Fiction · 08/12/2020

A Prophecy About Parents and Quarantine

In the front yard, we load our water guns, tell our children enough is enough, hold the barrel of the Super Soaker to their foreheads. “Any last words?” I ask but don’t wait for an answer.

After weeks of being held captive, enduring daily tortures, we parents have developed a bloodlust that can be satiated only by the cries of our children begging for mercy.

If what ensues were a Netflix Original Movie, I would be played by some merciless god, because that’s how I feel as I crush their skulls into the mud, shouting, “You want more ice cream now?!”

Kids down the block step outside and cry when they see what’s happening. Me: holding up a decapitated stuffed animal from one of my kids’ collections; My kids: tied to a tree unable to help their comrade. This is war, children. Learn to tie your own knots.

Parents look on with concern as I body slam my three-year-old into the mud while my wife sprays our five-year-old with the water hose, asking, “Why does it stink in the living room? Where did you hide last week’s meatloaf?!”

We fill up trash bags with the crumbs they’ve left all over the house, cut holes in them, use them as hand-held bombs we throw at them, shouting “Clean up after yourselves, you dirty bastards!”

And while all of these are effective, our heaviest artillery is shouting things at them that they don’t want to hear: “All of the candy at the store has been bought! It was the first thing to go.” “Bath time will go on as scheduled!” Things like this break their spirits.

When the battle is over, the war won, we stand on the battleground and look down our cul-de-sac, full of parents in their driveways covering their children’s faces, and we spit in their direction. We rip off our shirts and bang on our chests at the children playing on their swing sets, daring them to ever try to come over to our house again, even after the outbreak is over.

To celebrate our victory, we make our kids pay reparations in the way of massaging our shoulders and our feet, now sore from kicking ass all day.

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Jared Lemus is a Latinx writer whose work has appeared in the Kenyon Review Online, PANK, Prime Number Magazine, and is forthcoming in Kweli, Joyland, and Cleaver. He is an MFA candidate at the University of Pittsburgh, where he has been awarded the William S. Dietrich Fellowship.