Saturday, September 30, 2017

Io - Chapter 1

Chapter 1 Briar

Allegory Falls is the kind of place your mother would want you to live. Rather, Allegory Falls is the kind of place your mother herself would want to live in retirement. There are two coffee shops, a small shopping outlet, and plenty of five-star old folks homes. Situated right in the nailbed of Michigan’s thumb, it’s butted up against Lake Huron. The half of us whose houses face the west can see Canada from our backyards, which is pretty cool, I guess. As long as mosquitoes don’t bother you, and you don’t mind never meeting anyone new ever again, I’d say Allegory Falls is the place for you.
That being said, I grew up here along with everyone that I’ve ever come to know. We’re pretty much a boondocks town, so we don’t really get many tourists. Occasionally when I was still in school we’d get a new student, but I could count them all on one hand. So, naturally, I met Io when we were both tottering around our kindergarten classroom. He was playing at the sand table, making a mess - as Io does. I remember he had sand dotting his curly brown hair, and the freckles that splashed his nose and cheeks seemed especially fitting. I simply asked him if he wanted to be friends -because that’s how you do things when you’re young enough to not be corrupted by our convoluted social norms- and thus; we were friends.

. . .

I didn’t truly know Io until the second grade. We were paired up in a sort of desk-buddy situation at the beginning of the semester. I specifically remember not being able to afford a new set of crayons that year; Dad was having an especially rough patch and I was too scared to ask. My set was missing the green, but I didn’t mind; that is, until Mrs.Wasserman told us to draw a rainbow. I was a determined and steeled child, so honestly, it didn’t phase me that much that my rainbow was the only one out of everyone’s that was missing a color. Mrs.Wasserman, however, found my rainbow to be less than satisfactory.
“Briar, it looks like you missed a color in your rainbow there, darlin’. Remember our good buddy, Roy G. Biv? Can you tell me what that stands for?”
I squared my shoulders. Of course I remembered Roy. G. Biv. We’d only learned it the day before, but talk about elementary!
“Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet!” I exclaimed proudly.
Mrs.Wasserman smiled, her shiny pink lips spreading across her teeth like strange earthworms.
“Very good, Briar! Now, tell me which one of your colors is missing.”
“Green, obviously.”
Mrs.Wasserman was taken slightly aback at my boldness. I remember her spidery eyelashes practically started to crawl across her face.
“Well, is there any reason why you chose to leave it out?”
I shrugged, very apathetic toward the whole situation. Who cared if my rainbow didn’t have green? Green was a stupid color anyway.
“I don’t have green in my rainbow because I don’t have a green crayon. It’s missing.”
I opened my desk and pulled out the frayed yellow package. The nubby crayons rattled around on the inside as a piece of shredded crayon wrapping fell through the little window in the cardboard. I let it fall to the floor as I opened it the box to show her.
“See? It’s been missing since the summer. I think I left it at Nana’s house, but I don’t go there very much anymore, so I don’t think I’ll be getting it back any time soon. Dad says she got real sick, but I think he just doesn’t want to see her anymore.” I paused, returning my crayons back to their proper place in my desk. “Am I in trouble?”
Mrs.Wasserman seemed really pale. I was just about to ask her if she’s okay when she perked right back up and put on that earthwormy smile again.
“No. No you’re not, Briar. I’m sure Io wouldn’t mind sharing his green crayon with you. Isn’t that right, Io?”
Io had been quietly drawing. I looked down at his paper and saw he was sketching out a surprisingly accurate array of rocketships. Each one was drawn in a different color - in rainbow order, in fact - and each was decorated with a different flower.
He looked up from his work with slow eyes. His mouth was slack, his glasses were falling down his face, and his collar was popping up on one side. In hindsight, he looked kinda dumb, but I didn’t think anything of it at the time. All I could think about was the fact that this boy had drawn some of the best rocketships I had ever seen in my life, and I could name every single one of the flowers that adorned them. I was so distracted by the drawing that I didn’t even see him hand me the green crayon. He must have been holding it out for at least a good ten seconds, because Mrs.Wasserman had to put her hand on my shoulder to release me from my stupor. Io was slowing inching his hand across the page to hide his handiwork.
“Oh, um… thank you, “ I managed to stammer, an uncharacteristic blush rising to my cheeks. He definitely saw me staring.
“You’re welcome,” he said shyly, thumbing the corner of his paper.
I turned back to my rainbow, wielding the infamous green crayon. Why did I feel so funny? Was I sick? I had some kinda funny cottage cheese at lunch, but to be honest, I’d definitely eaten worse. Why was my hand shaking?
It took some effort to color in the missing portion of my rainbow without bleeding over the lines. I was being extra meticulous, too, considering I was in the presence of a bloody artistic genius. I had never really felt intimidation before that.
I hated it.
“Here, I’m done. You can have it back now,” I said, thrusting the green crayon between us like it was diseased.
Io, once again, looked up with drowsy eyes. My heart jumped up into my throat. Panicking, I shoved it back down into my chest where it damn well belonged.
“Oh, you can keep it. I have another.”
What? This was not a part of the plan. Not that I had a plan to begin with, but even if I did, this would not be part of it. I didn’t want to be… indebted to this kid! I could barely talk to him, let alone owe him anything. That means there would definitely be future conversations, and I just couldn’t have that.
“No, please, take it. I hate green anyways.”
“Mrs.Wasserman would probably like it better if you kept it. She seemed kinda uncomfortable about the whole thing.” He gave a sly smile, “And besides, it would be in my best interests if you owed me a favor. You never know when you’ll need a favor.”
Damn, this kid was perceptive. I wasn’t about to let him outsmart me. I had to think quickly. I had to… I had to… damn it, why couldn’t I think?
“Fine! I’ll keep it then,” I blurted, turning back in my chair, stuffing my head into my arms on the desk.
I heard Io shift in his seat as well as he picked up another crayon. I could practically see him smirking with that freckled face of his.
“Good. It’s going to be a real juicy favor, too. Green is my favorite color.”

And all of a sudden, green didn’t seem like such a stupid color after all.

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