Merchant

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Her booth is in an alley, back behind the dumpsters. She doesn’t like me to come very often, especially since she knows I only buy once a week. I don’t have money for more, but it’s hard to stay away.

I don’t have anywhere else to go.

The streets around her are gray, gray as soot and ashes. The sky is gray. The trees are dead.

The only life left in this dead city is in her alley, and she doesn’t like me to come. Not unless I bring my money with me.

She’s been arrested a few times. They put her in jail for three days once, and I was the only who came to see her, brought her an extra blanket, some food. Harassment, the officers told her. And selling without a license. They told her to stop, but she won’t.

Not while she still has some color left.

I bought crimson last week. I buy every Monday, and the color doesn’t fade until almost Saturday night if I’m careful. If I don’t waste it. Color doesn’t last long in our gray city. It drains away, fades in the cold wind, but I always buy it anyway. A new color every week.

She’s waiting when I get there, and I show her my money first. She smiles at me then, half her teeth missing, the others rotted. She likes to see me when I really do have money, when I come to buy. She doesn’t mind me then. “What’ll it be this week?” she asks, and her voice is as gray as the rest of my world.

“Green,” I tell her. “Forest green.”

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