“Sad Acorn Review,” by Hayley Rosenfield

Dec 20th, 2017 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

It had not been a good Christmas Eve for the Nyhus family. It started off all wrong when Eric arrived late donning a new girl on his arm, a woman the family had no idea even existed, let alone would be joining them for the evening. Her name was Eden, and while friendly enough, she wore so many fake gold bangles on her arm that it caused a racket while taking communion at First Lutheran that night.

Jim was back fresh from his first semester at Madison’s creative writing MFA program. Not only did he bring home a new girlfriend, whom his parents had heard of, approved of, and expected for the holiday, but also the real pride of his semester—a short story he’d hoped to read to his family.

“Professor Bell loves it,” he’d told them later that night, when they’d finished unwrapping gifts. He lifted it slowly out of his briefcase in the soft glow of the multicolored tree lights. “He says I have a real shot at being published.”

That was a great joy to Mr. and Mrs. Nyhus, up until Jim had finished reading the first page, and it became clear that each character was only a thinly-veiled, unflattering portrait of each family member. Eric became “Aaron,” a jock who, despite his handsome appearance, left women profoundly disappointed; his mom became “Suzie,” whose interests ran no deeper than the latest Sears catalogue; his dad became “Dan,” who just couldn’t wait to die. Jim’s girlfriend, Sylvia, seemed to have no place in the story. There were, however, many sultry brunettes for whom the protagonist of the story expressed strong and unsettling desires.

A long silence followed Jim’s reading. Sylvia stared down at her wool-covered knees. Some crumpled-up wrapping paper unfolded by his foot.

“Huh,” Mr. Nyhus grunted. He took a swig of Budweiser and removed his new watch from its packaging. Mrs. Nyhus had returned to the cookie tray, which suddenly demanded rearranging.

“You should’ve made me sexier,” Eric said, reaching his arm around the back of the mustard yellow chair that he and Eden shared. “It would’ve been truer to life that way.” His chest hair spilled over his polyester polka dot shirt.

“Hold on, I think you all misunderstood,” Jim said. “I am a fiction writer. My stories are made-up.”

“We’ll discuss this later,” Mrs. Nyhus said. “Not in front of guests.” Sylvia hadn’t moved in minutes.

“Who’s paying for that MFA anyhow, Jimmy?” Eric asked.

“Good point, Eric,” Mr. Nyhus said, not lifting his eyes from tinkering with his watch. “Excellent point.”


Hayley Rosenfield is an English teacher and a dorm parent to a house full of high schoolers. When she’s not extinguishing vacuum cleaner fires, she writes poetry, short stories, and song lyrics. She lives in southern Minnesota.

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