CHILDISH THINGS • by Steven Hicks

My pops taught me, to look good you must have the right shoes. Now, he took off when I was 17, but he instilled in me that desire to look good, and I really loved my shoes. I had four pair of alligator skin in different colors, and two pair of Italian leather.

My moms always said to me about my shoes, “James, when you goin’ put them childish things down and grow up.”

Humph. I thought I had done that in September 2007, when I enlisted in the army. I told my moms that I was just… temporarily switching from one style to another. That day I left for boot, my moms told me to be careful, I was.

For three years, seven months, and fourteen days. On that day my world turned upside down outside Sanjin, Afghanistan. They told me later that Hank and Lightfeather were killed outright and Jake lasted three days. It was eight months before I got sent home.

My moms met me at the airport. The attendant brought me to a stop right in front of her. Already crying, she knelt down and held me, her sobs of ‘Oh my beautiful boy’ muffled in my jacket. I managed to find my voice long enough to say, “Mom… guess I finally got to put those childish things down.”

“James, you don’t hafta worry ‘bout that now, son. When you get those new legs, we will gets you some fancy shoes that fit.”

Four years have passed since I got my new legs and moms bought me my first pair of Ferragamos. I sit here, moments before my wedding, tying the laces on a new pair of fancy shoes, thinking about her.

I miss my moms—

A lot.

Steven Hicks is currently a graduate student in English Literature after starting over at the age of 50 with the encouragement of his wife. Sharing his love of writing with a new love of teaching, he is attempting to find balance between the two at La Sierra University in Riverside California. “Childish Things” is his second published short story.

Regular reader? We need your Patreon support.

Rate this story:
 average 3.4 stars • 34 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • judy

    It was a simple story. A short simple story. It was too easy to see what was coming and yet it had the ability to touch me. I believe the writer could have made it powerful without all the tragedy.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    I was left with the uncomfortable feeling of having read the punchline to the wrong joke.

    And this felt like a very early draft of something that needed to deepen and grow; something the author shouldn’t have been impatient to send out before it was fully realized. Right now it’s just a few paragraphs in the vein of O. Henry; showing the writer’s potential but little else. Three stars.

  • Oodles of unrealized potential to develop a meaningful story based on writing style instead of simply using emotion as a crutch to propel a story which covered a significant time span, but didn’t really take it very far.


  • S Conroy

    Wasn’t such a fan of the end (in particular the hyphenated formatting) but enjoyed the writing style, the voice and specially the circular shoe- theme. It’s neat how his dad’s departure and his traumatic time in Afghanistan turns out to be flashback with him tying his shoelaces before his next coming-of-age event.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    The emotion needed to be intensified in this piece, I felt.

  • The brevity of this story demanded plot swings that damaged the work in general. It seemed to me the points were thrown onto the page, that coupled with anemic dialogue made everything unfinished.

  • Gerald_Warfield

    A nice story with the return of the shoe element and the abiding love of his moms. However, the story seemed a little short because of the telling. I’d like to have hard the voice of the pops and perhaps have seen an example of how he loved his shoes.

  • Trollopian

    I guess I’m in a minority here, because I liked this very much. Yes, it manipulated our emotions, but artists, composers, and authors always do that….the question is whether they succeed. Heck, even formulas succeed; that’s why they’re formulas. This worked for me because of its spareness. Had the author gone on for much longer this would have become soppy. Instead, we were left to fill in details from our imaginations.

    I liked the biblical echo (1 Corinthians 13: “But when I grew up, I put away childish things”).

    I was mildly annoyed by “moms” as a singular and by his mother’s overly hick-sy syntax; I felt the author could have conveyed that mom (and narrator) came from a modest socio-economic background without that.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      I heard this in the voice of Joel Kinnaman which ended up making that annoying “moms” work, to my surprise.

    • Steven Hicks

      I appreciate your comments greatly. I fought with myself regarding the dialect, however, it was truly the way the people (who I modeled the characters after) spoke and not a comment on any particular socio-economic background.

      • Amy Sisson

        Nicely done!

  • Jeffrey Yorio

    A very enjoyable story, simple and meaningful. A story is as long as it needs to be and many end up writing themselves once you start.

  • I would so love the author to take another swing at this one. I very much enjoyed the story and the writing style, but it feels like it isn’t complete. As others have said, in parts it feels rushed and anxious to be released. There are careless little things that bother me here as well. Simple things like punctuation and writing at the end of the last sentence of the third paragraph: “That day I left for boot, my moms told me to be careful, I was.” (“I was” should be separated by a period from the prior sentence. Or at least a semicolon.)

    But aside from my minor nits, it was clear to me that this author has talent. Thus, I’d love to see each part of this story expanded, with more carefully-chosen words. I think there is great potential here, and I believe the author can make this story a lot better. 3 stars because I can’t give 3-1/2. If it was more polished it would be an easy 4 or more. Thanks for sharing.

    • Steven Hicks

      Scott, Thank you for your criticism. It was very helpful.

  • Chris Antenen

    Dear Reader/Writers: Remember when you wrote your first flash fiction and people told you to build the characters more, or add this or that, and you didn’t understand because the story had ended itself. You worked at it because that’s what you’re supposed to do after a critique from writers you trust. Many times it wound up in the recycle bin. Then you found there was such a thing as flash, micro fiction, short short stories, etc., and you heard yourself yelling, “Yippee! I knew those stories were finished.”

    Let’s not extend that criticism to this excellent short, short, short story. It’s complete as it is. The Vestal Revue only takes stories of 500 words. I believe it was one of the first on-line flash fiction publications. It’s been around for 16 years and now has a journal as well as the online stories.

    I found this story delightful. A light touch for a heavy story. I agree wholeheartedly with Jeffrey.

    Except for the period needed after the word ‘careful,’ and the fact that I thought he had two moms until the fifth paragraph with the word ‘her,’ and since I think editing is very important, I gave this a four instead of a five.

    Nice voice.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      I guess we can say “it is if I say it is,” and there are plenty of sites devoted to the nano-form and satisfying their audiences. I’ve been pretty skeptical of those but I read a couple of 101-word stories that even I thought were fully-realized.

      This is pretty subjective, and we feel what we feel. And no one can say their opinion is more valid than someone else’s, and no author can be faulted for going with praise rather than a negative critique.

      In my own view, those nano-sites publish anecdotes and fragments rather than stories, for the most part. And it’s fine to be satisfied with that. But I think it’s a bit hazardous to the nurturing of a writer’s gifts to be satisfied too soon.