Small Talk: Good and Bad


Jun 2, 2019


Illustration by Shreyaa Krritika Das

Me – Oh nice, you’ve done another drawing! Walk us through it, if you will. What is going on in this… whatever this is.

Niece – It’s a fight. This is the good person; this is the shoe rack, and this is the bad person.

Me – Why is there a shoera— never mind. Why does this look like a purple balloon?

Niece – It’s a bad person.

Me – Why are they purple though?

Niece – Bad people are purple.

Me – They are?

Niece – Ya. See in my comic book?

Me – He does look a little purple, doesn’t he.

Niece – Why like that?

Me – Why like what?

Niece – Why are bad people always purple?

Me – Bad people aren’t always purple.

Niece – They are in this book.

Me – Well this book is—

Niece – And this one.

Me – Well—

Niece – And all these ones. And that one.

Me – Well I—

Niece – Sometimes they are brown though. Like you.

Me – Okay, so I’m brown. But do you think that means I’m a bad person?

Niece – Sometimes you tell me wrong things Amma said.

Me – Apart from that.

Niece – Why are they brown and purple in books then.

Me – I don’t know. Seems like bad people can be all sorts of different colors, no?

Niece – Maybe they didn’t have enough color pencils.

Me – What color are all the good people in these books?

Niece – Pinkie.

Me – Pink.

Niece – Pinkie.

Me – Dude, we talked about this: It’s pink.

Niece – They are always pinkie.

Me – Well, do you think you’re good?

Niece – Ya.

Me – Are you pinkie? I mean, pink?

Niece – Ya.

Me – Dude, you’re not pink.

Niece – Ya I am.

Me – Who told you you’re pink?

Niece – I did.

Me – Why do conversations with you always end up being weird?

Niece – What should I draw next?

Me – I would like to see another… what is this again?

Niece – Fight. And shoe rack.

Me – Right, I would like to see another one like this, except without purple bad people and pink good people. Because skin color doesn’t determine if you’re good or bad, right?

Niece – Hm?

Me – Just because someone is purple doesn’t mean they are bad. Right?

Niece – Ya.

Me – Right.

Niece – Only if they are brown.

Me – No, not if they are brown or purple. I mean, pink people can be bad people, too.

Niece – Hm?

Me – Am I confusing you?

Niece – Ya.

Me – Forget it, just draw another one.

Niece – What means confusing?

Me – This. All this. This entire conversation with you is confusing.


Me – Hey, what happened to my drawing.

Niece – I can’t finish it.

Me – Aw, don’t say that. Come on, show me what you’ve done so far.

Niece – See.

Me – Ok. This is the… the…

Niece – Shoe rack.

Me – Of course. But where’s the good guy and the bad guy?

Niece – They went home.

Me – No they didn’t, come on. Draw a pink bad guy and a purple good guy! Wouldn’t that be neat?

Niece – I don’t want to draw. You tell me a story about clouds.

Me – Meh, do I have to?

Niece – Ya.

Me – Okay, once upon a time there was a little cloud, and the cloud went wandering outside when her Amma told her not to, and she came across this big, black cloud with lightning teeth and—

Niece – Was he a bad cloud?

Me – Probably, but anyway, he—

Niece – Is that why he’s black?

Me – He— oh heck. Okay, wait a minute.

Niece – Is he going to eat the little cloud?

Me – No! Because… he was… actually her friend! And he… he had a toothache.

Niece – And he lost his shoe rack.

Me – Right, he had a toothache, and he lost his shoe rack, so the little cloud helped him, and he felt better, and they lived happily ever after.

Niece – So small story?

Me – Yes.

Niece – I didn’t like it.

Me – Ya, but it taught you that just because a cloud is black doesn’t mean he’s the bad guy.

Niece – Hm?

Me – What does a black cloud mean?

Niece – Means it’s raining.

Me – Okay that’s it, I’m done.

Niece – Did he find his shoe rack?

Me – Yes.

Niece – Was it in his house?

Me – Yes.

Niece – Then how come he couldn’t find it before?

Me – You know what, little dude? You’re giving me a headache.

Niece – I’m going to draw the cloud and his shoe rack.

Me – Don’t make him black though.

Niece – You said he was black.

Me – I mean… never mind.

Niece – I don’t have black.

Me – Great! Then you can color him—

Niece – I draw two shoe racks then.

Me – Whatever.

Small Talk chronicles conversations between the author and her niece that could, in an alternate universe or in this one, be real.


Written By Kuzhali Manickavel

Kuzhali Manickavel’s collections “Things We Found During the Autopsy,” “Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings,” and chapbooks “The Lucy Temerlin Institute for Broken Shapeshifters Guide to Starving Boys” and “Eating Sugar, Telling Lies” are available from Blaft Publications, Chennai. Her work has also appeared in Granta, Strange Horizons, Agni, Subtropics, Michigan Quarterly Review and DIAGRAM. She used to blog at http://thirdworldghettovampire.blogspot.com/.


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