Roy G. Biv


As a writing class exercise, this is my first foray into microfiction—a story that concludes character development, plot, and a surprising insight in a few short paragraphs.

The day that Earl invented the color blue, he brought some home in a bottle to show Maddie and that’s when all hell broke loose. She held it up to the light like a gemstone, and marveled at its cool, glycerin viscosity, captivated, as if the bottle held a rare and luminous moth. Blue, as every schoolboy knows, is a primary wavelength of the visible spectrum, and until Earl captured some in his little copper alembic, it had only been theoretically possible. News of his breakthrough traveled fast, and by suppertime their front lawn was overrun with news-anchors and looky-loos. Angry phone calls came in non-stop, some from skeptical scientists demanding to see his mash notes, clearly bothered that such an obvious thing had eluded them, and others from kooks, charlatans, spiritualists and the merely unbalanced, folks for whom the gap between Green and Indigo was an insuperable cosmological void. These callers breathed heavily into his phone or cried, inconsolable that clinical depression was getting a team color.

All this upset Maddie to no end.

The next morning, Earl got to work on a patent application, as you can never be too careful with great inventions and blue ranked right up there with salt in the pantheon of ingenuity; a lawyer he’d Googled said Earl needed a “belt-and-suspenders” to ward off claim- jumpers. By lunchtime, some people from Code Pink were already picketing in the street in front of his house, waving their old-lady boobs, and holding up signs that read “Roy G. Biv! The Patriarchy Lives!”

This also upset Maddie to no end.

And so that afternoon while Earl was in the bathroom spying out the window at all the old-lady boobs, she poured his bottle down the kitchen sink and danced her little happy dance while it flowed out through the plumbing, into the sewer and down a river, then right on into the ocean where it evaporated overnight, and—much to everyone’s surprise—the dawn revealed a gorgeous cerulean sky.