by Janet Fitch

Dreamsicle from LitFest Pasadena, inspired by a bottle of orange nail polish


Missy strolled through aisles of Claire’s at the mall, the countertops glittering with bright necklaces, pale sunglasses, hoop earrings, eyeshadows, all the keys to being a glamorous girl, a mysterious girl, a girl someone might write a song about, in a floppy hat and that eyeliner. She could find something here, some key to a life she could tastes so clearly, it tasted like brass, like a trumpet gleaming in the sun, and the nail polish jumped out at her, orange like a Creamsicle, a color that spoke of summer parties and a pool, and she pictured her small pale child’s body kissed by sun and her dishwater brown hair streaked with light. Her hand closed around the square bottle, the creamy dreamy sherbet of orange and would not open again.

She turned away from the counter and slipped it inside her jeans, next to her pale stomach, and walked out of Claire’s past the rhinestone belts and pale rose and green sunglasses, out of the store. Would she be transformed? Would it finally happen? But when she painted her nails in the bathroom she shared with her little brothers, the tub with its net of moldy submarines and sharks, her stubby nails looked nothing like that girl’s, the girl in the floppy hat and the thick eyeliner at the pool. Missy couldn’t quite keep the pigment on her small nailbeds, and in the end, it just made everything worse, and she gave up, feeling sadder and more hopeless than before.


Janet Fitch is the author of the Los Angeles novels Paint It Black and White Oleander. Her short stories and essays have appeared in anthologies and journals such as Black Clock, Los Angeles Noir, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Paint it Black has been made into a feature film, directed by Amber Tamblyn. Fitch is currently finishing on a novel set during the Russian Revolution.

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