A Tug of War

“You’re doing it wrong.” I jumped. Mother rolled her eyes, “The strokes should be horizontal. Not vertical,” she said.

“Oh!” I said as she took the paint brush from my hand, demonstrating the correct way.

“I spent all these days trying to grow a few roses for your grandmother, but they always die. The ones you grew lasted for weeks. Maybe you can help me.”

“You should ask Father if you want to know how to grow the perfect flowers, my skills don’t compare to his.”

She ignored my comment. “One day, you are going to be one of the best painters in our family; one day, you will surpass my skills,” Mother said, smiling. Of course that was never going to be true. Mother paints faces so realistically that you can mistake them for photographs. “Now, your turn.” I took the paint brush from her hand, dragging it from one end of the paper to another.

After what seemed like hours, we finally finished the painting that we had been working on. I frowned and cringed at the painting simultaneously, “It looks horrid.” 

“I think it looks beautiful,” Mother said. I forced my frown to deepen. I wasn’t in the mood to be content.

“It looks like a pool of blood with a big pile of shit in the middle,” I grumbled.

Mother frowned, “You sound like your father, always complaining like it’s going to magically make things better.” There was a knock on the door. “Speak of the devil,” she muttered.

She hurried down the stairs and I followed her. She swung the door open, almost making the door hit my face.

“Alexander,” said Mother, giving him a look of repugnance.

“Marie,” said Father, doing the same, but still giving out a hand.

She took it, and instantly gagged, pulling back. Father’s eyes narrowed, he gripped my wrist and pulled me to his side, and started walking the other way, ripping Mother’s grasp.

We reached his farms, where we would start pulling out weeds. In Father’s words, “Farming is joy, and since joy must be in life, farming must be in life.” My back ached when we were done, even walking was painful. He set the plates on the table; there was an unidentifiable dish. I instantly took mine and started eating. I didn’t care what was placed, I just needed food in my stomach, though once I had three bites in my mouth, I slowed down. Whatever it was, it tasted horrible.

“How’s dinner?” Father asked.

“Fine.” I replied. Though Mother would have made it better.

“What did you do at your mother’s?”


“Am I not allowed to know?”

“I painted a rainbow and then we painted a flower together. We also went downtown to visit her mother.”

“Painting. Such a stupid thing. What is painting going to bring in life? Money? Joy? Nothing. That’s what it brings.”

“I think it’s fun. Hard at times, but fun.” He huffed, “Stick with farming , it’ll bring more happiness, and much more money.”

“Why can’t I do both?”

“Because you can’t!” He yelled. I kept quiet. After dinner, I went to bed. The bed felt like it was made of bricks, which didn’t help my mood. I thought about dinner; I liked farming but I equally l liked painting. I loved Mother as much as I loved Father. How could I choose? I couldn’t choose. I felt my eyes closing. I didn’t stop them. I had had enough. Just like that, I fell asleep.

A split second later, I was back in Father’s garden, who was tending to the flowers, while mother was painting on her canvas. I had never seen them like this, completely calm, not minding each other’s company. Both of them stared at me.

“Which one will you choose?” both of them asked simultaneously.  I looked at the canvas, then the garden. The painting had me sitting on Mother’s lap, smiling. I walked towards the canvas. I liked the idea of eternal happiness, no complaining, not having to break my back every day. I took Mother’s hand. I looked at where Father stood, I barely saw him, he was almost translucent. I ran over to him. I reached for him, he came back. I heard a scream. I looked over to see Mother. I ran back to Mother’s, then back to Father’s, and then back to Mother’s again. I went back and forth till I stopped in the middle, panting. This was how it was always going to be. A tug of war with me in the middle.

// This fictional story has been penned by 12-year-old Aniya Burse from Indianapolis, IN during the regular creative writing classes while learning to create conflicts in a story //

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