Short Stories on Tall And True

Palm Motel - Snap, Crackle, Pop!

Snap, Crackle, Pop!

  12+  The chemical reaction when I pour the jug of milk onto my cereal sparks a memory: "Snap, crackle, pop!" Growing up, Mum bought us bland wheat cereals for breakfast. "You need the fibre," she'd say, cutting short complaints and requests from my sisters and me for more popular brands.

But if we stayed at a motel on the drive up the coast for our summer holidays, Mum would let us choose a mini-box of cereal from the buffet. And I'd leap for the Rice Bubbles, fearing it'd be the only box and my big sisters might beat me to it.

I smile at the irony of recalling the childhood memory in a motel on my way up the coast to meet my sisters for a family conference about Mum.

"We could schedule it over Zoom," I'd suggested when my oldest sister, Peggy, called.

"No, Paul," she'd asserted, "we need to talk face-to-face. You, Trudy and me sitting around a table."

Stirring my cereal, I imagine how my middle sister, Trudy, responded to Peggy's summons. She had to fly from interstate and hire a car, but Trudy always bowed to our big sister's wishes. That's why she'd moved to the other side of the country, to escape Peggy's shadow.

Fortunately for me, as the "afterthought" child, there were so many years between us that I never experienced the full force of my bossy big sister. But I remember the young me wishing teenage Trudy would show more bottle and stand up to Peggy.

Yet here I am, in my thirties, eating a bowl of Rice Bubbles at a motel, heading up the coast for a family conference at my big sister's command. It could be a scene from a movie. Unfortunately for me, not Rocky or Gladiator.

"You can also visit Mum in the hospital," Peggy had added on the phone. "It'll help you understand our options."

After her stroke, Mum gave Peggy power of attorney. It made sense because she lived closer to Mum and visited her more regularly. I tried to get up the coast at least once a year, and sometimes Trudy would be there, too. But she had her own family, and I understood Trudy's anxiety in our big sister's company.

"The options?" I'd quizzed Peggy.

"Mum can't stay in hospital indefinitely or live at home alone," she'd explained. "We need to find her suitable residential care."

"But you know the local options better than us," I'd protested, sounding like a whiny little brother.

"We need to do this as a family, Paul," Peggy had insisted. "For Mum!"

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My cereal had gone soggy, reflecting on my conversation with Peggy and our childhood. Mum had struggled, especially after Dad left. But we always had a roof over our heads and food on the table, even if we occasionally complained about it. And we had our summer holidays and each other.

I swallow a lump, walk to the buffet and grab three mini-boxes of Rice Bubbles.

© 2024 Robert Fairhead

Thanks to StockSnap from Pixabay for sharing the motel sign image.

I wrote "Snap, Crackle, Pop!" for the Australian Writers' Centre's February 2024 Furious Fiction writing challenge. The brief for the 500-word short story was:

  • The first sentence had to include something being POPPED.
  • The story had to include a character referencing a FILM title.
  • And include the words LEAP, BOTTLE and SHADOW.

As the Writers' Centre explained, "We’ve chosen POPPED because there are a lot of things that could be doing such a thing. Some might come to mind immediately – but allow yourself time to think of some more unique ideas too."

An obvious choice was popping a cork or a balloon or (as a writer friend chose) an idea popping into a protagonist's mind.

However, I recalled the sound of my favourite cereals, "Snap, crackle, pop!". And how, as kids, my brother and I loved those mini-boxes of Rice Bubbles whenever we stayed at a motel.

Like adding milk to the cereals, I blended my childhood memory with a middle-aged situation a friend is facing with their mother. But I didn't know how it would end until the words of the last sentence flowed from my fingers. As I posted on Twitter/X:

"Woah! I just finished my first draft for February's Furious Fiction and shed tears typing the last lines."

I didn't get showcased or longlisted for February, but I wrote a short story of which I'm proud and one that moved me. What more can a writer ask for?

You might like to read my first showcased Furious Fiction short story, Family Reflections.


Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.

Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story. In 2021, Robert published his first twelve short stories for the Furious Fiction writing competition, Twelve Furious Months, and in 2022, his second collection of Furious Fictions, Twelve More Furious Months. And in 2023, he published an anthology of his microfiction, Tall And True Microfiction.

Besides writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.

He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ~ Maya Angelou

Tall And True showcases the writing — fiction, nonfiction and reviews — of a dad and dog owner, writer and podcaster, Robert Fairhead. Guest Writers are also invited to share and showcase their writing on the website.

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