The Exquisite Redemption of Miss Colleen Burton (Part 5)


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 sketch comedian Justin Gainer.

“The very idea of of God being a judge is a fabrication of the priests to create fear and to create greed in people- greed for heaven and fear of hell!” These are the words Colleen is greeted by (well, accosted by) as she leaves the one remaining constant in her life, Einstein’s Bagels. “And once people are afraid, they become slaves! They are no more human beings, they turn into sheep; and that’s what the priests have always wanted them to be!”

As much as she wants to just keep on her way and disregard this man, as she often does with most people in her life, something makes her stop and listen. It was either the way this mid-to-late 40’s, white, overweight, victim of male pattern baldness looks like he has been wearing that pin-striped vest and a thinning mustache since the day he was born (even at her lowest points Colleen is still fascinated with people), or it was the lonely fact that Colleen really had no where to keep going on her way to. How does one keep on their way when it is littered with tornadoes of emotions, bad decisions, and broken relationships? Now, this isn’t something Colleen remained conscious of, but it is the truth none the less. She really had nowhere to go. So, why not use this man as another excuse to fill her day with it’s nothingness.

Colleen sits down Indian-style (or as she prefers, “pretzel-style”) and listens to this man, whom she has decided is named Jerry, for an hour and twelve minutes. She knows this because she has checked her phone every eleven minutes to see if Devon has texted her. He has not.

“There has been a contract between the priest and the politician, and now, the professor has also joined in it. Religious institutions, educational institutions, the state–they all joined in one conspiracy: to transform every human being into a machine, a slave! The oldest strategy was to create fear: God is a judge, be afraid!”

She is also fascinated by the resilience of Jerry. No matter how many people just stroll on by not even recognizing his existence, or at the very most, shooting him a sideways, “Is this guy fucking serious,” look, he just keeps on preaching his message. He didn’t stop for a second. She admired that.

When her legs finally begin to become soar from sitting on the cold sidewalk concrete, she decides to get up. Not because she actually wanted to get up, but because her body finally told her that maybe it was time to; pain is still something she could recognize. She stands up, bends over to stretch her legs, and walks right up to “Jerry” and hands him the brown bag from Einstein’s. It appears that he has never been caught off guard in his entire life as much as he is in this moment.

“Oh, thank you miss! You are too kind!”

She walks away without even saying a word to him. Truth is, she is utterly sick of everything bagels. She was never in it for the bagels. And this one seemed…tainted. Like, she didn’t work for it. As if it was given to her as a handout, and Colleen DOES NOT take handouts.

Her destination-less walk inevitably leads her back to the front door of her apartment. She puts the key into the lock before even realizing that she ended up there. She stops. She knows that going into the apartment will force her to face Janet and her inquiries of her day and how things are going with Devon. She will probably also ask her if she has any of the money she owes her. Of course, she loves Janet: as much as a college friend-turned roommate loves another. But, she just couldn’t handle having to deal with any of that right now.

Before walking in, key still in the lock, she checks her phone again just out of force of habit, and it is dead. Immediately, her manic and yet seemingly logical brain forces her back into thinking about Devon and how their demise was all her fault (as well as most of the problems in her life). She knows he probably never tried to contact her in the short period of time her phone has been without battery, but he could have. When she gets inside she is just going to send him one more text: “I’m sorry.” Yes, just one more and then let him make the next move. After all it should be up to him whether or not he wants to talk. At this moment, she is envious of Jerry. She wishes she could not care about what others thought, and held on to her ideals the way he does. Even though his big message was that religion is a lie trying to scare you into doing good,and she knew that already anyway.

She finally gathers up enough courage and goes to turn the key, but it was already unlocked. Which is strange because of Janet’s strict “make sure the door is locked” rule. But, she didn’t think anything of it.

It is the silence that first leads her to believe that something is wrong.

It was gone.


The way all of the cabinets in the kitchen look like a family of rabies-stricken raccoons ravaged through them leads her to know what happened here.

She stands in the open doorway blankly staring at her newly made desolate apartment, and all she could say aloud to herself is,

“I hope those bastards left my phone charger.”

Justin’s obstruction: The next chapter must include a flashback.