SPECIAL FEATURE: SHADES OF GREY

IN THE SUN TOO LONG

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I went outside to lie on the dock. I was wearing that dress, the same color of the sherbet we ate that whole summer, and my hair was long. It was so long, I tucked it behind my ears every minute that year.

I went outside to lie on the dock. Outside, I ran, because I couldn’t bear to look at your face anymore. It wasn’t what you’d done the night before; I just needed to not see you for a while.

I tried to gather some shade there on the dock, but the sun was shining so bright. My legs fell between the shadows of the ladder’s arms. I fell asleep like that, lying on the dock. I slept. I dreamt. When I woke up, I watched my chest rise and fall as the river’s half-waves rocked the dock.

When I came back into the house, you noticed the sunburn on the tops of my shoulders instead of noticing me. You stood there at the butcher block, chopping onions for that soup you’d always make for the two of us.

— What did I tell you about staying in the sun too long? you asked me. Your question was more of a rhetorical reminder, eliciting apology instead of an answer.

— Sorry, I said to you.

— Go get the aloe plant from the porch, you said, still chopping. The onion smell stung my eyes as you talked; you didn’t flinch. — It’s next to the rocking chair.

Through the screen door, I went out to the porch to find the aloe plant. You had so many plants on our porch that summer, and as the months grew warmer, it got harder to walk between the pots. I tiptoed between your terra cotta pots, avoiding cactus needles, until I came to the aloe’s leaves growing as tall as my legs.

I held the pot in both hands and wobbled back inside with it, bringing it to you in the kitchen. I set it down next to you on the block.

— What were you doing out there all day? you asked, this time seeming in need of a reason.

— Oh, you know, I said, though you did not. — I slept. I thought about things.

— What did you have to think about for so long out there in the sun? you asked.

Then you stopped chopping the onions. I thought you had enough of them there on the block. My eyes still winced from the sting in the air.

You slid the aloe’s pot across your butcher block. You held on to the top of a stalky leaf. And it shocked me when you took your knife and cut into the plant with the onion oil dripping, ripping the top of the aloe from its roots. I gasped at the sound of the knife tearing through it.

— Come here, you said. And before I could feel relief from not having to answer any more of your questions, you shoved the saw of the plant into my back. You dug into my sunburnt skin with it, and you rubbed it in. I gasped, trying not to scream. I felt the aloe’s gel seep into the strap of my dress, staining the sherbet color with its green. You kept digging, digging the hole into my shoulder.

— What did I tell you about staying in the sun too long? you asked. You never wanted an answer.


Stories Inside the SHADES OF GREY Special Feature:

The Difference Between
My Sister and Her Photograph

by Tim Gilmore 
Drowned
by Mark Ari 
I Have Been Asleep
For a Very Long Time

by Sal Bilheimer 
.
Gathering Sounds
by Matthew B. Shaw 
In the Sun Too Long
by Hurley Winkler 
Oxygen and Apologies
by Carl Rosen 

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