“Look at the stars. Look how they shine for you. And everything you do. Yeah, they were all yellow.” ~Coldplay
It’s funny how I got into Coldplay. I used to visit my local record store and see albums chronically on sale, as if they wouldn’t sell if they were ever to revert to regular prices. I told myself I would never buy any of them because how could they be worth it? But this one album cover kept calling out to me, so I flipped it to the back one day and looked at the song titles. “Yellow” caught my eye. So I bought the record.
That’s how I used to be, constantly interested in what things evoked for me, not necessarily interested in the things themselves. The color yellow was, to me, a remembrance of the bus that used to take us to school every morning. It was the sun above when it landed high in the sky at mid-day. It was the slide at one of our local parks where I would wear my jeans raw in autumn. Yellow was, to me, a brilliance unmatched by any other color. It wasn’t my favorite color, but it was undeniably brilliant.
So the flash fiction topic today is the color yellow, and you’d think I would have a million things to say about it. But sometimes when something brings up a lot of memories it’s hard to write fiction about it. That’s where I sit now, so I think I’ll remind you of the rules of the Flash Fiction Challenge…
- Each entry has to follow a set prompt
- Each entry has to be 1,000 words or fewer
- Each entry has to be written specifically for this challenge
The Color Yellow.
His pee was yellow, a bright yellow that made him worry more than usual because his doctor said pee should be clear. But if he peed in a cup right then it would be mistaken for Mountain Dew instead of water, which just didn’t seem like it was good. He drank his water, more than the prescribed amount even, but somehow it didn’t translate into even a lightening of the stark yellow that filled the water in his toilet bowl. It had gotten so bad that he refused to watch when he peed, closing his eyes and hoping for the best instead. Sometimes he even sat down even when he didn’t have to relieve his bowels, just so he wouldn’t have to confront the yellow demon that had begun to haunt him.
He had just turned 50, which also didn’t help matters. The hair on his head was more white than black anymore, at least naturally, but he dyed it because he was uncharacteristically vain when it came to his hair. His paunch, his widely expanding waistline, didn’t even make him blink, even though his pant size had ballooned to twice what it had been when he was in his 20s. His eyesight had also eroded over the years, and he wore bifocals, but not once did he attempt to get laser eye surgery. Yet when it came to his hair he was like a woman; indeed, if he missed an appointment with his dye guy he had a royal meltdown.
So the pee thing, it was unfathomable. His doctor said he should give up red meat, so he did. His wife said maybe it was the way they made love, so they changed positions. His mother said it was all mental, so he saw a psychiatrist. But absolutely nothing changed his reality, that his pee was the color yellow, and that there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. It wasn’t like he could dye his pee like he did his hair. It wouldn’t fix the problem. It wouldn’t ease his peace of mind. And it didn’t help that yellow reminded him of things he would sooner have forgotten.
The brick road that went by his childhood home was painted yellow by his father, the sidewalk transformed into an idiom from a children’s book, a living, breathing manifestation of possibility. Or of ridicule. The other children in the neighborhood would make fun of him for the yellow brick road, calling him Dorothy, or worse yet, Toto. They took to painting ruby slippers on his locker, dumping cups of water on him when he wasn’t expecting it, and chanting “there’s no place like home,” whenever they saw him.
Eventually his family had to move, the bullying got so intense, and he welcomed the plain concrete walkway in front of his new house, but the taunts stayed with him no matter how old he got. It wasn’t the words themselves, or the chanting that stuck with him, though. It was instead the attitudes of those who had said those words, and who had chanted that mantra that sometimes still made him cry at night. His wife said he sometimes blubbered like a child, like he was back there in his mind, in the midst of his nightmares.
So it was no wonder his pee was yellow no matter how much water he drank, and no matter that he gave up red meat. His psychiatrist said it best, that nerves are a fragile construct, and that the only way to best them is to finally confront them, to admit that you’re not over what you’ve pretended you’re over for years. He had to eventually come to grips with the fact that the bullying hadn’t stopped just because he moved, that it stayed with him all those years, through all his individual successes and massive failures, through his first marriage, his second marriage, and two children.
And there it confronted him every day, down in the depths of his toilet bowl, that same bright yellow color that had previously adorned the bricks in front of his childhood home. The more he wanted to deny the similarity it stood there in his face just the same, taunting him just as defiantly as the kids who still haunted him had done oh so long ago. It painted his life like so many solid bricks that were never going to go anywhere. He realized to get over it he would have to confront those boys, to let them know how their words and deeds had affected him. He needed closure, even though the word was cliche, and the feeling was overdone.
Because his pee was yellow, and that just would not do.