short story | Roshan Singh

Some light crept in through the bedroom door and took a seat by the little girl’s bed.

Hey, how you doing?

The girl flashed a half-grin, and sunk a little further into her pillow.

Yeah, we figured. It’s late. You should be sleeping.

She lost her grin.

Penny for your thoughts?

After a moment’s deliberation, the girl fished around in her bedside drawer.

“Do you have change?”

Of course. That’s ten, we’ll give you back nine – thank you, have a nice day.

The girl whipped out a hand, and snapped her fingers.

“You’re that nice café lady, aren’t you? You used to give me yesxtra cookies.”

She’s in here, that’s right.

“Is your girlfriend there, too?”

Oh, she couldn’t make it tonight – still relaxing upstairs. She’s exhausted from all the
travel.

“That’s good. Tell her I miss her – oh, I had a painting of the two of you –”

Before that…what’s going on with you tonight? Your thoughts are all over the place.

“I’m sorry. Nothing bad happened today. I don’t know why I’m like this.”

No – hey, come on, you’ve got nothing to apologize for. The girl let her head fall against
the hard wall behind her. What about yesterday, huh? Anything in the past week?

“Don’t think so. Oh, there’s been good stuff, too!”

Is the good stuff keeping you up at night?

“Not really. The good stuff is great. Hey, how are you doing?”

The light shimmered, unconvinced.

We’ve been good, only getting better. It feels like the world’s nicest people are coming
over en masse. (Oh, that means all at once.) We just hope there are enough left for you.

“I’m happy you’ve got more friends!”

Now that we’ve established that, you wanna talk about what’s bothering you?

“I wanna, I do, I…I don’t know. It’s so little.”

If it’s keeping you up, it’s big enough to talk about.

“Okay, it’s – I’m warning you, it’s nothing.”

The light glistened expectantly.

“Fine, it’s just…I did a painting, for this competition. It had to be about my family.”

Right.

“And I thought it was pretty good, and it’s not like I expected it to win, but…” The girl
was choking up. “The man said, what, are we supposed to believe your family is some
kind of rainbow cloud?” She broke out into giggles, brushing the moisture off her
cheeks. “I didn’t know how to draw your…uh, you’re really hard to draw.”

Hey, hey – we understand. Can we see it?

A ray shone where the girl pointed, revealing a trashcan opposite her bed that smelt
distinctly of ash.

“It burned for a really long time – even then, it didn’t look anything like you.”

The light didn’t know what to say. The girl held out an outstretched hand.

“Is mom there?”

Of course. Always.

“Could you stay for a little while? Just until I fall asleep?”

The light scattered across the room, diffused into a dull glow, as she watched with eyes half-open. It was everywhere, and – at the same time – it looked like it had almost
vanished.

The little girl tucked herself in.

 

What has Roshan Singh ’18 done to deserve a write-up? His professors would argue that it’s not what he’s done that matters, but what he has yet to do (most of which is a week overdue). Granted, there was also some faffing about in the Iowa Summer Workshop, plus the occasional play, poem, or prose piece—but he hopes, if the need ever arose to do a write-up, that there would be more to it than a mere list of things.

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