Everyone who reads this piece asks if it’s true. Thankfully, no. It was sparked by the above photo that I happened upon online. The story was originally submitted to Reflex Fiction in April 2019. It didn’t win the contest, but they were moved by it and decided to publish it anyway. In addition, this story was read by the author on a podcast.
by DL Shirey
The boy beams when finished. Beams. Like the face of God’s son whose name I no longer invoke. For eleven years he’s smiled whenever he sees me. Smiles when I feed him yoghurt. Smiles as I clean up shit and vomit. Gabe is a happy child. Happiest when he finishes a drawing.
“A fire truck,” I say, holding the crisp, thick sheet of paper. My son cannot draw a straight line. Each streak trembles or spikes because his hands shake badly. But Gabe has adapted, bundles jabs of color like an Impressionist. A fire truck, without doubt.
“Which ones?” I ask. The color of pushpins are important to Gabe, for any artist choosing a frame. He holds up the red crayon because he’s long past talking. The tube beneath his chin put an end to that.
I take down the grazing horse and put up the fire truck. There’s only a small stretch of bare wall in this tiny room, above the child-sized desk piled high with yesterdays’ pictures.
I want the exhibition to end and hate myself for it.