Roy and Melissa stood in the entryway. The large room to their left and the small one to their right were both empty. A naked staircase ascended before them toward more blank sky blue rooms. Every wall in the house was sky blue.
Melissa walked into the large room, pulled out her camera and cranked the film into place. She focused on a thickly painted window sill and snapped a picture. She then turned her lens toward Roy who was still in the entryway. She cranked the film again and snapped another picture. It looked nice; Roy, looking deep in thought, with that sky blue backdrop.
He was thinking about how sterile this house smelled–just a house now, no longer anyone’s home.
“What color were the walls before this?” said Melissa.
Roy thought for a moment.
“Yellow.” His voice reverberated down the hallway.
Melissa smiled and shook her head.
“You guys seriously repainted the entire house, every single year?”
“It was our tradition,” said Roy turning to face the wall, as if to admire his work.
“It’s a really weird tradition. Was your Dad, like, OCD or…” Melissa trailed off as she walked into another empty room.
“No. I mean, some fathers take their sons fishing,” Roy shrugged, “We didn’t live by a lake, so…”
Several cranks and clicks echoed through the rooms as Melissa explored with her camera. Roy followed slowly behind her.
“I remember my Dad saying he’d grown up as an army brat,” Roy continued, “moving to a new town every year. He said growing up that way helped him organize his memory–like, he knew exactly what year something happened because of what town he was in. He wanted us to have that. So we repainted every spring. To color-code each year, I guess.”
“That’s funny. Did it work?”
“I don’t think so. The years still kinda blend together for me.”
Roy faced a wall to his left where he had expected to see his own face. But the mirror that had always been there was gone, and for a moment he was stunned at finding himself without a reflection.
He then headed up the stairs. All the bedrooms now looked like cheap little boxes without their furniture. He found his old room at the end of the hall. The room’s big bay window once looked out to the neighborhood, but now a tree below it had overtaken the view, so that all there was to see was green.
“Roy!” Melissa suddenly shouted from downstairs, “Come here! Look at this!”
Roy ran downstairs and found her at the back door. She was crouched and holding her lens close to something on the doorframe, a bright splash of color.
“Oh my God,” said Roy. He leaned in to get a better view. It was like peering into a miniature Grand Canyon. The movers, in their haste to get the furniture out of the house, had accidentally put a large gash in the doorframe, revealing layer after layer of the annual coats of paint.
There was yellow from when Roy had last visited in Thanksgiving. And maroon from the year he graduated high school. Pale green from the year he had broken his arm, and later caught pneumonia. Brown–those were the days! Red, Pink, White, Gray…
“I wonder if…” said Roy. He opened the door and hurried into his backyard where he disappeared into a tool shed. After a few minutes he reemerged with a can of paint in his hand.
Melissa snapped a picture of Roy walking back toward the house triumphantly.
“What’s that?” she said.
“This,” he said, lifting the can into the air, “was a very good year.”
They loaded the paint into their car and drove away.