“Why won’t anyone believe me?” Gretchen asked.
“Show me!” Professor Swink said. The impatience at having his lecture interrupted showed on his face. There was a depth to the wrinkles between his eyebrows that the class had never before seen. It was a look that had previously been reserved for his ex-wife alone. She was the last person to aggravate him so deeply.
The professor took out his own set of Acrylic paints, shoved it in front of Gretchen and again shouted, “show me,” to his student.
Gretchen was a tiny sprig of a girl who barely took up half a seat. She was uncomfortable with the emotional response that she had provoked in the professor, but she was not intimidated by it.
Gretchen opened the wooden case. She lifted the paint smeared pallet and dug through the three dozen brushes.
“That brush cost more than your daddy earned last week,” Professor Swink declared smugly. “Don’t bend the bristles!”
Gently, Gretchen laid all the brushes aside on the table. Only then did she begin rummaging through the paint tubes. There were one hundred and twenty-seven of them in various stages of depletion, but she knew before opening the case that she would not be able to find the one for which she was looking. Many of the tubes were identical. She counted five of Chinese White, but there was not one single tube of Ragglion.
“It’s not here,” Gretchen said.
“Look again! I want you to be sure,” Professor Swink demanded.
“I don’t need to. It’s not here.”
“Because it does not exist!” the professor concluded.
“Young lady, I have been painting for forty-five years. I have studied overseas. I have had twenty-three professional showings. I collect an eight thousand-dollar commission just to pick up that camelhair paintbrush. If there was a fourth primary color, don’t you think that I might have used it? And even if I didn’t like it, doesn’t it follow that I might, at the very least, have heard of it?”
The sarcasm dripped from the instructor’s tongue like water from a dog’s chin that had just lifted his head out of the toilet bowl.
“Yea,” Gretchen admitted.
“Thank you!” Professor Swink shouted, flapping his arms for the benefit of the rest of the students. “Thank you so much Ms. Jones for that extraordinary vote of confidence.”
Someone sitting behind Gretchen giggled.
“But, last night, when I went to bed, there was more. I don’t know how else to explain it. But there was more, a lot more.”
“Yes there was this extra primary color, raggin”
“Ragglion,” Gretchen corrected him.
“Well, Ms. Jones what did it look like, your mysterious ragglion?”
“I don’t know. Could you describe the color red?”
The girl behind Gretchen answered first. “Fiery.”
“Okay,” Gretchen conceded. “Ragglion was pretty, clean, thoughtful. It was used in baby clothes, school colors and luxury cars. I have a ragglion bra, or I used to, and my father’s mustache had ragglion highlights. In the Mona Lisa’s eyes, her irises are said to have been the purist ragglion ever put down on canvas. The Washington Monument was a creamy, pastel ragglion, and every can of soda had a ragglion tint to it. Anyway, they did before I woke up this morning.”
The examples that Gretchen gave caused her fellow students and the instructor to pause. No one was prepared for the extensive list of ragglion colored objects.
“Her smile,” Professor Swink said in a tone more civilized than he had used in the last twenty minuets.
“What?” Gretchen asked.
“The Mona Lisa, it’s not her eyes that people notice, though the whole painting is remarkable. It’s her smile. Entire textbook chapters have been devoted to her simple, perfect grin.”
“Today it maybe her smile, but I’m telling you that yesterday, yesterday those same books were written about her eyes. The Mona Lisa’s eyes were high ragglion, and people have been trying ever since to duplicated the color.”
“There is no such color,” Professor Swink said again. He was tired of the pointless debate, and the exasperation was evident on his face.
“Well, there was!” Gretchen said not backing down.
“Why then are you the only person in the world who can remember it? Why don’t any of us remember ragglion?”
“I don’t know,” Gretchen whimpered. “I thought at first that you were testing us. You know, to see if we knew all the primary colors. I thought it was a joke, but then I started looking around the room. I noticed that there was no ragglion, no fleen, no merch and no grack. I realized that something was wrong, really wrong.”
“Fleen? Merch and …?”
“Grack.” Gretchen repeated. “Those three colors are made when ragglion is mixed with the other primary colors, red, yellow and blue.”
“Fleen is a young person’s color. Many newborn outfits and baby shoes are made with a fleen color scheme. Grack is just he opposite. It represents older, more mature, you know, seasoned.”
“No one knows why exactly. The same way blue is for boys and pink represents girls. My father told me that it was because of the trees.”
When no one asked, Gretchen continued. “As a tree grows it develops season rings inside its trunk. These rings mark the tree’s age. Most trees produce a fleen hue in the wood toward the center of the circles. The rings farthest away, closest to the bark, are grack colored.
“It is odd if you think about it, because the fleen rings, the ones in the center, are the oldest part of the tree, and the grack rings are the most recent.”
“Ms. Jones, I think we’ve all heard enough. Really.”
“But I’m telling the truth! What if we are slowly losing our ability to see colors? What if there were once a dozen or even a hundred primary colors that we can no longer see? What happens tomorrow if I wake up and there are only six musical notes instead of eight, or I have lost the ability to taste sweets?”
“Why would that be happening?” Professor Swink asked.
“Punishment for the way we live, the way we have taken advantage of this world, her beauty and its resources. What if we are facing an existence of only grays because we have taken the brilliance in our lives for granted. It’s retribution!”
“Ms. Jones, there are only three primary colors; red, blue and yellow. We have three types of cone cells in our eyes that can translate light into colored images. I have only three color cartridges in my Bubble Jet Printer, and Crayola doesn’t put a ragglion crayon in their boxes, not even the ninety-six pack with the sharpener in the back. Today! Today, Ms. Jones, there are only three primary colors. If there were four yesterday, I can only assume that it was shipped by the U.S. Postal service, because it is lost now. We must proceed in this class as if it has always been so. This is Art Appreciation 101 not Paleontology. I am not interested in searching for extinct colors. Do you understand? Does everybody understand?”
“Yes sir,” Gretchen answered. “Though life is going to be a little duller.”
“So be it! Now we are running out of time today,” Professor Swink concluded, strolling back to the podium at the front of the classroom. “I didn’t get to cover as much as I intended to about primary colors, but it’s important that you remember this come test time:
“There are only two; yellow and blue. Through these primary colors mixed we achieve green. Any questions?”