True Colors by Michael J. Murphy – FREE STORY



It was a beautiful, sun-drenched Saturday morning when 42-year-old Charlie Duncan opened the front door of his single-family home and strolled down the walkway, between the flanking rose bushes, to retrieve his newspaper. His back ached a bit as he stooped for it. He attributed this to getting older – not old, but older.

As he glanced at the front-page headlines, Charlie noticed his neighbor, Phil, looking at him strangely from the other side of the picket fence that separated their properties. “Good morning, Phil,” Charlie called.

“Good. . . Good morning,” Phil replied uneasily.

“Lovely day!” Charlie continued.

“It sure is,” Phil responded hesitantly, before stealing a couple of parting looks and walking off in the direction of his shed.

Charlie flipped to the sports page. “The Sox lost again?” he read with surprise. “They really have to find some pitching or they’re gonna. . .” He glanced up from the paper, shocked. He rubbed his eyes. Nope, still the same. “What in the name of. . .” Confused, he called into the house for his wife. “Claire?”

“What is it, dear?” she called back.

“Can you come out here, please?”

“I’m busy in the kitchen,” she answered him.

“It’s important,” he added.

Not a minute later, Claire, her hair in curlers, exited the house and walked to her husband’s side. “Did the Wilson boy throw the newspaper in the rose bushes again?” she said. “I’ve asked him to be more careful.” “N-No,” Charlie stammered, holding up the paper. “I’ve got it right. . . right here.”

His wife took the newspaper from his hands. “The Sox lost again?” Claire said, reading the headline.

“That’s not important,” Charlie responded. “The heck it isn’t!” she protested. “If they don’t find some pitching fast, they can kiss any pennant hopes goodbye.”

“That’s not what I called you out here for.” “Then what’s the problem? Our bacon and eggs aren’t going to cook themselves.”

“You mean,” Charlie continued incredulously after a confused pause, “you don’t see it?”

“See what?”

“The house.”

Claire was insulted. “Of course I can see the house, Charlie,” she answered him, “even without my contacts in.”

“Well?” he added, prompting her.

“It looks fine to me,” she said. “It’s a lovely shade of. . .”

It was then that she really noticed the house. The purple house. “What the. . .” she said, befuddled.

“That’s the point,” her husband answered her.

“Our house is white. It has been for years.”

“I know.”

“Then how. . .”

“I don’t have the slightest idea.”

Woof, woof, woof! Their dog, Dublin, barked from the backyard. Charlie whistled for him. “C’mere, Dublin!” he called out. “Here, boy!” When Dublin rounded the corner of the house, Charlie got his second surprise of the day.

“Oh, my God!” Claire exclaimed. “He’s green!”

Charlie knelt to pat his energetic emerald pup. “I know he’s an Irish setter,” Charlie said, “but this is ridiculous.”


“Well, Henry?” Charlie asked his friend, who was peering at the house’s purple aluminum siding.

“You got me,” Henry shrugged.

“What do you mean?” Charlie replied, not happy. “You sold me this aluminum siding five years ago. What happened to it?” “I sold you white siding, pal,” Henry answered.

“It’s the same siding. Look.” Charlie pulled back a corner. “You can see the original wood underneath. This is the stuff you sold me. Something’s happened to it.”

Henry paused before summing up the situation in two words: “It’s purple.”

“I can see that! Why else would I have called you over here on a Saturday morning?”

“What turned it purple?” “That’s what I want you to tell me.”

“Me?” a confused Henry replied. “Yeah,” Charlie reiterated. “Did you sell me cheap stuff?” “Never,” his friend replied, insulted. “Nothing but the best for my customers.”

“Then how. . .”

Henry scraped his thumbnail on the siding for a few seconds. “Hmmm?” he said.

“What?” Charlie asked eagerly.

“There’s no trace of white underneath. It’s like it was always purple.” He rubbed his eyes and continued, “I don’t know of a company that even makes purple siding.”

“What can you do for me?”

“Huh?” “I can’t have a purple house!” Charlie protested. “You have to fix it.” “It’s not my fault,” Henry explained. “My team and I put up good-quality, white aluminum siding. I have no idea why it’s changed color, but it’s nothing we did wrong.” Charlie was exasperated. “There must be a clause in my contract that covers something like this.”

Henry’s answer was final. “Uh, uh,” he said. “I’ve been in the siding business for 22 years. I’ve never seen anything like this.”


The salt-and-pepper-haired man who parked his car in Charlie’s driveway was wearing a military uniform adorned with many colorful ribbons. Never having served, Charlie did not know which branch of the service his visitor was from. The man strode towards Charlie with a purpose. “Excuse me,” he asked, glancing down briefly at a small notepad, “are you Mr. Charles Duncan?”

“I am,” Charlie answered.

“I’m General David Peterson,” the uniformed man continued. “My friends call me ‘Pete.’”

“Pleased to meet you, Pete,” Charlie replied amiably.

“I said my friends call me that,” Peterson reiterated. “You can call me ‘General.’”

“Of course,” Charlie quickly responded, taken aback.

“I’m with the Department of Homeland Security,” the General went on. “I’m here about your. . . problem.” “The house?”

“Yes, and the dog.” Charlie was incredulous. “You heard about my dog?” he asked. “We hear about many things,” Peterson answered. “Why would the DHS be concerned about this?”

“Can you explain why these things have happened?” “Well, no,” Charlie began, “but I hardly think – ”

“We can’t explain it either,” the man in the uniform continued. “At the Department, when we can’t explain something, our thoughts turn to terrorism. It’s part of the job. We need to be naturally suspicious.”  “Why would a terrorist want to change the colors of my house and my dog? What would it benefit him?”

“We have no way of knowing that at present, but those terrorists can be unpredictable little buggers. They bear watching. My gut reaction is that what’s happened here strikes at the very heart of America.”

“How?” Charlie asked, confused.

Peterson looked annoyed. “What’s more American than our homes and our pets?” he queried.

“Apple pie?” Charlie suggested. “No thanks,” the General replied. “I had a big breakfast.” “I wasn’t off– ”

“The Department has checked with the local meteorological authorities. We can find no weather-related reason for your problem.”

“I see.”

“We’ll want to bring in some specialists as soon as possible to learn what happened here,” General Peterson continued. “We’ll expect your complete cooperation.”

“Of course,” Charlie replied. “How is the pup?”

“He’s fine. Thanks for asking.” “His name is Dublin?” “Yes, sir,” Charlie answered, amazed by the speed at which the General changed topics. “He’s an Irish setter – a bright green one, but still a setter.”

“Have you tried giving him a bath? Maybe that’s all it would take.”  “My wife gave him one. No dice.”  “Still green?”

Very,” Charlie answered with a sigh. “Then power-washing the house probably won’t do any good.” Peterson’s cell phone rang. He excused himself and answered it before Charlie could tell if the ringtone really was “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“Peterson here. . . Yes, Sergeant?. . . You don’t say?. . . Yes, contact Larabie immediately. I’ll be back at the office in about 20 minutes.” With the beep of a button, he turned his phone off and then dropped it into his pocket. “Is there another problem, General?” Charlie inquired.

“Indeed there is,” he replied, somehow looking even more serious.

“Anything I can help with?”

The General paused to consider Charlie’s offer. “Are you a good American, Mr. Duncan?” he asked.

“Of course,” Charlie responded.

“You pay your taxes?”

“Every year.”

“Do you stand and put your hand over your heart every time the National Anthem is played?” “At every Sox game.” Charlie leaned in. “What’s wrong?”

“Can you. . . keep this under your hat?” “Of course.”

“That was Sgt. Hunnicutt from my office,” Peterson continued, his voice going sotto voce. “We just received a report from Washington: The entire state of New Hampshire has turned. . . blue.”


The President was already running fifteen minutes late, and the throng of reporters in the White House press room was not happy about that fact – especially on a news day like today. Finally, the Press Secretary stepped forward. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “the President of the United States.”

The President stepped out from behind a curtain and onto the stage. The click of the cameras was momentarily deafening, the flashbulbs going off, blinding. She stepped to the lectern and adjusted the microphone, which briefly squealed as she began speaking. “Good Saturday afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,” she started. “I’d like to make a statement before I take any questions.

“Reports are coming into the White House from all over the nation of sudden, unexplained color changes happening to animals, plants, homes, and a variety of other things. Wyoming is now entirely orange, Rhode Island is pink, and Kansas has turned a lovely shade of magenta – really quite beautiful.”

Concerned hubbub emanated from the press corps. The President did her best to ignore it and continued. “I want to stress at this time that these changes,” she went on, “while most odd, have not proven the least bit harmful to any living thing that has undergone such a transformation.

“Also, these occurrences are not limited to our country: Great Britain is now largely brown, Paris has turned a glimmering white, and Canada is almost entirely paisley. The Department of Homeland Security is investigating all cases in this country, and I expect to have a report from Secretary Morgan in short order.”


The phone in Louie’s “office” had been ringing off the hook all day. He had covered more bets in just a few hours than he ever had for any sporting event.

“OK,” he said into his telephone’s sweaty mouthpiece, “let me make sure I have your bets straight: 20 bucks that Washington, D.C., will turn blue by Tuesday morning, another 20 that L.A. will go pink by lunch tomorrow, and 50 that absolutely nothing will happen to New York because they won’t put up with it. . . OK, you’re covered.”

He hung up the telephone and finished writing down his customer’s bets. “I don’t know why all this is happening, but I’m gonna make a mint!” he happily said. “This is bigger than the Super Bowl.” He chuckled as the telephone rang again. “What people won’t bet on!”


The News 4 cameraman lined up the shot of Zebadiah Brown’s dairy farm. It certainly looked different from the last time he had been here. Back then, the grass was green and the cows were brown, not red and silver, respectively, like now.   “This is Bart Lawson for News 4 reporting from Shady Brooks, the dairy farm of Mr. Zebadiah Brown,” the reporter began on cue. “I have Mr. Brown here with me. Good afternoon, sir.”  “Afternoon,” Brown replied.  “I’m curious, Mr. Brown,” Lawson continued, “if the recent changes here have affected your business.”  “What changes would those be?” the farmer asked.

“The color changes,” Lawson explained, incredulous. “All your cows have turned. . . silver.”

“That’s true,” Brown replied matter-of-factly. “Has this affected your sales?” the reporter pressed.

“No, not really. The cows still give the best white milk in the county.”“Even with eating red grass?”

“Yes, even so.” He turned and looked directly into the camera. “If any of you is at all concerned, you just come on down to Shady Brooks, and I’ll personally give you a free glass of the best milk your money can buy – whole, skim, or two percent.”


Astronaut Gavin Mitchell looked out the window of the International Space Station upon the once blue-green world of Earth. Onboard instruments reported that 82% of the planet had now changed color. The surface reminded him of the crazy quilts his grandma used to make in her sewing circle. He glanced down at his own brown skin. When, he wondered, will I change color?


The boy looked out his bedroom window at the three orbiting moons. Behind him, the magnometer held his latest project in check while he decided how to proceed. The door slid upward, and his father oozed into the room. “Hello, Father,” he said. “How was work?”

“Same as always,” his father replied, the door sliding shut behind him. He looked down at the whirring magnometer. “You’re playing with that world again?”

“Yes,” his son replied shyly.

“I haven’t seen that one in thousands of years.”“Me neither. Mother found it when she was cleaning up the other day.”“Why are you bothering with that old planet again?” the boy’s father asked. “You have so

many new ones you can design.”“I know,” his boy answered him, “but, now that I see it again, I feel bad.”

“What do you mean?” “Remember the way it was: blue sky, green grass, white clouds? Boring! It was one of my first efforts back when I was little, and I used some pretty drab colors,” the boy explained. “Now that I’m older, I’m sure I can make it look much nicer.”

“It looks better already,” his father complimented him. “I like the orange seas.”“Thanks. Just wait until it’s done!”“Be careful,” the elder warned. “The beings on that world have been a problem since day

one – so much bickering.”“That was my fault, but I think I know how to fix it now.”

“How?”“The problem is,” the boy went on, “that I made all the people different colors: white, black, brown, yellow, red. That gave some of them the idea that they were better than the others.”

“So what are you going to do to fix that?” his father asked, eager to know. “Make them all the same color! That should do it.”

“Good idea,” the elder said. “What color?”

His son looked down at the world he had created long ago, the world that now so desperately needed his help. “I’m leaning towards gray,” he said. “What do you think?”



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