Perfect Blue

For the fourth round of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction that contain each of these words: "plant," "button," "trick," "fly."


Blue sky over an ocean. iStockphoto.com i i
iStockphoto.com
Blue sky over an ocean. iStockphoto.com
iStockphoto.com

David had always thought of himself as an artist. He knew he wasn't very good, but that would come with time. All he needed to carry him forward was inspiration. He looked for it every day. That was how he had discovered Perfect Yellow. He was pawing through a yard sale to find subjects for a still life when he found it. It was a button, one of several, sewn to an ancient, dingy hat. It was made of some primitive form of plastic. Age and sun had changed it from its original muted hue to a vibrant yellow that wasn't merely striking, it was truly perfect. He bought the hat and took it back to his apartment where he discarded everything but his prize, the physical incarnation of the color.

It opened his eyes. If there was one perfect color, there had to be more. He had to find them. He needed no rationale, it was a calling. His friends and family encouraged him. At first.

Perfect Yellow had been a fluke. David devised a systematic approach to find the others, canvassing antique malls and pawn shops. That fruitless endeavor kept him busy until inspiration struck. He flew to Brazil. There, he was sure he would find Perfect Green. The rainforest proved a great disappointment at first. Yes, there was a lot of green, but chlorophyll could only take a color so far. His mistake was looking for a plant. One morning he woke to find a tiny jumping spider resting on his sleeping bag, staring at him. The spider was Perfect Green. He claimed it for his own. He was only a little sad when he discovered it had died on the flight home. Its shell was still the vivid ideal of greenness.

Problems began to arise with the search for Perfect Red. David wasn't really working any more. His friends and family grew increasingly concerned, or distant, as his requests for support grew more monotonous. He found no inspiration to guide him. He stared at sunsets until his eyes burnt. He skulked in gem shows and community gardens, hoping that some ruby or petal might have captured true red. He considered a study of blood and was only dissuaded by the difficulty of preserving its fresh color. When he finally found Perfect Red, he was staying in a hostel doing odd jobs in exchange for room and board. The throw rug in one of the back rooms was a muddy brown until he scourged decades of grime out of it and discovered his chromatic quarry. Overjoyed at his good fortune, he stuffed it in his backpack and ran.

David became a drifter. He moved slowly from state to state, searching for Perfect Blue. He found a glass eye in a curiosity shop that he thought was it and spent his last dime to learn it was only a trick of the light. He hitchhiked to the seaside and perused tide pools and aquariums, hunting for sea creatures that might have chosen the color for themselves. He cried often, not from regret or hunger (though he often felt both) but at the beauty of the three perfect colors he had found and at his longing for the fourth.

One clear winter afternoon, with his eyes full of tears, David looked out at the sea. He saw it where the sky blended into the ocean. Then he blinked and it was gone.

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