True Colors

Submitted into Contest #151 in response to: Write about somebody breaking a cycle.... view prompt


American African American

“Hi, my name is Richard, but everyone calls me Ricky—I’m six and a half.”

“Hi Ricky! I’m Jimmy. I’m six, too.”

“I’m six and a half! I’ll be seven in September.”

“My mom says I’ll be six and a half next month.”

“Hey, we’re practically the same


”That means we’ll be in the same grade. Are you gonna go to Faulkner Ridge Elementary?”

”I think so. Do you go there?”

“Uh-huh. It’s close enough we can walk there. Do you want to be friends?”

“Sure, I don’t have any friends here. That means you can be my best friend.”


“Whatcha doin’?”

“I’m catching salamanders.”

“Cool. I love salamanders. Wait, what’s a salamander?”

“I don’t know. It’s kinda like a lizard. There are a bunch of them here in the creek. I catch ‘em and put ‘em in this jar.”

“They’re black. B. L. A. C. K.”

“Yep, and a little slimy”

“What do you do with them?”

“I don’t know. I just look at them, then I let them go. I don’t think they like being in a jar.”

“The lid on that jar is silver. S. I. L. V. E. R.”



“Why do you spell everything?”

“I don’t know. Mostly I just spell colors. My dad says learning to spell makes you smart, and I love different colors. Don’t you?”

“I guess so. I’m not a very good speller.”

“My dad says you just have to practice. Your shorts are blue. B. L. U. E.”

“My shirt is red, how do you spell red?”

“R. E. D.”

“R. E. D. I spelled red!”

“Yes you did. See, my dad was right.”

“Wanna help me catch salamanders?”

“Sure, what do I do?”

“You move the rocks, and I’ll scoop ‘em up when they come out.”

”Do I have to pick the rocks up?”

”Nah, just wiggle ‘em”


“Where do you live?”

“In that house right there, the white one. W. H. I. T. E.”

“I live in the green one next door. How do you spell green?”

“G. R. E. E N.”

“G. R. E. E. N.”

“My dad is really smart—he’s a dentist.”

“A dentist, like for braces and stuff?”

“No, that’s an orthodontist. My dad helps keep your teeth clean and fills cavities. What does your dad do?”

“I don’t have a dad.”

“Everybody has a dad.”

“I had a dad, but he’s dead. He was a policeman. He died when I was two.”

“Do you remember him?”

“Nah, not really. My mom shows me pictures of him, but I don’t remember anything about him. He wore a blue uniform. B. L. U, right?”

“B. L. U. E. don’t forget the E.

“B. L. U. E. I told my mom I want to be a policeman, too.”

“What did she say?”

“She said I should be a doctor. I don’t think I can be a doctor—they’re way smarter than me.”

“You can be a doctor. My dad said you can be whatever you want to be.”

“Maybe I can be a salamander catcher?”

“And I’ll be your helper. I'm Ricky the Rock Mover.”

“Ha! You’re too smart. What do you really want to be?”

“I’m going to be a dentist like my dad.”

“Can I tell you something? You won’t get mad, will you?”

“I don’t think so. What is it?”

“I don’t like dentists. I’m scared of them.”

“You don’t need to be scared. My dad helps people. If your mouth hurts, he makes it all better. Maybe you can come over to my house and meet my dad sometime. Maybe he’ll look at your teeth.”

“I can ask my mom.”

“Can I tell you something? You can’t get mad either.”

“Sure, we’re friends, right?”

“Best friends.”

“Then let's make a pact to never get mad at each other. Is it a deal?”

“It’s a deal.”

“So what were you going to tell me?”

“I don’t like policemen. My mom says you have to be careful around them.”

“But policemen help people—they keep you safe.”

“My dad says that, too, but my mom doesn’t like them.”

“I’m not sure I understand. Sometimes parents are silly. Hey, do you want to switch for a while? I’ll move the rocks while you catch the salamanders.”

“I’ve never caught a salamander before.”

“You can catch one now. Are you ready?”

“I think so.”

“You got him! First try!”

“I can’t believe it! Can I show my mom? She'll be so happy.”

“I don’t know. Moms don’t like salamanders as much as we do.”

“You’re right. She gets afraid easily.”

“One day when I’m a policeman, I’ll come and talk to your mom and tell her not to be afraid of salamanders or policemen.”

“That would be cool.”

“Then we could have some ice cream.”

“Ice cream is not good for your teeth.”

“We need to keep our teeth white. W. H. I. T. E. Just like your house.”

“You’re almost as good a speller as me.”

“You taught me to spell and I taught you to catch salamanders"

"Jimmy, I'm glad you were here today."

"Me too but I’m going to have to leave soon. Are you ready to let the salamanders go?”

“But why can’t we keep them?”

“I tried to keep them once, but they all died. I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t want to live in a jar either.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“Want to meet here again tomorrow? We can catch more salamanders or pretend we are pirates or something like that.”

“I’d like that. It sounds like a lot of fun.”

“Bye, Jimmy.”


* * * * * * * * * *

“Jimmy, what in the world were you doing? You are covered in mud and soaked to the bone.”

“I was down at the creek catching salamanders.”

“You know I don’t like it when you go to the creek by yourself.”

“I wasn’t by myself, Mom. I was with Ricky.”

Ricky? Who  is that?”

“He’s my new best friend. He and his mom and dad moved into the house next door. His dad is a dentist. He says I don’t have to be afraid of dentists.”

“Next door? In the Johnson’s old house?”

“Yes, he was teaching me to spell and helping me catch salamanders. He caught one on his very first try.”

“Jimmy, what color is Ricky?”

“What do you mean?”

“I saw them move in. What color is his skin?”

“He’s black, Mom. B. L. A. C. K. He taught me how to spell that.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t hang around with him.”

“Why? He’s my new friend.”

“I don’t know. Your friends should be like you, do you understand?

“I don't think so.”

“We can talk more about it later. Right now go wash up for dinner.”

“Okay, but wait Mom, guess what?"


“I can hang around with Ricky. He’s actually just like me. We’re both six and we both like catching salamanders. We also like to pretend to be pirates. Anyway he’s my best friend, okay?”


“I love you, mom.”

“I love you too, Jimmy.”

June 22, 2022 19:21

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K. Antonio
23:10 Jun 24, 2022

What a cute story! I'm a huge sucker for stories with little kids, that I couldn't help but adore the way the story started (it set the scene and introduced the characters in a great light). The characters were instantly likeable (their innocence, only heightened their likeability) and the fact that this entire story is dialogue, really makes it such an easy read. I saw Heather gave you some really sound advice and I think the dialogue is good. Most of the sentences being short and crisp, along with the back and forth really move the sto...


Thom Brodkin
23:28 Jun 24, 2022

There are 26 letters in the alphabet but K is quickly becoming my favorite. I have read your writing and I believe in my heart you’ve never written a bad story. You are consistently so good. I say all this because getting an attaboy from you reminds me of the feeling I got when my dad would compliment me. Thank you for taking the time to not only read but comment on my story. You make a difference.


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H L McQuaid
16:51 Jun 23, 2022

A classic Thom story, makes me happy. Great and effective use of dialogue. You captured the joyful, playful nature of children. Overall you did a good job of differentiating the voices, making each recognisable, which is even trickier to do when they are kids of similar age in the same neighborhood, and you probably didn't want to resort to dialects. Just a general comment about checking dialogue. The advice I've been given is to pull apart the dialogue (from the sequence/structure of the story) and see how many lines you can correctly...


Thom Brodkin
17:50 Jun 23, 2022

Heather, this is such good advice. I actually went back and tweaked quite a few of the lines to try to make them more clearly the words of the speaker. Thanks for being kind enough to help me be a better writer.


H L McQuaid
17:59 Jun 23, 2022

Honestly, my pleasure. I'm just trying to pay it forward. I've gotten such good advice over the years, I try to offer what I can, in the hopes that it's helpful (probably I have a 50% hit rate, haha). Anyway, I'm super jazzed you found it helpful. :)


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Riel Rosehill
15:43 Jun 23, 2022

Hi Thom! I've not ventured into dialogue only yet, and I'm always impressed by how other writers can tell a story by only using dialogue. This was great! I could still picture everything, and the story was so wholesome. Best of luck in the contest!! X


Thom Brodkin
16:02 Jun 23, 2022

Riel, when I first started writing I used almost no dialogue. I actually tried to write a novel and was three chapters in when I realized no one had spoken yet. My biggest problem was and is finding different voices. Too often all my dialogue is just me. When I decided to write this story I, for the first time, saw how just two little boys talking could be so rich in its simplicity. I had to fight the urge to add description because I was afraid people couldn’t picture the scene without it. In the end I decided that a story is a collaboratio...


Riel Rosehill
16:18 Jun 23, 2022

Aww thank you! I love to hear when someone finds inspiration in my work to create amazing stories! 🥰 And, you know, I was the exact same: I used to avoid writing dialogue. I was really, really bad at it, just like I was always awfully bad at verbal communication. But at some point it just clicked and now I tend to overuse it. I have to remind myself that sometimes, my characters need to just zip it and leave room for reflection - that aside, I will definitely try this format in the future! I'm thinking it will be a challenge (I too would wor...


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Russell Norman
12:41 Jun 23, 2022

Simple and effective dialog. Great way to tell a story and make a point. Reminded me a little of the viral video that did the rounds a year or so ago of two toddlers running to greet each other after COVID lock downs. Friends irrespective of color.


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Wendy Rogers
21:09 Feb 27, 2023

What a great story, and message. Kids never see what we do, do they? beautiful


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Mustang Patty
16:36 Aug 02, 2022

Wow - the twist at the end where the Mom doesn't understand that children are color blind made me cringe. Too many loving and accepting children are stunted by their parent's attitudes. I loved that you left the reader knowing that the little boys would still be friends. ~MP~


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Ezmari Trevano
01:25 Jul 05, 2022

I love this story! It's a cute and honest take on a difficult subject. And I'm impressed with the fact that the story is all dialogue, and yet so easy to read and understand. It made me smile-thanks for writing such a great story!


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17:26 Jul 01, 2022

I really love they way you captured the innocent nature of children! The age debate had me laughing because thats truly how it is! It just goes to show how much of people's behavior and thought patterns are learned influences. It sounds as if he will break the cycle by continuing to be friends with Ricky. Hopefully, in doing so, he can help his mother break the negative thought pattern as well.


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Ashley Paige
01:24 Jul 01, 2022

So wholesome and happy! Great read.


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Jeremy Renbarger
01:19 Jun 30, 2022

That was so simply great, with the implications just being really side notes and kept it just about the kids. I really liked it.


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Carolyn Brown
02:16 Jun 27, 2022

The wisdom of children :) It's a lovely light and simple story about a lot of issues that aren't so simple to grown-ups. If everyone could just play at the creek we'd all have better friends, like these two charming kids.


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Claire Lindsey
22:20 Jun 23, 2022

This story is so wholesome and sweet. You convey the children’s innocence so well through the dialogue! I enjoyed seeing their friendship develop, and that you put it to the test (likely the first of many, given the mother’s reaction) and end on such a hopeful note. Nice work!


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Michał Przywara
20:48 Jun 23, 2022

An adorable story with a sinister undercurrent. It reminds me a bit of Shirley Jackson's "After you, My Dear Alphonse." Stylistically, it's well done. Even though it's just dialogue, the action and setting come through clear. The mood too. A child being afraid of a dentist seems universal. A child being afraid of a police officer, though, gives us a lot of context indirectly, and it foreshadows trouble. That all said, the end seems to be a high note. These kids aren't saddled with race issues yet, and it seems like the mother may be able...


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Ace Quinnton
20:04 Jun 23, 2022

This is a truly amazing story, which isn't surprising because all of your stories are. Though, I've always wondered why people are scared of different races. Yes, there are others with different colored skin who have done some bad things, but that doesn't mean all people who are different from you are bad. Great job, and I'm looking forward to reading what you write next.


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