short fiction by Dori Ann Dupre
Sunshine, bright light, blazing rays into my bedroom. Wakey-wakey, roll over and start a new day. I rub my eyelids and open my hazel eyes, the kind with yellow flecks inside the irises, and observe the small black fly sitting on my happy yellow wall, just above the framed poster of a yellow, smiling sun. “Y is for yellow and yellow is for you,” my daddy whispered to me that day, when I was four and we picked out the paint for my new bedroom. I slip off the bed and my big feet hit the pale yellow carpet. Mommy calls it “off-white.” The bottom of my nighty is yellow, too, with a bunch of white dogs with red tongues and yellow suns dotted all over it in a pattern. Today was the zoo trip. Daddy promised. He was going to take off work and carry me to the zoo on his back like a duffle. Just me and him. No baby sister. No hermit crab. No Mommy. He said we would see the yellow giraffes eating from tall trees and the yellow lions resting in the yellow sun with the new yellow cubs. I love yellow.
The yellow school bus pulls in front of my mommy’s new row home to take me to my new second grade. The driver looks mean and angry when he opens the squeaky bus door. I walk down from my new front porch and add myself to the line gathering near the entrance. The boy next door has the same yellow backpack as me. Maybe our mommies got them from the same drug store where the school supplies were. We walk onto the steps of the yellow bus, and I look up at the bus driver who eyeballed me like I stole something. He snarls like a rabid dog, opening his mouth enough for me to see that his teeth are yellow. I guessed that he smokes Camels like my daddy. I like the Camels pack of cigarettes because the camel on it is yellow. “I don’t like the Steelers, little girl. You’re lucky I let you on my bus,” he growls. I peer down at my yellow shirt with the Pittsburgh Steelers helmet sitting proudly on it. It’s my daddy’s favorite team. He bought me this shirt the same day he took me to the McDonald’s on the corner near our house, where he told me that he and Mommy were going to live in different houses now. He told me that I could visit him on the weekends and that we’d have dinner every Wednesday night. He promised that it wasn’t my fault and that he loved me very much.
The yellow roses sat tall in the large glass vase on the dinner table with the white table cloth and yellow stripes spread out. Mom bent down and put her nose in them, breathing in the scent deeply. The man with the messy black hair stood proud and patient in the living room, his hands crossed over his chest. Mom said his name was Vic and that she met him at her job at the deli and that she was in love with him. He wore a tight white tee shirt with yellow rings on the sleeves and faded blue jeans that were too long. He watched me and Mom from near the couch, winking at me each time he caught me looking over at him. “That sure is a pretty yellow dress you’re wearing,” he remarked to me in his deep, flat voice, as Mom flicked at my hair and the yellow barrette on the left side. Vic made me nervous with an uneasy feeling inside of my stomach. It clenched tightly each time he winked, each time he spoke. I didn’t say anything back. Mom whispered that I needed to say “thank you” to Vic for the compliment. Jason West knocked on the front door. He put a yellow corsage on my wrist. Vic said that he needed to give the boy a “talkin’ to” before he let Jason take me to the dance. Later that night, as we slow danced to Fairytale Lover under the dimmed lights in the school gym, Jason told me that he didn’t like Mom’s new boyfriend much at all.
The yellow stick sat on my night stand, sponging full of yellow pee, and I anxiously buried my head into the yellow pillow case and prayed through my thick tears to God. Please let there be no plus sign, please let there be no plus sign, please Dear God let it be negative. Please, I swear on my life and the life of my little sister, I will never ever ever let that gross man touch me again. I will tell Mom what he does to me after she goes to sleep. I will tell the guidance counselor at school. I will tell Daddy. Just please don’t be a yellow plus sign on that yellow stick. My best friend Katie snuck this magic stick out of her house when her mother was at work. She found it in the medicine cabinet inside of a box from the drug store. She smuggled it in her backpack and gave it to me after Third Period Trigonometry. Katie’s worried about me because I’ve been sick a lot in school. I’ve had to leave First Period to go throw up in the Girls’ Room almost every day, and the tough girls smoking by the smokers’ stall have had to leave because of how bad I sound. Katie thinks I lost my virginity to the cute new boy with the blond hair and the shell necklace from San Francisco. I can never tell her the truth. After ten minutes of crying, I come out from underneath my yellow quilt to face the yellow stick, glaring angrily at me, announcing my plight. It screams “sinner” and “whore.” What am I going to do?
The yellow eyes looked over at me from the old, pale yellow couch. A yellow hand rested on top of the TV remote as a baseball game flickered silently in the background. How do eyes turn yellow? How does skin? My daddy coughed and coughed and coughed, and the nurse lady from the service, wearing the yellow scrub top, brought over a set of yellow and white pills in a light yellow Dixie cup. She held a yellow dish towel and wiped up the blood coming from his crusting, yellow mouth. She helped him put the pills onto his tongue and sat him up so he could sip the water out of the glass that I brought to him earlier when I arrived. The air stunk with hospital and urine and medicine and smoke and death, making this latest visit almost unbearable. Why was life so cruel to such a kind and loving man? My daddy’s voice croaked like a sick, yellow freckled toad when he spoke, but his words were still wrapped inside of the usual gentle expressions by man who adored his eldest daughter. “Remember that time we painted your bedroom yellow?” he uttered though cracked breaths. I smiled and nodded at him. “I loved that day. It was my favorite day,” he whispered. He fell asleep, and I pulled the yellow blanket up to his chin and kissed his forehead goodnight.