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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: It's a Colorful World (12/03/09)

TITLE: Memory Flash
By william price


The homeless looking man wrapped in an oversized camouflage jacket sitting on the green bench in front of an orange trimmed donut shop watching blurs of multi-colored traffic speed by has a name. Fifty years ago his parents called him Grayson White, back when “family” was in his vocabulary. However, none of the 5,000 car, taxi, buss, truck, mini-van, or SUV drivers that have driven passed since he first sat down at daybreak knew that. And there HAS been 5,000 up to this point. Five thousand and one, two, three … and he’s still counting.

Grayson is a counter and he counts more than cars. One thousand and fifty-seven people have walked passed him as well; 58, 59, 60, …

Grayson seriously doubts any of the pedestrians knew or knows his name either. But, still he counts.

It’s getting colder. And with the sun starting to set, temperatures are dropping even more. Tall buildings are like canyons ushering evening in earlier than it would upstate. He experiences a brief memory-flash. He’d be stringing blinking colored lights on the Christmas tree about this time of year. But, in the inner city shadows, Grayson pulls the large, floppy collars of his jacket over his ears. It is beginning to get darker. He wants to get up and walk behind the donut shop to his winter home by the dumpster.

There should be some good eating tonight. I like the ones with the 48 sprinkles on the white frosting. That Mr. Dunkin is a blessing.

But, Grayson can’t leave yet. He is a categorizer as well. He knows the total numbers of every colored jacket people were wearing that walked passed him. Black was the most predominate color worn, followed by hundreds of yellows, reds, and greens. But, there were only twelve purple jackets. That’s his favorite color; the color he looks for when counting jackets. He never stops counting until he has seen at least thirteen purple jackets. Grayson also has a thing for yellow taxis. He has to see 500 of those. He needs to spot one more.

The pedestrian traffic has strangely disappeared, at least on his side of the avenue. Grayson’s blowing in his cupped hands when a yellow taxi pulls up to the curb in front of him. The passenger window in the back seat rolls down and an arm in a purple jacket reaches out.

Another memory flashes before Grayson. He’s unsure of his emotion.

A female voice beckons his presence. She pokes her face out of the opened window. She’s smiling, about thirtyish, and has blonde hair. It’s her blue eyes though that draws Grayson off his bench toward her under the street light. Their eyes meet in silence. The woman’s smile fades as one grows on Grayson.

A male voice from inside the taxi interrupts the moment.

“Well, go ahead, ask.”

“I will,” the female responds. “But, maybe we should move on?”

The cab driver interjects, “Nope, this is your one shout-out. You have to use it or lose it.”

The woman’s eyes meet Grayson’s again. She speaks almost embarrassingly.

“Excuse me … sir … I think … but we are in a game show for a cable network called the Money Cab. And we would like to ask you a question so we could win some money.”

Grayson uses his jacket sleeve to wipe sinus leaking from his reddened nose.

“Be glad to help.”

“The question is: What daisy is purple and yellow?”

Grayson’s smile grows; another memory-flash. “It’s the Michaelmas Daisy.”

The male voice shouts, “We’ll go with that, the Michael, whatever he said.”

“It’s the Michaelmus Daisy. I should’ve remembered that,” the woman admits.

After a brief period of silent tension the cab driver yells out, “That’s right. You just won another hundred dollars."

The woman looks back at Grayson. “Thank you.”

“You’re so welcome. Is that your husband?”

“Yes it is.”

“Do you have children?”

“Yes, three.”


“Yes, we just had a son about a year ago.”

“That’s very nice. You know that particular daisy was named after the Archangel Michael?”

“Yes, I remember now.” The woman’s face reddens.

“Hey, Daisy, we just won $700,” the male voice exclaims.

Grayson forces a smile. “Well, I’m very glad I could help.” He turns quickly to hide unexpected tears. While he’s walking back into the shadows he hears the woman’s voice yell out from the cab.

“Our children’s names are Juliet, August and Grayson.”

Five Hundred taxis… Thirteen purple jackets … Grayson!

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This article has been read 762 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Barbara Lynn Culler12/10/09
This is so touching! I enjoyed reading it and wondered where you were going with it. I would love to hear more!
Joanne Sher 12/13/09
May be my mood, but this choked me up, and brought a tear to my eye. Made me feel so sad for him, and what could have been. Wonderful characterization - and yeah, I would have found stuff, but the heart of this is excellent.
Jim McWhinnie 12/14/09
Wonderful display of intrigue that was easy to bring to life in my mind's eye.

Well done.
Beth LaBuff 12/15/09
Your MC's colorful (or gray-scale :) ) name, "Grayson White" caught my attention. Then I had to smile at the donut description with the sprinkles counted. Yes, you kept my attention throughout, too. Very creative!
Rachel Phelps12/16/09
Excellent! Loved the MC you created.
Aaron Morrow12/16/09
Excellent work and so very, very vivid. Definitely a favorite for the week.

The first paragraphs seemed to have a couple of run on sentences, but framed the autism? of the MC very well. I think that the use of more specific numbers like "519 cabs" or the like may have reinforced the "counting" device as well.

All in all an extraordinary read, very poignant and, like life, unresolved. Power writing that demands an emotional response from the reader at its best.
Joy Faire Stewart12/16/09
Excellent characterization in this touching story and great reminder that there's a story behind each life.
Catrina Bradley 12/16/09
Oh, this is good fiction. Leave me with so many questions, but what you gave me is awesome. Love the "Cash Cab" reference - and I was caught off guard by the direction the story took from there. Well Done, Sir!
Catrina Bradley 12/16/09
oops - by the time I got to the wonderful ending, I forgot that I wanted to mention your first sentence. I think you can make it a lot better - too much telling, and too much information-overload. But the rest was so good, it left my mind until I closed the comment window and started reading for the 2nd time. :)