanda said, finally reaching the kitchen and dropping the groceries on the counter. A bag tipped over, boxes of macaroni almost spilling into the sink. She stretched her aching arms. “I told you: I’ll let you go as soon as you eat something.”

This wasn’t quite the truth. It was cold enough out that there would be frost tonight, and she seriously doubted these kids had a warm place to sleep.

Their attempt to mug her hadn’t exactly been a work of genius. It seemed their plan had wholly consisted of the two girls running up to her out of nowhere and starting a conversation about hamsters while the boy tried to snatch her purse. She’d seen him before he even got close to her and, seeing that he had been spotted, the two girls started screaming bloody murder as a distraction.

Amanda had simply held her purse up out of their reach and waited for things to calm down.

Upon discovering that the kids didn’t belong to anyone, she had told them that no, they couldn’t have her money, but she would feed them dinner if they came home with her. Of course, she knew she didn’t have enough food at home, so they had stopped by the store. The shopping had been a nightmare. Even now, putting away the groceries, she kept discovering things she was sure she hadn’t put in the cart.

“You don’t have gob-rats do you?” one of the girls asked fearfully from the other room.

Amanda was about to reply that of course her apartment didn’t have gob-rats—what kind of tenement would be able to find renters if a bug-eyed gob-rat was seen on the premises? But it struck her then that these kids had probably seen more gob-rats than she had in her whole life, and suddenly the question didn’t seem so ridiculous.

“No gob-rats,” she said. “I promise.”

She put a pot of water on to boil and turned around to find one of the girls with her hand in the box of macaroni, her mouth half open, eyes wide.

“What are you doing? Those aren’t cooked yet.”

The girl shut her mouth with a loud crunch that made Amanda wince.

“Don’t eat those. If you’re that hungry…” she fished around in the bag until she found a box of crackers. “Here.”

The girl took the box, her eyes growing even wider. Amanda turned back to the macaroni box, reading the side panel. She wasn’t great at making food, but macaroni and cheese from a box couldn’t be that hard. And kids loved macaroni, right?

She suddenly realized how quiet it was. She glanced over her shoulder uneasily. For a moment she didn’t see the kids anywhere. Had they snuck out? But, no. There they were, all three of them sitting cross-legged under the kitchen table, the boy solemnly doling out the crackers into three little piles on the floor.

The boy was clearly the oldest. He couldn’t have been more than eight or nine. His jeans were several sizes too big, with what looked like the sash from some kind of robe threaded through the belt loops, cinched tight around his waist. He wore an assortment of mismatched shirts and jackets in lieu of a coat and, for some unfathomable reason, a black necktie. The two girls were dressed in similar mishmash fashion. One girl wore a knee-length pink butterfly skirt over her jeans. The other had a black and white hat with ear flaps. The two girls looked so similar they had to be twins. How old were they? Six? They were all siblings—that much she was sure of. All three had the same brilliant red hair and cinnamon freckles. All three had slight hollows in their cheeks carved by hunger.

The macaroni and cheese was passable. The texture was odd and Amanda suspected she had undercooked the noodles, but the kids didn’t seem to mind. They ate it all. Then they ate the sandwiches she made and the frozen pizza she put in the oven.

Once or twice during the meal Amanda noticed Jonathan checking under the table—to make sure there were no more crackers perhaps? Once he checked under Agatha’s chair.

“What are your names again?” she asked as she watched the boy eat half a slice of pizza in one bite.

The boy rolled his eyes and murmured something about grown-ups.

“I’m Eloise,” the girl with the hat said.

“And I’m Agatha,” the other girl piped up.

“And I’m not supposed to tell my name to strangers,” the boy said.

“But you told her earlier!” Agatha protested.

The boy shrugged.

“He’s Jonathan,” Eloise said. “And where do seals come from?”

Before Amanda had time to come up with an answer to this question, Agatha knocked over her water glass and the conversation was diverted to the age old question of “how many paper napkins can you throw on a spill?”

“So,” she began, as casually as she could, dropping the last of the soaked napkins into the trash, “what happened to your parents?”

She didn’t know what she had expected—anger or sadness or silence—but Eloise answered immediately. “Mommy’s fighting dragons!”

Amanda’s eyebrows shot up. “Fighting dragons?”

Agatha nodded eagerly. “She’s the fiercest of fierce warriors. She’s in the Fire Fight Brigame!”

Amanda frowned. “The Fire Fighters’ Brigade?”

Eloise and Amanda both nodded.

Jonathan took a large bite of pizza and dedicated his attention to chewing.

“I see,” Amanda said after a moment. “Well, good for her.”

            After the meal, Agatha and Eloise curled up together on the couch and promptly fell asleep. Jonathan sat cross-legged on the other side of the couch as if guarding them, which may or may not have been exactly what he was doing.

            “So,” Amanda said, dropping into the armchair across from the couch. “Fire Fighters’ Brigade, huh?”

            Jonathan sighed. “Ok, so I lied.”

            It was common knowledge that the Fire Fighters’ Brigade had long since been disbanded. The Dragon Invasion Emergency had been brief, declared a non-threat as soon as people realized that dragons were flocking to major cities and menacing skyscrapers not because they were bent on destruction, but because dragons are terribly vain, and the skyscrapers, with their vast walls of windows, acted as admirable full-length mirrors. (Of course, whether they meant harm or not, dragons tended to cause damage by flying through the cities. So humans partnered with the dragons and taught them how to use their fire to turn the sands of the southern desert into glass. The dragons were so happy with their new mirrors, they rarely left the glass desert.)

            “What else was I supposed to tell them?” Jonathan demanded.

            Amanda considered him for a moment. “I don’t know. What’s the truth?”

            Jonathan was silent for so long she thought he wouldn’t answer.

            “They took her away,” he said finally.

            “Who did?”

            Jonathan shrugged.

            “Why did they take her?”

            Jonathan hesitated, glancing instinctively at his sleeping sisters. He opened his mouth, then shut it again with a scowl. “I don’t have to tell you.”

            “You don’t,” she agreed.

            Suddenly, leaning so far forward she thought he would somersault onto the floor, he planted his hands on the floor and looked under the couch.

            Amanda sighed. “I already told you I don’t have gob-rats.”

            Jonathan straightened up. “I’m not looking for gob-rats.”

            “Then what are you looking for? You’ve been doing that all evening.”

            “Shadow Tramps.”

            Amanda frowned. “Shadow Tramps?”

            “They latch onto your shadow and suck away your…your energy, I guess.”

            “What do they look like?”

            Jonathan shrugged. “Shadows. Just a little darker.”

            “And what do you do if you find one?”

            She could tell he thought it was a stupid question. “Kill it, of course. With a magnifying glass.”

            “Have you seen a lot of these…Shadow Tramps?”

            Jonathan nodded. “They like my sisters’ shadows. I think the Tramps like them best because they’re diff—” He broke off suddenly, realizing what he was about to say, and shut his mouth tight.

            But Amanda was already starting to wonder… A mysterious they taking away the mother…

            “Jonathan,” Amanda said gently, “did your mother…Did your mother have magic?”

            Jonathan was still for a moment. He did his best to keep his face blank, but she could see his mind racing.

            Finally, he nodded slowly.

            “Do you?”

            Jonathan shook his head.

            Amanda looked at the two sleeping girls. “But they do, don’t they?”

            Jonathan tucked his knees up to his chest and gave a tiny nod.

            Amanda looked at the three of them, the reality of the fact sinking in. A chill ran down her spine as she realized just how much trouble these children were in.

* * *

Ta-da.

Ack, but did I mention that I love these kids?? And I want to explore this urban fantasy world??

Thank you so much to Jem Jones for providing the prompt! Be sure to go check out her blog (because it’s wonderful, and why would you deprive yourself, hmm?).

Does the prompt give you any ideas? Are you planning to participate in this Quirk (if so, I’d LOVE to read what you write)? Have you ever written Urban Fantasy? Is your current WIP being difficult and cranky? What would you do with three small children who had just tried and failed to mug you? Do tell!

20 thoughts on “One Quirk Later Flashfiction–macaroni and gob-rats

  1. UM, I LOVE THIS, LIKE, A LOT. And I need more. Immediately. (Seriously, I want to hear what she *does* with these children, and how they fight off Shadow Tramps, and how they eventually become a found family (because I can tell they do)). Apologies to your main WIP, but…Imma encourage this plot bunny.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. THANK YOU THANK YOU. Yesss, they 100% become a found family eventually, and I honestly want to hear about it too…from myself XD Currently considering putting this bunny and my current WIP in a gladiatorial contest to fight for my attentions…

      Like

  2. I love these semi-feral children so much?? but do not eat raw macaroni, chile, you will hurt yourself.

    (I am illustrious now. *gracious bow* Honoured</i<)

    Thank you for joining in, Erik!! 'tis beautiful. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      1. NO. *smacks macaroni packet away* As the child’s honourary grandma I am telling them I will cOOK THE MACARONI, STOPPP-

        Liked by 1 person

      2. *smacks cooked macaroni away* Erik do you need another grandma to stop you dying by choking on macaroni, are you just as bad as these children, sit down and chew slowly–

        Liked by 1 person

  3. SIGH. I guess I’m increasing how much food I’m cooking for dinner. Since I am now a grandma.

    …I mean, how can I refuse in the face of such respectful macaroni chewing??

    Liked by 1 person

      1. *cooks pineapple upside down cake for dessert to reward such excellent respectful macaroni chewing from my grandchildren*

        (Bystanders: “what is going on” 👀)

        Liked by 2 people

      2. *sighs* *wraps teary grandchildren up in blankets and lays them on the couch in Comfort Burritos while I go to cook another cake*

        …although I must leave your arms loose from your burrito, Erik, so that you can write more about these feral children and their gob-rats. xD (The feral children get full burrito treatment, though. Once they’ve finished their cake, of course.)

        Liked by 1 person

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