The Colourful Life of Calum McCall

The Colourful Life of Calum McCall


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This short story by Ron Butlin is much darker than the title suggests. Does colour always fade with time?

The Colourful Life of Calum McCall

by Ron Butlin

During the early years of his life, Calum McCall was surprised to find himself waking up every morning in a winter country of darkened tenements, black railings and streets of pitiless traffic. There seemed to be only one sun in the Scottish sky, and it wasn't even striped - which perhaps explained the look of perpetual disappointment he could see in the faces of the men and women who lived there. Every so often he tried asking his parents: 'What has happened to the multicoloured suns that used to bounce across the sky, and to the colours that trailed after like rain?'

'Aye right’, said his dad. 'Elbows off the table,' said his mother. At school his teacher told him to sit up straight and pay attention — that way he would get ahead. When he fell in love for the first time he told the girl — she was called Alice — that her kisses brought back all the colours he had known so early on, and which were now faded almost to nothing in his memory. Alice said he was sweet, and a few months later she got engaged to an up-and-coming dentist. Years later, Calum married and had children of his own. One day his baby son pointed at the sky and gurgled with pleasure. Calum followed the pointing finger, but could see nothing particularly special up there - nothing that was visible to him, anyway.

That night he slept badly for the first time. Now that he was in a position of responsibility, he could not afford to turn up at his office dishevelled with lack of sleep, not among his ambitious colleagues. His doctor gave him a packet of brightly coloured pills. Every morning now, Calum is up early, ready for the day ahead. Every night, he slips from one utterly dreamless world into the next.

© Ron Butlin 2007
From ‘No More Angels’
Published by Serpent’s Tail 2007
ISBN 978-1-85242-954-6

This story was selected as part of the BritLit project. To find out more about BritLit visit our TeachingEnglish site.

Total votes: 380


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What are your favourite colours? Do different colours make you feel happier or sadder?


Bosnianchild's picture

My favorite colour is yellow beucase one of my favourite character from cartoons was yellow.It was Lala from Teletubbies.Now I have 14 years,but I still love yellow and Lala. :)

27 users have voted.
Jona's picture

My favourite colours:
-navy blue
-cobalt blue
I actually like all colours(well almost).They add happiness to my life and kind of boost my confidence,
make me feel better.

30 users have voted.
Jona's picture

Hi Maline!
My favourite colour is purple in all the different tones and shades.To me it's the most beautiful colour.
It says a lot of things...

34 users have voted.
Natalija's picture

I like red, pink, gray and dark blue. I believe that colors can really influence our mood. When I'm optimistic, I like to wear pink, it makes me feel better about the world. And when I'm pessimistic, I usually wear gray or black. And dark blue for elegant occasions. I don't like yellow, orange and brown.

33 users have voted.
Beauty2705's picture

I like purple...i used to like blue when I was small...I like colours...they make the world so beautiful and make me smile... :)
That is why people smile when they see a rainbow...I have always wanted to see a rainbow...I have only seen a small one 2-3 times..
I like all the brightly coloured flowers and birds...they make me bloom too.

48 users have voted.
JoEditor's picture

Hi Beauty2705 - thanks for your comment. I had to reply to tell you that just yesterday I saw the best rainbow I've even seen! It was a full rainbow and on one side it was double! I couldn't believe my eyes. I took a photo, but it didn't show the rainbow very well. I'm happy to see that you're enjoying using our web site.
Best wishes and I hope you'll see a really good rainbow soon! Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

53 users have voted.