"Sit still, Bobby."
"You're bouncing your knee. Making it hard for me. Sit still. Be calm."
Bobby planted his heel on the floor and tried to relax while his mother applied the paint to his neck in chilly strokes. His restlessness got the better of him, though. "This is stupid, Mom."
He felt his mother tense up and then sigh in exasperation. "Again with this?"
"Yes, again. This is stupid. Why green? Why any color? Why are we doing this?"
"Because, as I've told you a million times, we're green. That's just how it goes. We've always been green. My grandparents were green, your father's grandparents were green, and so on, all the way back. It's just how we are. I swear, you're the only kid I've ever heard of that complains about this or even brings it up." Bobby's mother threw her head back and jokingly wailed to the ceiling, "Why did it have to be my son?!"
Bobby managed to smile at her but couldn't drop the issue. "You see my point though, right? We're painting ourselves green, we wear green clothes, dye our hair green. Our pets are green. Our food is green. Everything green, just green, all the time. Why? Why green and not another color?"
"It's just the way we are. We're green. The Pilkingtons next door are goldenrod. The Vernors are coal-gray. That's them. We're green. Why do we have to keep going over this?"
Bobby hesitated long enough for his mother to reach for him with the paint applicator. He managed to speak up, though, before she could press it against his skin. "What if ... what if I wanted to be a different color?"
Bobby's mother withdrew the applicator and frowned. "What do you mean by that?"
He hopped up from his stool and walked away from her, feeling the paint congeal as the air passed over it. He had intended for this action to seem contemplative, to create the illusion that he hadn't secretly been obsessing over this moment for weeks.
"Like, what if I wanted to be a different color some time? Or all the time? Or what if I even wanted to be two colors, together? Say, silver. And ... black, or something." He hoped those two colors sounded as if they'd been plucked from thin air.
His mother took a moment to respond, and when she did, she took a very different tone than the stern rebuke he'd expected. Her voice was wavery and weak.
"You ... you don't like being green? Don't you ... well, don't you like me? Don't you like your family? Don't you like us?"
He spun in place to see his mother stricken, for the first time that he could recall, with what appeared to be despair. She was nervously kneading the hem of her green frock with one hand and absentmindedly patting her massive green bouffant into place with the other, as if preparing herself for a permanent and crushing rejection. This wasn't at all what he had thought would happen.
"Oh, no, Mom! I didn't mean that. I was just wondering about it. Just thinking out loud. Like, you know, what if someone, anyone, anywhere, wanted to change colors? Could they just pick something new?"
She seemed to calm down slightly. "I don't know. No one's ever done it that I've ever heard of. It seems like a curious thing to try. Change colors? Why? Green is who you are. It's your color. It's a good color. Isn't one good color enough for you?"
Overcome with guilt, Bobby looked at the floor and scuffed one green shoe against the other. "Aw, Mom, you're right. I was just thinking about it is all. I'm sorry if I worried you. I'm green. Of course I'm green. I wanna be green." Desperate to escape the moment, he checked the clock on the wall. "Well, it looks like it's time for me to go to school now."
Bobby gave his mother a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. After further reassurances, he marched over to the stack of green clothes on the green chair by the green door, and he put on his green propeller beanie, slipped into his oversized green overalls, laced up his green boots, and wrapped himself in a flowing green shawl. He glanced out the window to see the Conway twins waltzing down the street in matching pink onesies and top hats.
Briefly, as he had in so many dreams and daydreams, he envisioned himself dashing between the two of them in a blur of silver-on-black, their heads turning to see Bobby--could it be? That Bobby?--looking flashy and sleek and oh-so-different as he blew down the street.
But the moment passed, and, biting his lip, Bobby bitterly twisted the green doorknob.