Saturday, March 11, 2017

Short Story, "The Finer Points of Communication"

I originally wrote this back in March of 2009.  I had to go thru and fix the grammar, but otherwise this is the same story as before.  Hopefully you find it entertaining.

The Finer Points of Communication
There is a slow guy banging his helmeted head against the wall at the base of my stairwell.  Like the ticking of a metronome he keeps perfect time.  “This is making me really uncomfortable.”
“Imagine how he feels,” Terry says with his usual know-it-all-ness.
“I don’t imagine he feels much at all,” I have always been put off by people with disabilities.  “He keeps doing it.”
“You say that,” replied Terry.  “Try and put yourself in his place.”
“Let’s see,” I put my fist to my temple and begin to tap with my knuckles in steady rhythm.  “I don’t feel any thoughts, great or small coming on.”
“No, don’t just monkey-see-monkey-do and expect the reason to come from that,” said Terry.  I didn’t really get what he was trying to say and he continued.  “If you see a man standing in front of a microwave with an empty food box in his hands counting backwards, you don’t stand there counting backwards and expect the meaning of life.”
“So you’re saying that this guy is waiting for something, and we just can’t see what that is?” I really didn’t want a life lesson, but if I waited, maybe he would get tired of trying to explain it to me.  “Or the head thumping is… What, his imagination’s rotation plate?”
“See, you’re doing the monkey-see thing again,” he said.  “You just parrot and imitate and expect the answer to come from the action of duplication.”
“Well, Terry, you aren’t being very clear about this,” I said, now getting a little upset with him.
“Okay look at it like this,” he looked up, imagining some chart and bullet points in his head to help him explain.  “A ballet has dancers, right?”
“And dancers dance, right?”
“Okay, if you are going to be a jackass—”
“No listen,” Terry took a second to pick his words, and I guess let the arrogance build in his tone, because the next thing he said sounded like he was explaining something to a child.  “A ballet has dancers who dance, but the guy who created the show wants to tell a story, now, if you just imitate the dancers, jumping and flipping, doing it without context and without an idea to guide it, then you won’t know what the ballet is about, you’ll just be jumping around.”
“So, I’m just jumping around guessing what the head banging is by imitating it.”
“Yeah,” said Terry.  “What you don’t see is the director and dance instructor.”
“Now that head banging is this guy’s ballet,” Terry continued.  “A minimalist dance routine for sure, but what do you think the message to his movements is.”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, you know the setting, you know the movements, you know what the typical audience is, and you know that the guy down there doesn’t have an audience.”
“So an unpopular guy sits in a stairwell, banging his head on the wall, and in doing so he is trying to tell us something.”
“And, he could be trying to tell us all something, and be bad at it, or the show is over our heads.”
“Okay Terry, so what is he trying to tell us?  What does his show mean?”
“I don’t know,” replied Terry.  “How about we go ask?”
Terry and I walked down the stairs, and as we got closer, the guy in the helmet stopped and turned to us.  He said, “Can you help me, I think I’m lost.”
And I said, “Oh, god.  Yeah, of course.”

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