Gamboge by DS Levy

“… the lucky ones will be those who die more quickly.” — Noam Chomsky

She’s driving away, one of the unlucky ones. The sky, brown-gold. She’s never seen it look that way—colorized, like a movie from the Forties. The Martians Return. That kind of color.

Then the sky’s dark, umbral. They drive with their lights on. An artist and writer, she thinks of ways to describe the color: Postal orange, dark tangerine, Indian yellow, gamboge, cadmium orange.

They creep along, not trying to pass, a long line of ants. Again, she tries the radio—nothing but static. They pass beneath electrical poles, one after the other: no use anymore. No water. No money. The shirts off their backs.

She’d boxed up everything that would keep—cookies; cans of beans, soup, veggies and fruit; soda crackers; tins of tuna and sardines; candy. Grabbed matches, blankets, a pillow, jugs of water. Packed coats and pants and sweaters and sweatpants and socks and underwear and, for some reason, an extra bra. Brought a box of books, all classics. Her car’s home now.

They drive toward the horizon, a lighter yellow—wheat, desert sand, burlywood.

Left behind: her paints and brushes, easel and drop cloths. No need for them where she’s going. Wherever she’s going. Does anyone know? She follows, and is followed. And what happens if she runs out of gas? Will someone come along and pick her up? Will she have to leave her personal effects behind?

Like tumbleweeds, they roll along the empty road toward the light. For some reason, she’d always thought the end would be more dramatic.

DS Levy lives in the Midwest. Her fiction has appeared in many journals and has been nominated for a Pushcart and Best Microfiction, and was included in Wigleaf’s Top 50 2021 and Longlist 2022.


Twitter: @DSLevy1