by Rachael Smart
There were certain words she couldn’t say. One of them was yellow. At infant school the kids pointed at yellow stuff and asked her its colour so that they could mock her mispronunciation, the way her mouth refused to accommodate the word.
It got so that she dreaded the buttery tones of spring and the yolky sunlight high up at the classroom’s half-open window and the boxes of snapped Crayolas, and that distinct scent of emergency once the paint bottle lids were off to warn her yellow was coming. For one whole term the display wall was an epic moon with a paper mâché balloon stapled to Neil Armstrong’s head. That upset her. Not Neil’s trapped face but the torment of lunar colours. Seeing yellow made her say “lello” instinctively in her head and the classroom’s fourth wall would shriek back hysterically. Yellow intimidated her and so did the kids’ spiked laughter and the voice inside, and her obstinate tongue. A textbook lisp, assured the doctor with the squint, give it time. Unequivocally developmental apraxia, the speech therapist said with her enunciated RP and hummus breath.
She got wise to kids making her say yellow. Rehearsed alternative words at home with her mother, memorised the Dulux charts and realised there were shades far more apt. She never attempted to say yellow again. It became goldenrod, amber, clover, and maize, November, canary, number four, rape, mustard, petrol, electric, buff, panic, bumblebee, honey and thrush, and when her lips shaped the words in sync with her pliant tongue, a viola played treble clef somewhere, and she could taste dropped pennies on the back of her tongue.
Rachael Smart has a thing about words. Her short fiction and poetry have been published online, in literary journals and placed in competitions. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham. She writes best when the pencil loses its point.