Monday, January 3, 2011


(To catch up on previous installments of this serial: THALO BLUE)

Sebastion, to this day, has a set of three distinct images which he can call to mind with perfect clearness, as though they were still photos taken with Oliver’s SLR camera, ones that he could hold in his hands and stare at.  These snapshots, all from his early childhood, those years between three and nine when it seemed his father’s displeasure for him began—though there are countless other snapshots with varying degrees of lesser quality—stand out to him as particularly significant.  They are the clearest in his mind, and at times, he has to convince himself that they are not real, not actually happening to him at that precise moment.  They are that vivid.
In order of their occurrence, the first such flashcard is of his head held down by a large white mitten while descending into a long gray tunnel.  The second is a kitchen table covered in crayon markings—blue letters, z mostly, which he always pronounced zee, and his father always corrected him, zed.  Combined with that memory is a long and curving line of red, starting to blister and bubble along the length of his inner forearm.  The pain of it and the picture in his head of crayon markings on the kitchen table, come to him with pinprick lucidity, and they bring back the physical pain of that moment with utter perfection.  He swears, when he sees that table and those crayon smears, that he can feel the unbearable itchy burning sting under the skin of his arm.
The last memory, the least clear and most perplexing of the set, is a vision of water beyond the black steel bars of a gate that stands closed before him.  Looking beyond, Sebastion sees, frozen forever in his mind’s eye, a boat kicking up white furls of wake and moving towards the farthest edge of the water’s body.  A man stands on the back deck of the craft facing him, his arm raised, his expression flat and empty.

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When Sebastion was four, he was diagnosed with a rather unique condition.  Though to say diagnosed like that might make it seem that Sebastion would be dying.  After a long and inevitable period of suffering, he would fade away and expire at an early age, with his mother and dad outliving him in a way most parents dread.  Or, to say it like that, diagnosed, would be to suggest a long life of endless suffering, of daily injections or painful treatments, and in the end, that he would never be a normal kid with a normal life.
But that wasn’t the case.  None of it.  Except perhaps the part about normalcy.
Sebastion’s condition was, as he saw it, and as his mother always told him, rather the opposite of both the early-death and the long-drawn-out-suffering kinds of conditions.  This condition was, according to Sadie, a blessing from God.

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Sadie stood in the kitchen-half of the kitchen-dining room split while soup steamed on the top of the stove behind her.  She was making lunch while Oliver sat at the giant oak desk in the back study and ran through the family bills.  Her husband’s head, Sadie thought, hung like it was broken when she had peered in on him and asked what would be suitable for lunch.  He looked like the numbers would never settle out properly.  But she didn’t say anything about the stack of papers he was staring at, had started not to and would only get less and less apt to do so.  
The Redfield home, save for the cottage on scattered summer weekends, was the only home they ever lived in together as a family configuration.  It was the root of nearly every one of Sebastion’s childhood memories.  It was one of those ‘modern’ homes built in the nineteen-sixties when designers started to realize just how much time was spent in the kitchen, and what a social event food preparation had become.  Dinner gatherings with friends and neighbors were catching on, as were fondue parties where everyone wanted to have a look in the kitchen to see what was cooking on the stove top.  Certainly that’s what architects must have decided, must have told each other in weekly meetings of the time.  But in reality, behind all that nonsense, was the women’s movement that wanted to pull wives out from behind the closed door of the kitchen and bring them closer to a sense of belonging, closer to a sense of equality—closer, it would seem, to their husbands at the dining table.  While still a subconscious attribute of the movement, the kitchen and dining split found its way into homes of the time just the same.  As such, the Redfield house had a counter dividing the kitchen and the semi-formal dining room.  Above that, cupboard space which divided the room even further, but it still allowed her to peek between the above set of closed doors and the faux marbled counter top below to check on Sebastion at the table.
He was there now, with his back to her, sitting on his knees on the wooden chair, scribbling contentedly on a writing tablet with crayons.  And humming, he was always humming.
Between soup-stirrings and bread-butterings, she wiped her hands on a tea towel and came around the counter to see what Sebastion was drawing.  He was always, she noticed quite early, satisfied to let whatever he was doing absorb him completely.  He would fall nearly silent, except for the humming, but would never be upset at being alone.  Even for hours, he would sit and play or color with his crayons and never raise a fuss.  She couldn’t remember the last time he had cried at anything.
She admired this quality and strove to think of instances when she had done that herself in childhood.  Her memories of home, though, never went earlier than the age of six, and most after that were unhappy ones, so she usually shut them out of her mind.  She did so again as she wiped her hands dry on the towel, and tilted her head at Sebastion’s drawing.  It was a picture of a person: blue head, green body, and purple legs, highly articulate for such an early age, she guessed.  Above the blue head of the figure were several scribbles that looked vaguely like words.  Could little boys as young as Sebastion be expected to write whole words already?  She didn’t think so, but dismissed the idea.  The words were there, and that’s all that mattered.  The first incarnation of letters seemed to say Seb, at least that’s what it looked like.  The second said the same thing, but a little more clearly.  The S was drawn in orange crayon, the e in green, and the b in purple.  Below that conglomeration was a variation; the S had been sloppily transposed. It was a mirror image, almost like a Z.  The e and the b were the same colors as above but the Z was drawn with a bright blue crayon instead of orange.
Sadie had been reading to Sebastion for months, every night a little from books like Puss In Boots and Alice In Wonderland.  He seemed to enjoy the reading and Oliver insisted that their son become well rounded as early as possible.  She had even started, briefly, ever so briefly, to point out letters on the pages and say their names to him.  He seemed disinterested so her own desire had waned.  But last night they didn’t read.  Didn’t color together either.  Instead she worked on his baby book, a blue covered scrap book with giant pages where photos of baby’s first words and measurements were pasted and scrawled for each year of his life.  It was sprawled on the bedspread in the master bedroom amongst loose snapshots and scraps of paper.  She lay there on her stomach like a high school girl doing homework, transcribing from the scraps into the little spaces of the fourth page things like Sebastion’s weight in pounds while Sebastion played with a police car toy at the foot of the bed.  Sadie loved the idea of this book and wished her own mother had made one for her to look back on.  It was a document to the living of life.
Sadie supposed that Sebastion’s scrawls in crayon on the writing tablet had something to do with the two of them working on the scrap book last night.  She had lifted him up to the bed and helped to steady his little hand with hers while it held a crayon and tried to write his name.  Write your name, Sebastion, she had said.  Write it just like this one, she had told him as she pointed to her own fancy print of his name at the top of page four.  It came out like a scribble, unrecognizable really.  And she had expected nothing more.  But he stared at it, then at hers several times before apparently losing interest and going back to his police car.  But these, here on the tablet the next afternoon, were remarkably close to real letters.  To her, they looked like the doodles of a six year-old and not a four year old.  But, she caught herself, isn’t it always a mother’s prerogative to think her child is the absolute smartest?
“What are you drawing, sweetie?” She asked him as she stood over him at the oak table in the dining room.
He looked up at her, his eyes wide and quite content, “That’s me, mommy,” he said, proud of himself, pointing to the blue head on the sheet of paper. “And that’s my name.”
“That’s beautiful.” She paused, then pointed at the sloppy, backwards S, possibly the letter Z, on the third line. “Honey, what’s this here?”
“This one’s blue.  Blue’s better,” He said.
“And this?” she said, moving her finger up to the orange S above it.
“I don’t like that one...”
“How come?”
Sebastion paused for a moment, as if to consider the question.  “It’s a bad color, Mommy.”  Then he added, “Blue’s better.”  He pointed to the sloppy word, Zeb, and his finger hovered there, tense.  “My name’s this one,” he almost yelled.  His brow was furrowed and she was startled.  She had never seen Sebastion even once with a short temper.
Okay Hon—
The soup started to boil over on the stove and she abruptly left him there to go and lift its lid.  Too late, it had dribbled down the side of the pot to the range and onto the blue gas flames.  The smell of burned tomato soup filled the kitchen.  And the dining room.

Next installment of THALO BLUE is on Monday!  Want more serial action? Check out previous installments of  THALO BLUEAnd visit R.L. Jean's sequel to The Noble PiratesLiberi.


  1. I am intrigued now to find out more about Sebastion's childhood :)

  2. (His childhood wasn't as bad as you might think!)

  3. Today's episode was an enjoyable change of pace. Instead of cold and fright we experienced a little domestic warmth and sweetness. Pretty sure it’s not going to last but it was nice to know that Sebastion has had a bit of happy-mommy-time in his life. Everybody should, you know.

  4. I always drew on writing tablets as a kid. They were cheap and my grandparents would always bring me one when the came for a visit. The pages were thin and easy to trace through and they were just a bit smaller than the standard 8 and a half by 11 that you found everywhere else. I can still smell the pages.

    Yeah, this was a nice change of pace wasn't it? I think, as I write some of this stuff, you can see where the dark or stressful parts almost overwhelm me. That's when I take a break and we get a nice scene at a kitchen table over soup. But you are right, Ann, the reprieve will be...short.

  5. parts of it were pretty disturbing, though... e.g. the beginning where his memories don't sound very ideal for a child, and at the end when he was saying his name is Zeb, and insisting that 'blue is better'... I'm sure he has some issues LOL... we shall see :)

  6. Oh yeah, Maria, make no mistake. It's definitely not a normal childhood. You're right: you shall see!

    Thanks for continuing to come along for the ride!

  7. Does this mean the Wednesday installment gravy train is over? Dang it! Now what am I going to read?

  8. It was actually Thursdays, Ann, and I'm thinking of bringing it back as early as next week. What do you think of that?


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