A friend’s post on Facebook earlier today provided me with a writing prompt I could not ignore.
Friend: My house is getting painted starting next week, and I need to pick colors. It’s a cape that has the proportions of a Monopoly house and was built in 1950. There are some pics in my FB albums. Color suggestions for walls, trim, and maybe a third for the mullions welcome.
Nonsequiteuse: Palladian Blue (Benjamin Moore) with an off-white trim and perhaps a stormy, dark gray on the door and the secondary trim. Perhaps.
Mutual Friend 1 Comment: I like the “color story” Nonsequiteuse just suggested. Handsome and tidy.
Mutual Friend 2 Comment: Palladian Blue sounds like a summer beach book, Nonsequiteuse. Or maybe a band from the 60s.
Nonsequiteuse: Palladian Blue is the name of the wealthy, handsome industrialist who seduced me when I was an innocent young coed who’d never felt the stirring of my inner goddess and lured me in the world of shelter blog porn.
So, yes, I had a good chuckle writing my clever little 50 Shades-inflected note, but then I looked back at the chain and noticed Commenter #1’s clever reference:
Suddenly, I had the burning desire to turn their color story into a pot-boiler of my own. I selected the Fluid Blues and wrote the following story. It uses the names of all 30 shades of paint they include in that color story, highlighted to make it easier for you to see what I had to work with. I make no claim of literary merit for my tale, and offer it for amusement only. I encourage you to pull a color story off the shelf and see what you can create.
St. John Blue, pensive, contemplated his deep secret. It was after midnight, and the sylvan mist rolling in from the Adriatic Sea made him wish he’d grabbed the nubby, tattered cable knit sweater, knitted by his dotty nanny in her favorite fair isle blue long ago, to ward off the chill of the cool breeze.
He leaned toward the house, unable to determine whether the weak light distorting the antique glass windows on the porch was coming from the library or sitting room. Its bluish cast gave the window an antiqued aqua shimmer, like sea glass or the stained glass tiles that cluster together to form a mosaic dove as the centerpiece of an altar art in a Presbyterian church built in the 1970s, that distracted him, just for a moment, from his listless back-and-forth on the porch swing.
But only for a moment.
Turning away from the house, he contemplated the dark harbor beyond the rocks. Without a moon, and with the chilly breeze, he might as well be looking out over the Baltic Sea, not the crystalline Adriatic. He rose to head back inside, kicking the ratty wicker picnic basket by the back door out of his way.
Returning to his bed, he flipped on the radio. Listening to music while he fell asleep was a habit he’d picked up at boarding school. Bellbottom blues, don’t say goodbye …
He snapped the radio off.
The maudlin music of his youth might lead him down an even darker path and into a wakeful night. He’d had too many of those lately. Instead, he focused on the rustling trees and tried to sleep, trying to focus on the sweet relief that would come from next week’s auction.
Instead, his intuition about the memories the old chestnut of a song would stir proved accurate. St. John didn’t sleep. He dozed, but never for too long, and never deeply, instead watching with his mind’s eye as scenes from his privileged past bubbled up from his subconscious. Things he’d loved then gave him no comfort now.
Soon after dawn broke, realizing the futility of remaining in a bed where repose had eluded him, he made his way to the kitchen. His nieces buzzed around, excited about the spa day they had planned. They had to travel several towns over to reach the exclusive new resort that promised decadent relaxation along a coastline where people had long ago perfected the art of decadent relaxation without the need of sterile attendants ministering to them with expensive potions while new age smudgepots smoked out the smell of the sea.
He snorted when he heard their plans for the month at the family’s compound.
After getting pampered one day, they planned to skydive the next, hurling themselves into the wild blue yonder to gain an even higher perspective on the coastal village they already looked down on from the house on the cliff. Visits to friends’ estates for elaborate dinners … casino cruises … Another excursion was coming together, a donkey ride to a mystic lake thirty miles inland, where a crone pounded powders from dusty cornflowers and wild geraniums with local olive oil into what the girls called organic make-up but he called the perfect way to coax even more Euros out of gullible tourists. Thirty miles on donkeys!
His opinion had not been popular.
Not much of what St. John had said or done lately had been popular in his extended family. This, he was beginning to realize, was the burden of becoming the patriarch. He experienced the first flash of their displeasure a few months earlier when, once his father’s estate had been settled, he sold the family’s tropical oasis in the Caribbean. Private investors were turning it into a resort for those who aspired to the kind of wealth and status that the Blue clan had inherited from a generation made of steelier stuff than the current crop.
The fact was, the family was barely there, so it made no sense to pour cash into keeping it primed and ready. Because, in the tropics, keeping an oceanfront estate primed and ready called for deeper pockets than St. John Blue had.
Facts and sense were decidedly uninteresting and unconvincing to the younger generation. They nattered on about silly plans, ignoring the fact that Uncle Blue seemed to be trying to tell them that they could not keep spending without doing something to replenish the coffers.
Annoyed by their chatter, he moved to the deck, stretched out on a silken blue pillow, and began to daydream about the hidden sapphire in the family vault that he would be taking to his jeweler once he returned to the city.
That astonishing jewel could be his ticket out of the hole his family had dug themselves into, but he didn’t plan to share. After all, his father had kept it a secret from all of them—St. John only found out by virtue of being the executor. He’d sell it, spirit the money into a well-sheltered bank account, and be one step closer to his deepest desire—a life of simple pleasure where no family members lurked with outstretched hands and greedy eyes.
The cook interrupted his reverie, bursting through the gate with a passel of ducks and rabbits fresh from the butcher’s, strung together like a perverse bouquet of dried flowers. She wanted to know which he’d like for lunch.
A shock of iridescent feathers in the bundle caught his attention.
“What kind of duck is that?”
“Avalon teal, a breed that the tedious British family down the way imported to stock the pond in their park about 30 years ago,” the cook explained. “They were quite distressed when the locals learned how tender the meat is. Hunting them was the only solution they could come up with that kept those beastly ducks from getting as comfortable here as the damn plovers.”
St. John Blue nodded toward the unlucky bird, thought about the auction, and made a choice that sounded like a benediction.
“Duck sounds delicious—exactly what I want.”