School Run: a horror story

Bzzzzzt. WHAT’S THAT NOISE? And why has it interrupted the dream you were having about telling Chris Hemsworth to unpack the dishwasher, but in a sexy way? It’s your partner’s alarm clock, reminding him to get up and flee the house before anyone else has a chance to wake up and ask for anything. You’re sympathetic. It can’t be easy, every day, to put on pants and shoes.

You don’t need an alarm clock because you’ve been awake since 6 because he has to turn on every light in the house to get dressed, obviously, because imagine putting on one white sock and one grey sock! Haha, how embarrassing. His bosses definitely pay attention to what he wears and make judgements about him based on his outfit.

You get out of bed, making sure to trip over a shoe your kid left in the middle of the floor for no reason. It’s Wednesday. On Wednesdays they have PE, netball practice, piano lessons, and you take home the extra kid from down the street because his mum has a late uni tute and his dad can’t pick him up on account of having to make jokes about farts with the other guys in the team. Luckily you have a handy calendar inside your brain, so you never forget any of these things.

The cat has taken a shit on the kitchen floor. Haha! You try to wipe it up but the only paper towel left is the bit your partner dropped in the sink after he wiped up part of the cereal he spilled an hour ago. You think about selling the cat on Gumtree.

You go into your big kid’s room. It smells like a dead man burned his own hair. Your big kid says he doesn’t have to go to school today. He’s lying, and you know he is and he knows you know, but you still have to pretend like it’s not a conversation you have every single day of your terrible life. Get up, you say. He lifts his head a bit, like you might be tricked into thinking he’s awake when he’s actually still horizontal in front of your very eyes. Get up, you say again. Come on, it’s seven a.m.

When you try to remember what you’ve been doing since you woke up at 6, actual church bells just bang loudly inside your skull.

Your little kid slept with wet hair and now it’s full of tangles. You ask if you can gently brush them out. She tells you you’re the worst mum in the world and she hates you and is going to live with Ava’s mum. You get the biggest brush you have and coax out one knot. Your little kid screams so loudly the neighbours think about calling the police but don’t because their own kid is also screaming.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so after you’ve used scissors to cut out the biggest knot you stare into an empty bread bag and then smear some Vegemite on your hands. The coffee machine’s been broken for three weeks so you take a Women’s Executive Multi-Vitamin and think about an article you read on Huffington Post about how apples actually give you more energy than caffeine. There’s an apple from before last holidays at the bottom of your kid’s school bag, so you take a bite out of that and think about how sad it is that they outlawed partners from calling coffee machine repair people.

Your partner sends you a photo of the cat he saw while he was at the cafe near his work. You send him a photo of the empty toilet roll no one can remember how to replace.

Your big kid has been in his room for 15 minutes. You knock on the door and ask what he’s doing and he says Getting dressed but when you barge in, he’s still in his trackies and he’s just playing games on his phone. When you say, Why are you playing games on your phone? he says, I’m not, and keeps playing them right in front of you. You tell him he has TEN MINUTES TO GET DRESSED OR HE CAN GO LIKE THAT and he tells you he hasn’t got any socks, and maybe has never had any socks, if socks even exist at all. You find eight pairs of socks under his bed. None of them match.

You sit on the toilet for two minutes. In that time, you get yelled at by both your kids, your cat, your dog, the postie, a woman you went to school with, Karl Stefanovic, and the spirit of your mother.

There’s a fly sitting on the cat shit. You ask it if it knows where you put the big kid’s train ticket.

Finally your little kid has on everything she needs for her day. You say, Okay, grab your bag! but then her face changes and she says, I have to go as a sea creature today. And there’s a gold coin donation. And I have to take a plate of food to share with my class. You find the kettle chips you were hiding for yourself for after the kids are in bed and tell her they count as a plate of food. You wonder if you can make a kraken out of the sexy pantyhose you bought three years ago when you had enough energy to seduce the other adult who lives in your house. They have flamingos on them, which seemed hot at the time but now seems like an obstacle to a convincing sea creature so you find a bit of green ribbon in the weird drawer where all the Life stuff is and you staple it to your kid’s forehead as kelp, and you realise you can repurpose the new costume for book week (which now includes characters from books and movies and TV and Fantale wrappers).

You remind your big kid he has PE today. He pulls some old rags off the floor of his bedroom and puts them in his PE bag. The bag smells like the sulphurous centre of the earth has collided with a rotting whale carcass.

You say, Did you put your lunch in your bag? Unfortunately children are banned from putting their lunches in the first time you ask, so they haven’t. Your little kid says, We’re not allowed to take anything in packets anymore. You take all the lunch out of its packets and put it in an old McDonald’s bag and just shake it as hard as you can, being sure to quickly step in the cat shit. You type GET PAPER TOWEL into your brain calendar.

The children GET OUT THE FRONT DOOR after you yell it into their faces six or seven times. In the car, they argue about what radio station to listen to. They argue about what Spotify playlist to listen to. Your little kid kicks the back of your big kid’s chair. Your big kid looks at her funny. Your little kid hates him. Your big kid tells her she doesn’t have any friends. You play a funny prank which is to drive your car into oncoming traffic.

You’re halfway to school when your little kid tells you she forgot to bring the poster you made for her homework. You tell her she has to learn to take responsibility for her own things, while chucking a dangerous u-turn and going back into the house and finding the poster under every Shopkins toy ever made. When you get back in the car she’s crying because your big kid told her horses made of marshmallows don’t exist.

A man cuts you off and then gives you the finger. You think about following him to work and shouting at him about it and then hiding in the staff room to eat Arnott’s assorted cream biscuits while someone else worries about what your kids are doing.

Your partner sends you a picture of the fruit bowl near his desk. He’s used a Sharpie to draw faces on the bananas so they look like they’re screaming while you eat them.

You think about how relaxing it would be if someone ate you and you didn’t have to take the kids to school anymore. You get stuck at a pedestrian crossing for five minutes because the lollipop lady has a weird system of hand signals only she understands and you can’t figure out when you’re supposed to go. Your big kid says, I’m going to be LATE. Your little kid is still crying about the marshmallow horse thing but now she’s also crying because she saw a bird on the footpath and it might be hurt and can we please go back and check on it and call the vet and how could you just let it die?

You’re at the school gate. The kids get out and the teacher on duty says, Hello! and you wind down your window and tell her she can keep them since she clearly likes them so much. You tell them you’ll pick them up at the normal time according to the extremely reliable to-do list app in your cerebral cortex. They tell you they hate you. You drive at the speed of light to the coffee shop near school and every mum in the universe is there and you just want one latte and to never speak to anyone again for the rest of time, so you order yours to go and then you sit in the car and your phone rings and the vibration knocks over your keep cup and now your car is covered in coffee. You answer the phone and it’s the school calling because your little kid is bleeding from where you stapled the ribbon to her head, so even though it’s on a lease plan with Telstra for $FUCKTONS a month you throw the phone into the sea.

You check your brain calendar and it tells you to get paper towel, so you drive to the supermarket and find the one that’s both cheap and effective, and you figure you may as well get something for dinner while you’re here so you stand in front of the food and try to make a decision until you’re crying openly and an employee has to mop the floor around you. You put four things that don’t actually make a meal in to your basket and go to the checkout, where the bored person scanning the items says, How’s your day going?

And you say, Good thanks, you?



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Anna Spargo-Ryan

Anna Spargo-Ryan

Sometimes writer, frequent emotion haver. Tops mother, massive try-hard and friend. Wrote THE GULF and THE PAPER HOUSE.