Welcome to Marmalady
Over the road leading into the town was a sign bearing the legend: Welcome to Marmalady - Live Sensationally. The first time Mads saw that sign, he knew this was the town for him. Strolling along, Mads could practically feel the music rising from the sidewalk. He picked up the pace, rocking down the avenue taking in the dramatic palette of the buildings he passed. Electric, pastel, rainbow, prismatic, these buildings looked fierce.
Over the first several months he lived in Marmalady, Mads went walking every day. He had rented an apartment in the center of town. It sat over a shoe store; Mads enjoyed hearing the cheery bell jingle every time the door opened. The owner of the store whom he rented the apartment from had a bright, booming voice that could be heard from anywhere in the building as he greeted customers all day.
When he left for a walk, Mads would pass through the shop admiring the shoes in all different styles and colors, adaptable to almost any Neopet that came in. Hitting the streets, he would methodically walk exactly as he had the day before, taking one different turn each day, trying to cover every block of Marmalady.
Though his primary goal was to find a permanent residence, Mads was also just plain enamored with this town and each new neighborhood he found. The town wasn't officially divided, but unofficially different sections were somewhat grouped by color scheme. Main Street hosted a full buffet of styles, providing a sneak peek at what you would find in the winding streets beyond.
Mads simply couldn't decide which was his favorite. As he went through the town, each neighborhood replaced the previous in his heart. The one from the day before would get bumped and go to join the others, still resting below the surface of his consciousness, bubbling up occasionally to remind him that this decision would be close to impossible.
After three or four months of walks, Mads was no closer to making a move. He walked left then right then left again, taking the third exit of the roundabout before stopping at the latest crossroad.
"Yesterday was right, so today I guess is straight up," Mads thought out loud, resuming his jaunty glide.
The area around him was done in a pale, polka-dotted style, reminiscent of a seaside town with a light case of the Hoochie Coochies. As Mads continued up the street, however, the spots faded away. The buildings here were plain. It was a few moments before he realized he had stopped walking. He pulled off his sunglasses, gazing awestruck at the almost colorless area around him.
To any Neopet peeping through their window, Mads stuck out like a splotch of paint on a new canvas. This Disco Techo would have been bright enough in just his skin, but Mads rocked a curling rainbow of long hair as well. On this day he was fairly demurely dressed, wearing a dark purple outfit with bright accents that highlighted his hair nicely.
Mads never felt out of place anywhere. He had lived plenty of places with simple aesthetics like these in his life; he didn't mind standing out. His shock today was due to the incredible juxtaposition with the rest of Marmalady. Slowly he regained momentum and kept walking, wondering if he would find anyone around that he could get some answers from.
Eventually he did spot a black and white tail peeping up from amongst some evergreen shrubs. "Excuse me," he called.
The rest of a Skunk Kacheek emerged, dressed in a work shirt and overalls. He jumped a bit when he saw Mads, blinking like the sun had suddenly brightened. "Er, yes? Can I help you?"
"I'm new in town; Mads is the name. You live here?"
"Yes, yes," the Kacheek pulled off his gloves, offering his hand to Mads. "Pierrot is my name."
"Man, that's a great name," Mads replied, testing out the silent T in Pierrot. "So I've got to ask you, man - this street is so different from the rest of town."
Pierrot brought out his shears and began trimming the nearest hedge. "I suppose so."
"Suppose so? Man, the hues are so subdued down here, I might go blind when I finally turn back. Even the gardens are just one note - green."
Previously Pierrot had seemed mildly interested in Mads - it wasn't every day someone new came to this part of Marmalady and this particular someone stood out even from that small sample. Now his attention snapped from the shrub to the Techo. "I beg your pardon, but just what exactly is wrong with a green garden?"
Mads opened his mouth and closed it again quickly, realizing just what he had accidentally implied. "Aw, shoot, forgive me, man, I'm just feeling out of joint here. I got thrown for such a loop walking up on this street, and I don't think I've stopped spinning yet. These gardens are pretty special now that my eyes are clearing."
Pierrot narrowed his eyes suspiciously. He knew his garden was spectacular, but that was quite a defensive leap he had witnessed from "just green" to "pretty special". He sniffed in a dignified way. "How long have you been in Marmalady?"
Jumping on the change of subject, Mads answered, "Three or four months now. I've been taking every chance I can to walk around town. Everywhere I've been has topped the place before, but then passing back through a visited area I get the hierarchy all jumbled up again. I just love this place."
"We certainly try to live up to our town motto," Pierrot replied.
"Totally! I've lived a lot of places, but no where else has inspired me like this one. I'm an artist, you see."
"Ah," said Pierrot. He did see. "And then today you arrived on our street, only to find that inspiration had dried up?"
Mads hesitated. He didn't want to hurt his new friend's feelings. "It isn't that really; it's just so different. And I have to wonder how it got to be so different. Like, is this the point of origin for the town and the surrounding areas just got makeover after makeover? Like a tidal wave of color burst from the ground and charged through the town, but your street had an umbrella."
"Well," Pierrot replied, thinking it over as he talked. "I don't believe there was ever any formal decision. It isn't as if the town council decreed we all decorate in some agreed-upon way. It happened more organically than that; one person painting their house or planting glowing flowers or hanging extreme lights, then their neighbors following suit."
"Oh, I see. So no one in this neighborhood wanted to do anything exciting like that?"
The moment Mads finished speaking he realized he had done it again. He had thrown his foot in his mouth, brazenly stating something as fact that was very different from someone else's point of view. He opened his mouth to apologize, but it was too late.
"All right, let's get this one thing straight. We live just as sensationally as the rest of Marmalady, it just takes a certain type of person to see it."
Mads felt ashamed. "Really, man, I'm sorry, I just...I guess I'm not that type of person. I would be totally grateful if you would explain it to me."
Pierrot looked somewhat mollified. "Look at my garden." Mads looked. "You see 'just green'? Well I see dark green, light green, mint green, blue-green, pine, olive, forest, emerald, bottle," he stopped himself short. "The list goes on. Look again at my garden. Now look at the buildings. See the myriad shades of tan and gray, the subtle hues hidden in them?"
He did. Focusing now on what was in front of him instead of comparing it to the riotous color of the surrounding streets or indeed his own person, he could see the differences between each of the houses. It was no longer one big blah; this neighborhood came alive.
Mads quietly thanked Pierrot and let him return to his gardening. He had some thinking to do.
Retracing his steps back to the shoe shop, Mads saw Marmalady in a new light. What he had discovered in the "plain" neighborhood hadn't cheapened or ruined the rest of the town for him; on the contrary, he saw new depth in every mailbox and window shutter. Every leaf and stone had new color and dimension he was unable to process before.
When he returned to painting a few days later, Mads began to do "simple" color studies, focusing on one color at a time, seeing how many variations and saturations he could find and produce. Eventually he opened his own gallery on the main street and, because he couldn't decide which aesthetic he liked best, lived above it in the full mix of the center of town.
He named his gallery "Le Fou" in honor of his life-changing discovery. In Marmalady, in every neighborhood, he had seen beauty and found inspiration, but it was the subtlest palette and the words of a black and white Kacheek that had truly opened his eyes to the endless range of beauty and color in the world. Before this he had been a fool, blinded by brightness, incapable of seeing detail or achieving true understanding - of art or indeed other people.