Search

No Longer Blue, but Black

{ original short story }


A summer ago, it was summer. Mosquitos and sunlight streamed through the threadbare screens of the kitchen windows. Kami tugged at her shoelaces and stared at the cream-orange tiles of the countertop, humming. Her mind seemed to whir in place. Her toes wriggled as if to get her attention. Eventually, she stood up and kicked the pantry with a growl of frustration.


Clink, went the pantry.


Kami's brown eyes grew large at the sound, and she yanked the pantry doors open, her nose wrinkling at the acrid scents that pushed out into the open. A scooter was folded neatly behind a sack of moldy onions. Her scooter. It was no longer the sky-blue color that she remembered, but black.


“Your scooter was always black,” said Kami’s mother. She lay in the bathtub, her body lost in cloudy pink water. A towel was folded neatly above her wiry, blond eyebrows.

“Oh,” Kami said. “I pictured it blue.”

“Yes, I know. Shit. Leave the thing alone, okay? I'm going to toss it.”


Kami wheeled the scooter back down the stairs. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. It was

the sound of her chest, and of her head too; hadn’t the scooter always been blue?


It occurred to Kami, suddenly, that she asked a lot of questions. At least in school, everyone was nice about it. Her classmates would tie her shoes for her; teachers never called on her unless she raised her hand. Kami would leave class early most days, and no one complained. She'd go see Ms. Mai, whom she called “Ms. Macy” a lot by accident. They would talk a bit, looking over Kami’s diary. It was like reading about a sister or some warped dream-self.


“Are you still writing about your scooter?” Ms. Mai had asked on the phone that particular morning. Now that school was out, she and Kami mostly called one another. “You remember it pretty well, don’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you have any idea why?”

“Um. I guess because it's here somewhere? I just gotta look for it.”


A pause. “That’s okay. Kami, your mother...she hasn’t thrown the scooter away yet?”

This time, Kami paused. “She doesn’t really like throwing things away.”


“I know. You write a lot about that, too.”

After twenty minutes, Ms. Mai had asked after Kami’s mother. Kami handed the phone off and escaped into the living room, where she'd hoped to listen in. In the end, she only caught scraps of conversation, the word “anterograde,” over and over.

~

An hour ago, it was an hour earlier. Kami had spent that time confirming the fact that her scooter was not blue. The summer sun made its black paint shiny and obvious. But hadn't it once been blue? Her head throbbed. She went down the porch steps, hoisting the scooter above her hips. She didn't want to get clipped in the ankle; that type of pain seemed familiar.

The street was empty save for a few parked cars and a few dozen scattered acorns. Heat rose up from the blacktop. The sun was baking everything, including the dead worm Kami had accidently stepped on. She put the scooter down, testing its deck. It was warped slightly: a curve against her heel.

“Weird,” Kami muttered. Shrugging to herself, she set a foot against the grip tape. With the other, she pushed off.

The scooter thrummed with the uneven texture of the road; each bump and split left

Kami’s heart racing. Why was she scared? It wasn't that bad. It felt better than a bike at least; those were fast and feather-light, and Kami hated flying.

Em had ridden a bike when they'd first met years ago. She'd warned that scooters were easy to steal, which Kami thought was a threat. They'd spent a week sizing each other up before Em finally rode over and struck up a truce. Em got a scooter soon after: white and gray, Kami knew that for sure. It matched Em’s house on the next block over. It matched Em’s room, decorated Winter Wonderland.


Kami stopped at the lip of a steep hill. She was panting; beads of sweat quivered on her

nape. She slapped them away, mistaking them for mosquitos. The mosquitos, meanwhile, closed in on her calves. Marching in place, Kami tucked the laces back into her shoes and lifted a hand to her brow. She could see Em’s house on the adjacent corner. She could see Em on the driver’s side of a white car parked in the driveway. Her dark hair was cropped close to her shoulders: no sparkly blue ribbon. Hadn't she always worn that ribbon, no matter what?

“Look, this ribbon is way stronger than it looks,” Em had once said. She'd tied one end of the ribbon to Kami’s handlebars and the other to her own handlebars.


“I don’t think this’ll work,” Kami muttered aloud, to no one. And yet, somewhere in her ears, someone answered.

“I made it tight, though, didn’t you see?”


“Yeah, but it’s a ribbon.”

“That’s been alive for years!”

Em plucked the blue cloth and it thumped between them like a heartbeat. Together, they mounted their scooters and took one glide forward. The ribbon went taut, but held. They moved again. Sweat crawled down Kami’s back. The street seemed to shake before her eyes.

“It’ll feel like we're flying together!” Em promised.

Their eyes met; Kami’s knees wobbled uncontrollably. The next second, she and Em were rolling down the slope of the road.

“No, no, no."


Kami's stomach lurched as they hit the incline and the scooter’s soft rumbling broke into a snarl. Em shrieked with laughter, barely audible over the wind flapping in Kami’s ears.

For an instant, Kami hated her.

The feeling swelled hot and thick in her throat. She wanted to scream as the two of them zigzagged, teetering at their ends of the ribbon.

“Kami!” Em yelled. “Didn’t I tell you? Didn’t I—”


Em’s scooter went over a branch. She jerked, hands flying across her handlebars. The

blue ribbon spun free. Kami careened to the left and slammed headlong into a car.

For a moment, she couldn’t feel.

Glass twinkled left and right. Her mouth hung open, dripping coppery saliva. Or was it the hatred that had so quickly risen in her throat, leaking out now where Em could see it?


“I didn’t mean it,” Kami tried to say.


Her mouth was full of words. No, just a sound—Kami couldn’t hear it through the

cotton that seemed to expand in her ears. All she heard was a hum. Like the hum of her scooter when she rode it.

Her scooter.

She could move nothing but her eyes. They saw shadows gather, white lights and red.

The sky above was very blue.


~


A summer's day later, it was summer. Kami walked the scooter home, then dragged it up the porch steps. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. She returned it to the pantry, easing the doors closed this time. She stared at the rotting onions. Her eyes grew hot but somehow managed to stay dry. Upstairs, Kami’s mother hummed an unfamiliar tune. The ceiling creaked as she moved about. In a daze, Kami climbed the staircase.


Her mother was in the bathroom, wearing a blue towel. Kami’s mouth went sour at the sight. She vomited.

“Jesus Christ,” her mother said.

She wiped Kami’s face clean with the towel, and Kami breathed her in. No matter how

long she was in the tub, she never quite smelled clean.


“Go to your room,” she told Kami. “Just…give me a moment.”


Kami did so, knowing it was goodnight.

She liked her room best anyway; it had photos all over the walls. Kami liked how the photo-people’s eyes followed her across the room. She did that a couple times, walked back and forth, doorway to window. She stopped in front of the largest picture. In it, Kami’s mother leaned over a crib. She smirked into the stuffed lion now kept on Kami’s dresser.

After flipping the light off, Kami unhooked the photo from the wall. She wriggled

beneath the covers, nestling it against her stomach. The glass was smooth and cold, and she swore she felt her mother’s teeth press into a smile. But that was just a dream, wasn't it?

In her second dream that night, she took her scooter out to Em’s house and remembered something important. Was it blue or black? She knew the answer, for an instant. But like all dreams, it faded away with the morning light.


16 views0 comments