The Exquisite Redemption of Miss Colleen Burton (Part 4)


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 comedian and playwright Mike Haverty.

On the fifth lap, Devon is still thinking about the jumper he saw: the crowd, the ambulances, and the puddle. Devon walks up the steps and finds himself looking down on Colleen. The concrete under her is cracked.. When he blinks, he sees the viscera from the impact. Other tenets decorated this area with potted plants and ash trays. Colleen was his contribution.

“Look what the cat dragged in,” Colleen purred, still lounging in front of the door.
“Are you the cat?”
“That explains why you’re laying down in a sun beam.”

Colleen debates explaining that the sunbeam wasn’t there when she first sat down on Devon’s steps, but the moment is gone. Devon blinks again, and this time he sees the police barricades.

“Did you bring my shirt?” Devon asks.
“No, what I-”
“Then I’m going to do laundry.”

She jumps to her feet, the lone guardian between Devon and the door.

“Listen. I know you feel that you have no reason to keep talking to me-”
“That’s not true, but today isn’t good.”

Devon steps to her side, opens the screen door a sliver, and slinks to the crevasse, keys in hand. Colleen turns around to stop Devon from entering his building, but the chances of this happening look grim.

“All I ask is 30 minutes. We meet at Einstein’s and I lay out everything.”
“Every time we talk, I know you less.”
“I told you about the fling. I was telling the truth then!”
“And you weren’t all the other times?”

Colleen looks down. She slightly rests her head on the door’s screen. The skin on her forehead pokes through the small square holes like Play-Doh. A stiff wind blows across the porch, wrapping Colleen’s hair over her eyes.

“I thought about you today,” Devon murmured through the screen door as he tried to drown out the sirens from earlier. “I’m worried about you. I felt like I’ve been enabling you. I’m afraid of where you’ll end up. The lies, the sudden clarity and reverence for the truth, you literally laying down on my stoop waiting for me to come home from work… I sometimes fear what you are when you aren’t around me. And I want to help you.”
Colleen’s head perks up. “Then come to Einstein’s! I’ll have 30 minutes, and then you’ll get 30 minutes, and we’ll be back on track.”
“Another day.” Devon puts his hand on the wooden door, fingering the unlacquered edge. “We will talk soon.”
“But I’m here right now.”
“If you could have it all, you’d always want more.”

In line at Einstein’s, Colleen thought about her enablers  and how they don’t exist. The world is a complex system, and she just knows how to play the system. Simple. Her smartness shouldn’t hold her back. She is college educated! She knows how people work. She thinks about Barry, and the mistakes therein. He thinks about Devon and the apologies she wished would stick. She thinks about her sister Mel. Am I just using all of these people? No. Communication is a transaction. All relationships are transactions. Colleen gets comfort and intimacy from Devon, and Devon gets comfort and intimacy back. Win win. No one’s enabling anyone here.

“Hi there, what can I get for you today?”
“Everything bagel.”

Even if Devon needs space, Colleen still has other people. If he thinks she’s surrounding herself with enablers, he’s wrong.

“No bag.”

For a moment, Colleen thinks about a world where all her half-truths splinter off to create new alternate dimensions.

“Sorry, but we have to put it in a bag. Store policy.”
“Well, Esther never put it in a bag.”
“Yeah and that’s why she’s not here anymore.”

And this is fine. Esther will be missed. They had a relationship. it was positive. Not just enabling, Colleen is sure.

“Here’s your everything.”

Tuesday’s obstruction: Justin has to include the committal of a crime.