Excerpts for Blue Like Friday


Chapter 1

The thing is, blue is not really a great color for a kite, is it?

"I mean, think about it," I said to Hal. "Where does a kite spend its time?"

He stared at me in that goofy way he has. I know he is not really goofy, just thinking about something else, but he does a very good impression of goofy just the same.

"Its working time, Hal," I explained. "When it's doing its stuff, like."

We were in Hal's garage. His mother had started to have it converted into a playroom for Hal, but she'd lost interest halfway through--typical, according to Hal, and he throws his eyes up as he says it--and the conversion never got finished, so it was sort of stuck halfway between a garage and a room: there was linoleum on the floor, like in a room, but it still had an up-and-over garage door.

Hal said nothing. He is good at saying nothing. He has plenty to say for himself when he wants to, but he can do silence like no one else I know. I could shake him!

But I didn't shake him. Instead, I answered my own question. "In the sky, right? And," I went on, "what color is the sky?"

Well, you can see where that argument was going, can't you? But Hal just said--wait for it!--Hal said the kite had to be blue because of Friday being blue. I ask you!

"Friday is not blue, Hal," I said patiently. "Friday is just a day."

"It's blue," said Hal. He stopped for a bit, and then he said, "It's a light, pretty blue. With frills."

I do try to understand Hal, but it's not easy.

"Pass me the glue," he went on. "Careful!" he said then, as I went to pick it up. "Make sure you don't get it on your fingers, it's very strong. It'd strip your skin off as fast as look at you."

"It's only a tube of glue, Hal," I said, passing it to him. "It doesn't look at people."

"And tangy," Hal added.

"What?" I yelped. "Have you been licking it? I thought you said it would strip your skin off." Then I had a terrible thought. "Or sniffing it? Hal, you shouldn't do that, it's dangerous. Your nose falls off and your brain goes to mush and you die."

That might have been a bit of an exaggeration, and I have promised my mother I will try not to exaggerate so much, but you probably do die in the end, and I'm sure it's not a dignified death, all slobbering, with no nose to speak of.

"Not the glue," said Hal. "Friday."

He can be clear as mud, that boy.

"I don't get it, Hal," I said.

"I mean, it's Friday that's tangy," Hal said. "It's sort of lemony, only sweet, like lemon sherbet."

To you (I hope) and me, Friday is the day after Thursday--right?--and the day the weekend begins, yippee! But if you're Hal, it seems that Friday is a bag of blue lemon sherbet. How weird is that?

I started to unwind my sweatshirt from around my waist so I could put it on. It was kind of drafty in Hal's not-really-a-garage-but-not-quite-a-room.

"Explain, Hal," I said as I put on my sweatshirt. "Explain about Friday being blue."

Hal said nothing.

"Can you he-ear me?" I asked, knocking on his forehead. "Anybody ho-ome? How is Friday blue?"

"In my head," said Hal, pushing me away.

The inside of Hal's head has to be the weirdest place.

"When I think Friday," he said, "I see blue. That's all."

I wriggled my cold toes in my sandals and wished I'd worn runners and socks. "You live in your head, that's the problem," I told him.

He looked at me blankly for a moment and then he sort of waved his hands about and said, "But where else would I live?"

Which more or less proved my point, since the obvious answer to that is, "In the real world, with the rest of us." I tried to imagine what it must be like to think that Friday is blue, but I couldn't.

"I might say Friday has a rosy glow myself," I said after a while. "But that's a metaphor. Have you heard of metaphors, Hal?"

We did metaphors in English last term, and I think they are cool, but I don't think Hal always listens in class. He's usually doodling or coloring in. So he could easily have missed the metaphors.

"Hmm," said Hal, holding up the frame of the kite and turning it around and around and looking at it from different angles. "I s'pose."

I could see that he wasn't really listening.

"It's when you say something is something else," I explained helpfully, "only you don't mean it's actually something else, it's just that a bit of the meaning of the something else sort of rubs off on the something you first thought of."

Hal's mouth dropped open. He must have been listening after all. He didn't look so marvelous with his mouth hanging open. He has quite a nice face, most of the time. Ordinary, but sort of roundy and smiley and with a lot of fringe and eyebrow.

While I am at it, I should tell you that my face is fairly ordinary too, roundy and freckly, and my hair is curly and pale. I used to say "blond," but my dad laughed at me and said, "You mean hay colored," which I thought didn't sound very grand, so now I describe it as "pale." That's more interesting than "blond" anyway. It drives me mad, though, my hair, because it curls up all by itself into little corkscrews. My so-called friend Rosemarie lent me her hair-straighteners once, but it came out all crinkly instead of straight, and that was worse than actual curls, so I have given up on that.

"So you see, when I say Friday has a rosy glow," I said to Hal, "I don't mean that it's really pink or smells sweet or even that it's like a rose. I just mean there is something nice about Friday. See?"

"No," said Hal.

"Only, of course," I went on, "you can't say things are ‘nice' because that is a no-no word. You have to use a metaphor instead. That's how poetry works. Poets never say things are nice. Have you noticed that, Hal? That's why they are poets and we are not. They always find better ways to say ordinary things. That's what poetry is for."

"Hmm," said Hal.

He didn't sound very interested in my explanation about metaphors and poems. He listens more slowly than I talk, that's the trouble.

"Things usually aren't nice, though, are they?" he said then.

"They are," I said. "I think they are. Friday is, anyway, and chocolate cake and kittens and sunshine. You just have to think about the right kind of things. That's how you make yourself happy."

"Hmm," he said again, and he didn't sound very cheerful.

 
Chapter 2

"Everyone doesn't have to be normal, Olivia," my mum was always saying when I tried to explain about Hal and how weird he could be sometimes. "And of course, Hal . . . Well, poor Hal."

She meant about Hal not having a father. I mean, he did have a father once, but it was a long time ago--I don't remember him, anyway, though I suppose I must have known him when I was small, because Hal and I have been friends forever.

She means well, I know, my mum, but it's as if all she can see when she looks at Hal is "that poor fatherless boy." That's typical of adults. They feel bad about some awful thing that's happened to a person, and they feel so bad about it that when they look at the person, all they see is the Awful Thing and they forget about the person themselves. It's as if the person has become the Awful Thing, and they don't even notice the other things about them, like their views on Fridays or their kite-making skills or anything.

"Anyway, there's no such thing as normal," my dad added. (My dad is a political economist, by the way. Do not ask me what that means, because all I know is that it seems to mean he could talk gobbledygook for Ireland.)

I don't know why they were banging on about normalness anyway. I never said Hal wasn't normal. I just said he was a bit weird. Lots of normal people have weird sides to them.

My mum, now, is normal, but she's also very psychological. She is not actually a psychologist, not professionally; it's more a sort of hobby. What she actually does is she works in a clinic for people who have had strokes, same as Hal's mum does. That's how we know Hal's family--I mean, apart from Hal and me being in the same class at school--our mums work together. We've been friends since preschool, me and Hal. I suppose we are sort of stuck with each other.

She listens to those programs on the radio, my mum, where all these people ring up who think that the problems of the world all come from horrible things that happened in the past that have made people unhappy, and then because they are unhappy they are mean, and then they do more horrible things to other people and make them unhappy, and so it goes on. That part is probably true, up to a point, but people like my mum think that if you could just stop the world spinning around for a few minutes, or maybe more like for about ten years, and let them get their sleeves rolled up and sort things out, then we could all start again from scratch, like Adam and Eve, only this time we'd know about the snake, and we wouldn't listen to it, and then everything would be fine.

If you ask me, those people are bonkers, because an awful lot of the problems in the world have nothing to do with a few nasty things that you could just poke out with a scalpel before sewing everything back together again. Take measles, for example. Or mosquitoes. Or the way you get blisters when you wear new shoes. Measles just are measles, and they aren't caused by someone being horrible to someone. I tried to explain this to my mum, and she said, well, if we were all nicer to each other, we would send antimeasles vaccine all over the world and then no one would ever get the measles again. But that doesn't explain how measles got here in the first place, does it?

And anyway if we got rid of measles, there'd be something else. Bird flu or tsunamis. There just is bad stuff, like Hal not having a dad anymore, and we just have to get on with it, because no matter how many things you put right in the world, there's always other stuff left over. Like when you do division with funny numbers and you are left with a remnant. No, that's not the word. A remainder. That's it.

Hal isn't bonkers, by the way, only a bit weird. But he has one thing in common with my mother (and she's a bit dippy, I have to say, at times). He has these ideas about how you could put things right. He thought that if he could just get rid of this one key person from his life, then things would all go back to the way they were before, and he'd be happy and everything would be rosy in the garden--a sort of permanent Friday with Adam and Eve and no snakes.

I think maybe boys have a different way of looking at things. That could be it.



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