“Payne’s Gray Pandemic Ponderings” by Diane Payne

Six decades have passed before discovering Payne’s Gray, a color that painter, George Shaw, described as “the color of English rain. Perfect, then, for rendering of an everyday England that still exists out there in the neglected suburban hinterlands where nothing—and everything—happens daily.” I think of all the rooms I’ve painted where I could have asked the clerk to mix me up a gallon of Payne’s Gray, while slipping in the conversation that we share the same last name, and who knows what else? It’s not that I don’t have walls that can’t be painted today, but the more I look at this gray, and listen to the songs that I’ve downloaded that use this color in title of their band or song, I wonder if maybe this gray will work best for trim, because there’s something melancholy about this shade of gray, the actual name, the songs, my predisposition towards gloom.

A Facebook friend that I haven’t seen since high school, even though we now live in the same town, writes a post about having vintage dresses from the 40’s for sale, and this friend is not one to wear dresses, so I comment that I may be interested, and she tells me they are her long dead mother’s dresses and I could have a sneak peek. I remember her mother drinking a can of beer at the cluttered kitchen table, cigarette in hand, hair in a fishnet, wearing the house coat she never seemed to take off, red smudged lipstick, shaking her head in greeting as I’d help myself to a Dr Pepper, never imagining that there’d be a day I’d ponder wearing her old dresses.

I receive a wedding invitation in the mail.  My daughter reminds me that the last time I brought a date to a wedding was when I brought the groom’s father to my niece’s wedding, which reminds me how that was also the last of much more. The wedding is nearby, but not in my town, and I wonder if I could just find a designated driver as my guest since I will be designated dancing away these months of masks, isolation, and long forgotten sex.

The gummies don’t always work.  I tend to eat too much or too little, never knowing which until hours have passed.  I had high hopes the gummies would knock me out, sparing me from another night of endless fireworks blasting over my house, dog shaking at my side. After a couple of hours of explosives bouncing off my windows, the gummies a dud, I went to the freezer and poured some vodka. Then a bit more. Then everything hit at once: the vodka, the gummies, the explosives, and I ran outside in my nightie with the moose and words: Nature Rocks, bellowing like a wounded moose. “Whose death are you celebrating? It’s Memorial weekend, not Fourth of July! Don’t you know we are surrounded by death?  What the fuck is wrong with you?” Crazed, I screamed this to neighbors near my front lawn, then back lawn, over and over until they stopped, and I went inside, cranked up my small stereo and danced until I was temporarily relieved from these pandemic grays.

Diane Payne’s most recent publications include Another Chicago Magazine, Tiny Spoon, Ellipsis, Bending Genres, New York Times, Unlikely Stories, Blue Nib, Hot Flash Fiction, The Blue Nib, Anti-Heroin Chic, X-ray Literary Magazine, Oyster Review, Novus, Notre Dame Review, Reservoir, Southern Fugitives, Spry Literary Review, Watershed Review, Superstition Review, Windmill Review, Tishman Review, Whiskey Island, Quarterly, Fourth River, Lunch Ticket, Split Lip Review, The Offing, Punctuate, Outpost 19, McNeese Review, The Meadow, Burnt Pine, Story South, and Five to One. 

Image: Maimeri Puro Oil Paints 40ml Group 1 – Payne’s Grey

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