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The Silence of Sounds

They talked but no one listened

By Carl Dow

Image: Portrait of Carl Dow by Lena Wilson Endicott, 1995.
Portrait of the author, by the late Lena Wilson Endicott, 1995.

It was a private dinner for four. A doctor, an architect, a machinist, and me.

We had worked our way through the appetizer and were into the main course.

The doctor, a specialist in psychiatry, held her end of the table.

“I really shouldn’t be saying this. Confidentiality and all that. But since you don’t know him, and I’m certain, will never meet him, I feel I can speak openly without actually breaking our privacy code.

“The man arrived in my office in a state of heightened agitation. He said he was feeling extremely guilty because he had had an affair with a woman he had met in a bar on the way home.

“They had talked for a while. After an hour or so he decided to phone his wife and tell her that something had come up and he would be several hours late getting home. Telling his wife to go ahead and eat and that he would check in the fridge when he got home.

“His wife asked the reason for his delay. He said a client from out of town had unexpectedly arrived and that it was only polite to have dinner with him.

“His wife bought it. He went back to the beauty at the bar who was obviously on the make. They rented a room upstairs but when the beauty took off her clothes the man was dismayed to find that she was a he — a transvestite.”

The doctor paused there.

I was expecting someone to pick up the story with at least a question about what happened next.

But in the silence, the woman architect said:

“So when the old covered wooden bridge burned down we got together with engineers, and offered our services for free to the municipality. We designed a new covered bridge to the exact specifications of the old one.

“The result was that by the end of summer we had a new covered bridge spanning the river that looked just like the old one.”

The architect stopped.

In jumped the machinist, who is what is probably the highest paid of blue collar workers.

“The thing is that with the development of high tech the industry is no longer what it was when I started.

“When I started, you knew where everything was when you got into work. There was the lever that you pulled to fire up the machine. The work that you had left the day before was in its place.

“You knew exactly what to do. But today, it’s all different.”

I sat there cutting into my steak. Silently amazed. Three grown, seemingly intelligent adults, all having their say but no one was listening. However, they were polite. When the machinist paused, they acknowledged that it was my turn to speak by all looking at me.

I had a number of questions I wanted to ask of all three of my companions but I didn’t dare.

I shrugged compliance but said, “Yum. This is a really good meal.”

The Old Man’s Last Sauna

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