about the author

Jeffrey Kingman is a horror movie junkie who lives in Vallejo, California—a beautiful town with an ugly reputation. His novel, Moto Girl, is a family drama about a twelve-year-old girl learning to ride motocross. The book was a Dana Awards semifinalist. Currently, Jeff has given up fiction for poetry. He has a Master’s degree in Music Composition and can be seen late at night banging his drums at bars in San Francisco.

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Four Colors Standing on a Corner

Jeffrey Kingman

Four colors stand on a Manhattan street corner, deciding their next move. Early morning, clouds. No people on 10th Avenue. Just cars. The Hudson River is gray.

The two boys, Red and Yellow, argue. Where to go?

Red says, The Hilton lobby has giant chandeliers all in a row hanging above the clerks. We can just blow through.

Yellow says, No. I saw that place once before. It’ll be boring the second time.

Yet if the girls suggest anything the boys join together.

The Blue girl says, Blowing is immoral, I think. She taps an immaculate fingernail (French manicure) against her lips. Haven’t we been told about blowing?

Don’t be so literal, Blue.

Yeah, Blue. Don’t be so literal.

(Red is the big boy. Yellow follows along.)

The clouds part, cold sun begins to peek its way through the tall buildings.

A gray man passes by and waits at the curb for the walk signal. Cars rush by, an overturned bathtub (an ancient Buick), also gray. Everything’s gray.

The man looks over his shoulder at the four colors. Jealous. He turns away and crosses. They watch him go, their eyes narrowed.

The distraction gone, they wait for the fourth opinion, Teal. She says, Chelsea Grill has a tiny table in the corner of their basement, with three tiny chairs.

Three? Shit, that doesn’t help us, Teal.

Yeah, Teal, come on.

Teal runs away.

Blue glares at the boys. Are you done?

She chases after Teal, who’s hailing a cab. But Teal can’t find a cab, can’t see which ones; they’re all gray.

Blue says, Teal! Teal! Don’t leave us!

Teal wasn’t going to cry, but now she can’t help it. I hate those boys.

Blue takes a hard look at her before responding.

You don’t hate them.

Teal hesitates. Well...I only like them when they kiss me.

Teal always has a comb at the ready for her bangs. The rest of her hair she neglects; it’s in snarls.

Why can’t they always kiss me?

Blue brushes her arm. Oh, Teal. Things can’t always be so intense.

Why not?

Kiss all the time? Ha! There are other things to do, silly.

Yes, but we can never decide.

Blue doesn’t have an answer for this. She shrugs.

A car pulls to the curb, a gray Crown Victoria. The man looks up at Teal with an empty smile.

Are you a cab? says Teal.

I’ll drive you.

She starts to get in, but Blue pulls her elbow. You can’t go with him!

Teal looks back at Blue with a pouting face.

You can’t go with him—he’s gray!

Come on in, says the driver. But comb your hair first.

Teal looks at him and licks her lips. She combs her bangs.

I meant comb the other parts, says the driver.

Teal has a habit of leaving, but never far, never for long. This time is different. Awful. She actually went away in the gray man’s car.

The boys saunter up to Blue, overconfident. But when Blue begins to tell them, they can see she is despondent. She doesn’t even scold them. And when she finally reveals how Teal left, Red and Yellow are scared, like little kids.

Yellow almost cries. A gray man? A gray car? He keeps saying it over and over. As if saying it will make it untrue.

Blue hugs him, and this revives her. Now she takes charge. She says, I know you love Teal, I know. We all love her. Right, Red?

Red takes a turn hugging Yellow.

They search the city, searching, searching for Teal. They can’t find her but they keep on.

Red likes to work alone.

Blue and Yellow slide up a glass building, windows like black mirrors. On the roof, tar and gravel. No Teal. They fall down the elevator shaft, avoid the oily metal cables. Streaking together, they both turn green, then slow down near the bottom. They float.

Meanwhile Red swims the Hudson, cold as goldfish. Looks for Teal...up at boat bottoms (metal)...is she underneath? Hiding?

Back on land he thinks he spots her in a glove box. Something has color in there but it disappeared.

Teal...Teal, Teal...we’ll find you, Teal... Hang on.

Red joins up with the other two, re-tripling their efforts. Ah! Remember what Teal told us? Now to Chelsea Grill, that corner of the basement!

They find a mouse in a plastic bubble wants to sit at the tiny table. It can’t; it’s trapped in the bubble. So they release the mouse, but it bites them, nasty.

A row of cars, Crown Victorias, are lined up straight, two dozen, all identical, all gray, a man in each one. Open the first door: the man falls out onto the street. Open the second door: the same thing. All the way down the line until the end where there’s a brick wall. But it’s...it’s not gray! It’s burnt red. And Teal, there’s Teal! She stands, her back against the wall. They’re horrified to see that she is gray from the neck down. Her head is Teal; it’s normal, but the rest of her...oh! They stand back, afraid.

Blue musters her strength, says, It’ll be difficult to care for an invalid, but we can do it.

The weeks pass, and they have to prop Teal up on their street corner until she can stand on her own. She is limp.

Red says, Teal, remember when we used to stand here? Here on this corner? And we had to decide? You always told us off, but we wouldn’t believe you.

They try in this way to needle things out of her. But she hasn’t much to say. One day Blue tells her the story of how they released the mouse at the tiny table and it bit them, nasty.

Teal hears this, perks up. Cocks her head. She apologizes for the mouse’s behavior.

Why stick up for that old mouse? they all want to know. A conversation begins.

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