A short story about a girl with brown hair and a brown suitcase.
Once upon a time there was a little girl. She was ten years old and had brown hair and a brown suitcase. She lived in a little house squished in the middle of other houses on a block with a cobblestone street. But the street wasn't in London and the girl didn't live there anymore.
Nowadays she would walk when the weather permitted. Her suitcase was big and brown, but it wasn't heavy. Sometimes she'd even walk when it rained, but only if she knew where she would sleep that night. She didn't like to have to sleep somewhere dry when she was all wet.
She never went out at night. It's dangerous for little girls to be out at night and she wasn't foolish.
She had lived in the house on the cobblestone street, squished up against the other houses until the day she left with her big brown suitcase. That was that.
The little girl with brown hair had heard that the grass was always greener on the other side of the fence, but she's never seen a fence and all the grass she saw was brown. It didn't bother her, really, it was just something she thought about as she walked along the dirt road. The road was brown too, but a lighter brown than her suitcase and hair, but not quite as light as the grass.
"A penny saved is a penny earned" was another thing she'd heard the adults say. She had a penny, had saved it for two whole months now, but she still didn't feel like she had earned it. Besides, what could one do with a penny anyway? It was just round and brown. She stopped walking, opened her suitcase, and took out the coin. "D" it said on it, in a very small letter. That stood for Denver. The penny had come from Denver, and it was going back there, even though the penny had no knowledge of that fact. If you had asked it how it felt about returning to its home, it would have said nothing. Coins have a tendency to be silent, unless you drop them.
The girl was very careful not to drop her "earned" penny, and put it carefully away again. She picked up the brown suitcase and kept walking down the road roughly toward the rising sun. Even if it was foolish to talk with pennies, one could always talk to yourself. You always had someone to talk to when you were alone. But the little girl didn't say anything. She didn't feel like it.
The sun grew hot. Well, the sun was always about the same temperature, the girl knew, but the sun was making the girl hot, so, she thought reasonably, 'I'm growing hot.' And she was. So she stopped again and took off her light blue knit sweater and carefully put it away in her brown suitcase. There was a breeze now and it felt good on her bare arms.
That night she stopped at a pile of debris. A table had made a little house out of the rubble. Well, the table had stopped the rubble from falling in underneath it and now the pile looked a bit like a house. The table hadn't really done anything, it just keep standing when the rest of the house had fallen. She opened her brown suitcase and took out a blue tarp, a pillow, and a light-brown blanket. The blanket had always been light-brown, and the dirt had helped to make sure it stayed that way. But while the little girl didn't mind dirt, not at all, it did not belong on her pillow, and so she stretched out on the blue tarp under the table and went to sleep.
The little girl with brown hair always had the same dream. Well, it wasn't the same dream, exactly, because she dreamed it on different nights, but it was very similar. In her dream she was sitting in her cerise colored room with saffron drapes and cobalt trim. Outside the sky was almost periwinkle. The clouds were ivory. The yellow honey bees buzzed below her window, darting in and out of the the apple blossoms. The air was humming.
Then another hum, more of a low whistle actually, crept into the sounds of nature. The little girl knew the sound was coming (it had come every night for a long time now) but it was a comforting sound except for the way it made her feel. She felt terrible, but smiled in her dream at the pleasant humming whistle outside. The birds stopped chirping a moment after the whistle faded away. There was a moment of silence.
Suddenly the sky was a million colors: Girlsnberry, Crimson, Cardinal, Vermilion, Amber, Coral, Tangerine, Golden, Yellow... yellow and brown.
The sky was black. The girl was awake. It was raining outside her table house. She was wet because the tarp was funneling rain water to her. She had left a corner of the tarp under the sky. She was wet now, under the table. The thunder that had woken her pealed again. A different bolt of lighting had spoken.
It was still night. Cold and wet the girl had to stay put.
Chapter 2: The Doll
The sun came up, as they say. But the little girl with brown hair knew that the sun stayed put (more or less) and that the earth turned to let the morning come. But whatever the case, it was nice. She was wet and wanted to dry off. She found a bit of concrete that was still mostly intact, and lay down on it. Every few moments she would roll over to let the dark damp outline of her body dry in the sun and the other side of her to warm up. Within an hour she was mostly dry, as was her tarp. Her blanket was not.
With the blanket draped over her head like a shawl, the girl walked on. Her brown suitcase was darker and heavier for the rain. The sun beat down on her, drying the blanket and causing the smell of tractors to fill her nose. It was an odd smell, even though she has smelled it before: Part oil, part rubber, part hot. It was not a nice smell, but it wasn't mean either. The girl didn't exactly like the scent, but it was comforting in a way: Normal, usual, home. But she had never lived on a ranch.
It was a long way still. The sign said "61", but part of the sign was missing. This wasn't surprising because there were bits of just about everything missing.
There was no smoke, and what dust was flying around was from the wind. It had been a long time since anything had exploded, or burned, or moved. Everything was quite stationary. Everything but the little girl with brown hair and a brown suitcase. She moved at a steady walking pace, her bare shoulders a very pale brown in the sun. Her light blue knit sweater was still in her suitcase, as was her dry blanket. There were no insects, no birds, no animals around. Just her. She smiled sadly into her shadow as it slowly grew. The world was losing some of its brownness as it slowly went colorblind. Well, the world didn't have eyes, but shortly, very shortly, even if you weren't colorblind you might as well be.
It didn't rain that night. But still, the little girl, hair silver in the moonlight that made its way through the tattered wall, was not asleep. She held a grey object in her lap. The yarn was grey, the fabric grey, and the sock a silver white. Two black buttons glinted as the girl slowly turned her prize. It was the one thing she had "earned" from the little house squished between the others on the cobblestone street. It had lived, so to speak, in the brown suitcase--which was currently a black blob in the corner--for two months, and looked no worse for it.
A thin line of string made a very broad "U" across the sock under the black buttons. The yarn was a grey as well, not quite as grey as the fabric that rustled so softly it didn't make a sound. The object bounced slightly when it, with the little girl's hand, gently slapped against the tarp in sleep.
In her room, the little girl played with her doll. The dress was a floral print of Cherry and Cream. The mouth a thin line of Coral Red. The two button eyes were not really black, you know; they were a very dark Jade. The hair was Alizarin yarn, carefully stitched into the sock. Outside the world hummed until the whistle that was sort of a rumble had passed and all was quiet.
Small sparkling particles slowly drifted to the ground like snow, only the world was as wild with color as it is without when it does snow. Everything was so bright and cheery. Everything was so Orange and Red and Yellow... yellow and brown.
If the lamppost had been a sundial--which, of course, since it was a lamppost it wasn't--it would have been just past ten when the little girl with her brown suitcase wandered down the street and out of the small down. She walked down a brown road with small posts lining the way. Two small wires with pricklies stretched between them. The girl was walking down the road between two fences and didn't even know it. Not that it mattered much, since the grass was brown on the other side anyway.
Her doll was still in her arms, but was not the doll of her dream. It was certainly not a different doll, but all the same, it wasn't the same. It lacked the color of sleep, and instead was headed to the dull brown of sun-bleached dye.
The only sound was her feet as they crunched dryly on the brown dirt and pebbles. It was silent but not still. The sky was quickly darkening, drowning out the blue with the muddy black of storms. The girl put her light blue knit sweater on as the wind began to whistle in her ears. It was a whistle she had heard before, but it wasn't exactly the same, and it wasn't comforting. Instead, she shivered more from a chill of fear than of cold.
Dark, wet, and steady. Somewhere, far away, the sky rumbled like a giant who hasn't eaten in two days.
Chapter 3: The Door
The little girl with brown hair knew where she would sleep tonight. It would be a Forest Green cot next to a sooty wall under a small dirty window. She knew this because she had already slept there.
She wasn't far now. In fact, she could see the smoke rising over the next hill.
And as everyone knew, where there was smoke there was fire. But what most people took for granted, of course, was that where there was fire there were people.
The brown suitcase felt heavier, the sun hotter, and the hills steeper. The girl would have liked to have jumped into the Alice Blue water of a pool, even in her dark felt pleated skirt. But there would be time for that later. Now she just had to get to the smoke.
"Where there's smoke there's fire."
Down the hill she walked, just as slowly as ever. The street sign said "Broa", but it too was broken.
She could smell the fire now, and the faint smell of boiling water. Chlorine evaporating over the burning propane.
A man's voice called. It was deep, gruff, but friendly. 'Oh, please let it be friendly!'
Big hands had caught her shoulders. A large finger tried to lift her brown suitcase. No, he couldn't take it. No, she would carry it.
Now she was flying, on her back, looking at the blue sky, the sun was behind her, casting a shadow from the man's shoulders onto her. Before them was a door. A door perfectly lit by the Orange and Red of the setting sun.
"Oh dear Lord!" She heard a woman say. The sky disappeared to a brown ceiling lit by a harsh white bulb. Everything was white.
That was yesterday.
Today the little girl with brown hair opened her eyes. The Red "+" on the woman's hat was comforting, friendly, warm. The woman's face was kind, like her mother's; but it wasn't her mother, of course.
"Child," the kind voice spoke softly. "Where have you come from?"
"Cincinnati, Ohio." And she was asleep again.
The dream continued. Her house was squished between the other houses as they tipped over, fell, nearly collapsed. The colorful snow smelled of burned wet leaves, rubber, and the choking soot of too much wood burning. It smelled of heated paint, of singed hair, of death. The next day, the little girl with brown hair packed her brown suitcase and walked out the door for Denver. And that was that.