“Coloring Outside the Lines” — a short story by Debora Ewing

February 2nd, 2018

As the deadline for submitting stories for our 47th Short Fiction Contest closed the other day, I was reminded of the very first winning story, “Coloring Outside the Lines,” by Debora Ewing.  First published on Jerry Jazz Musician on October 4, 2002, this tender short story is brilliant and a wonderfully rewarding read.

At the time Ms. Ewing entered this story, she had recently moved with her 18-year old daughter from Palm Springs, California to Washington, D.C. and continues to live in that area — Annandale, Virginia.  Today, she describes herself as having a restless mind with her highest priority being to “reconcile reality with what should be,”  and likes to write stories about people on the edge.  “Coloring” was her first story published.

You can visit her blog by clicking here.

 

 

__________

 

“Colors of Me,” by Emmanuelle Bochaton

 

Coloring Outside the Lines

By Debora Ewing

 

I like the jazz because it plays in different colors: deep green and blue, translucent purple, ivory black; city storefronts, magenta sunsets; watercolor splashes here and there like a yellow crocus on snow or an orange goldfish tail — sudden, surprising, but always carefully placed.

…Like the way people come in different colors — they just don’t know it. People walk along in darkness daily, ignorant of the color that’s surrounding them or the beat their music plays. That’s what I’m lying here thinking about, in my dark bedroom between the folds of cotton sheets. Africans, Asians, Seminoles…they all come in different colors — not their skins, but their insides. Each person glows from deep within, from a well that springs out of the roots of the family tree. It picks up energy from everything a person touches, until it bursts out the top of the skull and envelops that person, wrapping her up in the music of her own color. God gave her that color. A person’s color dances around her when she walks up the street; it wiggles in the wind and it bounces off the colors of passers-by. That’s what I’m thinking while cool, quiet bass and sax notes rattle the dark, static air in my room. I exhale slowly, loudly.

His face crawls over the lumps of comforter and peers down into my thoughts. I like to look into the creases around his eyes, see in the folds all the years survived and the shades of ageless wisdom — crimson and rust, gold and black. His blue eyes — sometimes green, and sometimes flecked with gold — are now an uncertain tint of aqua-turquoise that spreads and spins helically around his uncertainty.

“You awake?” he prods gently with his voice, afraid to touch me with his hand. Piano keys burst through the speakers like sparkling raindrops, rhythmic and bright, hypnotic. Thrumming. He shakes his head slightly, making blue trails through the space where his face has been. “How can you tell if it’s skipping?” he asks, changing the unspoken subject.

The first time we made love he was so pink and amber and tender, like rose-petals — the sex was like that, too: tender, quiet, pulsing, now. The last time we had sex we did it for hours: in the pool, under the stars, over the black leather sofa; he didn’t have any color then, none at all. I remember the silence.

Tonight I told him it bothered me, and now he’s looking at me very turquoise, like one of those key-fobs that need to absorb light first in order to glow in the dark. Aqua spirals down and settles in the folds of the sheets. The piano thrums unnervingly.

Why do you want me to give you more than sex, he wants to ask. How can you expect me to like this music?

“You can’t,” I answer the spoken question, taking up the same space I’d use if I were smoking a cigarette. I visualize smoke-rings, picture them leaving my breath, form them with my thoughts. He rolls to his back; for a moment I think he can see them, too. I let him off the hook. “It is skipping. Go ahead and change it.”

He clambers out of the feather-bedding strewn about, and I can see his inner core turning reddish, confidently, as he feels an opportunity to make his own choice. He looks at the rack of quirky CDs, looks over to me, sees my beige flesh in the yellow light from the bathroom, and his red flicker diminishes — choked out by his melancholy, by his need to please.

“What do you want to hear?”

His hesitation is barely perceptible, but there, and he’s turning turquoise again — needs light badly, needs to recharge. I’m too tired to give up the strength for both of us.

“Just hit the search button — let it go on to the next track.” I go back to my imaginary cigarette-smoking, picture the smoke crawling across the stucco ceiling in slow waves of grey. He surveys the buttons on the stereo, looks long at me prone and the hollow in the bed by my side, and complies; he hits the ‘search’ button, he goes out — extinguished altogether. I can tell I’ve lost this one…he’ll thank me for having him over, say it was nice, and he won’t call again. As he gets back into bed, I kiss him — kiss his cheek, then his lips, then his forehead. I thank him for fixing the CD, for making the music play again. I massage his soft blue melancholy, and let him go.

 

 

 

Share this:

5 comments on ““Coloring Outside the Lines” — a short story by Debora Ewing”

  1. It resonates with color for me; bittersweet, but quite perceptive. It was also a fun journey to this story (how I got to read it, that is)!

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In this Issue

A Collection of Jazz Poetry – Spring, 2020 Edition There are many good and often powerful poems within this collection, one that has the potential for changing the shape of a reader’s universe during an impossibly trying time, particularly if the reader has a love of music. 33 poets from all over the globe contribute 47 poems. Expect to read of love, loss, memoir, worship, freedom, heartbreak and hope – all collected here, in the heart of this unsettling spring. (Featuring the art of Martel Chapman)

Interview

Ornette Coleman 1966/photo courtesy Mosaic Images
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Ornette Coleman: The Territory And The Adventure author Maria Golia discusses her compelling and rewarding book about the artist whose philosophy and the astounding, adventurous music he created served to continually challenge the skeptical status quo, and made him a guiding light of the artistic avant-garde throughout a career spanning seven decades.

Poetry

Mood Indigo by Matthew Hinds
An invitation was extended recently for poets to submit work that reflects this time of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season. The first volume of this poetry is now published.

Features

Red Meditation by James Brewer
Creative artists and citizens of note respond to the question, "During this time of social distancing and isolation at home, what are examples of the music you are listening to, the books you are reading, and/or the television or films you are viewing?”

Interview

A now timely 2002 interview with Tim Madigan, author of The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. My hope when I produced this interview was that it would shed some light on this little-known brutal massacre, and help understand the pain and anger so entrenched in the American story. Eighteen years later, that remains my hope. .

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time – the author Philip Clark writes about the origins of the book, and his interest in shining a light on how Brubeck, “thoughtful and sensitive as he was, had been changed as a musician and as a man by the troubled times through which he lived and during which he produced such optimistic, life-enhancing art.”

Interview

NBC Radio-photo by Ray Lee Jackson / Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, acclaimed biographer James Kaplan (Frank: The Voice and Sinatra: The Chairman) talks about his book, Irving Berlin: New York Genius, and Berlin's unparalleled musical career and business success, his intense sense of family and patriotism during a complex and evolving time, and the artist's permanent cultural significance.

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Maria Golia’s Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure – excerpted here in its entirety – the author takes the reader through the four phases of the brilliant musician’s career her book focuses on.

Art

Art by Charles Ingham
Charles Ingham’s “Jazz Narratives” connect time, place, and subject in a way that ultimately allows the viewer a unique way of experiencing jazz history. Volume 8 of the narratives are “The Entrance of Bessie Smith into San Diego”, “Lionel Hampton Is Coming to Dinner at Dr. Gordon’s House”, and “Lionel Hampton: Central Avenue Breakdown”

Interview

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection
Richard Crawford’s Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music is a rich, detailed and rewarding musical biography that describes Gershwin's work throughout every stage of his career. In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Crawford discusses his book and the man he has described as a “fresh voice of the Jazz Age” who “challenged Americans to rethink their assumptions about composition and performance, nationalism, cultural hierarchy, and the racial divide.”

Jazz History Quiz #139

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
This bassist played with (among others) Charlie Parker, Erroll Garner, Art Tatum, Nat “King” Cole (pictured), Dexter Gordon, James Taylor and Rickie Lee Jones, and was one of the earliest modern jazz tuba soloists. He also turned down offers to join both Duke Ellington’s Orchestra and the Louis Armstrong All-Stars. Who is he?

Interview

photo unattributed/ Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview with The Letters of Cole Porter co-author Dominic McHugh, he explains that “several of the big biographical tropes that we associate with Porter are either modified or contested by the letters,” and that “when you put together these letters, and add our quite extensive commentary between the letters, it creates a different picture of him.” Mr. McHugh discusses his book, and what the letters reveal about the life – in-and-out of music – of Cole Porter.

Book Excerpt

The introduction to John Burnside's The Music of Time: Poetry in the Twentieth Century – excerpted here in its entirety with the gracious consent of Princeton University Press – is the author's fascinating observation concerning the idea of how poets respond to what the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam called “the noise of time,” weaving it into a kind of music.

Short Fiction

photo Creative Commons CC0
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #53 — “Market & Fifth, San Francisco, 1986,” by Paul Perilli

Photography

photo by Veryl Oakland
In this edition of photographs and stories from Veryl Oakland’s book Jazz in Available Light, Frank Morgan, Michel Petrucciani/Charles Lloyd, and Emily Remler are featured

Interview

photo by Fred Price
Bob Hecht and Grover Sales host a previously unpublished 1985 interview with the late, great jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz, who talks about Miles, Kenton, Ornette, Tristano, and the art of improvisation...

Book Excerpt

A ten page excerpt from The Letters of Cole Porter by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh that features correspondence in the time frame of June to August, 1953, including those Porter had with George Byron (the man who married Jerome Kern’s widow), fellow writer Abe Burrows, Noel Coward, his secretary Madeline P. Smith, close friend Sam Stark, and his lawyer John Wharton.

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges discusses the great Ellington saxophonist

Humor

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
"Louis Armstrong on the Moon," by Dig Wayne

Book Excerpt

This story, excerpted from Irving Berlin: New York Genius by James Kaplan, describes how Berlin came to write his first major hit song, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and speaks to its historic musical and cultural significance.

Pressed for All Time

A&M Records/photo by Carol Friedman
In this edition, producer John Snyder recalls Sun Ra, and his 1990 Purple Night recording session

Interview

photo by Bouna Ndaiye
Interview with Gerald Horne, author of Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music

Great Encounters

photo of Sidney Bechet by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
In this edition of "Great Encounters," Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

Poetry

The winter collection of poetry offers readers a look at the culture of jazz music through the imaginative writings of its 32 contributors. Within these 41 poems, writers express their deep connection to the music – and those who play it – in their own inventive and often philosophical language that communicates much, but especially love, sentiment, struggle, loss, and joy.

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

In the Previous Issue

Interviews with three outstanding, acclaimed writers and scholars who discuss their books on Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter, and their subjects’ lives in and out of music. These interviews – which each include photos and several full-length songs – provide readers easy access to an entertaining and enlightening learning experience about these three giants of American popular music.

In an Earlier Issue

photo by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive