Every day the same.
The same routine. His mother leaning over him as he wakes up in the racing car bed. The same two slices of toast, crusts cut off, and covered in strawberry jam. Today, and every day he still remembers, the jam pot is emptied, and he gets to sit there in his chair a little longer, scooping up the last traces from inside the jar and tasting the sweetness. His mother sits at the table opposite him, swirling the ice in her glass, and they talk about what he’ll do at school. She laughs at how decided he is.
He half-hears a half-understood word his mother breathes while looking at the clock, and sits stoically through the flurry of action. She grabs her purse, hunts for her keys, leaves the plate and pot on the side with the others to deal with later.
In the car, she ties his shoes, puts his jumper back on the right way round, buckles him in. The drive to school passes quickly – he knows all the words to the songs on the radio, and sings along loudly. He even knows when the horn will blare out, and makes that noise too.
She hugs him too tightly, and he wriggles free, setting off across the playground to the bright blue classroom door. His shoelace comes undone halfway across, but he doesn’t stop. He’s only going to take them off in a minute, put them in the cubbyhole underneath his coat peg. Today and always, it’s a smiling giraffe. He likes the giraffe best.
The morning passes quickly – storytime, sat on the beanbags in the “quiet corner”. Always the same witch, always the same clever children. Today, and everyday, he sits close to the teacher, seeing the brightly-coloured pictures change as the words wash over him.
Then snack time – little cartons of orange juice with white plastic straws. Every day, it’s funny to pretend the straw is a snorkel, a walking stick, an elephant’s nose. There are biscuits too; chocolate-filled bourbons today – once a surprise, always a treat.
He plays in the sandbox with Molly until lunchtime, building lop-sided towers and little heaps that they pretend are kittens. Molly always picks the same names for the kittens, but he doesn’t mind; he likes Molly. She has wavy hair and freckles on her nose.
He wolfs lunch down, uncaring – it’s unimportant, and he has to rush outside and play. The big kids let him play football with them, laughing at his clumsy attempts to kick the ball, to keep pace with them as they rush up and down the field. But today, every today, is the day he scores – kicks almost at random, and watches it trickle past a goalie distracted by an untied shoe. The big kids cheer, and laugh, and celebrate. Lunch is the best bit of the day.
After lunch, there’s only an hour. He plays with Molly again, and Toby. Toby’s fat, but doesn’t mind being the witch, so he and Molly escape again and again from the cottage. Everyday, just before hometime, she says he’s her friend. He could draw every freckle on her nose, but they don’t do drawing on Wednesdays, so he doesn’t.
He falls asleep waiting for his mother – she’s running late every today, so he curls up on the beanbag chairs in his coat, and thinks about tomorrow. The sky darkens slowly to a deep purple, and the crickets start to sing. He can hear his teacher in the other room, talking softly on the phone.When he wakes up, he’ll be at home again, ready for Wednesday. It’s a good day. It’s always a good day.
This story was written for this prompt:
You the protagonist are stuck in a time-loop much like “Groundhog Day.” However, you are in grade school.
I wasn’t amazingly faithful to the prompt, but the idea of a child, rather than an adult, looping was an interesting one. How old would they have to be to notice? How old would they have to be to care.
I tried, as well, with this one, to subtly suggest a larger narrative that fills in some of the blanks, offers answers to the questions raised. I’m not sure how well that has worked. The people who have read and commented on this story in the past have had radically different views on what is happening and the overall atmosphere, which is not particularly enlightening.
I’d be very grateful for any thoughts and impressions on this story. What sort of tone does it have? Why is he looping? What happens off-stage?
Let me know what you think.