I can’t fly faster than a speeding bullet. I can’t lift a car. I can’t climb slick surfaces with my bare hands or breathe underwater or stop time. All I can do is change blue things to yellow. I didn’t bother to buy a cape or a spandex suit like the others. I just bought a blouse and some slacks and went into interior design.
I don’t get much business anymore. All the people in this town who liked yellow but moved into the houses of people who liked blue have pretty much hit me up. Blue is a more popular color than yellow anyway. I wish I could change yellow to blue instead. I’ve started doing odd jobs in my off hours. Sometimes I set up a folding table in front of my shop. While the real gifted fly over my building and punt criminals off of rooftops with their shiny boots, I do magic tricks for quarters, blue crayons to yellow, changing the color of children’s snow cones, that sort of thing. No matter how yellow I turn them, they taste like blue raspberry. Last week I did a quick paint job on a car for a few grand. I think it was for a getaway driver. I haven’t told my husband about that one, but I did take him out for a steak dinner.
Tyrone isn’t one of the gifted. He can’t even change things from blue to yellow. He can design skyscrapers though, and he’s good at it, too. He makes a hell of a lot more money than I do, anyway. After Dr. Detriment blew out all the windows on tower number one, he started incorporating sonic resistant glass into his plans. Now all the businesses want him to design their new offices. He just got a big contract with Triumva Corp South. They don’t want their offices to be yellow–I asked. Although, I suppose if they did want yellow, they wouldn’t bother to paint them blue first.
My parents were outraged when I brought Tyrone home and announced I’d be marrying outside of the gifted. They told me if I went through with it, I’d be diluting our genetics and that I wouldn’t be welcome in their home any more. They told me all this right in Tyrone’s face and he just sat silent in the yellow chair, tapping his foot on the yellow carpet because my Dad’s seven foot three and my mom can shoot lasers out of her eyes.
“Maybe I’m stuck changing the colors of paint swatches because all you gifted are a bunch of inbred hicks!” I shouted. I took Tyrone’s hand and marched toward the door. Then Dad teleported all of my things into the yard and Mom burned my face out of the family photo on the coffee table with her laser vision. We haven’t spoken since.
I don’t speak to many people, anymore. My office is empty most of the day, and I sit alone at the bistros where I eat lunch. A few weeks ago, I sat by another woman sitting alone just to see what would happen. We ended up chatting about our jobs and my peculiar powers came up. I ended up spilling my heart to her about Tyrone and my family, how hard it was to have some yellow-loving newlyweds in my office looking up to me like I was a hero then walk to the grocery store like everybody else.
“I feel like I’m a part of two worlds,” I told her, “and I suck at both of them.”
She patted my hand, and when we parted, she gave me a hug.
“I’ve never talked to one of the gifted face to face before,” she told me.
I saw her in the window of that bistro when I was passing by on the street the other day. I waved at her and she looked at me like she didn’t recognize me.
It’s a relief to come home to Tyrone, even if our four bedroom house does feel a little empty with just the two of us. We talk about our days, watch sitcoms on TV, joke about old times, how you really didn’t want to be there when my mom gave you the look. We used to watch the news, but it just made me depressed to see the gifted saving the day again and again, to see starry-eyed mothers shoving babies in their faces. We used to talk about babies too, but we don’t any more. We had this plan that when we conceived, we wouldn’t find out the sex of the baby until it was born because we could just shop for it as if it were a boy, and if it turned out to be a girl, I could turn all the blue things yellow, which was the new pink, after all. We don’t have that plan any more. I’ve been to the doctor and I can’t conceive. I guess I’m an inbred hick, too.
Tyrone’s parents are good people, but I don’t think they’ve ever really felt comfortable around me. They rarely talk to me directly. They used to ask me how my business was going, but since it hasn’t drawn a profit in five years, they’ve decided it’s more tactful not to. They accept my Christmas gifts with smiles every year and beam when I tell them “I made it myself,” but last year I overheard his mother confess to his aunt that she hates yellow. I guess it’s mall shopping for me this year.
The getaway drivers came back yesterday. Their boss was pleased with my work. It turns out if it hadn’t been for my quick paint job, that van would have never made it to its destination.
“You mean it would have been caught by the law,” I said.
The man laughed. “You’re an in intelligent woman, Ms. Ward. That’s why my boss is so keen to work with you in the future.” He handed me a roll of Benjamins and told me to wait under the East Wilhelm bridge after work that night.
“Half now, half later,” he said, and drove away. I waited, and I painted the van that came through with its lights off at eight fifteen. At nine, a woman in a dark cloak came by and slipped an envelope into my hand.
“Can you do any other colors?” she said.
I shook my head. I knew I wouldn’t be getting another contract.
When I got home that night, Tyrone was watching the news without me.
“Thank god you’re okay, baby,” he said. He jumped to my side and hugged me. “For a little bit there I thought you might be caught up in all this mess.”
The newscaster on the TV was talking fast about a major break in at the bank in the old Triumva Corp South building, the one that wasn’t fitted with Tyrone’s sonic proof windows. There was footage of civilians lying twisted on the floor covered in broken glass. The hair rose on my arms.
“Traffic was terrible,” I said.
“Officials believe the infamous Dr. Detriment may be behind this,” said the newscaster. “Civilians are instructed to notify police or the nearest gifted if they have any information on a navy blue cargo van last seen leaving the Triumva Corp building at ten after eight.”
I went to the bathroom and opened the envelope. It was a stack of hundreds, crisp, fresh. I took a quick breath and hid the envelope under the package of pads in the drawer on my side of the counter.
The event was all over the news today. I watched it on the computer in my office so Tyrone wouldn’t get suspicious. My name never came up, but it’s a thrill to be a part of something, to have reached out and touched the world.
I called my mom at lunch, but she didn’t answer. I called Tyrone after that, but I couldn’t tell him what I’d done.
“What are you having for lunch?” I asked him.
“A Hamburger at Steve’s,” he said. I could hear the clatter of plates, laughter, conversation, someone saying Tyrone’s name. We hung up and I sat in the eerie quiet of my office. The woman from the bistro walked by my window. I’d told her where I worked, but she didn’t look up.
A few hours later, Tyrone showed up at my door.
“You sounded down on the phone, baby. Is something wrong?”
I shook my head. “Just lonely. Business is slow.”
“Then let’s take the afternoon off,” he said. “I already have.”
We went to the art museum before it closed. One of the gifted–I make it a point not to remember their names–was hovering outside the doors, swooping down every three seconds to sign some kid’s autograph. I rolled my eyes and pulled Tyrone inside. The museum didn’t help. Beside every painting we stared at, there was a little placard with the artist’s biography on it. …changed the way we look at art. …would go on to become one of the great. …made great contributions to the utopian movement. Apparently all of these bastards were better than me, and they weren’t even gifted. We got to a canvas that was just painted solid blue. No designs. No shading. Nothing but blue. Here I was, trying my hardest to make it in this world, and I didn’t even have a kid who might just remember me for a few years after I was gone. Here was a guy who was going to be remembered forever for dipping some canvas in paint. I glared at the painting. I glared at the placard. I turned the painting yellow.
Tyrone stepped back and blinked his eyes. He slowly turned to me. “Put it back.”
“I can’t,” I said.
“Do you have any idea…” he started, but I wasn’t listening. I danced around the exhibit, pausing in front of each of the paintings. I turned a woman’s eyes yellow. I turned a pond yellow. I turned a bluebird yellow. I hurried outside. The security guards were after me by now, and Tyrone was, too.
“Baby, have you lost your mind?”
I kept running until I was outside under the sky, and I turned it yellow, too. It hung there over everything like maybe the sun was setting after a rainy day but it wasn’t or maybe like it was about to hail, but it didn’t.
Now I’m running, and I’m not sure why, because that gifted’s going to notice me in a second and stop signing autographs for long enough to kick my ass, but I’m turning as many things yellow as I can for now–that street sign, those flowers, that woman’s dress–because maybe they’ll remember me now.
“What’s wrong with the sky?” someone is shouting.
I turn a city bus yellow. I can’t turn it back.
Elise R. Hopkins was born in Fort Worth, Texas. She received her BFA in creative writing from Stephen F. Austin State University, and her work has appeared in HUMID and The Horror Zine.
The Colored Lens is a quarterly publication featuring short stories and serialized novellas in genres ranging from fantasy, to science fiction, to slipstream or magical realism. By considering what could be, we gain a better understanding of what is. Through our publication, we hope to help readers see the world just a bit differently than before.
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I liked this one a lot! 🙂 Very nice.
Nice. I love this genre, especially when it’s a unique take. The late present tense switch worked for me.