Blue Grey Red Memorial

by ASHLEY DAWSON | 3rd Place, student prose contest

written by Circumstance


Large, grey cinder blocks sit around an ashy fire pit.

The grey sits within the midst of color: chrysanthemums, carnations, azaleas, lilacs, daffodils, calla lilies, roses. It’s a communion planted among the fields of tall, dry grass.

A breathing, coloring and feeling world seeps out of the picturesque clearing. Still, the gray bricks sit there.

Beyond the noiseless scene is a dirt road. The road looks like it’s been well-traveled, but unused as of late. Weeds split the packed dirt and creep along its surface.

In the distance, a red pickup truck treks down the road. It stops at the end of the dirt and turns off. The tires are worn, and the paint is chipped. The driver’s door uncloses.

A skinny, washed-out man in his early 30s steps out. His thinning hair is a mosaic of brown and grey.

A little girl with unruly blonde hair climbs from the passenger seat to step out on the driver’s side. She stands with him in shorts, a t-shirt, and bright orange flip-flops.

She looks up at the man as he looks out at the clearing.

When he doesn’t move, she considers a flower from the road.


Daddy, what’s this flower called?

He looks at her, kneeling down and gently taking the yellow. He examines it comically closely, furrowing his eyebrows.


That’s a weed.


It’s pretty for a weed.


Well, there are loads of ‘em. Some are designed to be pretty.

She looks at the dirt and points.


That one’s like in the driveway.


Yeah‚ yeah, it is. You’re so bright.


It just looks like a spider with too many grass legs.


Well‚ I guess so‚ It’s called crabgrass.


What’s this called?


Oh, that one’s a dandelion.


I like dandy-lions.


I know, kiddo. Com’ere. Let me show you something.

He rubs the dandelion on her hand and up her arm, leaving a yellow trail of dandelion and utter betrayal. She cries out, yanking her hand away.

She tries to wipe the yellow off.


That wasn’t nice.


All right, all right. (placating gesture) Here, I’ll help you wipe it off.

He licks his thumb and reaches for her arm. She screams.


Hey, hey, I just want to help!


No! Gross! Get away! No!

He chases her around. Her shoes flip-flop. He scoops her up and swings her around. She’s laughing. He smiles at her. He sets her on her own two feet.


There’s some water in the truck. You can use that to wipe it off.



She runs around the truck, and her bright orange flip-flops clomp loudly against the dirt road.

She climbs up into the driver’s seat, grabbing a water bottle. She climbs out of the truck and pours the water on her arm. The water runs off her hand and begins to puddle on the dirt road. She scrubs the yellow on her arm.

He watches her, his expression unreadable.

Then, he heads over to the trunk bed, popping the tailgate. He hauls sandbags and paint cans over to the grass clearing. His daughter grabs his hand as they look down on the firepit.

Then, with the faraway look in his eyes, he gets to work.

He moves the cinder blocks away from the firepit. He dumps the sand into the hole, smothering the ashes within the pit. He lays the cinder blocks into a line.

One by one and heavy clink by heavy clink, each cinder block heaves up onto another one. All of the bricks are lined up.

They run across the sand covering the old firepit. A barrier. It’s a wall five cinder blocks high and three blocks wide. A canvas.

He pops the paint cans open with a screwdriver: yellows, bright blues, purples, magentas, whites, oranges, reds.

It’s a colorful palette next to the dull, grey bricks.

Then, yellow slashes across the bricks. Purple dances along the edges. Magenta curves and twists. White forces itself in, smudging with the other colors. Red carefully aligns itself. As the sun begins to set and his daughter sleeps in the passenger seat, light blue takes its place among the colors.

He steps back and stares.

He stands between his truck and the color wall.

He looks back over his shoulder as he leaves.

The sunlight shines from beyond the red pickup, casting his shadow along the sand and onto the bottom of the color wall.

He packs sandbags and paint cans back into the trunk bed. There’s still sand inside the bags. The paint runs down the sides of the cans.

He shuts the tailgate.


He opens the tailgate. It’s empty save for a white paint can. He takes it out, making his way over to the color wall.

The beginning of the sunrise disrupts the sky: light, blurred, dark. Most colors in the clearing are quiet, with the hues of blue humming a little louder in the low light.

He crosses the distance from the red truck to the wall.

An anorexic figure stands at the bricks with a dark blue can of paint. Their pale skin stands out in the darkness.

They’re in a black garment similar to a child’s feather play dress. They have a bridal hat with a dangling curtain of beads covering their mouth. They are barefoot.

He sets his paint can down.


I hope you aren’t planning on painting this with that color.

The figure kneels to the can and tries to open it. They’re having trouble as if they can’t open it themselves.


I’m serious.

No response. He kneels down, snatching the screwdriver from their hand.


You’re not from around here, are you? You aren’t allowed to paint this. It’s a memorial for—


Painters derailed by circumstance.

The figure sifts the sand between her fingers. Crazy woman. He rubs his temples and sighs, sitting back on his haunches.


Okay‚ lady, do you have anyone I can call to pick you up?


You left.


What are you—

The figure scoops and flings sand into his face and mouth. He loses balance and falls, grunting when he lands on his back. The figure grabs the screwdriver, returning to her frantic attempts at opening the paint can: no closer to her goal.

He wipes at his face and spits out the sand. He sighs, pushing himself up. He grabs the screwdriver from her.

The figure grabs the bridal hat and flings it off dramatically. His eyes go wide.


I’m not done.


What are you on about, Brinley?! I thought you were—the whole town thought you were dead!

BRINLEY sits back with the screwdriver, staring impassively. Her blue eyes are bloodshot, and she exudes exhaustion.

His expression swims with relief, sorrow, and anger.




You wouldn’t understand.


I wouldn’t—?! (calms himself, still tense) I understood back then. Back with your parents. When you said they didn’t understand. Remember that?


You wouldn’t understand now, David. Painters are rarely understood.


Maybe because these painters leave their families and their town to—to pursue careers in vandalism!

Brinley doesn’t glance at the wall, not even when DAVID gestures frantically at it.


You didn’t even give me a chance to understand. You just left again!


I’m sorry.


No, you aren’t. You do this every couple years. You can’t keep doing this to me…to her.


Passion isn’t easily understood.


It’s not passion! It’s crazy! You left her at the house: alone and hungry while I was at work!


You left.


I was at work.

Brinley doesn’t move, twitchy and pale. David stares and his expression slowly morphs into one of misery. The ‘rise lights more of the sky than it doesn’t.


I can’t do everything.


It’s like talking to a wall.


You don’t understand. I work hard to take care of his kid.


A grey concrete wall.


You can’t just let us be, can you? You just always have to come back and stir trouble.


I wanted to see you.

The sun begins to cast the brick wall’s shadow onto Brinley’s stature. David looks up at the colorful painted wall, clenching his fists in the sand.


No, you just want to screw everyone over. Why can’t we just have this? If you won’t come back for us, why can’t we have this?

Brinley stares, eyes focused on him as she itches where her throat meets the feather dress. She obviously doesn’t care.

David moves slowly, distraught.

He takes the screwdriver from her and pops the can open.

Brinley watches, gaze fixed on the wall behind him.

As David steps back, the wall’s colors become decipherable.

It’s a beautifully painted face: Brinley’s face.

Slashing yellows, dancing purples, twisting magenta, smudging white, aligning red. It’s an awe-inspiring, steadfast feeling of passion amidst the grey brick wall.

David walks back to the white paint can he came there with.

Brinley stands with the blue bucket in hand, watching him.


Aren’t you going to stop me?


Not anymore. Have at it.

Brinley heaves the bucket. Dark blue paint splatters against the memorial’s intricate details.

The sunrise shines from beyond the brick wall, casting its shadow over them.

Birds chirp as they fly overhead. The flowers flutter in the breeze.

David turns and walks out of the shadow to his truck.

Brinley stands there and stares at the wall.

The red truck departs from the clearing.

The blue paint drips down the bricks.

Still, the grey bricks sit there.


Ashley Dawson is a daughter, an aspiring writer, and a student at Tulsa Community College.

From Beverly Marshall: Every day we pass strangers. We see family & friends. We see faces. We see emotions. We see the Human Experience. Every face tells a story. Every emotion grips our hearts, and sings, or screams to our souls. Those faces, those emotions, every story told deep in their eyes. We all have those feelings. The ones that can come out of nowhere and bring such joy… or such pain. What power the emotional soul has….