Fiction set in USA and EUROPE: the life of Maria Callas
‘Through Coloured Doors’ by Phyllida Shrimpton
17th August 2023
This tale elaborates on a story told by Melody, the protagonist in my new novel, The Storyteller by the Sea. It is set during the 1960’s to the 1980’s, an era when accessibility and travel was more difficult for people with a disability.
Melody stood on the beach where the receding tide had left a wave of green seaweed tangled with shells and pebbles along the shore. Picking up a large bunch of keys from the damp sand, she held them up by the brown, leather fob. There was such a large number dangling from various rings that she struggled to comprehend how one person could need quite so many, or indeed how that person had managed to lose them in the first place.
There were the big kind of keys that opened doors with heavy chub locks, and the medium kind like the one she had for her own front door. There were silver ones and brass ones and, amongst them, a funny little plastic troll with knotted lime green hair hung from a metal key ring.
She shook the keys until much of the sand and some curls of seaweed fell loose, her imagination already scampering away with itself down a labyrinth of possible stories to tell her younger brother.
Taking them back to her home, Spindrift, a little Victorian dwelling overlooking the sea, she sat on the terrace next to her brother and scooted her sun-chair nearer to his wheelchair. ‘Look what I found today, Milo,’ she said, showing him the keys and laying them on the blanket that covered his thin legs.
Milo ran his weak fingers through the lime green hair of the plastic troll.
‘These keys,’ Melody began, ‘belong to a man who built his own house right on top of the red, Jurassic cliffs of Devon. It’s here, in Exmouth, so, just like us, Milo, this man has a wonderful view of the sea and the Devon coast.’ Milo looked wistfully out at the beautiful view and the sunlight that fell in shining stars on the water while Melody stroked his hand.
‘The man put many front doors on his house, Milo, so that he could paint each one in a different colour. When he wanted to be cheerful, he would enter or leave his house through the yellow door.’ Melody picked out a key that shone with brass and showed it to Milo. Next, she took a silver one with an oval bow end. ‘If the man wants energy for a long walk or a fun party,’ she continued, ‘he would use this key to open the orange door. And this…’ she showed him another key, her story building in her mind, ‘is for the white door. He goes through this door when he wants to fly up to the clouds on the wings of a white seabird.’
Finding an unusual looking key which was antique and made with an intricate design, she placed it in Milo’s hand. ‘What colour door do you think this might open?’ she asked him.
Milo thought about this for a while as he looked out across the sea and the sky. ‘Blue,’ he answered.
Melody nodded and smiled widely. ‘Blue is the most special out of all the doors in the man’s house. It’s the colour that represents many beautiful things. It’s the colour of tranquility, of freedom and imagination. This key…’ Melody tapped it knowingly with the pad of her finger. ‘This key is the most magical. When the man wants to travel anywhere in the whole world, he opens the blue door with this key. Maybe to the vast deserts of Africa or to the hot lagoons of Iceland. Or maybe to the vibrantly coloured street markets of India, or to the majestic tall ships that sail around Australia.’
She took the key from its ring and pressed it into the palm of her brother’s hand, curling his fingers around it. ‘The man will be happy for you to have this,’ she said, ‘because with this key, Milo, you can go anywhere you like. And because it’s the most magical of all of them, you just need to open your mind and dream your adventures.’
Milo rested his head on the back of his wheelchair and looked up at the canopy above him. Fat white clouds shone bright against an azure sky and with the key, tight in his hand, he smiled.
Phyllida Shrimpton’s latest book The Storyteller by the Sea is published by Aria in EBook and Paperback on 14th September.
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