At Harvard Divinity School, recycling is quite the correct thing.

One year, two bins were set up - one marked "White Paper," and one "Colored Paper." Anti-apartheid activists (or tricksters, or maybe both) quietly replaced these with signs that said "Paper" and "Paper of Color." Still later, the signs were changed to "Bleached Paper" and "Dyed Paper."

I swear that I am not making this up.

The buildings are low, here, huddled together along the road like they're trying to keep warm. The traffic comes in intervals, mediated not so much by the cycling of the traffic lights so much as by the fact that everybody tends to keep the same schedule, drive the same routes and end up, more or less, in the same places. There's the grocery store and the laundromat, and the train station, the one outlet to anywhere but. Everything, in every direction, is some shade of grey. Even the snow when it falls, if it falls, is grey, both in the air and on the ground.

Charlie is sitting on his flat, anonymous roof in a lawn chair. It's November. He has a thermos of coffee spiked with just enough whiskey to keep the numbness away, and a battery-powered radio that now, twenty years past the day he bought it, only gets two stations, both AM-band and barely audible, NPR and smooth jazz. The jazz is for summer and it ain't. He has a pair of binoculars, and a heavy coat, and an air rifle. He has all the time in the world.

A FedEX truck is cruising down the block. He's waiting for it. It stops outside his building, cautiously almost, and the driver emerges with a brown paper wrapped package under his arm. He approaches Charlie's door and rings Charlie's bell, but Charlie isn't home.

The FedEX guy hangs out for a minute, stomping his feet to keep warm before giving up and heading back to his truck. Charlie brings his rifle up to his shoulder while his back is turned, takes careful aim, and pulls the trigger - and for the briefest of moments, the man is invisible behind a teeming wall of the most fantastic colors as the package under his arm erupts into a storm of confetti, swirling around him like the little pieces of plastic that live in a snow globe. He doesn't know where to look, caught between believing himself to be under attack and feeling inexplicably like he'd wandered into a music video. Coming to his senses he runs behind his truck, scrambles into the driver's seat and guns the engine, careening down the block and out of sight.

Charlie waits for the sound of sirens, but they don't come. He unstoppers his coffee, drinks deeply, and smiles to himself before heaving himself out of his chair. He goes downstairs and, taking the dustpan and broom and heavy black trashbag from where he left them inside his front door, heads out onto the street. He sweeps up the bits and pieces and leaves the bag by the curb before going back up to his coffee and his radio and his rifle, settling into his chair just as the garbage truck turns the corner.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.