Uncle Dave Fell Through a Rainbow

He tells me this from his hospital bed.

‘How?’ I ask.

‘Jumped,’ he rasps. ‘Climbed up onto the roof and went for it.’ 

He lives in a four-storey block of grey flats. I suppose he’d have to jump from somewhere high to reach a rainbow.

He describes the hot hit of red with its sharp, metallic tang; the zestiness of orange; the aftershock of bitter lemon, so that when the glacier-cool blue and soothing lilac came along it was a damned relief.  

But why go rainbow tumbling if the end doesn’t offer a pot of gold but bedsheets as white as naivety? 

He swallows. ‘Needed more colour in my life. When I saw those psychedelic bands glowing through my bedroom window…Like a dream.’

Gran, propped in the tall-backed chair on the other side of the bed, mutters, ‘You’re a total eejit, Dave.’ 

He dies the next day and is laid out in his coffin wearing a three-piece suit in his favourite tone of blue  – indigo. I am made to kiss his cheek. It tastes beigy-brown, like age-old papery wishes or singed hopes. 

As the coffin is lowered into the ground, a rainbow slides onto the sky. 

‘Look, Gran. A sign from Uncle Dave.’

Gran presses a hand on my shoulder and sighs – a long exhalation of weariness poached from martyrs. She doesn’t say anything but hooks Aunt Lucy’s arm and heads to the hotel for post-funeral treats. 

I stay behind, staring at the shoulder of my denim jacket, now marked with a bleached-out handprint.  

Closing one eye, I pinch my thumb and index together and peel the rainbow from the sky. It comes away in fluttery streamers. I pocket it, my talisman, and head to the hotel, a stretch of clear blue sky above me.   

Author: At the age of eleven, Sharon Boyle won a poetry competition run by her local library and basked in the glory for three decades before putting pen to paper again. Her short stories and flashes have been published on-line and in print, including in Reflex Fiction, Ellipsis Zine and Janus Literary.

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