by Cayce Osborne

1st Place – Flash 405, August 2017: “Blue”




In my small bedroom, the walls are the color of a robin’s egg. Did she paint them herself, back when I was nothing more than a tiny fish in the bowl of her belly?

But when I find her in the kitchen, I ask this instead:

“Mama, what’s your favorite color?”

She doesn’t look up from her magazine. The seconds drag—


“Grown-ups don’t have those.”

“This is mine.” I hold up my indigo marble, a miniature galaxy trapped inside.


I return to my room and dig my toes into the shaggy rug, dark and calming like the lake we used to visit each summer. I pull my Legos toward me and build:

a tower,

a spaceship,

a racecar,

a dinosaur,

a sword,

and a flower for Mama. It matches the ones out front, like clustered pairs of sapphire butterfly wings.

I find her painting her toenails in front of the TV.

“For you, Mama.”

“Nice, honey.”

“What color is that?”

“Um,” she lifts the tiny bottle to peek at the bottom. “Lapiz of Luxury.”

“I like it,” I tell her.

“Thanks, hon.”

She hasn’t even looked at the flower, almost the exact shade of her toes.



“I waited for you yesterday. All day.”

“Sorry Mama, I was on deadline at work and with rush hour, I knew I wouldn’t make it. But I’m here now.”

A roadmap of cobalt veins runs beneath her papery skin. She looks vulnerable, like a rough hand could rip her wide open. I can’t remember the last time we touched.

I put a bundle of periwinkle hydrangeas into the empty vase at her bedside and sit down.

“You remembered.”

“Yes, Mama.”

The nurses bustle in, two young men dressed in scrubs like faded denim.

They check her IV, hand bruised dark as midnight where the needle goes in. Then:

fluid bags are changed,

blood pressure taken,

pain level assessed,

catheter checked,

water cup refilled,

and we are alone again.

Eyes the color of the Caribbean Sea—and just as deep—pin me to my chair.

Time is short but so are my words; I am a fallow field.

She turns her attention to the television. I look out the window at the steadfast sky.

Bright and broad and beautiful.

This, a blue so intense it hurts not only my eyes by my heart as well. This is my favorite color.


Judge’s Comments:
“Favorites” is a powerful and emotive piece that explores a fractured relationship between a mother and child. Its structure allows the action to take place in two different time periods, childhood and adulthood, in an impactful way: the characters grow older, and the relationship changes as the years advance. The writer also integrates the language of “child’s play” to convey the seemingly eternal passage of time or waiting that children often endure and uses lists as part of an effective literary device to signify activities and concerns over time—as well as a sense of disconnectedness. We love the way ”Favorites” makes use of the theme “Blue” in both emotional states—sadness, alienation, wanting—and colors that permeate the environment of the piece. There are many references to the color blue, some stated, some implied: walls the color of a robin’s egg, an indigo marble, the lake visited each summer, sapphire butterfly wings, a lapis nail polish, cobalt veins of the mother in later years and the periwinkle hydrangeas next to her hospital bed, nurses’ scrubs as faded denim, and eyes “the color of the Caribbean Sea.” All in all, it was our favorite.

Cayce Osborne is a writer/graphic designer/flash fiction addict from Madison, Wisconsin. When not pursuing the publication of her first novel, she works in science communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Read more at cayceosborne.com.

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