Douglas J. Ogurek
The Football Game at Fuller Finglow's House
When he looked into the River Inume's flowt at Fuller Finglow's house, Max Landrum might have stopped only coloring Prafts, but he did not.
* * *
Tom Landrum and his son Max arrived at the Finglow house two minutes into the first quarter. Neither the Tanks nor the Soaring had scored.
In a corner of the family room stood a faceless statue resembling the Grim Reaper. However, many colors speckled its cloak, and its scythe had a wavy mirrored blade. Fuller Finglow and another boy colored on the floor. They sat between the statue and the glass door that displayed the backyard.
Ilan Slift, stroking a gold scarf streaked with silver, swayed a gold spreading knife before a window. "Tasty color, Tom. Perhaps a tribute to the Soaring?"
"Right, pal," said Landrum. "That's why I got the Tanks flags on it."
"Those flags…don't you think they're rather…barbaric?"
"Huh? Three-hundred fifty horses, and sixteen thousand. Sucker can haul over sixteen thousand pounds. Powerful. No question about it."
"That gold though. I'm thinking you may have a latent devotion to the Soaring."
"Nah. The Soaring? I would've got something—I don't know—flashier."
Slift arched the knife over his head. "For me, I've always thought gold was flashy." The handle was embedded with a floral pattern, and a red cheese smeared over the blade.
Landrum said, "Gold gets you more esteem. From clients, and coworkers. That's what it boils down to. Esteem. They've done studies. Makes more sense. Not like these streets you got here, Finglow."
Holden Slift's shout stifled Skip Finglow's response. "No no no." Holden was upstairs, coloring with another boy and a girl.
"To be honest," said Landrum, "your streets curve too much. Inefficient. And the names: Drift, Ripple, Wade. What's with that?"
Finglow said, "I hear what you're saying."
"No no no." Holden yanked a light purple crayon away from the boy, then held up a darker one. "This purple. The Hywisps' sky is this purple. Color it with this." He put the darker crayon in the boy's hand.
Three medallions of sunlight shone on the bird on Fuller's shirt. "That crayon looks like our mulberries," he said. "In summer."
"No, not mulberry." Holden grabbed the dark purple crayon. He pointed down at Fuller, then repeatedly pulled back his finger. "R-E-G-A-L. This is reeee-gal purple. It purples like trumpets."
Tom Landrum continued. "I mean, this is Mendahl Cove? That's what the sign said. But there's no cove. Doesn't make much sense. Not even any water."
Finglow looked at a fragment of a yellow leaf on his sleeve. "Maybe not."
Holden stood at the top of the stairs. A gold football helmet with silver streaks and "SC" in silver script sparkled on his shirt.
Max touched the letters that spelled "Tanks" on his shirt. They were silver, and shiny. They did not curve. Max put his bag on the table in the corner opposite the statue. He removed a box containing twelve canisters of Chime-Glub clay.
Fuller said, "Can we use your Chime-Glub, Max?"
"It's too hard. It's old, and it's kind of babyish."
"Not always. I'll bring it to my dad. He can fix it."
Max gave Fuller the clay, then removed a box of crayons and a coloring book titled "The Prafts and the Hywisps." He removed five crayons from a pocket in the bag. Three were silver, and two were gold.
Tom Landrum shouted at the TV. "Aw stop him. No. C'mon. Nah stop him. Awwwww. Guy's a hot dog. Look at that hot dog."
Mr. Slift raised a wine glass at the television. "Oh, to me, Loftus is so much more filet mignon than hot dog."
* * *
The Landivum River ran through Warth. On one side of the river were the Browntans. There, the ground was flat and brown, and the sky was tan.
The Prafts built all the castles in the Browntans. The Prafts' castles were square, and brown and tan. Inside their castles, the Prafts ate piesquares, and got answers.
Rouzzle Peaks chirped and spiced on the other side of the river. The sky there purpled like trumpets, and the hrees and tills and mouds and cloutains curled like the taste of chocolate peppermints.
In Rouzzle Peaks, the Hywisps created all the castles, which whistled with colors, and tangyfizzled like melted spirals. The Hywisps went to their castles to taste the shapes, and listen to the colors.
As you can see (and smell), the Prafts and Hywisps were as different as night and the smell of clay. But in one way, they were all the same: they were afraid of the River Inume.
No Praft or Hywisp had ever met the Inume. But on still and fruit punchy days, the Inume's flowt music glided along the Landivum River. Then you knew it was time to go.
* * *
The boy from upstairs joined Max at the table. The girl stayed up there with Holden. The boy turned to a picture in Max's coloring book. It showed a river between two creatures: a winged creature perched in a tree with swirling branches, and a two-legged creature on the ground. The boy asked if he could color it.
Max turned to a page that showed only the wingless creature. "Prafts are better. Let's color the Prafts."
"But that one, that river? The one river one? It had that other one too, with the wings and…" The boy twirled his hand.
"Hywisps are for babies. You're not a baby, got it?" Max ripped out the picture of the Praft, then set it in front of the boy. Max gave the boy a brown crayon and a tan crayon. "There. That's all you need. It really is. Brown and tan."
Ilan Slift's fingers slid over his scarf, leaving slight impressions in the fabric. "The Soaring have a stadium that is sumptuous, as well as the biggest payroll in the league. For me, that's a formula for success." He stepped onto the brick hearth, bringing his face into a patch of sunlight. "Ah, flunge. Move, sun, move."
"That stadium's out of control," said Tom Landrum. "Too much. What? Six hundred million for that thing. Pointless."
"It has flavor." The scarf reflected light as Slift rolled it between his fingertips. "And flavor costs more. Have you ever considered a skylight in here, Skip?"
Finglow tipped a few drops of water into one of the Chime-Glub canisters. "I have a skylight. A large one." He pointed to the sliding glass door. "Stretches across the entire deck."
"Clever. That's clever."
Max colored quickly. "Brown and tan. Because everything in the browntans is brown and tan. And the Prafts' castles are square and brown and tan."
Upstairs, Holden snatched a crayon from the girl. "No no. Hywisp castles whistle with colors. Color it all different colors." He stuck his hand through the banister posts. "Hey you down there. You, Max. Let me hold one of those crayons. Here. Toss it up here."
Max picked up a brown crayon.
"No no no. Snore. Not that. One of the shiny ones."
Max took a bronze crayon from the box, held it up. "This one. It shines."
Holden pointed, pulled back his finger. "Snory. That's penny color."
"You had gold knives," said Max. "Last time at your house?"
"Pennies are vanilla."
"Gold knives. You didn't let me hold any."
"I let you hold a gold spoon."
"Spoons are for girls."
Holden patted the helmet on his shirt. "You can't buy anything with pennies."
"…all that flavor," said Tom Landrum. "Maybe your Soaring should wear aprons then."
"Clever." Slift yawned, and his scarf gleamed. "You're just a quarry of wit, aren't you, Tom?"
"Tanks got tradition. Tradition. Look it there. Classic uniforms."
"I find them rather vanilla."
A light shone on Max's bronze crayon. The boy with Fuller giggled. Fuller was using his watch to reflect sunlight onto the crayon. "That's the color of branches," said Fuller. "After it rains. And when the sun comes out."
Holden pointed at Max, then pulled back his finger. "Hey down there. I got gold knives. Gold ones."
"…the silver helmets?" said Landrum. "Classic. And that blocky C? Tradition right there."
Slift clasped the ends of his scarf, then extended his arms. "The Tanks insist on pressing the mute button. The Soaring, on the other hand, for me, with their uniforms? And their logo? There's this sumptuousness that reflects the excitement of the game. Today."
"Huh? All that swerving and sparkling? To be honest, it's out of control. Just too much."
The boy with Max finished the picture. Max wrote "Max Pilat" on it.
The boy said, "What's that say?"
"Pilot. I'll be a pilot, and fly a jet. I will make it go, and people will see my uniform. And I'll be in charge."
Fuller stood. With arms outstretched, he moved around the room, up and down the stairs. Then he returned to his spot on the floor.
"We got two Praft pictures here," said Max. "Two already."
Holden put his hand under his shirt and thrust out the helmet. "Those are vanilla. You don't know what vanilla means."
The Tanks were five yards from the goal line.
"…too quiet, Skipper," said Landrum. "Who you rooting for?"
Finglow kneaded a chunk of Chime-Glub. "The Strive."
Landrum and Slift said "Huh?" and "Snore" simultaneously.
Landrum said, "They got the worst record in the league, I think."
Slift massaged his scarf's tassels. "River City suffers from severe economic decline. For me, I feel that has to impact the Strive."
"I hear you both." Finglow placed two Chime-Glub blocks, wheat-colored, on a plate. "But they do a lot of community outreach."
"Boom up the middle." Landrum stood, slashed down his arm.
"You can't stop him. Plowed right through. Can't stop Brickart. Just plowed right through there."
Soaring seven. Tanks seven.
* * *
A Praft and a Hywisp gathered building supplies at the Landivum River. The Hywisp flew into a sourclang hree. Then he swoarpysnarled across the river. "Your Browntans are as fun as burnt toast and broken pianos."
"I'm glad the river separates us." The Praft dropped a river brick into his cart. "Because your Rouzzle Peaks is out of control."
Music drifted from where the river met the sea. The Praft thought it was a flute, but not quite. It sounded silvery to the Hywisp. No, no. More light green than silvery.
The Hywisp flew down to the river. He peeled some harpytaff, then scooped some flutterfluff. "The Browntans' castles are not sweetgong like our cloutains, or chimelime like our fountains. Gupsheemash. The Browntans' castles are as square and dry as your blocky pies."
The Praft's fingers tingled, and his legs felt lighter. "Your castles get gloppy and splotchy," he said. "You always have to tear them down. Every castle that we've built still stands strong."
The music flowed around the Browntan boxbushes, and swirled through the crinkleberry patches and lemonblares in Rouzzle Peaks.
The Hywisp's wings felt a little like the smell of orange peels. "Your castles taste rotten. Ours are syrupy and cinnamony. Yours sound like they got stuck, and ours flap and clap. So woarpyscloape."
"You can't taste castles," said the Praft. "You can't hear them either."
The music grew louder, and greener. The Praft and Hywisp kept arguing. Their bodies felt lighter and orange peelier. But they kept arguing. Soon, they got so light and peely that they couldn't move.
Down the river, beneath where linevines mixed with doughwhir branches, a creature appeared.
* * *
I don't smile. Not when I color. Coloring's not funny. They smiled though. Down there? That boy by the window, with the bird shirt? And the boy with him? They smiled a lot.
I was upstairs. And I had a girl she colored with me. No no no smiling I said and we colored Hywisps and Hywisp castles.
That Max he had gold crayons down there. Gold and silver. But he didn't let me hold them.
I got gold, more gold, on my shirt. Gold because the Soaring. He doesn't. On his shirt there's silver. It says Tanks, and Tanks can't fly. I got a gold squishy ball. It's mine, and it's gold, and you squish it and then it doesn't look like a ball. Gold's better than silver. Gold's first place. The bird shirt boy by the window? He said sometimes. No no no. Always. Gold's always first.
And my mommy and daddy? They have gold knives and gold forks and gold spoons. And I brought out a gold spoon from home and I said, "Gold's first place."
The boy down there by the bird shirt boy? He said he wanted to hold my squishy ball. I said okay but first he had to color with me now and he said okay and came up and I had the two with me coloring. I had two and Max he just had one. And the bird shirt boy? He had none. Father was happy because the Soaring scored. He said the Soaring had fourteen and the Tanks only had seven. And I was happy because my gold Soaring shirt.
Max had three pictures and they said "Pilat." I had one. But mine flapped and clapped. With Hywisps and castles in Rouzzle Peaks. I wrote "astronot" on my picture. An astronaut because astronauts go high, so higher than pilots.
But the girl left to color with Max. Because Max he said squishy balls and Hywisps and Rouzzle Peaks they're for babies and Hywisps take too long. I said Prafts are vanilla and he showed them his dad's big gold truck and he said he wins because gold is first place. And Prafts are for big boys and big girls Max said. She went down there with him. I had one colorer and he had two.
Father said, "Flunge" and Max's dad yelled and clapped.
We got gold knives, at home. Gold ones. From my grandpa and grandma. Gold knives, and forks too. They're gold. Gold spoons. Gold knives and I have a gold shirt.
Vanilla means boring. Max doesn't know that. None of them do. I said Prafts are vanilla and the bird boy said maybe not. But they are.
Father brought cheese. And one of the gold knives. And you spread the cheese on crackers and the cheese goes up sometimes, and it looks like cloutains. I got gold on my shirt and lots of gold stuff.
Father wants the Soaring to win. Me too.
* * *
Fuller's shirt had a bird on it. Max wondered why it was swimming, underwater.
The River Inume was over there by Fuller. Max knew it was just a statue. But its robe had lots of colors. Brown and tan. But all these bright colors too. So many colors that sometimes, the Inume seemed to move.
The girl with Max pointed up. "I wanna do that." From the upper floor railing hung a piece of paper. It was connected to a string, and had lots of colors. Too much. It was that Holden's picture. Hywisps. Their castles were gloppy and splotchy.
Max had two helpers. Holden only had one. Max pointed a brown crayon at the girl. "We already got three pictures. Almost five. He's got one. We're winning. Don't you want to win?"
The girl nodded, then went back to coloring a Praft tan.
The boy with Max had a green crayon. He was about to color a Praft castle. "Hey." Max pulled the picture away. "Where did you get that green?"
The boy pointed at Fuller Finglow, who didn't even have a coloring book. Just blank pieces of white paper. And he colored with a white crayon. Fuller went to the River Inume—it didn't have a face—then pointed at a splotch of the green on its robe. "That's sea green."
But the browntans were brown and tan. And you work faster with just brown and tan. Get more pictures done. Max said, "That color's for babies. My baby sister? She wears that color."
Max's dad yelled, "Uh oh uh oh. It's a bomb, a bomb Slift. Faw…and…"
The boy gave the green crayon back to Fuller.
"…aaand…aw…c'mon. I could've caught that."
The dads came over by the window. Mr. Slift's scarf was gold. But Max's dad had a whole gold truck. And scarves were for girls.
Mr. Finglow stood close to the Inume. So close that you could see his eyes in the flowt. The way the flowt squiggled made Max's body feel squiggly.
The dads talked about the berries in the Finglows' yard. Max couldn't see out the window from where he sat.
Max's dad said, "To be honest, they're not very useful. You can do a lot more with potatoes. Potatoes just make more sense."
Mr. Finglow squished Max's Chime-Glub. "Maybe. But thimbleberries are more fun." Orange in one hand, green in the other. Mr. Finglow's eyes were as blue as the Landivum River. But that flowt was gloppy. Not strong like a Praft castle.
The dads started talking about some building out there. Max asked Fuller what a thimble was.
Fuller said, "You put it on your finger, when you sew. So you don't get poked with the pin."
Isn't sewing for girls? A bird that swims underwater? No such thing.
"Hey down there." Holden pushed his shirt through the bars. "This is gold. First place gold."
Fuller looked out the window. "There's lots of gold out there. And silver."
Max wondered what you could color using a white crayon on blank white pages.
Fuller said, "Those leaves? On that white tree? They look like coins."
Holden said, "No no no. You can't buy anything with those."
Max couldn't see out there. The Inume's hands were brown and tan.
Fuller said, "There's a girl out there, and she has gold hair."
Holden screeched. "No no. The sun. That's just the sun. It makes it look gold."
Max came closer to the window. Brown and tan squares on the Inume's hands. But there was the white tree. And its leaves did look like coins.
Fuller said, "Come closer, Max. The water in the birdbath? That's gold too."
Holden said, "There's no birdbath out there."
"You can't see from up there."
The hands looked like a man's, except for the squares. The tree coins flashed. How gold was the girl's hair? As gold as Max's mom's gold jewelry? Something felt funny in his chest, and his legs. And the water? Maybe it looked as gold as the gold things on Grandpa's statue. That guy with the gold helmet and gold shield and gold sharp thing?
The Inume had no face. Max's face felt hot. The leaf coins flapped. So many colors on the Inume's robe. But Max had to see the gold hair, and the gold water.
The Inume grew as Max walked toward it, and its colors brightened. Max got real close. Close enough for the Inume to grab him with its man hands. Max couldn't look up: the hood and the flowt were up there. Then the Inume, even though it was so big and had so many colors, stayed still. Max touched the hand. It felt soft.
Fuller was right. The girl's hair reminded Max of music. So did the water. They made him feel different than necklaces and scarves and statues and trucks. Birds and squirrels drank from the music water, and the hand was soft.
Holden's voice shot down. "Hey look at this. This is flubblepretzel honeychuckle." Now two pictures hung up there. Two Hywisp pictures. Holden said, "Mine say 'astronaut.' And astronauts go higher than pilots."
Max's thumb sank into the Inume's palm. It had made a hole. Better not tell Fuller.
Max went back to the table to color Praft pictures with the boy and girl. Max used a brown crayon to write "Pilat" on a finished Praft picture. That made four. Holden already had two. But Max would have five soon.
Thimbleberries. That's what that girl was doing out there. Picking thimbleberries. The dads probably didn't see her. Should Max tell?
Why didn't Fuller tell? They were his berries. But he just colored in white, and looked out the window sometimes. And you could see sunshine on his bird shirt. Max said, "Birds can't swim."
"This? This bird swims. And it flies and walks."
"Birds fly. Fish swim."
* * *
While Landrum talked about potatoes, Slift gazed out the window. Beyond a row of evergreens rose a curved metal wall. Slift said, "Perhaps, Skip, you should consider adding a second floor. You'd have an exquisite view of our new Performing Arts Center."
Finglow nodded as he rolled a strand of green Chime-Glub.
Landrum said, "Saw that thing, in The Monitor. Thing's out of control. No question about it."
Slift chuckled and flapped his scarf. "Tom, such loyalty to your pragmatism. Remember, Crownly Heights has a certain…prestige we must uphold. For me, I see the PAC—that's what we call it—as a landmark. More than that. A skymark. A skymark that symbolizes a forward-thinking community. And we can see it here…all the way from coveless Mendahl Cove."
"Boy, to be honest? If I saw that thing, going up in Lockfield? And I saw my taxes going into that thing?"
The scarf flapped again. "As I said, flavor costs more."
"…be pissed. I really would."
"…projecting an image for the 21st century urbanite. It's supportive of…"
"Huh? Looks like a damn…thing's too much."
Finglow set the green strand next to other colored strands on the plate.
Slift went outside, then climbed onto the deck railing. "I don't think you understand, Tom, a jewel like that."
"…pointless. Jewels are for CEOs and doctors."
"Well, my friend, to be honest, many of the residents in Crownly Heights are CEOs and doctors. Not unlike Lockfield. And my neighbor's a developer, Tom. Aren't you a developer?" Slift began walking along the rail. "Perhaps you should consider taking a ride in your truck. I'll bet it has heated seats. Take a ride and check out Crownly Heights."
Landrum said, "Skipper, be honest…what do you think?"
Finglow rolled a strand of orange Chime-Glub. "You both have a point. Ilan: it's for the performing arts. So it shouldn't look like a shipping crate. When I think of performing arts—music and dance and theater—I think of movement. That building has movement." He placed the strand next to the others, then started arching them. "But, in Tom's defense, great art has a rhythm, you know? Something holding it together. And that facility, the PAC? It may be a bit chaotic. And a little disrespectful of its surroundings."
Finglow set down the plate by Max. "Your Chime-Glub works again, Max." Six colored strands arched from one wheat-colored block to another.
The girl next to Max pointed at a block. "What are those?"
Finglow said, "They hold up the rainbow."
Soaring 14, Tanks 14.
* * *
The creature, floating just above the water, was coming toward them.
The Praft saw its colorful cloak. He tried to run. He couldn't move.
When the Hywisp heard the cloak's colors ring, he tried to flap his wings, but they just flopped.
Closer floated the creature. It had a hood, and held a long stick. The top of the stick curved into a jelly-flavored shape. Then the Praft and Hywisp knew: the stick was the flowt, and the creature was the Inume.
Louder and greener grew the flowt music. The Praft yelled for help. The Hywisp oranged and reded.
The Inume drew closer. Red tan black. Pink yellow brown blue. Its cloak colors flashed and clanged. They were trapped.
The flowt music flowed gently, and greenly enough to stop an army. So gently that the Praft was not afraid, even when he saw the Inume had no face. So greenly that the Hywisp hummed along in pink and blue.
First the Inume floated to the Praft, then held up the shape. It was a mirror. The Praft saw his own eyes. They were brown. But then, they whispered other colors: blue and green, yellow and red, even orange. As many colors as the Hywisp's eyes! And when he listened to his eyes carefully, the Praft could hear a symphony.
Next the Inume held the shape before the Hywisp, whose eyes played their tunes and raised their voices. But then strange sounds peeked out: a tan tone, and a rhythm that was brown. The Praft colors could make music too! And when the Hywisp looked hard, he saw brown lines, and squares of sunlight in his eyes.
* * *
Needles, bridges, death, art, foreigners. We're all afraid of something, right? The question is: do we face our fears? Max Landrum did, when he approached that Inume. Well, at least one of his fears.
After thinking more about Fuller's shirt—the bird's called a diving petral, and it does swim underwater—Max asked to join Fuller. Fuller accepted, on two conditions: that Max share his crayons with everyone, and that Max color something on a blank sheet. Max obliged, pretty much; he slipped those gold and silver crayons back into his bag.
I have gold and silver crayons. I'll bet you do too.
What about these three kids who've been moving between our triumvirate? They're Fuller's neighbors. Siblings Art and Hilary—Hey! ArtHilary, artillery!—followed Max over to Fuller's area. Reed, the other boy, eventually left Holden and joined the others, but Holden remained upstairs.
Fuller colors with a white crayon. Strange kid, huh? I mean, coloring outside the lines? Yeah, I get it. But a white crayon on white paper? If you asked Fuller why, as Max and others did, he'd just say, "Sometimes it's white," or "Can't you see it?" or some other reply solid as seaweed.
So now we have Captain Abstraction and his disciples, so to speak, coloring by the Inume. Max, still perplexed by this white crayon business, asks Fuller what he should draw.
Fuller fills in God knows what with his white crayon. "What togethers people?" Strange kid.
The question swashes, and the silver leaves, the hair of the berry-picking girl, and the birdbath water spangle Max's thoughts. Should he tell on her? C'mon, Max. She's just enjoying some berries. But look: something else out there sparkles. The sandbox. Max sees it too. It gives him an idea: a beach. Yes. Beaches together people, right? He'll draw a beach. He grabs a brown crayon and a tan crayon, for the sand. Hey, one step at a time, right?
Holden shoots his invisible gun—we imagine an exquisitely crafted piece with an unabashedly rococo gold leaf pattern etched into its marble handle—down at the group. "No no no. There's no gold out there. This is gold." He grasps his shirt's San Cielo Soaring emblem, which glitters like a clump of shrapnel.
Of course he's pissed. Here's a kid who's grown up watching his father—the dilettante with the scarf?—commanding, getting, ascending. "Ascending," which sounds much more sumptuous than "rising," works particularly well with our sky/bird theme. Gold dinner utensils? Think about it. Now Holden has no teammates (maybe that's not the best word), and this Fuller Finglow has four.
Let's move down to Fuller's group. Art is coloring a green—what is that? Looks like a mutilated grenade with a warped blade attached to it. Max asks him what it is.
"Goldfish aren't green." Nor are they shaped like melting weaponry.
Our ever-cryptic bearer of the white crayon: "Maybe it moves green."
Holden fires. "No no. You can see green, and hear green. But you can't move green." This junior aesthete does have what Max's father Tom would refer to as "a point." For instance, the allegro movement of Vivaldi's Concerto No. 1 in E Major (i.e., "Spring") is as verdant as an eighteenth century aristocrat's garden. But to move green? One would have to short-circuit the neocortex to even begin to think about how that could be done.
Worry intermittently eddies in Max's limbs; only a few feet away pulses the cloak of the Inume, that creepy embodiment of death-cum-kaleidoscope. And from the top of its scythe writhes that mirror, as if warped by our resistance to it.
Time for Max to color his sky. The Browntans' sky is tan. But maybe he should do something different. Again, he queries Fuller.
Fuller holds his white crayon under his nose, inhales deeply. "What color does the sky tell you to color it?"
Hilary says, "Skies can't talk, you." Maybe if you sniff enough white crayon, they do.
Max gives this listening a shot. Hmmmm. Sky, together. He can't hear anything. Those aren't her berries.
Just focus on the sky, Max.
Prafts, Hywisps. Together. That's it! He colors the sky part tan, part purple…"regal purple." Better not let Holden see that, though.
Then, inspired by that splotch on the Inume's cloak, Max colors the water sea green. Never hears anything, though. Those aren't her berries.
The Chicago Tanks are advancing.
Skip Finglow takes a knee by Fuller's group. As he admires each picture, his fragrance challenges us. It is quiet, woody. Holden would probably say it smells like clouds.
But Max knows better.
When he gets to Max's picture, Finglow taps the sea green. "Max, good. Very good." Those hands. Max thinks they're so much more…something than his dad's.
Maybe what he's looking for is "vigorous," or "quietly persevering."
Max remembers the hole he put in the Inume's hand. Will Mr. Finglow see it?
He taps the green. "You hear something, Max? I think I hear a boat."
Okay Finglow. We've already established that Mendahl Cove doesn't have a body of water.
Max knows Mr. Finglow's smell. It's aftershave. He saw it, in the Finglows' bathroom. A wood cap, and a curved green bottle. Too green and curved for the Browntans, but not green and curved enough for Rouzzle Peaks.
The hand rubs Max's head. The hand feels hard, like a sidewalk. And Max smells the Chime-Glub. A together smell. He remembers Mr. Finglow's Chime-Glub rainbow. Blocks that hold a rainbow? The hand moves away, taps the sea green. "But what if a boat comes, Max?"
Holden says something about "squishy." The other kids, except Fuller, look up. He's digging in his bag up there.
The Tanks gain fifteen more yards.
Finglow says, "You know what a wharf is?"
Max nods. "That's where the Browntans are, and Rouzzle Peaks." What's Holden got up there?
Finglow laughs and his aftershave dawns as soothingly as Saint-Saëns's "The Swan." "That's Warth, isn't it? Wharf is different. Wharfff. A wharf stretches out over water. You walk on it. So you can get to a boat. Wharf." He taps the water. "What if a boat comes?"
She's eating those thimbleberries. They're not hers.
Resist it, Max. Show us you can break free.
Tanks are eighteen yards from the end zone.
Max decides he'll add one of these wharfs. But what color?
Holden holds his gold ball through the bars.
Holden squeezes the ball. Art, Hilary, and Reed watch him.
The Tanks' receiver gets five yards before he's tackled. Thirteen yards to go.
Max digs through Fuller's crayons. Then he finds it: the perfect wharf crayon. Just a stump with a blunt end. Tattered wrapper. "Br" is all that shows. Max thinks, Br what? Brown? But it's different than the Browntans' brown.
Actually, it's sort of a sun-swabbed granite, reminiscent of the cliffs that bind sea and sky in some parts of Great Britain. If Mr. Finglow's aftershave had a color, this would be it.
Bread. That's the color Max decides it is.
Okay, I think you and I can swallow that. Max will color the wharf bread.
Five yards from the end zone, the Tanks take a time out. A man in the stands thinks, "I paid two hundred dollars for this ticket, one hundred and twenty-five for this jersey, six for this beer. What's the use, though? Maybe there's a better way to spend my money."
Max feels the bread-colored crayon. Wait a minute. Where's Art? His picture isn't done. Up there, the thing in Holden's hand has morphed. "…squishy ball," he's saying. "It squishes, and it's gold."
The Tanks/Soaring game resumes. The announcer says, "Third and goal. Chicago five yards from taking the lead."
There's Art, up there by Holden. What a weakling. We would never abandon our task just because someone dangles a gold stress ball above us. Right?
"And the handoff to Brickart…" Max brings the crayon to the drawing. "…barrels up the middle…" Max's dad has a gold cap on his aftershave.
Mr. Slift says, "Ah flunge."
A gold cap, and a square brown bottle. "Touchdown Tanks! Touchdown Tanks!"
Max lifts the crayon. No wharf yet.
Tom Landrum springs from the couch. He raises his fists, faces Slift. "Pizza? Hey pizza pal. Better get that BMW warmed up, pal."
Slift smirks, spurts air through his nostrils. "No no. Not just yet."
"…just cheese and sausage. Got it, pal?"
"Are you sure you wouldn't like something else to accompany those toppings? Vanilla, perhaps?"
"…none of that yuppy shit. Sprouts or whatever that yuppy shit is."
Slift picks a yellow fleck of Chime-Glub off the gold that curves down his sleeve. "I wouldn't start choosing your toppings just yet. We have a good seven minutes to retaliate."
Max tells his father about the girl outside. Tom goes out to the deck. "Hey, hey you. This isn't your yard."
Skip Finglow rises. "Tom. Wait a second, Tom. Hold on."
"…aren't your berries. Go on. Just taking those berries like that? Go on home, got it?" The girl runs out of the yard.
Finglow walks onto the deck. "Leslie, come on back."
Landrum says, "Huh? This is your yard, right?"
"In some ways." Finglow shouts, "Plenty of berries here, Leslie. Bring your friends."
"Hey, Skipper, she was stealing. Going onto someone's property like that? That's stealing. No question."
Finglow walks down the deck stairs. "Those thimbleberries? They're fun, and good. Good for kids, and adults."
"Hey. My dad said it all the time, 'Give people an inch, they'll take a yard.' It's true. No question about it."
"I'm giving her a yard, Tom. Why don't you try a berry?" Finglow goes after the girl.
Landrum, shaking his head, goes back inside.
* * *
When the Inume floated away, the Hywisp looked at the castles in the Browntans. "Why do your castles last so long?"
"Because we use river bricks" said the Praft. "And river bricks are strong."
The Hywisp picked up a brick. It was heavy, and it was strong. And it was brown and tan, like the Browntans.
The flowt music faded. The Praft peeled some harpytaff from the river then wrapped it around his fingers. "Why do you use this stuff?"
"Because it makes our castles flubblepretzel, and honeychuckle."
The Praft felt the harpytaff, and a swervyswirl flavor filled his mouth. Then he heard its colors chuckling and flubbling. "Will you show me how to use harpytaff?"
"Wa-Terthskee!" said the Hywisp. "Harpytaff and flutterfluff." He lifted the river brick. "Will you show me how to stirplay these?"
"Stirplay," said the Praft. "Okay."
* * *
Max is at the table, alone. He touches Mr. Finglow's Chime-Glub rainbow. The Inume's coat has all these colors. These and many more. He can't see the hole in its hand from here. What if he looked into that flowt? Would he hear something?
Holden hangs another Hywisp picture. That's three. And now he's got the brother and sister up there. Max spreads his Praft pictures on the table. There are four. Max's dad yells. Fuller's dad feels his scarf, says something about flavor. Pretty soon, Holden will have four pictures too. And they'll all say "astronot."
Max's dad says, "Loftus. Guy's a bum. I can't believe—should've stopped that bum." Bum. Holden's a bum. Max picks up one of the Chime-Glub blocks at the bottom of the rainbow. He throws it at Holden's pictures, misses. "Too much. Those are too much."
Holden smiles and squishes his squishy ball against his cheek until his eye droops, like a Hywisp's. "Your pictures snore. They're like burnt toast. And, they're like broken pianos."
"Yours are like…" Max takes the other block off the plate. "They're out of control."
Holden points down at Fuller Finglow. "His is vanilla. Just like yours."
Fuller holds a white sheet to the window, curves it. "Va-nilla. Va-nill-a." He laughs. "Yes, sometimes. People like vanilla."
His sheet looks like a sail, and in Max shimmers the taste of vanilla milkshake. Vanilla does taste good. He puts the block back on the plate, then returns to his picture by Fuller.
The other boy is still here with Fuller. He's taken over the green goldfish picture. He says he's drawing a plant in the water.
Fuller folds his paper into an airplane. "You can make vanilla any color, and make it any shape."
The water plant looks like a disassembled rocket. Max still hasn't made the warth. No, werth. Werf? No. W-h. Fragments of Holden's words scatter around him. "…gold knives…gold squishy ball…" W-e-r. "…medal. Grandpa's got gold…" No, w-a-r…
There's a gold crayon in Fuller's crayons. He's unfolding his airplane. Max snatches the gold crayon, then puts it in his pocket. Now Max has three silver, and three gold.
Fuller flattens his blank paper on the floor.
Max says, "Why don't you draw some pictures?"
"Don't you see mine?"
Holden's dad holds his scarf and looks up at Holden's pictures. He's talking to Max's dad. "…can't refute that Loftus has this…finesse…this consummate finesse that's utterly absent in the Tanks' running game."
Max's dad says, "Guy's too showy. Now Brickart? Brickart's got power."
"…with me. With that finesse? Just how much more enchanting Loftus is to watch? For me, watching a fellow plow up the middle time and time again—your Brickart—"
"…finesse? What's he work at a salon?"
"…your Brickart, for instance? For me, watching him would grow a bit tedious."
"Brickart's dependable, and strong. No fooling around, pal. Dependable. No question."
It's not a rocket, thinks Max. It's a plant. It's not even a plant. Just green crayon on paper.
Mr. Slift's scarf sparkles. "Perhaps, Holden—what if we hang your pictures from our balcony?"
"Swervyswirl." Holden takes a crayon away from the girl. "That's eight stories, Father. Eight stories high!"
As Holden's dad walks back to the TV room, Max touches his silver letters. They're a little sticky. Something taps his foot. Two crayons on the floor. Brown and tan.
Holden points. "Those are snore. We don't need those up here. There's no brown and tan in Rouzzle Peaks."
"Rouzzle Peaks is for girls." Max picks them up. He could color more Praft pictures with these. A lot faster too. If he had more helpers.
Fuller stands by the Inume, and the sun shines on his swimming bird shirt. Probably a pretend bird. He looks at the hand with the hole and smiles. He reaches toward the flowt's wavy. "Have you looked in here, Max?"
That thing? It's too much. Did Fuller see him make the hole? Max says, "Who made that hole?"
Fuller puts a white crayon in the hole. "Everyone." He reaches toward the wavy again. "If you look, and if you see in here? Then maybe you can finish your picture."
Max walks toward Fuller and the Inume, and the carpet is tan. Holden's voice bursts from above. "Hey you. Hey boy with green fish picture. Look at this." He's holding something shiny.
Fuller says, "If you see in here, you'll feel different. And you can finish your picture." In the carpet's tan are patterns, blue like sky.
Holden says, "This is my candle. Here." A clatching sound. He's twisting the silver lid off. "It smells. You want to smell it?"
The boy by Fuller says, "Okay," then goes back to his picture.
Holden shows the top of the candle. It's gold, and it sparkles.
Max moves closer to the Inume, and the carpet patterns curve like the wavy. The candle sparkles, and Holden's shirt sparkles. Holden says, "You have to color with me then."
The boy says, "Okay. I finish this first."
"No no. Now." Holden's got a gold spoon, a gold squishy ball, a gold candle, but Max has gold crayons. Tan carpet, the Browntans. The hole: does Fuller know?
"Come up here now, and you can smell it. It smells like winning."
Max says, "You can't smell winning." His silver Tanks letters smell sticky.
In floats Fuller's voice: "…when you see, and winning goes away." The blue patterns on the carpet run through the tan, like tiny rivers. Colors splash in front of Max. It's the Inume's robe.
"…come up here now."
White crayon in the hole. Vanilla. Lots of shapes and colors.
The boy yells, "When I finish."
The wavy shows Max's eyes. They are brown, and he can see the Chime-Glub rainbow in there too. Reader, perhaps we can agree upon a song that perfectly captures this moment of…
A whisper from behind Max. Sounds like, "lave, lave." Max turns. Holden is down here. He's walking toward the boy, and his shirt sparkles. "Flavor." That's what he's whispering. "Flavor flavor flavor" and he has his candle. He picks up the bread-colored crayon, then kneels by the boy. He scribbles all over the green fish picture.
The boy throws down his crayon and screams and cries.
Max's dad calls over. "Hey. What's going on over there?"
The boy screams. Fuller holds up the boy's picture. "Reed. What is this, Reed? A roller coaster?"
Reed screeches, "That's not roller coaster." He tears the picture in half.
Holden clacks the candle lid. "Hey. Hey look. Reed. Reedy. This gold candle? It smells good."
Max's dad and Holden's dad rise. Holden keeps clacking the lid and they're coming over here.
Holden rotates the candle, and its lid shines. The boy stops screaming. Holden says, "You want to smell it?" Reed nods.
Holden lifts the lid enough to reveal a sliver of the sparkling gold. "Smells like winning. And you can smell it." He points at Fuller, then pulls back his finger. "Just say he did it, and you can smell it. Say he drew on your picture. Then you can smell winning."
The dads arrive. Holden's dad holds his scarf and looks up. Holden points at Fuller. "He took a crayon. He colored all over that boy's picture. He wrecked it."
Max's dad says, "Fuller, what do you say to that?"
Fuller holds the ripped parts together, traces the scribbles. "It could be a roller coaster. Or maybe a ribbon? We could tape it together."
Max wonders where Mr. Finglow is. Probably still outside.
Reed, sniffling, stands, feels the scarf. Mr. Slift tweaks it back and then, looking up at Holden's pictures, steps onto the stairs. "Perhaps Skip's virtuousness isn't as transferable as we assumed."
Max's dad bends down. "Reed, who ruined your picture?"
The boy rubs his eyes. Holden lifts the lid slightly, then places his nose between it and the glass. The boy points at Fuller.
Fuller looks through the hole in the Inume's hand. "Do you have any tape?" Who's he looking at?
Max's dad says, "Max, is this right? Fuller did it?"
Wavy, whervy. The Inume's robe, Chime-Glub. And the carpet patterns look like—three pictures hang, and Max has four. Warvy? Brown eyes, rainbow blocks Warth. Patterns the color of—Max has three gold crayons. Tan carpet the Browntans in Warth.
* * *
When Fuller went to his room, Max picked the rainbow apart. He stuffed the Chime-Glub back into the cans. Max's dad said, "C'mon, pal. Tanks are losing. We got
to get the pizza."
* * *
After the Praft and Hywisp met the Inume, the Prafts' castles sounded more colorful and tasted curvier, and the Hywisps' castles lasted much longer.
The Hywisps went to the Prafts' castles to share piesquares, and get some answers. At the Hywisps' castles, the Prafts learned how peanut buttery curves could be. And the Prafts found out that some colors buzzed, while others rumbled. Some colors even sizzled and cackled.
Nobody has seen the Inume since that day it made the Praft and Hywisp see and hear themselves. But on clear and fruit punchy days, if you listen hard, you can hear that flowt gliding and greening along, no matter where you are. Then think about the Prafts and Hywisps, and remember: the Landivum River doesn't separate the Browntans and Rouzzle Peaks; it holds them together.
* * *
A bugle played a call to arms. A cardboard football player with a four-foot shoulder span held fist to turf and scowled. Next to him were boxes of rectangular chips, and cans with brown cubes on them. A headline, "Battle Fuel," in a silver sans serif font, distorted the reflection of a boy who looked at the display. His shirt's green matched the green of the football player's jersey.
The man with the boy held a purple bottle. Its label said, "AuCloud" in gold script. A voice replaced the bugle: "Attention troops, Striffon Market is your headquarters for big game supplies."
The boy touched the bottle. "What's in there?"
"A grown-up drink. For Mr. Slift. Kind of goofy, huh? But he won the bet, right?"
"…stock up on Wayblox pizzas. Only nine ninety-nine in…"
The man said, "This here makes more sense." He took a six-pack of Longwerre Gold. Price: 16.7 cents per ounce. Next priciest domestic six-pack: 13.9 cents per ounce.
"…report to aisle eleven for 24-packs of Tannon Lodge root beer. Only five ninety-nine. Prepare your brigade for the big game…at Striffon Market."
In the stationary aisle, the boy paused by the reams of paper.
A man's voice, muffled, came from the adjacent aisle: "…it's hairspray, Tina. Whose gives a damn frickin' crap? Here. What about this here?"
A woman answered. "No. I need this other stuff. Look for the logo: it kind of like swoops up. There was a billboard for it, and it said something about Goldilocks. Shoot. What's it called?"
"Fairy tale hairspray?"
"'Goldilocks? Ha!' That's what it said. 'Goldilocks? Ha!' Because it makes your hair really shine. The logo swoops up, and it looks like a chain necklace."
The boy picked up a pad of paper. "Dad, can I get some of this?"
From the adjacent aisle. "Here. This is it. Fixscend."
The boy said, "To draw pictures."
The man looked at his watch. "You got that coloring book, General. With those Rafts, right?"
Adjacent aisle: "…eight bucks…frickin' ripoff."
"Right Steve. And what did you pay for that jersey? A hundred bucks? This is Fixscend. I can do some tasty things. And when they see it at work? It makes a big difference."
The man tapped his watch. "C'mon, General. Second half starts in ten minutes, got it?"
The boy put down the paper.
In the beverage aisle, the man said, "All right, Max. Take your pick."
Max tapped his palm with his index finger, then pointed at a tall, thin bottle of water. Its glass undulated, and it had a green scale pattern and a white cap.
The man scowled. "Nah. We don't need that. It's just water, in a fancy bottle. A bottle like that? Too much."
"But I could share some at the Finglows'."
"C'mon. That stuff's for girls. We'll get this, all right? You like this." The man took a twenty-ounce bottle with brown cubes on its label. "Tannon Lodge. You like Tannon Lodge, right? It's root beer. We'll get Tannon Lodge."
At the register, the boy picked up a box labeled Everbell & Grounds. "Dad? You think most kids like these?"
"Chocolate and peanut butter? Heck yeah, pal. No question about it."
The boy reached into his pocket, and looked at his shirt. "More than a candle?"
The man nodded. "You can't eat a candle, right? I tell you what, General." He touched the boy's forehead with a gold credit card. "You can get them."
Each chocolate was square, and wrapped in gold foil.
Douglas J. Ogurek
's fiction appears in the British Fantasy Society Journal
, The Literary Review
, Gone Lawn
, Morpheus Tales
, and several anthologies. He is the communications manager of a Chicago-based architecture firm, where he has written over one hundred articles about facility planning and design. Ogurek also reviews films at Theaker's Quarterly Fiction