I Am Pale Green

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young girl, enamored with her grandmother's skill of seeing auras, befriends Ovid--a Classicist's son and lover of the ocean's waves.

I am planning on making this the beginning to a full length novel and would appreciate feedback!

Submitted: April 29, 2019

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Submitted: April 29, 2019

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INTRO:

 

Sitting in her kitchen on a July afternoon I remember asking what beliefs she held about the creation of the earth. Her lips curved upwards, creasing and deepening the lines along her mouth, though not in a smile. She poured lemonade like gold into my glass and spoke:

“Darling, I have a secret.”

With each word, I heard every syllable, I could feel each articulation, and I hung onto every one.

“Yes, Grandma?”

I had always been mesmerized by my grandmother’s tales of life. And I had hoped that one day I would have such stories to share, manifested in those deep lines around the mouth with which I would share them. As a young girl, I was honored that such wisdom would share a secret with me.

“When I was a little girl, littler than you even, I realized something odd about myself.”

She spoke of her childhood, of her father returning home from work one day with a deep blue haze around his skin; as if it were growing off of him. She would rub her eyes, run them under the kitchen faucet, but the blue haze remained. She told him that he must be sick, he should get into the wash and scrub it off, but this haze her father did not see. Her sister was surrounded by a murky yellow, her mother-- a rusted orange. And suddenly my grandmother began to believe that she was the one with illness.

My grandmother was sent to the town practitioner. The doctor, unfamiliar with her symptoms, came to the conclusion that she had bumped her head or was simply malingering in the manner of childhood expression. She was sent home with a little yellow bottle and a warning not speak of such fantasies again. But even when she took the pills prescribed, every person she encountered was covered in colored haze.

In my youth, I did not seek to challenge such a claim.

I hesitated. “Grandma, what color am I?”

To this question her lips again curved upwards, this time in a smile of both mouth and eyes. She sat back.

“Pale, pale green. Paler than the shallow seas, more beautiful than the nottingham catch-flies that bloom at high moon”

At this I beamed. With great effort I tried to conceal my pride as not to view the answer with vanity. I thought of the other children at school who only pointed out my uneven lips, my crooked gait.

“And my mother? What color do you see in her?”

“Oh, your mother is red. A deep red, like the beautiful velvet dress you wear at Christmas; though at this rate you’ll have outgrown it by fall.”

I wanted to ask of my father, if she remembered his color, if it was a shade of green similar to mine. I wanted to know if such colors could be seen in portraits, or within the people on TV, if they were in animals, or in the willow tree outside my bedroom window. I wished for her to speak of the colors of her two sons, both of whom had passed at the hands of their own deep sorrow. But my grandmother was turning from me, rolling up her sleeves and warming the dish water, and I knew it was not time for such questions.

From that day forward when asked what color I favored most, it was always green. The pale green that my grandmother saw deep within me.

CHAPTER ONE:

Ovid was a boy born of a widower, a Classicist. Unspoken rumor spread in our town that his father studied some sort of ancient sorcery in his spare time, and both he and his son were to be avoided. But these claims did not bother Ovid.

I was timid, quiet, difficult to make a friend. And while others saw me as an outcast, Ovid viewed me as a challenge. He would approach me frequently, looking at me the same way my grandmother had. He spoke as a philosopher, not as a child.

“What are you afraid of?” He would ask with no greeting. I would not respond to him.

“Why do you sit alone, in that big willow tree of yours?”

Every day he came to me with questions, and every day he would sit with me in silence, waiting for a response. Some days he would answer the questions himself.

“I’m afraid of losing my father. He’s a very smart man, you know. He can understand Latin and Greek and writes stories in their languages. Have you ever heard of Poseidon, of Athena?”

In the silence he would share with me stories of ancient texts, stories of gods and goddesses that his father had shared with him. I always listened intently, absorbing those tales.

*

I remember when we’d run to the woods, like spirits of the wind, dodging pines until we came to a clearing. Greedily we would empty each others canvas sacks filled with candles burned half through, opaque rocks we believed were crystals, and white cloths taken from our linen closets. There we would sit, with eyes shut and hands together, trying to speak to something we didn’t understand.

*

Ovid was always drawn to the water. We’d run to the oceans edge when the waves crashed upon the shore, hoping that some rooted power from the depths upwelled to those pale shallows. There at the water’s edge we would spread our arms like wings. We did not understand our mortality. We listened to the white noise of the waves instead.

*

When September came, and the cool Easterlies mixed with the humid winds of land, the waves on our shores grew large; an indication of the inevitable pass of summer.

It was dusk, one week before school began. I lay half-asleep in the dark of my room when an urgent rasping sounded at my window. A timid child, I hid deeper underneath my cotton sheets, plugging my ears in hopes to drown the sounds. I was dreaming, it was a nightmare, it was the wind rocking a branch against the glass, it would soon pass. But the sound continued, and I could no longer ignore it. I rose, sheets still around me, and approached whatever fate would meet me behind that layer of glass. Perhaps it was a large moth, or a demon I had conjured with those opaque stones. But when I pulled back the curtains, there was no demon, only Ovid. He had climbed the willow tree, and there he crouched in his swimming trunks. Confused and relieved, I opened the window. I didn’t need to say anything for him to know what I sought to ask.

“The waves,” he spoke, out of breath. “They are bigger than I have ever seen. Let’s go swimming--one last time before the waters cool.”

So once again we ran to the waters. When we reached the shore, I watched the energy welling within him, that rooted power making him brave, and the salt spraying on his face. Arms spread, he ran to the waves, splashing in its union and slowed by its force. He was fearless against those crashing waves and fought them in both anger and exhilaration. I stood in the shallows, the water still warmed by that day’s late summer sun, watching him. I had never seen such pure emotion. And as the waves grew larger, he fought harder, uninhibited, for he did not understand his mortality.

Nostos!, he had been yelling, nostos!

**************

His funeral was held on a Wednesday. I had turned away for what seemed only a moment, but when I looked back at Ovid, he had disappeared in the waves. His boldness was denser than water, and sank in its midst. I yelled to the waves, but the sound drowned with him. He knew I couldn’t swim. I ran, tripping in the sand, crying out for anyone to hear. It seemed the first time in my life I had released so much sound.

“Help!”

I came to the first beach-side home, rasping on the door with as much urgency as Ovid had not an hour ago rasped on mine. It seemed an eternity before the lights within turned on.

A woman answered the door. I trembled from both chill and fear.

“My friend,” I said, barely able to let the words leave my lips, “he is drowning.”

The ambulances arrived with their sirens, and the houses near the shore began to stir with life. Ovid? Is that not the Classicists’ son?

I was sitting alone on the sand, damp from the waves’ spray and my own tears. Someone had put a wool blanket around me, but I could not recall who.

Isn’t he the one who deals with witchcraft, who killed his own wife?

I watched as men entered the oceans’ edge, a small boat was on the waves. And when I heard the men’s voices silence, the sounds of the ocean seemed to silence with them. Limp they pulled him from the water, and again I turned away.

At the funeral they told me I needed to look at him; that seeing his body would bring me closure. I peered into the open casket. The bloat was still visible beneath his funeral makeup. I sensed my grandmother near me, and gently tugged her hand. In understanding response she leaned her ear to me.

“What color is Ovid?”

“I’m afraid he has none left, my darling. Whatever color he had, it is somewhere else now.”

 

I had hoped that he was still there, in those waters where I had last seen him. That he had found Poseidon and those naiads, fought them for their power, and won. Ovid, god of the seas. Ovid, immortal in those depths.

I looked again at my friend. A deep blue tint was still visible upon his skin; remnants of the water. I could hear my classmates’ whispers, those hissing sounds casting blames.

I heard she pulled him under, holding him there until he couldn’t breathe.

How I wished they could see me with my grandmother’s eyes.

*

I returned home that evening with his funeral pamphlet held tightly in my hand. I placed it against my window; a picture of his shining face with a quote from his father:

“Ovid, a son remembered through his Nostos: a journey home through the sea”

 

 

 


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