The Exquisite Redemption of Miss Colleen Burton (Part 7)


The following is a HEAVEmedia experiment in writing 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. Heave will be 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.


Esther looks up from the wall to see a young-ish, disheveled man extending a hand, as though making overtures to help her. The metal prongs on the end of her charger were broken, and there wasn’t really any fixing them without breaking. Then she appraised him again, rapidly. Were she to attempt to describe what “in one’s 20s in the second decade of the aughts” looked like, it’d be this gentleman. There was something about him that interested her, that captured her attention. She chided herself for this thinking, remembering how hard she laughed at the narration of Fifty Shades of Grey for such purple prose, and yet here she was.

She didn’t realize how many seconds had elapsed until he once again repeated himself. “You need a hand?”

“Yeah, sorry.” Esther said. “I’m a step off today or something.”

The younger man knelt down next to her, both of them boxed into the small space between the too-compact Starbucks table and Esther’s chair.

“Your charger is busted,” he said.

“Yeah. I stepped on it trying to crawl into bed drunk a couple weeks ago.”

He chuckled before lightly tinkering with the prongs until it fit, and then extended his hand. “Chris.”

“Esther. You local or…?”

“If by local you mean the city, yeah. I’m up in Edgewater, though, which is local to pretty much nothing.”

“Ah, gotcha. Well, thanks for helping me out. This hasn’t been the best 48-hour stretch of my life, so it’s the little shit, y’know?”

“Yeah, for sure.” Chris was always bad at these exchanges, the wondering what to say next, the testing of the waters to see if this (rather appealing) girl was interested in conversation or just wanted to go back to her caramel macchiato and her relative sovereignty. So, instead:

“I’ll be right back.” As he walked to the bathroom, Esther smirked to herself. Why would you declare that you’d be right back without first asking for company? Hopefully he’s not going to make this weird. She wasn’t inherently opposed to the idea of somebody attempting to pick her up, granted; after losing her job, at a shitty bagel shop of all places, it’d frankly be kind of nice.

Seriously. What the fuck. She mulled over the sequence again. Her lech of a boss fired her, rather unceremoniously and in front of as many coworkers as possible, after accusing her of shortening the register and giving people extra bagels for free and misusing sick day phone calls and a lot of other things that weren’t actually true (well, the phone calls maybe) before ending her tenure before her shift had even started. The prick.

She saw the guy with the indie-friendly haircut (shaved on the sides, a mop on the top) again. Chris, right? After a moment, she decided to take the aggressive step of smiling at him. You know, just to see what happens.

He, however, seemed less receptive. “Hey, uh, I wish I could stay and chat with you a little more, but I gotta head off.”

“Oh. Um, okay! Well thanks again for helping me with the outlet…situation.” She cringed a bit at her lack of composure under pressure.

“Yeah for sure.” And then he sped out, as quickly as he’d arrived.

Weird. Now Esther had to head to the bathroom, but this being a city and not a Starbucks in Crystal Lake or whatever, she was reluctant to leave her computer unattended. She had done this twice before; once, at the Clark and Belmont Starbucks, which she kind of deserved to be perfectly honest, and again at a tea shop in Andersonville. That time, Esther came out of the bathroom to see the woman who’d nicely volunteered to watch her things running out of the restaurant, and didn’t put two and two together until her laptop and the woman were already gone. At least one day she’d find all the porn, and maybe it’d upset her or something.

Deciding to trust another stranger, albeit a little old lady whose odds of an expedient escape were slim, Esther walked over to the restroom, stopping quickly to look over the community board to see if any bartered goods were up for grabs.

And that’s when she saw Chris and another, older-ish gentleman. As police sketches related to the case of a recent rash of burglaries around the area.

Friday’s obstruction: Carly has to follow YOUR lead. Tweet your obstruction ideas at us at @HEAVEmedia, and we’ll pick the best one! Deadline is Thursday morning/early afternoon.