Blue is the color for April’s Autism Awareness Month. Proud moms are coloring their hair blue. Kids’ pictures on Facebook are tinted blue. People are donning blue ribbons and displaying blue symbols. I thought this short story, entitled Blue, was fitting for the cause.
I wrote this piece several years ago, as part of a manuscript. I have since broken the manuscript into several short stories. Some of which I share on this blog.
Learning to write took a lot of hard work and practice. In the beginning, I wrote every single day (but one day in April) for a year. I was still a terrible writer then, in my opinion, entirely obsessed with my works, and reading my prose to anyone who would listen.
After the first year of writing, I spent another year editing. Then another year rewriting. Then another rewriting, yet again. I calculate that I spent fifteen hours total editing each of the two hundred fifty pages. My biggest hinderance to writing was my dyslexia and difficulty seeing errors. Also, I had a tendency to mix up words and punctuation, and a habit of rambling. (Smiling.)
I hope you enjoy this story.
Everything inside was blue—the seats, the ceiling, the floor, even the steering wheel. I tugged on a string from the backseat cover, wrapping layer upon layer of blue taught around my finger. This mid-afternoon it was my tiny index finger, which turned a slight shade of indigo.
“Nothing to get hung about,” Mother sang out, smiling happily, as if the coming rain had already washed away her worries. She didn’t have a singing voice, never had, but the effort and soul were there, the wanting to sound good, and the need. Inside the rearview mirror, her eyes, the color of amaretto, glimmered, reflecting the narrowing sunlight. From the backseat, I hummed along to Strawberry Fields Forever and jingled my clear-red plastic piggybank in the air, lifting him high and turning his gaze outside.
High atop the rolling grassy hills the enormous oaks stood like rows of fresh cut broccoli, rich and green—the bold color before the broccoli is boiled to a dull olive. In the shadows of the day, tall eucalyptus trees were sprinkled between the weathered fruit stands, their silvery leaves rustling, fluttering up and back, yielding to the autumn wind. I winked one eye, then the next, and then winked several times again to form patterns of gray, brown and green. A gust of moist wind pushed in through the partially-opened side window, tossing Mother’s chestnut hair and bringing a sharp scent of diesel smoke and wet asphalt.
In the box next to Mother the framed photograph of my Labrador Sugar smiled up at the blue ceiling. Nearby, knickknacks, either too delicate or too cumbersome to stuff into moving boxes, rattled. The tip of Mother’s cigarette sizzled inside a circular lighter, and, with a click of the knob, the music faded away.
I scratched my leg, right at the point where my knobby-knee stuck out of the navy-blue stockings, then flapped away a puffing train of cigarette smoke. The sound of spinning rubber against wet pavement reverberated. Up ahead on the highway a truck squealed to a stop. Mother plunged down on the brakes. A crystal bowl chimed. I leaned forward, bracing myself against the sudden jolt, and then slunk down and huddled on the floorboard listening to the soothing sound of the windshield wipers swishing back and forth.
Mother looked over her shoulder with a wide smile—her high-boned cheeks, pink, her dark eyes easy.
Both the top and bottom row of her teeth were crisscrossed, but I did not notice her imperfections as much as the kindness in her eyes, the soft approachable twinkle. From down below I grinned up, all of my little teeth showing. Mother sighed in relief, eased her grip from the steering wheel, and pressed on the gas pedal. “It’s raining again,” she said, in a sing-song voice.
Plink, plink came the rain. I loved water in all of its forms—the intricate crystals of ice, the cool running streams, the shooting and whistling steam of geysers—and especially heaven’s tears. The rain.
Mother snuffed out her cigarette. It was the last cigarette of her pack, and almost completely gone, but there was still enough of it left for her to save. Mother was that way. She liked to hold on to things, even after they were mostly gone.
Gray-white flashes of road flickered beneath me. I leaned in close to the floorboard, sending my finger through the nickel-size hole in our blue Dodge Dart. A fleck of rust broke off and fell down the hole, and next the foil from a gum stick. Minutes later, I clapped in amazement from my seat as my wadded tissue shot up from the back of the car and drifted away into the cloud-soaked sky. I crammed a stick of gum down next, then leapt onto the backseat and pointed as the gum wad shot out across the highway. I’d found a secret passageway.
A misty rain traveled to the backseat tickling my cheeks. Above the sky was painted thick like my nana’s old front porch, the top colors peeling away to expose an undercoating of dense gray. Without warning, a drum roll of thunder accompanied a trumpeting of raindrops. I shivered, burying my plastic piggy beneath a small blanket. Mother rolled up the window, cranking her hand around several times, before returning the full of her attention to the road.
I pressed the side of my cheek against the window, taking in the coolness; nestling it with my skin. An octopus-shaped cloud opened its enormous mouth and swallowed the sun. I breathed out and steamed up the window. From somewhere inside myself I recognized a wanting, a feeling which manifested itself as an announced emptiness in the pit of my stomach, like I had never had that grilled-cheese sandwich for lunch, like everything I ate had been poured right out of me. I imagined melting through the window, through the rain, and moving far ahead of the uncertainty of the day. But I remained where I sat watching my own dark eyes stare back at me.
As the car slowed and my heart sped up, I held on to the familiarity of the ride—of the fabric ring now twisted around my thumb, of the bumping of the knickknacks and swishing of the windshield wipers. Mother watched herself with one eye in the rearview mirror, applied her cranberry-red-lipstick, and brought our car to a final resting place on a sloped driveway.
“Shit,” she said, in a voice she had meant to be much quieter. “Where are my cigarettes?” She opened and closed the glove box, before turning back to me with an apologetic smile. The windshield wipers stuck midway on the sprinkled glass as if frozen in time.
Stepping outside of the car, Mother stuffed her brush into her purse and the shirttail of her blouse into her new pleated skirt. During the time it took her to open and close the car trunk, I wrestled with the snug opening of my knitted sweater, first trying to slant my head sideways, then slipping in the wrong arm, and lastly finding my way inside the thick beige wool with the inside on the outside. That’s the way it would have to be—inside out and lopsided. There was no time to start again.
Mother opened my door. “Come on, Beautiful,” she said. She held my little orange suitcase and stared out across a grass-covered yard. I set one foot down on the driveway and then the other, working my way out the best I could, all twisted in my sweater.
The air outside was nippy and unusually cold for October. I looked up at Mother, before jumping out and running across the driveway with my piggybank, moving forward with energy made of mystery and newness, and the finality of reaching the end of a long journey. I bounded across the walkway and landed full-force on the wet grass, with my thoughts on the snails freshly rinsed by the rain which still slithered about on the marigold petals. The rain puddles drenched my socks. I giggled and pulled down on one pigtail. A clown squeak sounded in my shoes, an unexpected noise which caused me to smile the rest of the distance up the concrete path.
“Come,” Mother said, from where she smiled on the high front patio. I looked across the walkway and tracked her, as she flattened her wavy hair and pulled back her narrow shoulders. “Let’s go,” she said, motioning me with her hand. I liked her fingernails, how they tapered evenly at the ends like miniature red candles.
Giggling, I sprinted ahead at full speed.
After I reached Mother’s side, she tapped on a screen door that was framed in avocado-green. Within seconds, a lean stranger with sandy tresses stepped out to greet us. He embraced Mother’s petite frame, taking her into him.
I peered up at the tall man’s pressed beige shorts, inching my eyes upward, noting his skin was crumpled sandpaper and the hair atop his head remarkably shiny and stiff. Freckles abounded so that I could not connect the dots that led from fingers, to arm, to neck and continued up the entire canvas of his chiseled face. To a large extent he resembled an oversized wooden doll. There existed a solid and inflexible aura about his entire character.
The rigid man released Mother. His watery-hazel eyes met mine. Deep creases formed along both sides of his nose. I swallowed, and it felt like I had outgrown my throat.
“Honey, this is Drake,” Mother said. She ran her fingers through my freshly cut bangs, as she continued. “Drake is your new daddy. Can you please shake his hand?”
The man reached out his large hand to meet mine and I accepted the coarse clamminess. I thought of my own father, my real father, the man who cut pictures of dolls out of magazines and then lacquered the faces to cardboard so I could have a doll poster in my room; the man who sewed on the red yarn for my plush Raggedy-Anne doll hair; the man who went down the curving yellow slide with me in his lap; the man who wore a fuzzy rust-colored robe at night with a long belt which trailed behind him like the tail of a lemur. I thought of my father, until Drake cleared his throat.
I looked up and pulled my hand back.
Drake flashed a brief smile of straight white teeth. Mother gave a crooked grin. I lowered my eyes to the patio floor, wiped my hands on my sweater, and tracked a zigzagging crack that led from the concrete steps to the side of the green house.
A few minutes later, inside the unfamiliar house, I removed my wet shoes and socks, and stood shivering by the front door. More words followed then. But not words I found. Those words, the adults’ chatter, drifted out of my reach. The only word I was able to grab a hold of was stepfather; and that word alone confused me, as my eyes searched about the place for any sign of stairs: the steps that would naturally come with a stepfather.
Standing there, feeling the cold of the hardwood floor rise up within me, I nuzzled my piggy inside my twisted sweater. Then, leading my eyes past Mother, I looked about the unfamiliar room, taking in as much as my senses could carry. A burning log inside the fireplace hearth crackled. A large grandfather clock ticked. Everything else appeared brand new. The couch, the chairs, the coffee table, the drapes, the decor—all sterile, as if neatly unwrapped and kept in place.
I looked up at Drake. His back was facing me. I looked at his starched shirt and starched hair. I looked at his starched house. And I reasoned the obvious. I decided somewhere in Drake’s orderly house, there had to be some drawer or shelf unkempt, some shoebox of secrets. And it would only be a matter of time until I accidentally opened it.
By Samantha Craft 2012 (Based on True Events)
© Everyday Aspergers, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. http://aspergersgirls.wordpress.com