Author's note: Thank you to Lillith, for inventing the character and look of Palmer.
T H E M O R P H I S T
by Silva Noir
Chapter 10: rainbows
Hazy pollen and smog-choked air made it all the more unpleasant to walk along the long stretch of sidewalk. Oversized bright graphically simplistic signs from a bevy of modern stores garishly sprouted from various locations in the tar like stubborn weeds blooming from cracks. Further walking along, you found these mixed freely with paint chipped colonial houses adorned with small plaques marking them as built in the 1800s, surrounded by black wrought iron fences. Barns, originally parts of the spacious farms that once were before cars were invented, were attached to the sides of a few. Most of those were converted to garages or extra rooms. In between the two types of sharply contrasting structures was the occasional religious establishment whose makeup was neither innovative nor classical.
Beyond the spaced out teenagers plodding slowly home in small groups the day was rather unremarkable. No big fuss was made over the jungle intruder, at least, not any further than the highly citified dense block of uptown. Sirens wailed in the distance, telling them that curious lookers on were still being shoed away from the scene in case of any further danger. Other than this, the population was ignorant anything had happened, preferring to go on with their own selfish acts and small lives. The culprit was apprehended, so there was no reason to cause a larger commotion.
Commuters went about their daily routine of speeding a dozen or so miles over the limit without stopping for any more than coffee in the stamp sized settlement. If not for lying directly on Route 28, it may have been quite the nothing-town with not one single aspect spectacular or unique to its name. Low class fast-foot joints had root at every other corner in hopes of drawing in those who’d rather rush off to Boston to work or play for a few moments and a few dollars.
This was all explained by a young spiky haired tanned gentlmen in grey shirt and green pants. "Main Street used to be nice long ago. Before anyone else was born remembers, except the really old townies. Chestnut trees shaded the whole road, believe it or not. It wasn’t all sun and cracked tar and fumes from big trucks, really. Or was it elms? Either way, a few got diseased... that with more traffic and all... they cut them all down. Cut them ALL down, every last one, and didn’t bother trying to replant any, except those really small trees that don't shade anything and don't grow much. Maybe an inch and that’s it, that’s all they'll grow. What are they called? They look like poison sumac." Palmer complained as they walked over a bridge that spanned ancient railroad tracks long since abandoned. Various odd plants and trash and turned over shopping carts smothering the rusting iron rails. Above them loomed the town's single billboard. The backside image was peeling off front was some product no one intended to buy.
"Isn't there some sort of commission that wants to preserve what's left?" David interjected.
"There ISN'T anything left. They waited to create a historical society until anything remotely historical or interesting was gone. They just put little stones up saying this or that used to be here, instead of trying to preserve it while it was there. Buildings now all look like brick boxes plunked down on a big square of asphalt with only a few pathetic dried out evergreen shrubs that people throw empty bottles in." It was amazing how someone so quiet could get rolling with a whole speech given the right topic.
"Uh-huh...” David nodded, not really interested. They had seen a few pharmacies and banks that fit the bill. He didn't have much to add to the conversation beyond a few affirmations to let the other know he was listening. A question or two to feign interest was the best he could do. Having moved from one state to another, one city or rural location to the next, bouncing across the country all his life, he never had much time to grow too attached or annoyed with any one place. Nor had he had a chance to get close to anyone in them and hear their opinions on the matter.
"The Res used to be a vacation spot until the 1930s. Sailboats used to go through there, small ones anyway. There’s still pieces of old cabins and stuff, and flower bushes and stonewalls out in the middle of nowhere from it. My mom has a few old pictures they had in the ledger she cut out and tacked up in the cabinet. Women wore those big hats with boys and frilly dresses and all. Now, there’s a fine for setting foot near the Res. New doesn’t mean better… the old was better, but people who move here, like you, don’t know that. They only see how it is now. No one tells them how it used to be, so they accept what it is: trash. This town is ugly, really UGLY. I was born here and it’s gone from bad to badder…”
“Worse,” David corrected, “Bad to worse.”
“Whatever. But you know what I mean. Just look at it. LOOK at it" he commanded and shook his hands wildly and agrilly at all before him like a mad conductor. "There’s nothing worth giving a second look. The only thing to do in this town is go to the movie theater. Built that a few years ago, and even that used to be a greenhouse. Sold flowers and all, there’s daisies that still grow on the hill next to there. They mow those down first chance they get. This entire place is about a quick buck. No one cares if anything is beautiful or not.” he then folded his arms satisfied he'd proven his case beyond reasonable doubt.
“I wouldn’t know. I haven’t live here very long… and I don’t plan on staying.” the blonde mumbled.
“Wherever you’re going, take me with you!” he exclaimed. He'd suffiently broken with his usual hushed act. Realizing this, he quieted again. It was possible he may even have blushed.
Kicking a half crushed cola can out of his path and into the gutter, David asked, “So what do you do for fun, besides see movies?” That’s how the discussion had started. He had requested a bit of information on the goings-on of the place temporarily mulling through life in. He’d received and earful regarding the revolutionary war and how the south branch of town had been the leading shoe and boot factory to supply the soldiers. The library that had once been grandiose was burned down ages ago and replaced with a basic non-decorative faced and barely stocked shelves indoors. This was only of a fraction of the stories piled upon him. “How do you know all this? Are you a history nerd?”
“No… there’s this old guy on the public access channel with a cheesy ponytail and thick glasses that babbles on about all of it. Insomnia leads to watching things like that.” He shrugged and laughed, a soft yet abrupt sound. “It’s been a rough day. I could use some ice cream. Ice cream makes everything better.”
David’s feet moved on by their own volition. He was dead tired at this point, lacking sleep and health that would make the world any clearer. Magnolias sweet scent from an the increasingly itchy white button shirt he wore along with the vroom of cars whizzing by sent him to a further daze. Palmer had run out of fun facts to share so they walked along in uncomfortable quiet. Body and spirit lagged as The Morphist in mortal form passed his time in an odd way. Bored, he counted telephone poll lights that were vivid eggshell blue instead of lackluster sullied skink stripe washed out ochre. He’d tallied seven so far out of all the ones they’d ambled under. Extra points were added to the score if the new blue ones were broken already. This brought him up to ten points all together. True, it wasn’t the most exciting of sports, but it made due in a pinch.
Removing his glasses caused the street lamps to boost their sightseeing value. Light refracted, jitterbugging joyfully across the range of sight. Little rainbows from the revolving prisms and rippling waves of semi-transparent, brightest, purest, most holy and gentile white moved and grew and retracted in chaotic pageants. These were but a delicate filter over what was really there, a minor frosting on the glass. The spring green leaved mighty oaks were there, the mishmash of one and two floor houses and small apartment buildings were there, the bustling traffic was there, the poorly paved street was there, as were the vehicles bustling and inching along like herds of cattle upon it. What were lost were the fine details. What was added was beyond what words could compare to. The picture took on an overall dreamy blur. It was more awe-inspiring viewing the world this way. The effect, simple though it was, had such a warm outer cosmos wistful hold over him he wondered if this were the TRUE reality.
Scientifically, he’d deducted the source of the show of distortions long ago. Xilvrin, in its more metallic properties, gleamed like high polished new-car chrome. As it invaded every part of him, so had it his eyes, giving the irises their glistening granite value. Without it, he would be blind whilst wearing clothes of glossy coated animals, for it too connected and extended, as did the strings to control the animation of the creature construct. Inside the armor the suspended puppeteer’s mind exploded with the kaleidoscope and watery undulating surface. The universe was metallic first, colors second, and physical moving and still objects last. Bright lights materialized as fireworks all around, making it tricky to get a good bearing. Being industrial-strength tough as the substance was when it was hardened this was hardly a problem. Bearings to Bears, he thought, bears don’t have much trouble at all. Grizzles had piss-poor eyesight, but no one questions their abilities when the mass of fur and muscle and teeth and claws is barreling towards them. If someone is in a bear’s way it just mows it over.
Tactics were not the main topic of his thoughts at the moment. The less awake he became the more he adored his un-reality of his unique way of being. Although the slight increment of tint and curve of the lenses on his glasses made it clear to see as any healthy human being would, he wondered the good of it. Perhaps the prismatic holograms were originally meant to be seen by everyone. The average person was too lowly to take notice catch it by the naked eye. Camera flashes picked it up from time to time. If that occurred the flares were considered mistakes and losses. Ruth considered it to be a loss, both in photos and in his eyes. He perceived it to be a wonderful gain.
“People would be happier if they surrounded themselves with rainbows,” he mused sleepily, forgetting anyone else was there.
“Nah… I mean, it's ok for some. But I don’t like them that much.”
“That’s a shame…I enjoy the rainbows. The water-ripples and snowflake things as well…they’re pretty….” He stopped gazing up at the clouds, where he was inwardly and now outwardly giggling at nearly invisible sunrays made into a laser light show.
“Uh... ok...” Palmer twirled his finger by his head indicating his friend had gone looney.
“Shut up, I’m tired…. leave me alone.” He decided to change the subject, quickly. “Didn’t you say photography was your hobby?”
“Yeah, so?” Palmer shrugged.
“Do you ever get those white, pink and blue lens flares?”
“Yeah, it’s a pain. That’s why you gotta be careful where you stand in relation to your subject. Ok, that’s kind of technical; basically, you want to make sure you don’t have the sun in front of you. Once you get unwanted defects… it’s impossible to get rid of them. Unless you airbrush them out, scan it into the computer and mess with it in an editor. I don’t like doing that, I put them on my site as-is. I post the best ones, anyway. I like getting it right the first time or tying to.”
“Old means better to you, I forgot” David nudged the frames back onto his nose. Some days he hated the extra weight on the front if his face and the plastic hooks around his ears. Who cares if I can’t read book print without them, or sit there smiling at seemingly nothing? It isn’t my fault that I see something they could not, it’s their fault for not trying harder too. Maybe I don’t need glasses, maybe everyone else does “Maybe you shouldn’t pass them off that easily. Celebrate the defects, they could actually be blessings.” The boy walking next to him gawked at him as if he’d lost his mind with all he was rambling on about. He supposed he was being a bit incoherent. “Or… maybe not.” He reminded himself with the corrective lenses he saw all the imperfections of the world. Harsh edges, dirt, and un-pleasantries were as clear as day. His own perfections were nagging at him as well. “I’m thirsty….” Baser instincts conquered philosophy.
“Well, we are stopping at Dairy Barn. I don’t know if they have soda or anything, but they do have soft serve and sundaes. Oh, they have slushes too, and those are kinda drinks. Like I said, ice cream makes everything better.” He reminded.
He highly doubted dessert would solve all if any of his problems. Sleep sounded like much better idea. “How far is your house from here? I don’t have the energy to walk much further. Why didn’t we take the bus?”
“Because everyone took the bus, it was too crowded.” He plucked a poppy from its stem where it was growing through a crack in a stone wall in front of a modest estate. Staring at it for only a few moments, he started pulling the petals off and tossing them over his shoulder. “I wasn’t in a rush to get home either. My car is still in the shop… thought I’d actually get some exercise for once. Plus, it gave us a chance to talk and get to know each other… sort of.”
David was slightly annoyed at this news. A ride in a comfy air-conditioned car would have been much welcomed. “What happened to your car? Did you get in an accident? Or was it just old and broken down?”
“Neither, actually. I had a rainbow sticker on it… really tiny one on the back windshield. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was hoping no one would notice. Well, I was hoping the right people would notice and the rest wouldn’t, but it never works out that way. Its ironic or something, I have to pretend I’m not one of the people I belong with so I can fit in with the people I don’t. I don’t… well I have an idea who… did it, but all the windows were smashed when I went to get it out of the school lot a few days ago. They spray painted the hood too, You don’t even wanna know what it said. So that’s why I don’t have a car. Anyway… ice cream. I’m craving chocolate and I’m craving it now.”
The ice cream parlor was wedged between the greenest of green festooned gas station and a small block of stores with cinderblock walls and shingled overhangs. One of these had a faded sign that simply proclaimed “Used Music” featuring worn cardboard record sleeves and worn out tapes along with a smattering of scratched CDs shoved into a poorly stacked dusty window display. A tape up tattered piece of paper with black marker hastily written letters stated them as three to five bucks a pop. If no one else wanted it, what makes you think I want it? David scowled. What am I going to do with someone else’s junk? Flanking either side was a laundromat slathered in filthy orange tiles and wallpaper, inside and out, and a barber shop whose spinning pole no longer rotated and was sun bleached to speckled pink and stone washed denim colors. Real classy town this place is shaping up to be, so glad I moved here. “The Dairy Barn” as it was called was painted into a brilliant fireman’s red. Vaguely it resembled its namesake with sloping shingled eves and cow logos. News of the day was just reaching the patrons who nearly dropped their sugar cones in disbelief.
“… A lion, can you imagine that? Why would anyone be so cruel as to train it to attack, and paint it? Isn’t that toxic to the animal, but then again, if they sent it into the school to kill people, they musn’t of cared very much about it in the first place. Why here? Who would do such a thing? Its about the weirdest thing I ever heard of… ” a rotund woman informed a friend in a nasally voice.
The friend, who didn’t look like she should be consuming the amount of butterscotch drizzled sundaes as she was either, replied with the a mouthful, “Musta been the same one that jumped into he cars on the highway a few days back. And there’s reports coming in that its been seen around here for months now! They had to put it down of course. Can’t have that thing going around eating people! I hope they find the owner and shoot him.”
An image of being tied to a stake in the trenches of a staged by television war with a smoky strawberry smeared sky took over. Some sneering commander or captain eyed David, fingers uncurling the end of a villain-like thin black mustache, telling him in a cackle that it was the firing squad for him. David shook the mental picture away and focused more on the vanilla soft serve drizzled with caramel handed to him by the woman in the cow shirt behind the counter. Cool and sweet and reasonably resembling something food-ish, it kept him happy. He remained focused on it as he and Palmer walked on, happy for an excuse to not talk or be talked to for a while.
“I see why you have a car now” David groaned when the last of the ice cream cone had been nibbled away.
"Why, where do you live?" Palmer had to inquire as they passed a
cluster of one-floor stucco facade stores, turning the corner onto
"At the bottom of the hill off Main Street, on the little road next
to the hotel with the big chandelier in the window."
"That's further away walking distance than this!"
"Yeah, well when you're in..." David was about to say in the form of
a horse that you can gallop much faster but shut up before he gave
everything away. His companion assumed he meant some model of
vehicle to go at the end of the sentence and nodded.
10 minutes later after turning down Grove Ave and on the corner of
Moores Ave, he snickered as Palmer swung open a small white gate.
David grinned, "This is your house? Its so cute!" The house was a
modest pale blue green wood panel sided box with a side addition and
dormer windows sticking out of the sloped shingled roof. Shutters
were around every window as well as flower boxes overflowing with
mums and ivy underneath on the first floor. Every inch of the small
front yard was filled with something adorable and colorful. Among
the sunny petals of the garden stuck out curly lashed frogs holding
parasols, ceramic cuddly sheep, white and yellow bonneted ducks in a
row, and a pastel Virgin Mary sheltered in a scalloped
shell. "Hahahaha" David couldn't help himself.
"Quiet. It's how my mother and grandmother want it. Not me. Its
not so cute when you have to be the one kneeling out there every
sunny day weeding and trimming them." Palmer was thankful he didn't
blush, because if he could he would be right now from
embarrassment. "Its my dad's fault you know. We got all of this
either on discount or for free. He owns and runs his own landscaping
business. In the winter he does snowplowing and sells Christmas
trees. If I had a choice... I'd tear up all of the little suckers by
the roots, plunk them in pots, and get rid of them. And take a
sledge hammer to all those stupid sheep." he growled. the spiky
haired, multiple pierced, alterative-attitude Palmer certainly stuck
out like a sore thumb at his home. "The inside look the same too...
more flowers, more knick-knacks. So get out all your laughing now."
"Your grandmother visits a lot?" David closed the gate behind him.
How perfect for such a house to have a white picket fence.
"She and my grandfather live here. The addition is there's...
another bedroom and a craft room for my mom and grandma. It's hard
not to feel crowded. That's why my dad had the basement done over
into an entertainment room along with the laundry and storage stuff.
That and my room are the only un-girly rooms in the house. My room
is that one," he pointed up at the right top most window. With a
key drawn from is backpack; he unlocked the currently empty house's
front door from which of course hung a floral welcome
wreath. "Watch out." he warned the boy behind him.
"Watch out for what?" David got his answer soon enough as someything
toddled full speed over a hardwood floor towards the door... and
missed. The unidentified running object slammed into the doorframe.
then it yapped, backed up, and ran again. There was no telling what
the thing was other than a smelly, dirty mop of caked hair.
Inquiringly, he picked it up and looked it over with a Mr. Spock
raised eyebrow. "Illogical Captain" he whispered to himself. Tiny
clawed paws dangled from short legs. With some effort he figured out
which end was the head. The thing continued to yap and run in mid-
air. "I don't think its very bright." David remarked as the mystery
animal huffed and wuffed with fishy breath.
"Don't say that about Grena. You'll hurt his feelings." Palmer took
him away and cradled the little mutt in his arms, patting the top of
its head. The little dog panted happily and made gurgling noises in
"Well that explains it. If I was a boy named Grena I'd run around
smashing my skull into walls too." David dryly joked.
Palmer was becoming cross. He explained in a tone that implied 'cut
it out you jerk, ' "It means mop-of-hair."
"Oh. Good name for it then." David shrugged and followed Palmer
into the terra cotta kitchen, shutting the front door behind him.
They grabbed cold sodas from the fridge, went downstairs, and goofed
off in the entertainment room for hours, half of which was spent
playing pool. David didn't admit he'd never played before. He knew
the secret of calculating angles from his math books but the rules of
the game he picked up as he went along. Palmer beat him the first
few rounds but once he got the hang of it he won thereafter. Tired
of that they vegged out in front of the old rabbit-ear antenna TV in
curved oversized wicker chairs. They talked during commercials about
school, the other people in school, classes, teachers, and they oh-so-
bland sports rallies. Talking about school reminded them they had
"I'll pay you if you do it for me," hands tossed heavy paper bag
covered textbooks into David's lap. "Last time report cards came
out.... The highest grade I got was a B-. And that's in Spanish...
and that's sad. That's the only level one class I'm in... the rest
is level two, except Algebra and Earth Science. I'm in level three
in both those classes. You know, with the juvenile convicts and drug
addicts who can barely stay awake or get through a day without
getting detention. Or the people who are way too slow to pick up on
anything. I'm art minded, not technical minded... so .... help? I
mean you look smart with glasses and all but I dunno if you are
"But that's cheating. How much are you going to pay me?" a
scrunched, soft ten dollar bill found was shoved onto David's open
palm. "For all this? Hmmm... okay. A special deal for a first time
buyer. But what are you going to tell your parents?"
"Oh, they're already pissed off at me for being a failure. So I'll
tell them you're my tutor... yeah that's it. That's why I'm paying
you. They don't just hand me that money, that's spent working at
Shady Tree up to my neck in posies and pansies in all my free time...
my dad's landscaping place... so don't waste it on something dumb.
It could have been gas money."
"Maybe you should pay better attention in class." David had torn out
some line paper from a notebook, breezing through the formulas with
ease. "Hey, you said you're art minded right?" He moved onto the
earth science assignment that asked the student to write out the
properties of volcanoes. "Do you write poems? The really fancy
"Uh..... Maybe... I could try. Who... should I write it to?"
Palmer bashfully asked opening his own spiral bound notebook and
clicking a pen.
"Anyone. My English assignment is to compose something in the style
of the `great writers' using this structure and rhyme pattern." He
pulled the folded paper out of his pocket and smoothed it out. "I
can't stand European Literature class crap. Do that and I'll do your
homework next time if you want? It was easy." The now very bushed
blonde handed back the completed worksheets along with his homework's
instructions and let the classic Warner Brother cartoons flickering
on the 13 inch screen absorb his attention. He flopped down on one
of the beanbags on the floor, making himself comfortable. By the end
of the half hour program a poem was given to him by a skinny boy who
was biting his lip not knowing if the one he wrote for, who was essentially a stranger, would like it. David nodded in approval after reading it
through, "Hmmm. Not bad, not bad at all. The teacher really loves
eloquent nonsense like this. I can use this. Thank you."
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