Side Effects

The government has issued a warning that a particular (and common) household item is having an unusual side effect on children. Worse yet, you own this item. You rush home to check on your kids. When you get there, you’re shocked to find that your kids have … . Write this scene.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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8 thoughts on “Side Effects

  1. kathleenmagner

    Melinda stopped short of turning off the engine. Holding her breath, she listened to the reporter wrap up the radio announcement. The dulcet tones relaying the FCC warning faded into tinny transitional music promising the forthcoming interview with a biologist and his discovery of some new subtropical species of butterfly.

    Before the lepidopterology segment began, Melinda flicked the key lodged in the ignition, silencing the sedan’s rumbling and inquisitive interviewer. A check on her watch showed the hands nearing eight.

    “Don’t be on time tonight,” she whispered.

    The reporter’s words, the near right angle on the watch face and the thought of splashing water and another nighttime of wails quickened her pulse.

    Hustling her purse and briefcase from the passenger seat, Melinda slipped behind the wheel and into the humid night. She didn’t feel the clinging air, however, and her heels rounded the bumper and mounted the porch stairs on instinct. Jabbing the front door’s key into the lock, she hurried inside.

    The gush of water leapt from her worries and filled the hallway, undercut by Ted’s humming and a round of giggles. Dumping her briefcase and purse, Melinda trotted down the corridor, homing in on the bathroom’s gurgle. She flung the door open without slowing.


    Ted glanced over his shoulder while Vicki slapped at the bathwater. Her pudgy hands cast droplets onto his arms, bare in his faded souvenir tee-shirt from a concert back in ‘92, dampened his ruddy stubble and the bags beneath his weary eyes.

    “Look who’s finally home, Vi,” said Ted.

    Pivoting away, he scooped frothy water into a red plastic up and dribbled it over Vicki’s head. She tittered with glee and clapped her hands. When she swayed in the tub seat, he slipped one pale hand beneath her armpit like he might have a guitar’s neck and held her steady until she sat upright on her own.

    Coming to his side, Melinda knelt, her a-line skirt stretching around her knees. “Have you used the shampoo?”

    Ted scooped another cupful of bathwater. “Mommy doesn’t know our schedule very well does she?”

    Melinda hugged her arms around herself, her body feeling small, empty and surprisingly fragile.

    “Ted,” she whispered. “Please.” She swallowed the sudden warble in her voice.

    He glanced over, the severity in his square-jawed features ebbing. “I was about to.”

    Spying the honey yellow bottle, Melinda plucked it from the tub’s rim and skimmed the ingredients. The third on the list made her shudder. She snapped closed the lid and cradled the bottle in her hands.

    “I’m going to need that,” said Ted.

    “I heard a warning on my way home.” She twisted the label into his view, her thumb beneath the multisyllabic threat. “The FCC believes it’s causing sleep disorders in infants and toddlers.”


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  2. annefreemanimages

    I was curious regarding how a writer would approach this topic. Very cute story and idea! I would suggest cutting down on the length of some of the sentences, or use a little more punctuation with them. Sometimes they were a little hard to follow.


  3. jmiff328

    You didn’t ask for comments so I’m not sure that you want them but here you go. I thought the story was well written. It flowed well and kept my interest. The only criticism I could have would be the length. It is about 800 words. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sgt. Peppers64

    I was distracted while listening to the radio on my way to work that Saturday. I usually tuned it out since that was the only time where I drove alone since my kids were at home with their dad and I put in some overtime hours at work. There was a discussion with a certain doctor on the radio that really caught my attention: they had recently discovered that aloe vera shampoo had side effects in lab rats. They had noticed that these rats had become really hyper and were acting strange in the recent study and they issued a warning to any parent who may have this shampoo made with aloe vera extract should be careful not to have around kids or pets for they still didn’t know the whole side effect it may have on them.
    I immediately turned back around and headed home. I was trying to call my husband but there was no answering when I called his cell phone. I wondered if they had used that shampoo that morning and I recalled my 3 year old Kenny was actually playing in the bathtub when she left the house. My heart started beating harder now. I tried calling the house phone once again but there was no answer, then the cell phone without any luck. This seemed very strange to me since Charlie is attached to his phone 24/7 so there was something weird going on here.
    I finally pulled in the driveway, jumped out of the car and rushed inside the house. I could not believe what my eyes were witnessing: it was as if a storm had just hit the house. Everything was on the floor: furniture, magazines, books, toys… practically everything was thrown on the floor. I started calling for Charlie but there was no answer.
    “Charlie, are you home?” I was secretly not expecting an answer and so I decided I should walk upstairs. As I was walking upstairs I could hear footsteps running frenetically in every direction. I stopped at the top of the stairs, I first looked inside the bathroom. Everything was a mess there as well but no sign of anyone there.
    Then I heard Kenny giggling out in the family room upstairs so I turned around and met Charlie in the hall who was standing there, looking as perplexed as if he’d just seen a ghost. He was moving his head up and down, side to side in such a speed, like watching a bird flying all over the room trying to break free.
    I paused before I could regain the strength to walk towards the family room where Charlie was while I still heard little Kenny laughing loudly, she hadn’t heard him this happy before, Kenny was such a quiet and shy baby and his laughter was so out of character that it seemed odd to me, for some reason. One look on my husband’s face said it all: there was definitely something wrong with our kid.
    What I saw in that room left me speechless. I quickly went to my husband side and took a look at what was happenning to my little Kenny. I could simply not believe my own eyes: I was trying to focus on one point of the room but I could hardly keep an eye on Kenny for he was running so fast that he literally could climb up and down walls and ceiling as naked as the day he was born, giggling uncontrollably as if he was posessed. Charlie and I could only observe as Kenny was running at an incredible speed, even around us without stopping for a split second so we could get a word in. Had my son suddenly acquired superpowers? How long will they effect last? How were we gonna handle this now?
    As I opened up my mouth to speak, Kenny suddenly stopped in the middle of the room. He had the bigggest smile on his face. He always could make me smile and forget about the world with that smile of his. “I love you, Mum” he said, still giggling. His hair was puffed up as if his hair had been blowndried. All the walls, ceiling and wood floors were wet and still had some bubbles from the bathtub, although my child was totally dry. I tried not to look shaken up in front of Kenny, even though I was. My husband and I looked at each other but didn’t cross a word we were so stunned. All I could do was to open up my mouth, take a deep breath, turn to Kenny and reply ” I love you too, Pumpkin”


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