Excerpt of Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
(Page 3 of 7)
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Writing to Fish- face already? asked my father with a smile. Her
memorys not that bad.
True, I conceded, but despite her name, constancy is possibly her
least well- defined attribute.
Ah. Roger Maroon still sniffing about?
As flies to stinkwort. And you mustnt call her Fish- face.
More butter, remarked the Green woman, and dont dawdle this
We finished breakfast and, after some last- minute packing, descended
to the reception desk, where Dad instructed the porter to have our suitcases
delivered to the station.
Beautiful day, said the manager as we paid the bill. He was a thin man with a finely shaped nose and one ear. The loss of an ear was not unusual,
as they could be torn off annoyingly easily, but what was unusual was
that hed not troubled to have it stitched back on, a relatively straightforward
procedure. More interesting, he wore his Blue Spot high up on his
lapel. It was an unofficial but broadly accepted signal that he knew how
to fix things, for a fee. Wed had crayfish for dinner the night before,
and he hadnt punched it out of ration books. It had cost us an extra half
merit, covertly wrapped in a napkin.
Every day is a beautiful day, replied my father in a cheery manner.
Indeed they are, the manager countered genially. After we had
exchanged feedback on the hotel for being clean and moderately comfortable,
and on us, for not bringing shame to the establishment by poor
table manners or talking loudly in public areas he asked, Do you
travel far this morning?
Were going to East Carmine.
The Blues manner changed abruptly. He gave us an odd look, handed
back our merit books and wished us a joyously uneventful future before
swiftly moving to attend someone else. So we tipped the porter, reiterated
the time of our train and headed off to the first item on our itinerary.
Hmm, said my father, staring at the Badly Drawn Map once we had
donated our ten cents and shuffled inside the shabby yet clean maphouse,
I cant make head nor tail of this.
The Badly Drawn Map might not have been very exciting, but it was
very well named. Thats probably why it survived the deFacting, I suggested,
for the map was not only mystifying but mind- numbingly rare.
Aside from the Parker Brothers celebrated geochromatic view of the Previous
World, it was the only pre- Epiphanic map known. But somehow
its rarity wasnt enough to make it interesting, and we stared blankly for
some minutes at the faded parchment, hoping to either misunderstand
it on a deeper level or at least get our moneys worth.
The longer and harder we look at it, the cheaper the entrance donation
becomes, Dad explained.
I thought of asking how long wed have to stare at it before they owed
us money, but didnt.
He put his guidebook away, and we walked back out into the warm
sunlight. We felt cheated out of our ten cents but politely left positive
feedback, since the drabness of the exhibit was no fault of the curators.
Why was the hotel manager so dismissive of East Carmine?
The Outer Fringes have a reputation for being unsociably dynamic,
he said after giving my question some thought, and some consider that
eventfulness may lead to progressive thought, with all the attendant
risks that might bring to the Stasis.
It was a diplomatically prescient remark, and one that I had cause to
consider a lot over the coming days.
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.