Writer’s Note: Seed of a Rainbow is the third flash in a series I’ve written about a fictional uncle (“Uncle Kev”). I’m not sure where he comes from, but he’s been visiting a teen version of myself over the last year or so. He’s annoying. He demands to be heard. He’s trying to stop me from molding myself too closely to society’s conforming demands. His life’s project is to do away with my high school’s curriculum so I can learn to think for myself. He’s obsessed with light, too, and will abuse any chance he has to lecture about its physical, ethical, literary and philosophical properties. I think, also, he comes around because he can’t save himself, so he’s trying to save me.
I’m telling Uncle Kev about the roving packs of jocks in my high school. “They prey on the weak and wreak terror in the hallways,” I say. He tells me to “ramp up my ethnologist game” and “get like Margaret Mead among the Samoans.”
Samoans? What the fuck? Is he talking about Girl Scout Cookies?
He adds, “Being an outsider is cool. It has advantages. Look closer at all those cliques and you’ll find their connective tissue is fear. Lucky for you, you got me to save you from them and their groupthink.”
He says this all a little too smugly, puckering his lips at the mirror, dabbing some lipstick on them. He’s got a date tonight.
“Hey, speaking of school, where’s that essay you promised me?” he asks.
Then his phone rings.
“Sorry, got to take this.”
Ah, yes. The essay.
Saved by the ringtone.
Because the other day he tossed my physics text book in the trash and downloaded a copy of Newton’s Opticks and Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart and said, “Tell me exactly how Newton and Poe ‘dismember’ light in these works. Is Poe mocking Newton, the Enlightenment, the idea of ‘progress?’ Debate and discuss. And no fucking hamburger model!!!”
Fuck me if I’m writing another essay. Because last time he had me going on about the Great Schism, the Diet of Worms and the Defenestration of Prague. But I wish I had. Because he never got to read it. After that phone call, he went to take a bath and that’s where I find him an hour later with his pale wrists looking like gashed radishes hanging over the rim of the tub.
The late summer sunlight cut a rainbow through the frosted window on the wall above his sunken head.
Years later I tell my therapist, “Uncle Kev’s everywhere. He’s in my head and dreams. He still talks to me.” My therapist thinks I’m acting “all delusional.” My therapist’s an asshole who’s full of himself but he may be right. After all, Uncle Kev told me Thomas Hobbes said: “imagination is just decayed memory.” So, if there’s no real difference between imagining and remembering, then I’m fine just ‘imagining’ Uncle Kev. This way he’s like a verb I can use in present and future tenses. Even if I’m deluding myself.
But I don’t tell this to my therapist. It will just confirm his diagnosis of me and inflate further his sense of self-worth. Anyway, I’m writing now that essay I promised to Uncle Kev. Actually, it’s a rap song. But I’m not trying to be edgy or cool, which would be pointless, not because I’m not cool or edgy, but because Hamilton made rap mainstream and banal.
So far I’ve got: My light is broken/It doesn’t reflect right/Sometimes it goes through me/So what/ Look, look, look at me/I make rainbows now/Aren’t I special…?
My song’s dumb but it comes from the heart. Probably not what he wanted.
Outside my window, a squirrel leaps between wishbone shaped branches: a furry parabola tucked inside a triangle. Then it’s gone, its wake whistling down the tree. A dewdrop falls and explodes on a sunlit stone in gold tattoos. Another wasted tear. Beyond the branches and the blurred memory of the squirrel’s flight, there’s only sky to see and then oblivion. In that moment, the weight of all that space’s emptiness crushes some last illusion that Uncle Kev and I can still connect. I’ll never finish that piece I owe him.
Then I hear him whispering, I did my best. You can’t help what you’re born into, so don’t ride yourself too hard. I know I bored you to death with everything I tried to teach you and my love was not enough. But I tried to give you something beautiful. A seed of a rainbow. Because there might come a time when the world hunts you down and eats you inside out and you may need a memory of something beautiful that isn’t imagined…even if it’s a lie.
David’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best Small Fictions (2021), Vestal Review, Pithead Chapel, Reflex Fiction, Fiction International, trampset, X-R-A-Y Lit, Orca Lit, and other print and online journals. Twitter: @luntz_david.