By Leslie Lindsay
After careful review from my critique partner, this scene won’t be making the cut for my novel-in-progress, sad as that is…
My repsonse: “I may have banged this out to understand my character’s story better.” Remember, even if the writing’s good, it doesn’t always have a place in your current story. So, I am saying good-bye to this piece but thought I’d at least give it a chance to be seen. Remember, this is original work. No part may be reproduced without consent from the author. Thank you.
31 years ago
“At five years old, I had long blonde hair, big blue eyes and was referred to as precocious. It was summer. The kitchen of my childhood home was blue, like the taste of muffins. An aloe vera plant grew in the windowsill, green smooth and slick. Cutlery clanged, filling the air with sparkly bursts of color.
“Do it again!” I begged mom bouncing in my chair at the table.
“Do what?” My mother turned slowly from the Whirlpool dishwasher.
“Make the stars.”
“Stars?” She shook her head and looked at me like she hadn’t the slightest of what I was talking about, a silly childhood game. Mom leaned forward, took a drag of her cigarette, dropping the ashes into the soil of the aloe vera plant. I glowed like the sun.
“The sparkly rainbow stars. Don’t you see them?”
“Annie,” she turned and looked at me that stern way moms do when they are angry. “There are no stars. These are dishes.”
With a child’s impatience, I dropped from my seat and walked to the dishwasher. I picked up a spoon and a fork. “Like this,” I said as I clanged the utensils together. My eyes widened as I took in the iridescent colors expanding in my field of vision, bursts of color I could reach out and touch.
“You mean,” she said slowly, “The sound makes you think of stars?”
“No. There are stars in the air. Don’t you see them?”
She took the cigarette to her lips and inhaled. “No, I don’t.” She tapped the ashes into the plant again.
I stamped my foot in the linoleum. “But you aren’t looking!” I reached for a butter knife and fork this time. Maybe different utensils made different shapes and colors. I banged them together again and once again, the iridescent stars appeared.
Mom snatched the fork and knife from my grip and flung them into the drawer. “You must be seeing the sun reflect off the particles of dust in the air,” her voice growing annoyed.
I sulked, “Don’t you see them?”
“No. I do. Not. See. Stars. Now, go sit down.”
I sucked in a deep breath then and stalked off. Over my shoulder I muttered, “You’re just looking in the right place.” At that point, mommy walked away from the sink and kneeled down so she was even with my height. She put her arms on my shoulder. Her cigarette dangled from her lips as she said, “You are wrong. I don’t want to hear anything more about seeing stars, or anything else for that matter. No, scat!”
I slunk out of the kitchen and into the family room where I threw myself down on the couch. I let out a wail of frustration, all fire-orange red like a dragon. Mom’s gray voice warbled into the room like smoke cloud.
“Enough already, Annie. Why don’t you turn on Sesame Street, or something?”
In Dr. Gupta’s office, mommy looked like a giant. She didn’t fit in the tiny orange chairs that lined the table, she was too big for the saltbox dollhouse and the stubs of crayons didn’t fit into her hands very well when she tried to color. And I knew she’d rather be anywhere else but sitting here with me and the kind doctor.
“An isolated visual hallucination is rare,” began Dr. Gupta. She tilted her head and the ornate gold necklace she wore glistened in the light. “More often—in children—psychotic symptoms present as agitated behavior, a sort of acting out,” and she glanced kindly at me in the corner, quietly playing with puppets. “Have you seen any abrupt changes in her behavior or attitude?”
Mommy shook her head, “Well, no. Other than the insistence that she saw stars.”
“Violence towards animals? Changes in eating or sleeping habits? Extreme sadness?”
“Well, she eats like a bird, but that’s typical. She’s very creative. Perhaps she’s just making this stuff up?”
“Perhaps. Mind you, but I must ask—is there anything going on with your relationship with your husband?”
“No. Nothing like that,” mom looked at her wedding band and diamond, a prism of color reflecting from the sun to me.”
“A sudden change, or loss in your lives? Even if it seems insignificant to you, it could mean a good deal to Annie.”
Again, mommy shook her head. I knew she needed a cigarette. She bit her lower lip and swallowed hard. Surely Annie couldn’t be psychotic, she must have thought. Annie, who would rather color and make stained glass sun catchers than watch television; who would read picture books by memory to her stuffed animals; Annie, who had mastered the swings all on her own. Yet there was a truth inside of her head that made her think maybe I did have a problem. A family history of mental illness.
“I had a great aunt who claimed to see things. We all thought Aunt Louise was off her rocker, so we just ignored her.”
“In that case, if things worsen, I would recommend starting Annie on a low dose of Risperdal, to see if it makes much difference.” Dr. Gupta reached forward on her desk for a pad of paper and scrawled out a prescription. She ripped it off of the pad with a loud searing sound, like the wind blowing through a tight window.
My mother reached forward taking the white square of paper into her hands. Her eyes lowered as she must have tried deciphering the doctor’s note. “Okay,” she said. I could see her voice trembling, undulating like waves blue and green and gray. “Very well. Thank you, Doctor.”
She reached out her hand to me. I dropped the puppet and clamored to her side.”
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