Grey. This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 5, 2010
By , Denver, CO
A morning spent in the company of Chip Fleming was a cold, busy, and silent one. At exactly 5:32 AM Chip Fleming woke up. His room was meticulously organized, the only few things he had in his room were a yoga mat (his bed) which lay under a medium sized window, a small metal shelf, two crutches, hanging on a nail, and an old wood desk painted the same color as the walls, grey. The only other thing in Chip Fleming’s room was a flag. The British flag. It was hung on the wall and in the corner of the flag, a small picture, maybe a newspaper clipping, was tacked onto it. The picture depicted a young man, maybe 20, he was in a pool with a water polo ball. His team mates were surrounding and embracing him. Now the picture was yellow and old, it made a crackling sound when the wind blew in from the window above Chip’s bed and rustled it.
Chip arose from his yoga mat, he grabbed the crutches that hung on a nail beside his bed and hobbled over to the window. He looked outward, the wind played with the collar of his PJ shirt, which was grey, like the walls. The street below was silent and empty like it always was. There was only a soft glow that hung in the air, as the sun was not out yet. The street was lined with crumbling stone London apartments, which went up 7 stories high. Pigeons liked to swoop from side to side and squawk occasionally. The road below had been paved at some time, or so the legends said, but now, it was dust, with the occasional pebble thrown in. Chip grunted and after hungrily watching the street below, turned, and hobbled out of his room.
Chip’s apartment was small and grey. There were no pictures of family, friends, no artwork, no rugs, no curtains. The kitchen was dismal and pots neatly hung on the walls, not that they had never been used. The only kitchen utensil that Chip used was the blender. If you know the first thing about Chip Fleming, you know that his diet solely consisted of protein shakes and poached eggs. For breakfast a protein sake, for dinner, 1 poached egg. No more no less. Occasionally people would gossip about Chip, about his empty life, his protein shakes, his absentmindedness, his obsession over exercising constantly. Now in his older age of 63, no one ever thought about Chip’s past or his friends. Did he even have any?
After breakfast, the empty gray refrigerator that sat in Chip’s kitchen had finally run out of eggs and what ever was in those protein shakes. So, he had to make his monthly stop at the grocery store. Chip hated the grocery store, the empty stares as he passed by, everything suddenly becoming so quiet that you could hear the distinct clicking of Chip’s crutches on the colored tile floor. Softly grunting to himself, Chip grabbed his one worn coat out of the closet. Pulled on his only pair of leather boots, and grabbed an umbrella, he softly closed the door behind him and set off for the streets of London.
It was 4 and a half blocks to the nearest grocery store. Four and a half blocks of hobbling down the cold blown streets. Sometimes on rare occasions, young children would dart past him, staring strait ahead. Then when they though that Chip wasn’t looking, they would stare at his leg, or where it used to be any way. Chip always had always wanted to say something to these children, offer a piece of candy to them, let them know that behind his creased, tattered, face, there was nothing to fear. But Chip just watched them pass, with his lips pressed together, willing them to open, but he knew they wouldn’t.
When Chip reached the grocery store, he stood and took a breath of the smoggy air. Now that he was further into the city there were more people, rushing past him like water. Food stands were set up and there was a strong smell of vinegar. Walking past a sausage stand, Chip hobbled into the store. He made his way through the isles, a familiar journey he had taken many times. Head downward, Chip concentrated on getting in and getting out, suddenly he heard a voice behind him. Was it familiar? He couldn’t tell. Anyhow, people never talked to him, it had been years before anyone had addressed him directly, but he felt himself turning backwards.
“Chip, is that you? ‘Ol buddy! Why! I ‘aven’t seen you in years! Ever since our time together on the team!!” A small rosy checked man approached Chip, his hand extended. A mat of fur lay atop of his head, a scarf wrapped tightly around his neck. Staring ahead, Chip looked at this man, it had been so long since someone had purposely talked to him it had seemed he had forgotten what to say. He could only grunt.
“Ow are ya? Gee, I can’t believe this, golly, git over here!!” And so Chip went, he was not sure why exactly but it there was something soothing, awakening about the voice of this man. Something deep within Chip was starting to grow, a memory, a whole different life that Chip himself, had forgotten.
The man beckoned Chip closer to him, he started to talk, and on and on he went, Chip just stared and nodded, but his brain was working hard. It felt like hours before the man, Alec Hanley, Chip suddenly remembered, stopped talking. They waved good by but before he was about to go Ale pulled on his shoulder, “Here: it’s me phone number, call me later, we have to catch up, yah?” He handed Chip a small wrinkled piece of paper, then walked out of the store. Blinking, Chip stood, the paper felt like a feather in his hand. He slipped it in his pocket, then proceeded to find eggs and the ingredients for what ever was in those protein shakes.
As Chip moved towards the check-out station, the noticed a package of little cookies sitting on a shelf, they were the same kind that Chips mother used to make. His mother! Chip had not thought about his mother for years. So, he picked up the cookies and placed them carefully in the basket. The first cookies that he had bought in years. Staring at those cookies, Chip almost smiled, he turned to go and once again, silence crept through the sore, you could only hear the distinct clicking of his crutches on the colored tile floor. It wasn’t such a bad sound after all.
When Chip got home he threw his groceries on to the counter and walked into his room. This afternoon it looked particularly grey but Chip didn’t notice this. He walked over to the flag that was hanging on the wall, untacked the picture in the corner and stared at it. He hung up his crutches on the nail next to his bed and plopped down.
Pulling out the slip of paper that Alec had handed him, Chip just stared. He continued to stare for what seemed like hours. Both picture and phone number in hand. A tear fell from his eye, making its way down Chip’s reddened face. He hadn’t felt this way in years, his whole body started to shake as the single tear became a rushing flow of water, eroding the years chip had spent alone with no friends, no family, no life. Collecting himself, Chip stood up and grabbed his crutches, hobbling out to get his phone which hung on a gray wall. As he dialed, the whole apartment grew silent until Chip heard that voice:
“Ellow, this is the Hanley residence.”Chip’s face felt hot what should he say? “Ellow? ‘Ellow?” So finally, Chip spoke. He had a rich leathery voice that could slice through the air. The sound of it made Chip jump, but he continued. “Hi, this is Chip.” And for the first time in 45 years, Chip Fleming smiled.

Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

a. mia said...
May 15, 2010 at 7:34 am
I found this story very evocative. The reader gets a strong sense of a profound change in the protagonist's awareness, and his new openness to life. Thanks to a moments-long encounter that happens in a small window of time and chance, life happens. Lovely!
Site Feedback