As Girl Children Do by Abby Burns

Without turning around, the girl child spills purple paint out the car window from her seat in the back. Her wrist straining on the window edge, hair glistening white with the afternoon. Purple suffocates windshields and lampposts and stop signs and people. It weaves between clouds until the sky turns Van Goghic and anyone who gazes up or away rediscovers his misery. It splatters on a stray cat lounging in the gutter whose tongue then spreads it across her matted fur until the world crowns her royal and the whole city eats nothing but smoked salmon for a week on her command. A mother’s eyes flicker to the rearview mirror where they light upon empty buckets and wrung-out brushes. She asks why and the girl child says tonelessly, Purple is my favorite color. I want to be less lonely. The mother’s eyes crinkle and she asks her girl child why she hadn’t turned around to witness her damage. I didn’t know that was an option. The girl child wheels herself backward in one full body jerk. But it’s too late. The world’s colors have reasserted themselves in her absence. All that’s left to her is the thrill of purple dots along the trunk of the car. In the overcast day, they look like dust or dirt. Only later, after the sun sets and the spring clouds dissipate, after her mother disappears into her room with a glass of wine, after she settles onto the old swing-set in her backyard, does the girl child find it again. There. In the sky. The moon in stain.

Abby Burns has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ghost Parachute, Bending Genres, Entropy, (b)OINK zine, Longridge Review, and elsewhere.