Leveling the Playing Field
by Rod Scher
For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.
"Listen," he said again.Final Thoughts:
I dropped my head and closed my eyes just like I'd seen Joe Bill do, and for a minute I couldn't hear nothing at all except for a few birds fussing in the trees above us and the sound of the breeze coming through the dry grass, and after a minute I couldn't even hear that. But then, real slow, the singing of the crickets raised up out of the woods behind me and their chirping sounded like somebody was scratching a spoon across a clean dinner plate, and past that, across the railroad tracks on the other side of the woods, I could hear the river running slow toward Marshall, and it was so soft that I wondered if I was making it up or remembering the sound of it just because it was supposed to be there. Then I couldn't hear nothing until I turned my ears to listen for what was in front of me out there in the field where the grasshoppers and the katydids hummed in the high grass. That was a noise I'd always heard without even knowing I could hear it, and when I heard it, I could finally hear what Joe Bill was talking about. At first I heard it like a heartbeat, and I felt it in my chest like a heartbeat too, like it was inside my body thumping up against my ribs because it wanted to get out. It made me think about the Madison High marching band at the football games and the marchers with the drums strapped to their chests and the feeling you get inside you when they march out onto the field at halftime with the batons and the horns and the drums and all that noise they make. And now I could hear other noises floating just above the sound of that heartbeat: the electric guitar came out over the field like a crackly old radio that wasn't tuned in good, and the sound of somebody banging away on the piano followed behind it. All of a sudden I knew that what I was hearing was music, and when I opened my eyes I knew it was coming from inside the church. I looked over at Joe Bill.
"It's music." I said.
"I have uncanny intuition unencumbered by the editorial reflex," he said. "I heard Dr. Abrams explain it that way to my mother when I pressed my ear to the door during one of their marathon discussions. My mother's response was, 'Where I come from we call that tactless.' Can you tell me what she meant by that? I have tacks. Quite a nice collections, in many colors. I understand that thumbtacks have fallen out of favor since the invention of the Post-it note, but my mother knows I am still a fan. When I asked her why she said I was tackless, all she did was sigh. Can you explain that to me?"On Fashion:
After Frank got the tape off his eyebrows, he'd refreshed himself with a pass through Wardrobe. Now he was wearing an outfit more suited to an afternoon's motoring: white canvas duster over chinos and a white shirt, leather aviator's cap and goggles, a silk scarf and old-school binoculars around his neck. He had his plastic machete stuck in his belt and his pith helmet under his arm. "Is that what you're wearing?" he asked.
"What's wrong with it?" I had on a T-shirt, Bermuda shorts, and tennis shoes.
"Of course you look like the Little Prince," I said. It was something I'd noticed when I worked in the kindergarten. On the days kids brought their favorite books to class, you could see the Pippi Longstockings and the Cats in the Hat and Courduroy Bears coming from a mile away. Bedtime Story as Destiny, I used to call it. And here we had another case in point: Frank, a snappy little dresser given to mood swings, scarves, and non sequiturs, just visiting our world from a small, eccentric planet of his own.
Me? Harriet the Spy. Of course.
Back in the car we decided to try the freeway for the full-on traffic experience, driving toward the jagged cluster of downtown Los Angeles with the mountains propped up behind it like cardboard scenery. Though the "driving" I was doing felt more like being parked in Omaha at the Seventy-Second Street Wal-Mart, waiting for the store to open for its post-Thanksgiving Day sale. The freeway was so packed it was hard to believe there could be anyone left driving cars anywhere else in the world.