Excerpt of Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
(Page 2 of 7)
Printer Friendly Excerpt
Dad and I bartered like this for a while, and he eventually agreed to
visit all of the towns attractions but in a circular manner, to save on shoe
leather. The rabbit came last, after the color garden.
So, having conceded to at least include the rabbit in the mornings entertainment,
Dad returned to his toast, tea and copy of Spectrum as I looked
idly about the shabby breakfast room, seeking inspiration for the postcard
I was writing. The Green Dragon dated from before the Epiphany and, like
much of the Collective, had seen many moments, each of them slightly
more timeworn than the one before. The paint in the room was peeling,
the plaster molding was dry and crumbly, the linoleum tabletops were
worn to the canvas and the cutlery was either bent, broken or missing.
But the hot smell of toast, coffee and bacon, the flippant affability of the
staff and the noisy chatter of strangers enjoying transient acquaintance
gave the establishment a peculiar charm that the reserved, eminently
respectable tearooms back home in Jade- under- Lime could never match.
I noticed also that despite the lack of any Rules regarding seat plans in
non- hue- specific venues, the guests had unconsciously divided the
room along strictly Chromatic lines. The one Ultraviolet was respectfully
given a table all to himself, and several Greys stood at the door waiting
patiently for an empty table even though there were places available.
We were sharing our table with a Green couple. They were of mature
years and wealthy enough to wear artificially green clothes so that
all could witness their enthusiastic devotion to their hue, a proudfully
expensive and tastelessly ostentatious display that was doubtless
financed by the sale of their child allocation. Our clothes were dyed in
a conventional shade visible only to other Reds, so to the Greens sitting
opposite we had only our Red Spots to set us apart from the Greys, and
were equally despised. When they say red and green are complementary,
it doesnt mean we like each other. In fact, the only thing that Reds and
Greens can truly agree on is that we dislike Yellows more.
You, said the Green woman, pointing her spoon at me in an exceptionally
rude manner, fetch me some marmalade.
I dutifully complied. The Green womans bossy attitude was not atypical.
We were three notches lower in the Chromatic scale, which officially
meant we were subservient. But although lower in the Order, we were
still Prime within the long- established Red- Yellow- Blue Color Model,
and a Red would always have a place in the village Council, something
the Greens, with their bastard Blue- Yellow status could never do. It irritated
them wonderfully. Unlike the dopey Oranges, who accepted their
lot with a cheery, self- effacing good humor, Greens never managed to
rise above the feeling that no one took them seriously enough. The reason
for this was simple: They had the color of the natural world almost exclusively to themselves, and felt that the scope of their sight- gift should
reflect their importance within the Collective. Only the Blues could even
begin to compete with this uneven share of the Spectrum, as they owned
the sky, but this was a claim based mainly on surface area rather than a
variety of shades, and when it was overcast, they didnt even have that.
But if I thought she was ordering me about solely due to my hue, I was
mistaken. I was wearing a NEEDS HUMILITY badge below my Red Spot. It related
to an incident with the head prefects son, and I was compelled to wear it
for a week. If the Green woman had been more reasonable, she would have
excused me the errand due to the prestigious 1,000 MERITS badge that I also
wore. Perhaps she didnt care. Perhaps she just wanted the marmalade.
I fetched the jar from the sideboard, gave it to the Green, nodded
respectfully, then returned to the postcard I was writing. It was of Vermillions
old stone bridge and had been given a light blue wash in the
sky for five cents extra. I could have paid ten and had one with greened
grass, too, but this was for my potential fiancée, Constance Oxblood, and
she considered overcolorization somewhat vulgar. The Oxbloods were
strictly old- color and preferred muted tones of paint wherever possible,
even though they could have afforded to decorate their house to the
highest chroma. Actually, much to them was vulgar, and that included
the Russetts, whom they regarded as nouveau couleur. Hence my status as
potential fiancé. Dad had negotiated what we called a half promise,
which meant I was first- optioned to Constance. The agreement fell short
of being reciprocal, but it was a good deal a concession that, despite
being a Russett and three generations from Grey, I might be able to see a
goodly amount of red, so couldnt be ignored completely.
Excerpted from Shades of Grey
by Jasper Fforde. Copyright © 2009 by Jasper Fforde.
Excerpted by permission of Viking. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.