Today’s guest writer shows us how innocently racism can begin in our society. The truthfulness of the writer’s insight may surprise you.
Hello my brother and sister bloggers and writers and Flash Fiction Fanatics. The Old Soldier is always claiming that the flash fiction form is capable of providing insight into any subject that a writer can think of. It’s just a matter of writing short on long subjects. And our guest writer today has done just that.
If you would like to try your hand at writing short on long subjects, send me a story. I’ll work with you to showcase your talent in the Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette. All you have to do is read and follow the submission guidelines. The submissions tab is at the top of the page.
Now for our feature presentation.
The large sliding-glass windows of the rear wall brought cloudy afternoon light to Lynette and Tabitha’s drawing and coloring work on the dining table. An open box of Crayola 64-color crayons sat in the center of the table. Next to the box were some scattered sheets of white paper.
Lynette was using a Burnt Sienna Crayola to color in a neatly drawn dog; being older and bigger than Tabitha, she sat back in her chair with her feet flat on the floor. Tabitha’s knees were on the seat of her wooden chair; her body was leaning against the table and her head was resting on her left arm as she used her right to draw on a piece of paper.
Starting with an oval drawn at the top of the sheet, Tabitha began creating a lady with a long, slender neck, sloping shoulders and a thin, square torso clad in a buttoned blouse, a suit jacket and slacks, and shoes with laces. The lady’s hair was drawn with long strokes that started from the top of her head and curved around her shoulders. The facial features were tight and fine: little lemon shapes with dots inside for eyes, a pointy crooked “L” as a nose, and a small curve for a smile.
With the form of the lady complete, Tabitha put down the pencil and reached for the crayon box to choose her colors. Periwinkle was for the jacket and slacks, Sea Green was for the blouse, and plain old Gray for the shoes.
When Tabitha was finished coloring the lady, she looked up from her paper at Lynette. “Lynette, look,” Tabitha said, smiling as she pushed the paper toward her friend.
Lynette turned her head to peer at Tabitha’s work. After a short pause, Lynette said, “You need to color her face.”
Tabitha’s smile shrunk a little at the comment. She didn’t know what to say; “That’s nice, Tabitha” was what she usually got whenever she showed Lynette a picture she drew.
“Why don’t you color her face?” Lynette continued, pushing the paper back to Tabitha.
Tabitha looked at the lady’s face; she didn’t see anything wrong with it, or anything that coloring it would make better. Responding to Lynette the only way she could, Tabitha looked up and shrugged her shoulders.
“You don’t want her to be white, do you?” Lynette’s nose wrinkled. “You can’t let her be white!”
Tabitha still said nothing. She hadn’t thought about the lady being white or black; she was just drawing a pretty, sharp-dressed lady. As she kept thinking about it, she realized that she just didn’t want to put any crayon over the lady’s face. Her features were pretty and perfect, not to be covered up with harsh messy scrawls. Still looking at the picture, Tabitha shrugged again.
Lynette took a crayon out of the box and tossed it on the table toward Tabitha. “Here, make her light-skin-ded,” Lynette dictated. “At least then she’ll still be black.”
Tabitha looked at the crayon. The color: “Peach.” She picked it up and then began rubbing the tip delicately on the lady’s face.
Bio: Stephani Maari Booker is an editor for the African-American newspaper Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. “Coloring” is excerpted from an unpublished book entitled The Tabitha Times. Another excerpt from this book, “Playing House,” appeared in the Spring 2005 issue of Blithe House Quarterly, an online journal of GLBT short fiction. Feel free to visit Stephani’s web page for more information about her work: www.mnartists.org/Stephani_Booker
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