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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


StoriesEtc: ‘Six’ presents an unsettling story of a mother’s worst fear

Creative writer Emily Neinfeldt presents both a chilling tale, parents’ worst nightmare

Welcome to StoriesEtc, a place where University of Wisconsin students can share their original works of creative writing with the community, whether it be poetry, short stories or anything in between. As a section dealing with the arts, it feels only natural to create an opportunity for students to share their creative talents.

With that being said, let’s meet this week’s contributor, Emily Neinfeldt:

The Badger Herald: Tell us about yourself. What’s your major? Year in school?

I’m a senior majoring in journalism and political science. I’m graduating in May, and I hope to get a job writing more long-form features at a magazine someday. I’m currently a managing editor at The Badger Herald.


BH: Define your writing, authorship and perspective.

For me, I always wrote creatively because it was something I really enjoyed. But when I began reporting news and writing features, it wasn’t just that I really enjoyed it — I felt what I was doing was really important, as well.

BH: When did you start writing creatively?

I think I started writing creatively in middle school, and when I came to UW, I wanted to be a creative writing major. Then when I began reporting news, creative writing kind of slipped away from me.

StoriesEtc: ‘The Invisible Hand’ offers personal take on depression

BH: Talk about your creative process. What inspires you, and how do you get from an idea to a finished product?

I’ve always really enjoyed writing the opening scenes of novels, but I find it really hard to maintain inspiration to continue a project until it’s a finished product. Then when I began writing short stories, I found it much easier to stay inspired until I finished.

Here is a sample of Emily’s work:

It was sunny out, for the first time in nearly two weeks, and Magda was skipping her way home from kindergarten, ladybug lunchbox swinging in hand. It was warm today, warm enough that her mommy had packed her brand new pink sandals for her to wear.

“Spring’s coming Magda, don’t see you the birdie over there?” her daddy had said that morning, as she waited for the bus.

“What’s it doing?” she asked.

“Probably just looked for something to eat,” her daddy replied distractedly as he pulled his tie neat. “I’ve got to go now, Magda. Now listen, you’re going to your mom’s after school remember? Taking the bus and then walking from the bus stop?”

“Yes, Daddy,” she said.

Magda shook her head of curls back as she skipped over the crack in the sidewalk — wouldn’t wanna break her mommy’s back. As she made her next leap, a car pulled over onto the side of the road. Magda paused for a minute as she observed the car. The door swung open, and a man stuck his head out. He looked funny. His beard was bushy. Her daddy never had his beard like that.

“Hi there, sweetie. Whatcha doing?” he asked.

“Walkin’ home. I’m a big girl now. I’m 6. Timmy and Suzie and Rory are all 5, but not me. I’m 6,” Magda said proudly. Her mommy always said not to brag, but it was true! She was 6.

“Six, huh. Hey, that’s a pretty cool lunchbox you got there. Could I see it?” Magda immediately took a step forward before pausing for a second, glancing around nervously. Her mommy always said to never talk to strangers but she also always said to share with others. Her lunchbox was pretty cool. The least she could do was share it.

Viola glanced at the clock. 3:05 p.m. Magda was only five minutes late but, well, five minutes seemed like a lot now that she thought about it. Viola paced from the kitchen to the front door, peeking out the window and glancing down the street before making her way back to the kitchen. With another glance at the florescent green numbers — now reading 3:06 p.m. — she slipped her sandals on and stepped out onto the front porch. Her watch read 3:07 p.m. She anxiously made her way down the street toward the bus stop. It was only a five minute walk from the house and Magda made the trek every Monday through Thursday without a hitch. Viola reached the bus stop — not a thing looked amiss. The street was calm. The wind blew gently.

Feeling a slight hysteria rising in her mind, Viola briskly walked back to the house, willing herself not to panic, not to run. With trembling fingers she dialed the school.

“Rosewood Elementary.”

Viola’s mouth was bone dry and she had to swallow twice before she managed to get the words out.

“Hi, this is Viola Marks calling. My daughter Magda hasn’t made it home on the bus today.”

“Alright Ms. Marks. The procedure for this situation is to contact Magda’s teacher and the bus company before getting in contact with the police if we can’t find her. I will call you when I have any more information,” the receptionist replied, her voice calm, collected.

Viola nodded before realizing she was on the phone.

“Yes,” she replied, her voice thin and weak.

“Yes, alright,” she tried again, only coming off slightly stronger. The only reply was a dial tone, and as she placed the phone back in its holder she started to feel light-headed. Viola made her way over to the couch in the living room. As she sat down she willed herself not to cry. Another wave of dizziness rushed through Viola and she braced her hand on the arm of the couch as her vision started to dim.

A loud pounding startled Viola awake several hours later. She ran her fingers through her hair as she made her way to the front entrance. Pulling the heavy oak door aside revealed two police officers. “Is this the home of Magda Marks?”

“Yes. Have you found my daughter?”

To Viola amazement, Magda darted forward from behind one of the officers and disappeared into the house. Viola’s mouth dropped in elation. By the time she could focus on the officers again, she only caught the last few words, “… I’m so sorry ma’am.”

Viola was puzzled at the words, but nevertheless, she nodded at the officers, thanking them one last time. She caught a flash of their concerned looks before easing the door shut.

Putting it out of her mind, Viola turned to Magda and scooped her up in a tight hug, despite Magda’s limp arms refusing to return the affection.

“Oh Magda honey, I’m so glad you’re home. What happened, why didn’t you take the bus?”

“I did take the bus, Mommy.”

“You did? Well then why didn’t you make it home?” Viola asked, trying to make sense of the situation. Magda had no answer for her though, merely shrugging before skipping off to her room.  

Shaking her head, Viola headed into the kitchen to make Magda a snack. As she passed the phone, she noticed there were quite a few missed calls flashing on the answering machine. With an inquisitive look on her face, she pressed the “play all” button.

“Viola, it’s James. The school just called. Why didn’t you let me know Magda never made it home?”

“It’s me again. Please call me back. This is important Viola.”

“Viola, please just answer your phone. I can’t imagine what you could possibly be doing besides sitting next to the phone waiting for a call from the police.”

Viola couldn’t imagine what Magda’s father was so worried out. She had gotten home safe after all. He was always doing that — worrying. The phone suddenly let out another shrill ring, startling Viola from her slump over the counter.

“Hello?” she answered, a questioning tone to her voice.

“Viola, thank God,” James rushed out before pausing and reconsidering his words. “How … how are you doing?”

“Fine,” Viola responded. Why was everyone acting so strangely all of a sudden? Magda was home safe and all Viola wanted to do was make them a snack and have a nice long cuddle with her daughter. She certainly did not want to be dealing with concerned looks from police officers or strange questions from her ex.

“Are … do you need someone to come over for a bit? I mean, I’m sure it’s just as hard for you as it is for me,” James responded.

“No. I’m fine James, everything is perfectly alright. Did you need something?” Viola asked, hoping he would say no and she could hang up.

“No. I guess … I just wanted to make sure you were alright. Let me know if you need anything,” James replied.

“Alright. Bye now,” Viola said before hitting “end call” and replacing the phone back into its holder. Now that that was all behind her she could just focus on Magda again.

When she woke the next morning, it was to a voicemail from her boss.

“I heard about what happened Viola and I’m so sorry. You can take the next few weeks off. Just let me know when you’re feeling up to coming back. I know it must be hard.”

Viola was pleased at the offer but also surprised. This all seemed a little excessive when she considered the school’s call from the night before, explaining how Magda would be unenrolled and her belongings would be dropped off shortly. Nevertheless, she wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to spend more time with Magda.

The next few weeks passed in a flood of giggling and grinning Magda. Spending all day at home with her little girl was more than she could have hoped for. Viola could hardly believe how wonderful everything had turned out after that fateful day. Monday morning, however, saw her preparing for work for the first time in what seemed like ages. It was time to brave the world again.

“Hi James, this is Viola. I was wondering if you were up to looking after Magda today. I know you haven’t seen her in weeks,” Viola questioned down the phone.

“Viola, that’s not funny. I can’t believe you’d say something like that,” James replied before the line cut off. Viola stood there staring at the phone in her hand. How rude. Not even a goodbye. Well if he didn’t want to watch Magda then Viola had no choice. She lifted the phone back to her ear after dialing the office.

“Boston Corporate,” the voice at the other end greeted.

“Hi, Jan. This is Viola. I’m just called to give my notice. I’ve got no one to watch Magda, and I think it would be better for me to just take some time off and care for her.”

There was a long pause from Jan before, “All right, Viola. You just take a while to rest. Don’t worry about a thing.”

Viola was just putting several dishes in the sink when she heard the doorbell ring. She made her way over slowly, tucking a gray lock of hair behind her ear as she went. She just couldn’t move around as fast anymore. The heavy oak was almost too much for her to handle, but she managed. “Ah. Dr. Sheeran. Come in, come in.”

“Hello, Viola,” Dr. Sheeran greeted when they were all settled in the living room. “How are you today?”

“Oh, I’m doing just fine,” Viola replied.

“And … how is Magda?”

“She’s doing just lovely. She gotten so interested in painting lately. I need to remember to stop by the store and pick up some more colors.”

“Viola … how old is Magda?” Dr. Sheeran asked. What a silly question.

“You know that, Doctor. Magda’s 6,” Viola laughed.

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