The Exquisite Redemption of Miss Colleen Burton (Part 3)


The following is the first installment of a HEAVEmedia experiment in honoring NaNoWriMo, as well as an attempt to write a novella in public. Read on, join us, and so forth.

If you missed our first post, here’s a quick primer on what it is that we’re doing here. Go back and read that, though, because this isn’t going to make a ton of sense otherwise.

Five writers from Chicago, each with their own unique perspectives, will attempt to write a cohesive novella twice a week over the next several months with no knowledge of where the story is going until each consecutive piece is posted here on Heave. Each new part will be posted every Tuesday and Friday, with the writing duties being carried out in a standard batting order fashion (once the end of the batting order is reached, it starts from the top). At the end of each installment, the writer of said installment will introduce a caveat, or an obstruction, that must be adhered to by the following writer in the next written installment.

Now, the writers wanted to take this project a step further and involve the readers in the writing process. After the first five weeks of writing, Heave will begin asking the readers of the story to tweet @HEAVEMedia with their own ideas for obstructions. How the writers decide upon which obstructions to use is up to them.

Today’s part is written by Heave editor Dominick Suzanne-Mayer.

When you get sad, sociopathy comes with astounding ease. And getting sad doesn’t mean putting in a Beats pill to conspicuously communicate to an entire train car that this is a Kid Cudi sort of day, nor does it (or should it) offer an invitation for admonishments over your inability to put on a face, or even worse, people encouraging you to perk up, as though your ice cream had just hit the floor and it would be too easy to replace it for you to be so upset.

And that’s why Colleen’s first overtures to Devon since their moment of implosion did not go as well as they probably should have.

Overture the first:  Colleen sits at her kitchen table, listening to the endless stepping and shuffling noises coming out of the living room, courtesy of Janet’s latest reorganization efforts. Colleen always wishes that Janet would just leave the goddamn coffee table in one place; Janet lacks both the legitimate chemical imbalance that would make Colleen more forgiving and the arrogant sense of purpose that comes from a fleeting, HGTV marathon-induced interest in feng shui.

She sends Devon a text, her fingers hovering over each key as though she’s trying to talk herself out of it all the while: Can we talk?

Before she can pick up her coffee, take a sip, and replace it on the garish pink teacup plates Janet just had to pick up at Renegade last year, the reply: Fuck you.

And then, quickly thereafter: Bitch.

She cringes. Devon might have good reason to be worked up, but bitch was such an ugly word. One with which Colleen was thoroughly acquainted, but shit, man. And the brusque way in which it was added on like a cough to break a moment of awkward silence meant that Devon was out to hurt some feelings. And would likely succeed, for her best efforts.

Overture the second:  “ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS.” Colleen doesn’t mean it so much as a question than as a statement of aggressive intent. For the third time in 30 minutes, and with her 45-minute lunch break nearing its end, the waitress at the Chicago Diner has brought her the wrong dish. Sarah, known better to Colleen as “this bitch right here, I swear to God” at present, has offered the taco salad, autumn harvest salad, and the chikun ranch salad, while failing spectacularly at bringing Colleen the csar salad she ordered in the first place.

Sarah is hardly cowed. “Then don’t eat it.” When Colleen was sat in her section, Sarah’s coworkers warned her about the exhausted-looking force of nature. She was advised that this was going to be a rough table, and that she should keep checking for the continued presence of salt and pepper shakers.

Colleen, making quite the show of housing the chikun ranch salad in a manner clearly suggesting to the restaurant that this is not my food but I GUESS it’ll do, opens Facebook on her phone. It’s still on Devon’s profile page. He made a pun about the band Trapt. She likes it.

She looks at Sarah’s midsection when her bill is offered, and checks her phone again. His joke has been deleted, sent to that ether of the Facebook server room where all the racist stuff and the well-meaning but pointless family members’ posts on their teenagers’ walls go.

Overture the third:  Colleen calls Devon, walking past his office. She tries to look up at what might be his window, but then the sun’s on that side of the building and it hurts her eyes and fuck it, it’s making her dizzy craning her neck like this anyway. A block up the street, she can hear the Old Navy preacher going ballistic in the kind of rare form only he can manage.

Before the first dial tone can complete itself, Colleen is sent straight to voicemail. She leaves the phone on for some reason, having no intention whatsoever of saying anything but wanting Devon to understand that his maneuvers are not going unnoticed. She sees an ambulance tearing up the street, and holds the phone out. Should Devon answer her voicemail, the screams of sirens will greet him.

She passes by the preacher and tells him to go fuck himself. Unimpressed, he continues on, talking about the evils of reefers.

Overture the fourth: Colleen sits on Devon’s front porch. The looks that Devon’s well-to-do neighbors are giving her suggest that she may well be mean mugging the whole parade of commuters, headed home to DVR The Voice because they forgot and God forbid they miss The Voice. One by one, the crowds thin out, allocated to their own doors. It’s Tuesday, so it’s their doors and theirs alone. There’s no time for kinship.

She looks up to see Devon walking up the other side of the street. For a moment, involuntarily, her mouth opens to call out to him, but she checks herself, remembering that calling another person’s name from across the street is reserved for lunatics and people with fewer problems than she and Devon have at present. She looks back down, cracking her knuckles knowing that no sounds will come out.

A few minutes later, she sees Devon walk the same route as before. Realizing that Devon has no intention of coming home with her as his first obstruction, and that even the door beyond her could pose problems if he tried to make a run for it, and that he will probably circle the block all night if necessary, Colleen sighs and sprawls out on her back.

Yeah, this seems about right.

She flips off another of Devon’s neighbors as the commuter parade comes to a close.

Friday’s obstruction: Mike has to write out an already established character.