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The City Of Payne... quite literally*

It was as if the city had been swept of life, removed of any creativity. The control that fenced off her world from the world of color left a permanent scar on her heart and turned everything dank and void of emotion. But there was no color in her world: not anymore. Even the people would not turn a rosy tan in the heat of the summer, they were colorless as well. And although she read in books about a world with color and music and feelings and love, she could find none of that in the world that she lived in. Her name was Kleur.


Kleur waited on the sidewalk for the bus to arrive and passed the time by counting how many people pulled the door to the Local Office Building instead of pushing it open. A little bubble of humor swelled inside her as she counted 52 people who misread the sign above the door handle and tried to pull the door against its will, but the bubble noiselessly dissipated as soon as the bus rounded the broken corner of the street. As the bus neared her, it hit the curb and screeched to a halt with both of its front wheels fully on the sidewalk. The girl entered the bus and was greeted by the stingy smell of moldy, unwashed socks. Although the smell was nauseating, the girl made no effort to breathe through her mouth, people would get insulted very easily.


The buses of her city were just as broken and rickety as the streets themselves and because there were no chairs on the bus, just a smooth metal surface to sit on, bus rides included the added benefit of a high quantity of high-pitch screaming. For instance, if the bus rounded a corner or screeched to stop at a stop sign, all the people that were sitting on the ground would go sliding across the shiny, smooth metal surface and homeless and rich people alike would be all jumbled into an angry pile on one side of the bus. Eventually, after much cursing and shoving, the people of the bus would get themselves re-situated, and then the bus would round another corner or would stop at another stop sign, and the whole ordeal would happen again. You would think, thought the girl, that someone in power would realize how stupid the structure of the bus is, and they would change it. But no. Everyone, even the rich people knew that the people in power cared nothing about them. They only cared about staying in power. And by staying in power, they kept the world from ever knowing color. That was the way it was. That was the way it would be.


This world in which Kleur lived was called Payne. Everyone thought that the name came from Michael J. Payne, the man who destroyed color, but in reality, the world was named after William Payne Jenkins, the man who revealed the intensity of life. But only Kleur knew that fact because she was the only one who went to the Library and read the books that it contained. And the only reason that she went to the Library, was because that was where she slept each night.


There was an old lady, named Mrs. Clots, who was the librarian, the janitor, and the chef for the Library’s dining hall, and she was the reason that Kleur had a place to sleep, and to eat and to cleanse herself each night. Mrs. Clotts knew that she was deliberately disobeying the government by letting Kleur live there, but she did so anyway.

Why do you let me stay here, Kleur had asked one night as Mrs. Clots washed Kleur’s hair, if it is against the rules?

Well, Mrs. Clots had answered, gently wiping the soap off of Kleur’s face, you are the only person who comes in to read my books, and I think you deserve a place to rest your head each night.

But what if the government finds out? Kleur asked, tears welling up in her eyes, not from the thought of Mrs. Clots being caught, but from the soap the kept landing on her eyes.

I am too old for them to do anything to me, besides, I will probably die before they find out about me and you.

Kleur had been reassured that night, and she had gone to sleep peacefully, but now, Kleur wasn’t so sure. Every night it seemed, she could hear security prowling around the perimeter, their guard dogs sniffing. As before she used to sleep on the couches underneath the wide-open windows, now she was forced to sleep on the toilets in the bathroom because that was the only place where she would be safe from the dogs’ accurate noses. And to add on to all of that, Mrs. Clots used to bathe and feed and tuck Kleur into bed each night, but when the police became suspicious of the use of the Library, Mrs. Clots had to go home at her required time, she could not provide Kleur with food or cleansing.


But even still every day, when Kleur would get back from her sidewalk begging, she would read aloud to the aged Mrs. Clots. If she had had a productive day, she would read something exciting, like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, or Encyclopedia Britannica, or If You Give A Pig A Pancake, but if her day had been a drab one, she would quietly pick out her favorite book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and read it carefully, letting the beauty of its words wash over her and drown her from reality. Mrs. Clots could always tell what kind of day Kleur had had.


*unfinished short-story

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