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One of Those Mornings - looking at traffic through a wet windscreen.
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One of Those Mornings

  12+  Have you ever had one of those mornings? You know, where everything goes wrong. It's like a farce, a series of mishaps increasing in frequency and intensity that have you howling with side-splitting laughter or shedding tears of frustration.

Mine started when I forgot to set the alarm for Amy's swim squad training.

"Dad, I'll be in so much trouble!"

"Don't worry," I said, trying to soothe her teenage tantrum while negotiating the deserted early morning streets and traffic lights as swiftly and legally possible. "I'll tell the coach it's my fault." 

We were only ten minutes late, but when we arrived at the pool, we learned the coach had cancelled training overnight due to a forecasted thunderstorm.

"You should have checked the pool website, Dad!"

"Yes, sorry, Amy," I said, reaching into my backpack for the placating breakfast box of fruit and yoghurt I'd packed for her, only to find I'd left it on the kitchen benchtop at home. This morning's farce wasn't leaving Amy or me laughing. 

The traffic was heavier heading home, and the storms outside and inside the car made the drive more stressful. Thankfully, sleep and food-deprived Amy dozed off in the back seat, and there were no more sharp words in the car or at home before she left for school. Instead, I only had to suffer her sullen silence.

Before she got sick, weekday mornings were Chloe's responsibility. I had long commutes to the office and would be out the door while Amy was still sleeping. Chloe got her up and off to school. She also did the swim squad training runs, the only times I'd get a grunted "Good morning" from a bleary-eyed Amy.

I rearranged my weekdays when the oncologist diagnosed Chloe's cancer. Fortunately, COVID lockdowns normalised working from home, and the office agreed to let me continue working remotely post-pandemic.

We were hopeful at the beginning of Chloe's illness and resigned at the end. It was tough for us but worse for Amy, who said she couldn't understand why Mum was leaving her. We tried to explain it but didn't have the answers for ourselves, let alone for our teenage daughter.

Chloe's death pulled me in so many directions, struggling with grief for my departed wife, the condolences of family and friends, and the demands of work. Cutting through the conflicting emotions, however, I knew I had to be there for Amy.

It's not as if I hadn't been present in her life, but I'd not been the sole presence, and I felt poorly equipped to guide a teenage girl through the trauma of losing her mother and beyond.

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A text notification sounded on my phone, returning me to the present. It was from Amy. Perhaps she'd forgotten her lunch or a homework assignment. I read the message:

"Sorry about this morning, Dad. I know you're trying. Love you." 

Yes, it had been one of those mornings. It hadn't left me laughing or too frustrated. But I was shedding tears.

© 2024 Robert Fairhead

Thanks to Holger Schué for sharing the rain on the windscreen image on Pixabay.

One of Those Mornings was my entry for the Australian Writers' Centre's April 2024 Furious Fiction writing challenge. And as I shared in a Tall And True blog post, it was also the fifth April story I'd written for Furious Fiction since my first in 2020.

The brief was:

  • Your story's first sentence must be a question
  • It must include something being pulled
  • And the words POST, TEAR and THUNDER.

In addition to examples of questions and how writers can use them to open a story and engage the reader, the Writers' Centre specified:

For this challenge, we don’t want to see any "she said" or "Jane asked" tags at the end of this first sentence. It must end with a question mark!

My question, "Have you ever had one of those days?" and the scenario for the short story about a widowed father with a teenage daughter came to me very quickly. But soon after I started writing, I realised it was too broad, and I'd need far more than 500 words to tell the story. And even if I had 1000 words, I doubted it would engage the reader until "The End"!

So, midway through, I gave up on the story and thought of another opening question, "Can you keep a secret?" I wrote a paragraph but returned to my original story, drawn back by its characters and premise. However, I tightened the timeline and pace by slightly modifying the question, "Have you ever had one of those mornings?"

The Writers' Centre judges didn't Showcase or longlist my fifth April Furious Fiction, which was disappointing. But as my protagonist artist says in another of my Furious Fictions, The Winner's Toast (August 2021), "I've learned to channel disappointment into creative energy."

I revisited the story, tweaked a few sentences, and shared it on Tall And True. I hope you enjoy reading it—please let me know! 

N.B. You might like to read my first April Furious Fiction, A Song on the Radio

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Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.

Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story. In 2021, Robert published his first twelve short stories for the Furious Fiction writing competition, Twelve Furious Months, and in 2022, his second collection of Furious Fictions, Twelve More Furious Months. And in 2023, he published an anthology of his microfiction, Tall And True Microfiction.

Besides writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.

He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ~ Maya Angelou

Tall And True showcases the writing — fiction, nonfiction and reviews — of a dad and dog owner, writer and podcaster, Robert Fairhead. Guest Writers are also invited to share and showcase their writing on the website.

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