Rejected Feel-Good Essay Pitches for Melania Trump’s New Magazine for Modern Parents
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor”
In order to make ends meet, a single mom moves out of the one-bedroom apartment where she’s been living with her two kids. For about half the rent, which is still about 40% of her monthly paycheck, she takes a lease on a shoebox in an up-and-coming neighborhood. It isn’t a metaphor shoebox. It’s a square foot plot of land where a box that presumably once held the landlord’s boots has been Krazy-Glued to a patch of cement and the words “Home Sweet Home” written in permanent marker across the top. The “me” in “Home” overlaps slightly with the shoebox’s barcode, obscuring the word’s final letters and thereby creating the pun that the landlord pointed out three different times during signing. The mom and her kids sleep in their car, using the shoebox only to store their toothbrushes and collect mail. She knows she could save even more money if she stopped renting the shoebox altogether and just kept the toothbrushes in the car, but she needs to maintain a residence in her kids’ school district. Sometimes the car sits upwards of four blocks from the shoebox at night, since rent doesn’t include off-street parking.
“Pump and Dump”
In order to make ends meet, a single mom goes twice a week to The Kindness Center, where she volunteers to lie down on a donor bed and get fitted with an IV that takes out her blood about 75ml at a time, spins it through a machine that removes her kindness, and returns the stripped cells into her body. At the end of each visit a jug of 825ml Kindness (the allotted donation determined by her body weight) is sent to families who have medical need of it, and another $40 is added to a debit card she was issued by the Kindness Center techs. She still has plenty of the kindness she needs to live, don’t worry. But the combination of dehydration and fatigue certainly makes it harder not to yell at the children when she gets them from school after the procedure.
“The Importance of Hygiene”
In order to make ends meet, a single mom sells her used panties online. Someone buys them and uses them to hold the gun during a bank robbery. Her DNA is all over the evidence, so the mom goes to jail. Funny, she says to herself. Why didn’t I think of robbing a bank?
In order to make ends meet, a single mom answers a job ad for the Human Waste Museum, where she will pretend to be a mannequin in an exhibit about poverty. The museum’s patrons are rich white ladies who get off on crying about the realistically depicted living conditions displayed in each of the museum’s cases. The mom’s museum case is one in which she is pretending to day-drink and watch Caillou over the tangled heads of two children. She is in the training program right now – the real money starts coming in once she dies and they can taxidermy her body into this same display position. Her children will be the beneficiaries of her pay raise, so long as they make sure to return the body to the Museum within a 48-hour window of her death, referred to in her contract only as the “promotion event”. The museum staff tell her she gets a sign-on bonus if she can start bringing her own children to the museum to replace the aging taxidermy children they’ve been using. Sure, she could use the money, but she wouldn’t be allowed to comb her kids’ hair anymore. She’s thinking about it.
“A Child’s Garden”
In order to make ends meet, a single mom gives away all of her kids’ toys in order to turn the living room of her apartment into a “toy nursery”, where rich people store their own children’s toys any time they have company and don’t want the house full of clutter. It’s an okay gig, but she has to repeatedly explain to her kids that they can’t actually play with the rich people’s toys during storage hours, because they need to be returned in perfect condition or she could lose clients. In the absence of conventional amusement, the kids start playing with the cleaning products under the sink. The hospital visit that ensues is covered by Medicaid, but the long-term impact of the damage can’t ever be meaningfully offset. They don’t play much at all now.
“It Takes A Village”
In order to make ends meet, a single mom takes on a remote writing job in addition to her two day jobs. The hourly doesn’t cover the cost of childcare, so she stays up at night to complete this work while the kids are sleeping. Her gig is as a time travelling advice columnist, answering questions from parents in the year 2029. Those future parents are taking care of their own kids about two years into the Heat Crisis Event, at which point everyone who is still alive has more or less accepted that the world is burning. It makes her work easier, being able to mostly stick to questions about screen time and self-care, though once in a while someone will ask about turf wars for the lowest radiation playgrounds and she has to flub her way through the answer and hope she isn’t killing any future people in the process. One night she gets a question from a mom whose kids have the same names as hers. She stops typing, puts on her slippers, and walks to the stove. The sound of boiling coffee water muffles her crying as she refuses to name the obscene hope that she and her children will survive this. She vows, if they do, to write a letter to this version of herself, poured as she is on the dirty kitchen floor, begging the moon to devour her quickly and still let her wake in time for the drive to school.
Jessica Lawson is a Pushcart-nominated writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus; Dreginald; Entropy; Fanzine; The Wanderer; and elsewhere. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, and an MFA from CU-Boulder, where she served as an editor for Timber Journal. Her manuscript, Gash Atlas, was a finalist for the Nightboat Poetry Prize. She lives and teaches in Colorado.
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