Those Unheard Are Sweeter

By on Oct 18, 2020 in Fiction

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Colorful dream over restaurant table

“Where do you go?”

The question echoes in my mind as if sounding through a cavern. It’s annoying as an alarm clock. If I could only swat a snooze button and silence the interruption.

“Dear,” my wife says with fading patience, “the Millers drove all this way to meet us, and you’re ignoring them.”

I snap out of it and recognize Bailey’s Tabard Inn, the restaurant that my wife, Barbara, and I frequent. At the table sits another couple, Alison and Geoffrey Miller. I work with Geoff at the university. In fact, we share an office because we’re literature professors. He specializes in Medieval writers such as Chaucer while I favor Romantic Age poets from Wordsworth to Keats.

Geoff Miller grins and says, “I’m used to James’s drifting off.”

Geoff brushes unpleasantness aside with grace because he is an amiable person, someone wo accepts the grand parade of life, and I appreciate how he tries to lighten a situation that currently and chronically upsets my wife.

“I’ve seen him with a stack of students’ papers,” Miller says with a smile, “and James will just sit with his chin in his hand, gazing out the window. I have to call him two or three times before he acknowledges me.” I wince while the three of them laugh.

Soon, a young, pretty waitress stops by to take our drink and food orders.

“James, let’s try the amber ale,” Geoff says. “I heard that it’s locally brewed.”

“Sounds good.”

“I’ll have a white zinfandel,” Barbara tells the waitress.

Alison says, “Make mine a merlot.”

Ah, for a beaker full of the warm south that I might drink and quite forget. The waitress flashes a dazzling smile before trotting off. Barbara and Alison eye each other after measuring the young girl. Discreetly, Alison adjusts the cleavage dip of her dress.

To be sure, Geoff and his wife Alison, even in middle age, are an attractive couple. My colleague’s salt and pepper hair creates an aura of imminence, and Geoff keeps physically fit with his daily walking excursions and his weekly pilgrimage to the university’s gym. He favors oxford shirts, wool vests, and tweed jackets. To his left is Alison, who has remarkably maintained her attractive charms. There’s always been something downright sensual about Alison, with her full red lips and hooded blue eyes. Yet, she carries herself like a simple farm girl. A blonde, buxom, mischievous beauty. Tonight she has packed herself nicely into a black, sleeveless, low-cut dress.

Barbara, my wife, was never a glamor girl; however, she was always appealing. How to describe her physically? Competent. Yes, I suppose that’s the bet word because it fits her looks and her nature. I, of course, was never and am not now a prize attraction. Short, balding, and waist-expanding—plain James. I’m lucky to have Barbara, even when she asks, Where do you go? A good question. I understand her concern. Dreamy behavior is either eccentric or rude. I’m no near wealthy enough to be eccentric. Barbara wants me to be “fully present” at all times, but I don’t see why. I manage things around the house. In the parental past I attended our children’s activities—well, most of them. I have always earned a steady salary. I admit, though, I am never fully present. Can you imagine how painful that would be—to be completely aware of every mundane moment? And what, for example, are the three of them talking about now? The weather!

“I like when the temperature drops,” Geoff says. “I’m so tired of hot summer days.”

Alison says, “It’s nice to have a nip in the air. And for whatever reason, I like the feel of fresh-milled flour and the smell of baking things when the temperature turns.”

“For me, I’ll take summer all year.” Barbara makes a prickly face. “I hate heavy snows and wild winds.”

(continued on page 2)

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Thomas DeConna spent the first half of his life in New Jersey and the second half in Colorado. He taught English for thirty-nine years. He and his wife look forward to traveling through fair weather or foul, whatever life’s journey presents.