Mama was a rainbow

Everyone say black is the colour of death.  But Emily know it ain’t true. 

Black is the colour of Mama bein’ alive.  It the colour of Mama cussin’ and kissin’ Daddy.  It the colour of Mama tuckin’ Emily and Mabel into bed.  Black is a good colour.  A happy colour.  A family-together colour. 

Death is the colour of a rainbow. 

Emily will tell ya. 

When Emily found Mama down by the woodpile, the day after she gone missin’, Mama weren’t black no more.  She was red, pink, blue, purple, yellow, green.  And orange. 

It was the orange Emily seen first.  Bright as the settin’ sun.  Emily was sure it was  treasure.  She’d always wanted to find treasure, like ‘em pirates on TV. 

Emily snuck behind the woodpile, checkin’ behind her to make sure Mabel weren’t following.  Mabel was forever takin’ things from her.  Emily didn’t want her big sister to steal her first ever treasure. 

It sure weren’t treasure what was stuck in Mama’s neck.  It was the orange handle of the new axe Daddy bought couple weeks back.   

‘Mama – you ain’t black no more – you a rainbow!’

Red was the boss-colour of Mama’s rainbow.  It was everywhere.  On Mama’s face, hands, neck, legs.  On Mama’s white T-shirt and her grey skirt.  Thick, runny red blobs like that nail varnish Mable sometimes use to make herself all pretty for the boy down the road.  Crusty, flaky red like the old paint on the shed by the lake.

‘What you gone’n done, Mama?’ Emily asked, ‘Your clothes are mighty dirty. You’d give me a whup-ass if I ever gone and made my clothes so messy!’

But Mama didn’t answer. Her mouth stayed O-shaped with the tip of her pink tongue peeking out the side, like a nervous crab working out if it were safe to come outta its shell.

Emily called Mabel, who called Daddy, who called the Police.  Emily stayed sittin’ by Mama.  Looking at the colours of Mama’s rainbow.

Red neck

Pink tongue

Blue lips

Purple hands

Yellow underwear

Green rope

Orange handle

‘I don’t like you bein’ a rainbow, Mama,’ Emily said.  ‘Why don’t you leave ‘em rainbows to the sky? I wants you to be black again.

 Please Mama. Please.’

The police can’t figure out who’d done that to Mama.  They call it a damn mystery.

Folks say it Daddy who tied and copped Mama up – made her all dead (and rainbow-like). 

Sure Daddy used to beat Mama up real good, but there ain’t no way he’d a’ killed her.

He loved her too much.  And Mama was strong – she’d a’ killed him if he tried. 

Daddy got real sad ‘bout Mama.  He cried and drank.  He drank so much he lost his job down at the factory. Then he stopped crying. But kept drinking. 

Mabel stop taking Emily’s things.  She also stop goin’ to school.  Mabel stay home and looked after Daddy and Emily. 

She let Emily paint the ground behind the woodpile black. 

She cry when Emily cut up all Mama’s colourful clothes.  But she let her keep doin’ it, ‘til all that was left was Mama’s funeral dress.  The one with the buttons in the shape of roses. 

Black roses.

Everyone says black is the colour of death.  But Emily knows it ain’t true.  The last time Emily saw Mabel she was the colour of a rainbow. 

Red eyes

Pink cheeks

Blue eyeshadow

Purple bruises

Yellow earrings

Green dress

Orange handbag

Emily watched Daddy take the envelope from the man.  He open it and count the money.  Daddy push Mabel down the step.  The man caught Mabel by the elbows and walk her to the car. 

The man smiled.  Daddy hung his head.  Mabel cried. 

Death is the colour of a rainbow. 

Emily will tell ya.


Photo by Sholto Ramsay on Unsplash

CategoriesFlash Fiction
Annie Kenning

Annie Kenning is a writer based in Wellington, New Zealand. When she's not doing the school run, she's leaning over her laptop, pounding words into stories (with her trusty hound at her feet).