By Melanie Boeckmann

He is wrestling with tiredness while the wife packs her blue overnight bag. Will she take the pretty pencil skirts? See-through underwear? Anything to transform her into a non-mother, a non-wife. Just Julie again. He blinks twice and what she packs now is a non-fiction book on urban gardening and her running shoes. His interest wanes. As he finishes his dinner on the couch, she calls her friend and tinkers with the keys on their piano for a second. She closes her eyes while playing. “Ready to be a single dad for the weekend?” she asks and laughs. He nods solemnly, they kiss, and then she leaves. He turns on the TV and dozes off for a minute. Right on cue his daughter starts crying, tucking at his fatherly heart. They have grown accustomed to each other, his deep voice and her piercing screams complementing each other. Most nights are spent like this: His large hand encompassing her entire arm, almost. He picks her up and hums a song. His girl calms down and he wishes for a film crew to be here here and witness this moment while it lasts. His exercise in humility before their power relations will shift again. And they will. They always do: not once since she was born has he outlasted her incessant crying. “We’re getting there, right sweetheart?” he whispers into her ear.

But when he tucks his child in again, just as he makes sure the red fleece blanket is securely fastened around his baby’s body, suddenly all he can think of is using an ice pick to drill a hole into her skull. Or a hammer, a regular one will do, to smash in her tiny brain. He smells blood, touches his nostrils but his hand comes back dry and pale. His hands are shaking. This is not my story, he thinks, I have only read about this. It is a stolen version, plagiarism of intrusive thoughts. Probably read too many violent novels. An illusion is all. I should make tea, he tells himself. He pours bourbon into his glass. Tea can wait. “What is happening?” He slams the glams on the kitchen table and closes his eyes. Hands over his ears. He hears whispered instructions drowning out the screaming from the nursery: “Strangle her, rip out her extremities, just throw her out the window. It will be nice and quiet, always. Julie will be just Julie and let you in her pants again.” He starts slapping himself in the face, just slightly first, then with more focus and more determination. He must be sick. He must have eaten something rotten, the chemicals messing up his brain. Shut up, shut up! He must be crying, or why is his shirt so wet? And the throbbing pain on his forehead? His head is bloody, now, he vaguely remembers banging his head against the door frame. Why is he holding the knife in his hand? “Please, shut up” he begs as he stabs himself in the arm and slowly cuts into his face.

The neighbors call the police after the baby has not stopped screaming for over an hour and nobody answered the door.

When the wife returns from her trip without her bag but with a harrowed look of fear on her face, called in by a police officer who gently hinted at the option “to speak to somebody”, she rushes towards the hospital and picks up her unharmed child. The precious little girl stops sobbing as soon as she hears the familiar humming of her favorite song.

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I am working as a PhD researcher in Public Health in Germany. I write both flash fiction and long-form short stories and go running in between the two.

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