Question marks in various colours

Riddle Me This: Flash Fiction

‘Do fish have eyebrows?’

I was in the middle of a budget meeting on Zoom when my three-and-a-half-year-old son, Sam, popped up in the background and asked the question.

My boss laughed politely at my son’s unexpected appearance and gave Sam a small wave. 

“Cute kid,’ she said with a strained smile. ‘…So back to the profit and loss sheet—’

Sam tugged on my sleeve. ‘Well do they?’

I indicated to my boss that I just needed a minute. I turned to Sam and shifted into “I’m-trying-really-hard-to-be-a-present-Mother” mode. 

‘Sorry, darling. Do they what?’

Sam huffed. ‘Have eyebrows.’ 

‘Well…’ I had to think about my answer – like really think about it. ‘…No, I don’t think so.’

I turned back to the computer screen but there was another tug on my sleeve, more urgent this time.

I took a deep breath. ‘Yes…Sam.’ I was trying to sound patient but it was hard with my boss giving me a mega death stare.

Sam’s brow crinkled, giving him an earnest look well beyond his years. ‘Why not? Why don’t they have eyebrows?’

‘I don’t know, darling.’

‘But why?’ he cried, his tiny hands clenched into fists by his side. ‘W-h-y!’

The Zoom call ended in a cacophony of frustrated cries and tears – mine and Sam’s – and marked the transformation of my son into “The Riddler”.

As time went on the questions became more complicated and unexpected, usually coming out of context. I was in the middle of a dentist appointment when Sam asked me whether bread lost its nutritional value when it was toasted…He was four. How did he even know the word “nutritional”?

Our family and friends thought Sam’s insatiable appetite for random facts was endearing, and I wanted to encourage my son’s curious nature, but it wasn’t easy. His impassioned and sometimes convoluted queries were relentless. More often than not I couldn’t provide a satisfactory answer. It was exhausting.

While Sam’s friends were finger painting, he was reading every 1001 Facts book he could get his hands on. 

By the time Sam was ten, he would start a conversation with, ‘I have two questions and a statement’. I should have been happy that he still wanted to share things with me, that he came to me instead of google with his questions, but it was a lot to deal with among the thousands of competing demands on my time. 

But now…I’d give anything for one of Sam’s questions. I’d welcome the interruption. I’d stop whatever I was doing and give him my full attention. I’d tell myself nothing was more important than being there for my son…but it was too late. 

Now, I’m the one who asks the questions. ‘How was your day?’, ‘What are you doing tonight?’, ‘What would you like for dinner?’. My questions hang unanswered in the air – unless you count grunts and one syllable words as answers. 

Sam is no longer The Riddler – he’s officially a teenager.

To stay in the know about my books and to receive content like this, sign up here.
Photo by Leeloo Thefirst via Pexels.

Kylie Fennell
Follow me