“I don’t like the color blue anymore.”
“No? What’s wrong with the color blue?”
“Yeah, it’s mean and blue and angry.”
The old laugh crackled through the phone speaker.
“How is it angry?”
“It just is, Gramma. Gramma! Gramma was that Simon? Was that Simon? Meow meow meow meow meow Simon! Meow meow meow!”
Gramma laughed again, the brightness of her apartment finally warming.
“Is Simon very fat now?” The child suddenly asked, meowing ceased.
“Very. He does nothing but eat and complain about how fat he is.”
The five-year old’s laugh was husky, like an old man. She had not decided yet how she wanted to laugh, but this one was one of her favorites. One of her Gramma’s favorites too.
“Does Simon like peanut butter?”
“Very much. But he only gets it as a treat.”
“I’m getting it right now.”
“Yes, Gramma. I’m making myself a sandwich.”
“Oooh, how exciting! What are you putting on this sandwich?”
“I’m putting on some peanut butter. And some bread. And some jelly. And a few chips.”
“What kind of jelly are you putting on this sandwich?”
“I—I don’t know. Lemme look and see what we have.”
Over the speaker, Gramma could hear small feet pattering away from the phone, and the hollow opening of an empty fridge.
“Uhhhhhh—“ the little voice called from far away. “I don’t think we have any jelly.”
“Do you have any fluff?”
The child laughed again, this time nearer the phone.
“Marshmallow fluff. It’s white and sticky and yummy yummy yummy. We had fluff sandwiches last time you were here.”
“Hmmm, I don’t think I remember that.”
“That’s all right, dear. Next time you come over, we will have more fluff sandwiches.”
“Yay for fluffy sandwiches!”
Gramma smiled at this.
“So, what are you going to put on that sandwich of yours?”
“More peanut butter, I think.”
“Sounds like a plan, kiddo.”
“Mhm! A good plan.”
“Yes ma’am, a good plan.”
“But first, I gotta—I gotta write something down.”
“Whatcha gonna write down, dearie?”
“We. Need. More. Jelly.” Gramma could hear the scratching of a pencil.
“You writing a note for your mama?”
“Mhm.” The child’s concentration was on the note.
“Where is your mama, dear?”
“I—I don’t know. She’s not here.”
“Did you see her this afternoon after school?”
“No. I haven’t seen her in a while.”
“No? Doesn’t she tuck you in at night?”
“Sometimes. But not last night. I don’t know where she was.”
“Did anyone tuck you in last night?”
“No. Riley was here for a while but then he left in his big truck. It’s so loud Gramma, it goes GGGRRRRRRAAAAHHHHHH.”
“Does the noise scare you, honey?”
“Not all the time. Just when it wakes me up. Then it’s so scary.”
“His truck wakes you up, dear? Why is he coming over in the middle of the night? Didn’t his mother teach him that he needs to sleep at night?” Gramma’s words were light, but panic rose in her chest.
“I dunno. But last night he came over with his angry loud truck, and he and mom were yelling. And he was mad, so she went outside and I was crying but she told me to stay in the kitchen. So I stayed.”
“What happened after that?”
“Well his angry truck yelled and growled and—and then he left.”
“What happened to your mama?”
“I don’t know. Hey Gramma, could you put Simon back on the phone, I have something I wanna tell him.”
“Just a minute dear, but when was the last time you saw your mama?”
“I dunno. It was when Riley left in his truck.”
“Do you think your mama went with Riley?”
“I dunno. She was yelling and saying that she wasn’t gonna go but I don’t know where she went after that. I just stayed in the kitchen like I was told. Oh Gramma! Do you hear that? Listen.”
Gramma held her breath to listen.
“I can’t hear anything dear.”
“It’s going like GGGRAAAAHH. Can’t you hear it Gramma?”
“Honey, is that Riley’s truck?”
“Lemme go check.”
Gramma heard little feet run away from the phone.
“No baby! Don’t go to the door!”
In horror, Gramma strained to hear. Pounding on a door. Door crashed open. A little girl’s scream.
“No! Riley! Riley you leave her alone!” Gramma yelled into the phone. With another slam of the door, her granddaughter’s side of the line was quiet. With clarity only brought on by parenthood and fierce determination, Gramma hung up on her granddaughter and dialed another number.
“Yes sir, this is an emergency. My granddaughter was just kidnapped by a man named Riley. He was driving a truck. No sir, I don’t know—“
And in a flicker of silence, Gramma understood her granddaughter.
“His truck was blue. It was a loud, angry, mean, blue truck.”