The Little Yellow House by Ashley Hewitt06 Feb 2018, Posted by Short Fiction in
Art: Alan Neider, @aneider52
THE LITTLE YELLOW HOUSE
she calls it. A yellow as yellow as any Dutch daffodil. She steers her tan Audi Fox up the driveway and pauses in her car until her favorite Cat Stevens song ends. Yellow has been her favorite color since becoming aware of what color is. The happiest of all colors—and the only color she considered painting her family’s house when she walked into the Sherwin Williams last summer.
There were almost too many yellows to chose from: lemon twist, June day, chartreuse, and a variety of others, but overjoy was her choice.
An empty bowl sits on the top step next to a glowing jack-o-lantern carved as the man in the moon. Their yard is sprinkled with red, cinnamon candy wrappers. She turns her key, opens the door, finds the closest place to empty the files she carries and untangles her purse strap from her long auburn hair. She hangs it across the chair’s back and leaves her shoes behind her, collapsing on the couch next to her sleeping daughter who is still dressed as a dragonfly. The television is turned down low and its blue shadows bounce across the room’s walls. Her husband rattles around in the kitchen sink and she wonders how the dishes stay perpetually dirty. Through the window, the streetlamp highlights their overgrown grass that hasn’t been cut since the lawnmower was stolen, to her husband’s delight, the month before.
In his long, barefooted stride, she hears the rhythm of his corduroy jeans rubbing together and feels him coming closer. He stands next to the couch smiling down at both of them.
“Did she eat?” she asks him.
“A little bit.”
“A little bit?”
“She tore up the cornbread, but it was Hell making her eat your vegetable soup.”
“The potatoes weren’t cooked enough . . . for her taste.”
She looks up. “Last time it was the carrots.”
“I tried everything, even your starving kids in China bit, but she wasn’t havin’ it.”
“What’d you say?”
“I told her the same thing you do—that starving kids in China would devour that soup.”
“And. What’d she say?”
“She told me to name two.”
They can’t resist laughing and he sits down on the couch next to them, lights a cigarette, and flips through the channels. They whisper out the details of their day as their tabby cat, Gato Rojo, passes back and forth until he darts off, becoming startled by the sound of piercing beeps coming from inside her purse. She springs up and her husband carries their sleeping daughter to her bed and turns off her record player.
“Hey, Geraldine, it’s Barbara. You just paged me?” She rubs her eyes and waits.
“Sorry, Barbara. I know you probably just got home.”
“It’s okay Geraldine. What’s the matter?”
“We have another intake. She filed her police report already and there’s even a permanent restraining order against her husband in place, but we can’t admit her into the shelter without your evaluation. She really has no place to go until she’s processed, and has no money or food for her three kids.”
“Okay, is she stable . . . until I get there, I mean?”
“As stable as she can be for a woman whose husband just took a hot iron to her face.”
“Jesus, Geraldine, she should be in the hospital.”
“She’s won’t go anywhere without her children, she says. If I had to guess . . . she was standing up for them when she got in the way. The last time she went to the hospital he found out and the idiots released her to him.”
“I’m on my way.” She hangs up the phone and walks to the doorway of her daughter’s room where her husband sits on the edge of the bed.
“You get called back to the shelter?”
She nods and looks at her daughter’s face. The same streetlamp shines through her bedroom window and illuminates her full cheeks and the cowlick that is identical to her husband’s. Three indigo fish swirl in the bowl next to her bed.
“I can’t believe my pager didn’t wake her up.”
“Good thing. It’s best she doesn’t know you’re leaving.”
She pulls her hair back and lightly kisses her daughter’s cheek. Then she steps back into her shoes, slips her purse over her shoulder and re-locks the front door. From her car she looks at her daughter’s bedroom window and her stomach throbs in regret. She turns her head suddenly enough that their dimming jack-o-lantern smears to the edge of her periphery.
About the author:
Ashley Hewitt, a resident of New Orleans, is originally from Mississippi, and attends the Mississippi University for Women’s MFA in Creative Writing program. Aside from her responsibility as a writer, she am a mother, singer/songwriter and photographer.
In the artist’s words:
Alan Neider has been making art for over forty years. His paintings, drawings, and sculpture have been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions at museums and exhibitions spaces across the country, including The Lowe Museum, Governors Island, Henri Gallery, Nancy Lurie Gallery, Jan Cicero Gallery, Local Projects, and Brian Morris Gallery. His work has been reviewed in Art in America, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Artforum, Art New England, Hyperallergic, and Two Coats of Paint. He has completed numerous public commissions, including a freestanding painting, “Lake Dance,” installed atop Chicago’s Navy Pier. Neider was awarded a CT Commission on the Arts Grant, and a Robert Rauschenberg Change Inc. Work Grant. He received his MFA from Washington University, St. Louis, and his BFA from California State University, Long Beach.