The mystery crayon confounded him. Not because he couldn’t discern its color, clearly it was a white crayon with chips of other wax flecked into its cylindrical structure—he reasoned that the factory came up with the idea when cleaning the caked accumulation of splashed wax from their crayon molds.
He’d learned about crayon molds from his favorite show, the one that showed how everything was made. His mom didn’t think he understood it, but he made the noise when she changed the channel so she let him watch. “It’s educational, how bad can that be?” she asked her friend, from the cuspland of anxiety and breakdown.
What piqued him about the mystery crayon was when he drew a picture it came out all wrong. The white left his lines splotchy or missing altogether. When his counselor handed him the pack of mystery crayons she said it would be like the etching they had done the month before and he was frustrated that it wasn’t at all. There, he’d colored a picture of a boat on a lake with trees on the shoreline and a two-propeller plane with a Lycoming 4-cylinder engine and he had been frustrated when she said “Pretty birdie,” as she took the drawing to add the black erasable crayon layer over it.
But this crayon’s effect wasn’t like that at all. With the etching his pictures still made sense. Sure, the lines were multicolored, but when he scratched a grandfather clock into the flat black surface it still looked like the grandfather clock he’d seen assembled on his show. And in addition to that, he knew if he scratched the entire surface free of blackness—as he would a few days later—his lake and Cessna and boat were there plain as day. When he covered the page with the mystery crayon it was a mess of dots and streaks. A mess. And when he carefully drew a hot air balloon and its basket it came out like a window on a rainy day. Just more drips repainting the opaque plane.
He hadn’t thought of that crayon for decades until he sat in the hospice looking out the window at their pond and ducks and listened intently to the nurse explaining the condition Aphasia to his intent daughter in the adjacent chair. “He is still in there, but when his brain tries to make his mouth speak, instead of what he means to say, unrelated words come out.” “I am speaking fine, it’s you who can’t understand,” he told them. His daughter laid her hand on his arm, her face softened like she was looking at a wounded dog.
“Duck chair, window duck-duck?” She asked the nurse. The nurse, he thought to himself, and not him. Nonsense talk. “I’m fine,” he said. His daughter’s thumb gently rubbed the loose skin of his forearm. “Crayon?” “It’s normal for cases like his,” the nurse said, opening a second, much thicker folder.
Zebulon Huset is a writer and photographer living in San Diego. His writing has recently appeared in The Southern Review, Louisville Review, Meridian, North American Review, The Cortland Review, The Portland Review, The Maine Review and The Roanoke Review among others. He publishes a writing prompt blog (Notebooking Daily) and his flash fiction submission guide was reposted at The Review Review.