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Scallion, the color-coding machine, leaves its marks wherever marks were not previously found. Yellows and purples and goldses, armadillo and patriarch, orange, shiny, Lebanon.

"We had a war there, you know," and yes I say I do know, but who "we" is in this case is, as always, more difficult to tell the older we grow. Hair on the crown of the head replaced with longer hairs in less sightly places, such that everything seems to have sunk downwards, outwards, toward earth.

Scallion was birthed by our Aunt Hazel in a fit of anger one night when she finally realized (years after the fact) that Murder, She Wrote and Matlock were no longer being filmed and Andy Griffith had, in fact, been killed in Vietnam. She was so late in coming to this knowledge that she missed the phenomenon of Touched By An Angel altogether. That night she lay back right on Archie Bunker's rocker, more recently usurped for use by Frasier's limping father (both of whom were played by the always eager to wear old-people suits Billy Graham, before he was on Saturday Night Live,) and out came Scallion with software recently upgraded to a ripe old version of 3.35, service pack 2 included.

Scallion was quick to color-code many of her possessions, marking such things as her paper bags full of newspapers, her jams and jellies, her old lady shawls and afghans, and her full assortment of old lady wigs none of which looked any less like a dead animal on her head when she wore them (which was rare, to be honest, at this late stage in her life.) It also painstakingly tagged each and every window pane in her house with a small, teal square.

Dear Auntie Hazel, possessed of a singular desire to grouse and whine at the redundancies of the few programs she enjoyed watching on her ancient and deteriorating television console, was at first confused and immediately thereafter simply galled at this intruder from her nether regions' nerve in implying that her things were not arranged just so. Scallion tried to color-code the television, too, but was quickly disabused of the aspiration by her barrage of surprisingly well-aimed knitting needles.

Of course Scallion knew it wasn't wanted there, with her, in the place of its birth, and, being devoid of any human emotion, it quickly moved on to wider spaces where it could practice and hone its art. Houses, firehalls, street signs, fences, whole towns became acceptable targets for Scallion's rampant branding. Passing cars were marked hickory, mustard, plutonium. Screaming children had stamps of primary green applied vigorously to their foreheads. Doors of houses left open for years were from that time forward closed and locked, and marked with stripes of lemon and custard.

The unwanted and unloved machine grew large, bumbling, dangerous. Entire seacosts were splotched red with polka dots. The Tropic of Cancer was painted red.

It was something of which the family, and, by extension, our home town did not speak. No one mentioned the reasons for the locked doors, chartreuse bands across the windows, or the sienna speckling on the faces of the babies. Obviously we were ashamed of our cousin Scallion the machine, but it went deeper than that. We were left with deep questions about our own part in bringing about this monstrosity. In private we mumbled to ourselves about what past transgressions could have caused God to foist upon us such a hideous punishment. Always alone we'd wonder but never would we find answers.

Recently Maltheus Needs Garumond, a town recluse, characterized as either dumb and mute or loftily intelligent, depending on the person doing the characterizing, has undertaken the daunting task of cataloguing the categories represented by the patterns and schemes Scallion has used in its color-coding over the years. It is rumoured that to date he has a handwritten volume exceeding a thousand pages deep, painstakingly ordered, indexed, and footnoted. It is unlikely that anyone will see the work, as Maltheus Needs is, if nothing else, utterly repulsed by human contact.

We do not know what became of our Aunt Hazel. When we see re-runs of Murder, She Wrote, we tremble and do not speak, and we quickly change the channel.