“Don’t Kick the Kid” is a short story based on the idea of putting together two people who hate each other as much as humanly possible and forcing them to work together. Oh, and also about radioactive goats.
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Honey-the kids aren’t okay.
I get the text from my husband halfway through the day, right before I’m supposed to be sitting down to a meeting with Mr. BigWig Pharma, to discuss the payments or accounts or needs or some other corporate bull I suddenly don’t give a crap about.
“Sorry, Rocks, but I have to.” I flash him the phone. “From my husband.”
He smiles, because as much as he likes to claim he isn’t sexist, he’s thinking he’ll get the promotion we’ve been vying for because his stay-at-home takes care of things. And if he did have to scramble, well, BossMan would give him a clap on the back for being a good dad. I can almost hear them talking over a beer tonight: women are always distracted by kids. Of course it’s important to have a work-life balance, but you know. Distraction.
My husband is a stay-at-home. They know this. It makes no difference, and they keep me just high enough to claim there are women in senior management positions in the office, so of course they aren’t sexist. Bastards.
I care less than normal, though, because my husband’s text isn’t talking about our children, who are generally pretty well-behaved. For children. Besides, it’s school hours.
It’s the damn goats again.
And I really don’t feel like watching the sky catch on fire today.
Her head is about the size of my fist. Tiny. But she’s got more springs than a factory of mattresses, and more weapons-grade uranium in her than springs.
That’s what you get for using pocket-dimension-enhanced pygmy goats to rid the world of nukes. You wind up with bouncing fuzzballs of mass destruction. And no one knows they shouldn’t kick the goat. (Seriously, if you were the government and creating parallel dimension portals inside ruminants to store your dirty uranium, would you tell people?)
So when I pull up to my outer-suburb house on its quarter-acre and see my neighbor pulling his foot back, I scream and go all PETA on him. I mean, he’s a piece of work anyway, a real dirtbag who–you know–sees nothing wrong with kicking small animals, so I generally hate his guts anyway. But usually I stick to SPCA-levels of shouting and threatening arrest.
This time, I tackle him. And grind his nose into the dust just to make the point. “You. Do. Not. Kick. My. Goats!”
“Gerroff meh!” Grass clings to his semi-trendy flannel shirt when he stands, his designer jeans streaked with red mud. “Crazy whore,” he spits at me. His sunglasses are askew.
“I told you to keep off our property,” I hiss, feeling an uncomfortable amount of movement room from my usually tight pencil skirt. “I’m calling the cops.”
“Huff off. I was bringing it back. It was eating the flowers I bought for Susi. You owe me fifty bucks for that, by the way.”
“What, ten bucks’ worth of daisies again, so you can brag about how you’re sweet enough to get flowers for your girl? While she sneezes her face off because she’s allergic? Or maybe roses to say you’re sorry for emotionally manipulating her again.” The sneer is half-hearted, though, because I’m checking Moosky for any potential bruises or other weaknesses of structural integrity. She baas plaintively.
“You–” He stops, and takes a deep breath. “I’m sorry your husband has to deal with such a crazy feminist as a wife.” He says it like it’s a dirty word instead of a point of pride, like always. If I hadn’t patched up Susi’s feelings more than once I might even believe he was just one of the dunderheads browbeaten by stereotypes (and maybe a crazy woman or two) into a false idea of what feminism meant. “I’ll send you a bill.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Moosky seems fine, thank goodness, so I check the seam of my skirt and find it has, indeed, ripped an couple extra inches up. There went another one. Then it hit me. “Wait. Your place?”
“Uh, yuh.” He puts on the duh-face as if repeating himself were the worst thing in the world. “Eating, ya know, the flowers.”
Hank wouldn’t let Moosky roam. Isn’t like him. That means something’s happened to him. I boost Moosky onto my shoulder and scramble my purse out of the passenger seat in my truck, pulling out the six twenties I have in my wallet. “There. That should cover it.” I’d rather stuff it into your stinking mouth, you prat. If I didn’t think I might need backup… He did have a black belt, though. “If you follow me, I’ll get more for your dry-cleaning.” I give a pointed look to his grass-stained clothes.
He hesitates. Can’t blame him, since I haven’t been this nice to him since the third week after he moved in and I heard him screaming at Cherie–the last girlfriend–for going to the mall without telling him.
But I glare at him like it’s all his fault and add, “Not that you deserve it, but I’m not about to dissuade you from bringing Moosky back if she gets out again. Though if I ever catch you try to kick her again, my lawyer will thank you for his daughter’s college tuition.” Then I grind my teeth as loudly as I can for good measure.
It’s enough. He pockets the cash and slides his sleaze-smile across his smarmy cheeks. “Lead the way.”
I scratch Moosky behind the ears, cradling her in one arm. She’s kind of heavy to single-arm, but I might need the free hand. The big glass windows on either side of the door don’t reveal much, except perhaps that nobody tried to shoot the bulletproof glass, because it’s unblemished. The door’s locked to my careful jiggle, but that’s normal, too.
“Key’s in the truck,” I fib, kicking off my heels and putting on the ballet slippers I keep in my purse. “I’m going around to the side door. You can wait here.”
He rolls his eyes and follows, muttering something about incompetence and laziness.
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