Gerry Pajamas

Red SunsetI’m trying something different today. A friend sent me this flash fiction story and asked for feedback. I asked if I could share it with a broader audience — namely all of you — and she said please do. If you’re willing to comment we’d love to get your thoughts on Gerry Pajamas.

You can get as detailed as you want, but we’d be grateful just to know:

1. In general, how does the story hit you?

2. There are two versions of the story — one told in 1st person, the other in 3rd person. Which version works better?

Gerry Pajamas

(1st Person Version)

It was Parents and Teachers Day at school, and I didn’t see why I should be there.

My red-haired mother was asking the teacher, “Are you going to pass him?” and I of course knew

she was asking the teacher to make an exception, instead of complaining to him that he’d hit me,

hit me on the head the first week of school when I read aloud from a library book.

The sentence was “Muslims are lovers of laughter,” and I put an s on the final word,

right at the front- I thought it was funny how one little letter could make such a difference.

The teacher hit me with a Bible and said, “God doesn’t love you, Gerry Pajamas.”

I’d gotten that nickname the previous year wearing footed pajamas to school– They were under

my coat, so my dad didn’t notice– pajamas of teddy bears holding balloons, floating in

clouds and all of them smiling– the teddies, the sun, the clouds, the balloons.

The teacher was nodding though no one had spoken. He makes it difficult, don’t you agree?

And my mother nodded– You can say that again….              Am I going to pass? I asked, walking home.

Not that I cared but it mattered to mother and what mattered to mother always mattered to me.

My mother took a cigarette out of her purse. I tossed those pajamas, she said. She was lying.

You’ve got to start learning how to blend in. But I knew better, and eluded her hands.

Why do I make it difficult, though? By Why, I meant How– I got them mixed up.

I don’t know, she said. You were born that way. You gnawed on my nipples with pink little gums. Somewhere inside you, I think there’s a rat. It gnaws itself out of wherever you put it.

I liked that she’d turned our talking to rats– I saw rats making tunnels in sawdust and cheese.

I saw myself tall and thin and adult, running the lab where my dad used to work.

And the rats were white, and the people were black. The people had whiskers and windup tails

and whenever they stepped where I’d said they shouldn’t, I gave them a shock, and their eyes glared red.

“A rat in the house may eat the ice cream,” I said to my mother.    And the sun going down

made the grass catch fire. It burned like red hair, like a ladybug’s children. So then I felt hungry

for barbecue chips but mother never liked it when I said things like that, so I just smacked my lips

to kind of suggest it and she said, “Oh, Gerry, you should smile more often.”  That was the day

I set the first fire.

Gerry Pajamas

(3rd Person Version)

It’s Parents and Teachers Day at school. Gerry doesn’t see why he should be there.

His red-haired mother is asking the teacher, “Are you going to pass him?” and Gerry knows

she’s asking the teacher to make an exception. This teacher hit Gerry on the head last week

when Gerry read aloud from a library book. The sentence was “Muslims are lovers of laughter.”

Gerry put an s on the final word. The teacher hit Gerry with a Bible and said,

“God doesn’t love you, Gerry Pajamas.” Gerry once wore pajamas to school–

under his coat, so his dad didn’t notice– pajamas of teddy bears holding balloons

floating in clouds and all of them smiling– the sun, the teddies, the clouds, the balloons.

The teacher is talking to Gerry’s mother. He makes it difficult, don’t you agree?

His mother nods, You can say that again….               Am I going to pass? Gerry asks, walking home.

Not that he cares but it matters to his mother and what matters to his mother always matters to him.

His mother takes a cigarette out of her purse. I tossed those pajamas, she says, but she’s lying.

You’ve got to start learning how to blend in. But Gerry knows better, and eludes her hands.

Why do I make it difficult, though? By Why he means How– he gets them mixed up.

I don’t know, she says. You were born that way. You gnawed on my nipples with your little pink gums. Somewhere inside you, I think there’s a rat. It gnaws itself out of wherever you put it.

Gerry smiles to himself, thinking of rats, rats making tunnels in sawdust and cheese.

He sees himself tall and thin and adult, running the lab where his dad used to work.

And the rats are white, and the people are black. The people have whiskers and windup tails.

And whenever they step where he’s said they shouldn’t, he gives them a shock, and their eyes glare red.

“A rat in the house may eat the ice cream,” Gerry says to his mother.        And the sun going down

makes the grass catch fire. It burns like red hair, like a ladybug’s children, and Gerry feels hungry

for barbecue chips so he smacks his lips at his mother who says, It’s so good to see you

finally smile. And that was the day he set his first fire.

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