Here is the second chapter of the middle grade novel I've been working on. Sorry, it doesn't give you the answer to What's on Kai's shirt. I'd say that Ch. 1 is a flashforward really. You don't really discover what's on his shirt until more like Ch. 7. Sorry. This has been a rough chapter for me always. Some wise people told me I should do more showing (dialogue) and less telling, so it's been reworked. I'm still not sure what I think about it though. Let me know.
It was clear from the beginning that something was different about Kai. Even from toddler hood he seemed to have an awful time telling one color apart from another. To give you a better idea, here’s the conversation he had with his parents on the day he received his first set of 64 count crayons.
“It’s a picshure Mommy! Look, it’s a picshure Daddy!”
It’s a picture alright, but what is it Bud?”
“I don’t see trees. Where’s the trees?”
“What your father is trying to say Malachi is with all the wonderful shapes and colors in your picture, we can’t quite figure out where the trees are Son? Show me!”
“Right here Mommy. See?”
“Looks like a purple blob to me!”
“Oh honey, don’t listen to Daddy, it’s a beautiful picture, and I can see the trees I really can! I only have one question though?”
“Why are the trees purple son?”
“Trees aren’t purple Mommy. Trees are brown!”
“That’s what I thought!”
“Ignore your father Son. I know trees are brown, but your trees are purple!”
“Mommy, my trees aren’t purple, they’re brown.”
“Could’ve fooled me son!”
“What Daddy’s trying to say is your trees aren’t brown at all honey. You’ve colored them purple.”
“Yes Malachi. And, is this supposed to be our house here? This square with a little triangle on top?”
“Yes, that’s our house! Do you like it?”
“Sure Kiddo, but I certainly don’t live in a green house!”
“Oh for crying out loud, what your father is trying to say is, our house is yellow honey, not green.”
Now I know what you’re thinking. Give the kid a break already. Most little kids are pretty lazy when it comes to coloring altogether right? I mean they don’t really care if the sun should be a fiery ball of yellow and orange lighting up the sky for instance and often reach for what color is closest to them.
Well, that’s exactly the sort of position Kai’s parents took on the obvious purple tree screw up. His Mom got used to the notion that he wasn’t going to have the skills of say Picasso at age three, and assumed he was like any other kid and needed some time to adjust to things. And his Dad? Well, his Dad figured his Son’s little color blunders would eventually correct themselves.
By the time Kai entered school though, nothing had changed and his teachers began taking notice. In Kindergarten, for instance, Ms. Evick told his parents he had difficulty following directions.
“His projects always look different than everyone else’s,” she said to his Mom one day in the pick-up line after school.
“What do you mean different?” Kai’s mom said defensively.
“Well, Mrs. Smith. He never paints, colors, or chalks anything like he’s supposed to. I mean look at this,” she said producing a large, white canvas from inside a tan bag sponge painted with apples.
Oh please, she’s brought his artwork along as evidence Mrs. Smith thought.
“What is it?” she finally said baffled at the less than concentric circles that filled the page. “I mean it looks like rocks to me.”
“Exactly,” Ms. Evick said as wrinkles of concern flashed across her face. Glancing from left to right, she leaned in until the tips of her glasses touched the edge of the driver side window. “It’s actually supposed to be apples,” she whispered placing a hand on her throat. “I think your little guy got confused. He colored them brown. Ooops! I think we should discuss this further. Don’t you think?”
Oh for crying out loud, this is Kindergarten not college, Kai’s mom thought dismissing the idea that an error in apple coloring was grounds for a special meeting.
“I’ll talk to my husband,” she finally said with a sigh before pressing the automatic window button and speeding off.
In first-grade, Kai’s class took a trip to the local pumpkin farm in early October. Back at school his teacher, Mrs. Hemstreet, asked the students to draw what they’d seen, which Kai did willingly.
“Kai dear,” Mrs. Hemstreet said shrilly after he’d casually placed his picture on her desk.
“Can I talk to you?”
“Yes, Mrs. Hemstreet. You wanted to see me?” he said.
“I’m perplexed child,” she began. “What exactly did you see at the A-1 Farmstand?”
Kai stared at his teacher with a blank look.
“I mean what are these?” she said waving a hand dramatically over the small and medium circles he’d drawn near the bottom of the page.
“Pumkins,” Mrs. Hemstreet said stiffening in her chair.
“Yeah, they’re pumpkins,” he said again wondering why his teacher was having such a problem figuring out the most obvious thing in the world.
“Well, why on earth are the pumpkins yellow?” Mrs. Hemstreet asked clutching a hand to her chest.
“They’re not yellow. I colored them orange. Don’t you see?”
“Oh dear,” Mrs. Hemstreet sighed shifting in her seat. “Kai honey, these pumpkins are definitely not orange. I mean look,” and she conveniently withdrew a yellow circle that had been placed in her desk and put it near the pumpkins in his drawing.
“Don’t they look different?”
“I guess,” Kai said. “Now they do. But I swear Mrs. H. They looked orange at my desk!”
And so the story went year after year. In second grade, his model of the solar system took a turn for the worse when he mixed up the paint colors and earth turned out looking more like the red planet’s twin. In third, he received a D for a social studies project because he colored the five major oceans granny smith apple instead of blue.
Eventually Kai landed in fourth-grade with Mrs. Ballard. She was hopeful that the strange color issues she’d heard about from fellow teachers would magically disappear prior to him starting school in August. When that never happened, she became certain it was just a phase that her student needed to outgrow. That is until something happened on St. Patrick’s Day that made her pick up the phone to request a conference with his parents, Scott and Jenny Smith.