I Dare Not Speak It, Part 2.

This is the second in a series of posts that constitute a piece of short fiction.  To read part one, go here.

That’s when it happened.  She helped him up, and he kept hold of her hand and pulled her gently closer to get her attention. He opened his mouth to speak and he found that he couldn’t… no sound emerged at all.  He tried to mouth the words, “I love you,” but his mouth just flapped unintelligibly like a landed fish.  His eyes bored into her with an intensity of purpose as he tried to speak again and again.  She tilted her head, a small crease of worry forming between her eyebrows.  George ran his hand over her hair and down her cheek, almost desperately, and still couldn’t speak.

The problem persisted.  Over the next few days, he found that he could speak to other people; he just couldn’t speak to Pamela.  He also couldn’t speak her name, or talk to others when she was in the room.  What emerged when he tried was silence, and if he tried to speak of her or if she entered the room mid-sentence, what he had been saying would trail off into a dry croak.  He couldn’t e-mail, text message, or page her; any attempts to type while even thinking about Pamela would dissolve into nonsensical strings of characters. With a pen and paper, he tried to write her a note, but his pen skidded across the paper leaving a hopeless, jagged line.  He saw doctors.  He saw psychologists, and speech therapists.  They all scratched their heads in wonder at the phenomenon.  One psychiatrist diagnosed the inability as a symptom of an anxiety disorder and prescribed some antidepressant tablets, but the pills only made George miserable and he remained sadly silent whenever Pamela was involved.  He would try and try until he was sweating, but if Pamela was around, he was completely and utterly dumb.  He learned sign language, and after a time, he found that he could sign quickly and fluently to anyone he chose.  Well, anyone but Pamela.  His hands froze in the air, clenched in desperate urgency.   He wept in frustration, but Pamela just took his face in her hands, and said, “it’s okay. I know.”

They continued to see one another, despite the difficulties posed by George’s curious disability.  At restaurants, Pamela would order for him, explaining to the staff that George doesn’t speak.  As far as she was concerned, this was the truth.  She had accepted the fact that she might never hear his voice again, and though the thought made her sad, as they spent time together she found herself becoming more attuned to the other ways that he could express himself to her… through small touches and through facial expressions.  She found now more than ever how incredibly expressive his grey eyes could be, and found herself in these quiet times better able to focus on them, and on his body language.

In a way, she came to treasure George’s quiet.  As the relationship continued, she found a sweetness in the silence, and she discovered that her attentiveness to him and his to her created a bond of intimacy that she had never had with another man.  She continued to try and help him, sitting with him while he struggled to speak, but when he seemed at his wit’s end, she would just put her arms around him and kiss his mouth, and he would lean into her with an expression of combined defeat and reassurance that she had never seen in anyone else.

After a time, they moved in together.  He bought a ring, and he got down on one knee and slipped the ring on to her finger.  She said yes, smiling at him, her eyes sparkling.  She couldn’t imagine being with anyone but him.  He could neither write vows nor read any at the wedding ceremony, but Pamela tried to explain the situation to their pastor, and they married at a chapel on H Street.  She beamed with happiness as the pastor spoke, and when George kissed her, she felt his hand soft on the back of her neck.  He kept her close throughout the entire reception, with his hand around her waist, or her hand in his.  They danced together and cut the cake.  The guests at this unusual wedding had become accustomed to their strange arrangement, and a few got up and gave speeches and toasts to the happy couple, and George’s eyes shone.  Pamela was delighted that they had been able to make the wedding work.

They had a small apartment in town, with two bedrooms.  They furnished it together, which was a challenge at times.  Some pieces of furniture had to be placed and moved and adjusted by each alternately until a position was reached that was acceptable to them both. Pamela never once let on if she was disturbed by his silence or his pointing and pleading eyes.  She would smile softly at him and simply say, “honey, it’s okay.  I know.  I love you.”

On one Saturday morning, Pamela found George standing in the kitchen in his bathrobe, leaning heavily on the counter near the refrigerator.  The fridge door was ajar, and the yellow light streamed out through the narrow opening.  She saw his slumped posture and rumpled hair.  It was a look she’d come to know, the shoulders rounded in exhaustion and his hair ragged from his having pulled his hand through it so many times.  His robe hung open and his feet were in mismatched socks.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” she walked to him, taking his left hand into both of hers.  “What is it?”  She looked directly into his eyes.  They were wet.  He slammed his open hand down on the countertop in anger, and Pamela jumped a little in surprise.  George grabbed a pen from the pocket of his worn robe and gritted his teeth, turning toward the kitchen wall.  He pressed the tip of the pen to the painted surface and drew a line.  He took a hopeful breath and drew another line, his hand shaking.  Soon the lines made a letter “M”.  George stared at the letter in disbelief, his shaking hand touching it gently, as if he were afraid he would smudge it away.  Excited, energized, he raised the pen again and wrote the rest of the word; “ilk.”


12 thoughts on “I Dare Not Speak It, Part 2.

  1. Miranda Wolf says:

    I thought the first part of this felt rather self-conscious in its descriptive style. That said, I found myself very immersed in this part, reading it like breathing and absorbing the words without thought. Really, just experiencing them.

    1. adrennan says:

      I’m really interested in this feedback. When you say “self-conscious,” what do you mean? What do you think could improve it?

      1. Miranda Wolf says:

        I feel like the descriptions initially felt a bit contrived and not as natural as I would have liked. I think that easing into description might feel better to me. Telling me too much detail about what things look like, or what they’re wearing, can tend to take me out of the story. The paragraph about their date outfits is probably the clearest example I can think of. The close attention paid to telling me what they’re wearing in detail *does* serve to tell me that they put effort into their appearance for the date, but it distracts me from the reasons they’ve done so. I think it could be simplified to focus less on the details of what they’re wearing and more on the fact that they painstakingly clothed themselves out of new date nerves and a desire to show themselves at their dressed-up best, perhaps?

        I hope this makes sense. I feel a bit inarticulate today.

      2. Miranda Wolf says:

        I also like the reasons behind this sentence, but think that it’s a bit clunky:

        “She was without makeup, in jeans and a sweatshirt, and her hair was pulled back in a simple ponytail, but her casual state of dress enhanced her charm, if anything.”

      3. adrennan says:

        This originally started as a 1200 word sketch and I’ve been padding it out as I post it here, so feedback is super helpful at this stage. It’s intended to read somewhat like a fairy tale, in that the story itself is the main character, if that makes sense. There are some challenges in writing something with so little dialogue, but at the same time I want it to be the very best that it can be, because I think the concept is wonderful and if I can get the execution down it could be really special. This is all detailed and really good feedback and I’m actually making notes on it. Thank you very very much.

      4. Miranda Wolf says:

        That was an issue I was having with a novel/story/thing I have been trying to write on-and-off for the last six or so months. It had very, very little dialogue, at least to begin with. The whole beginning is sort of a flashback, too, so I’ve hit the difficulty of transitioning from a third-person fairy-tale sort of writing to a more personal first-person. I’ve set it aside for awhile now and I should really get myself back to it sooner than later.

        I look forward to seeing where your story is leading me.

  2. sobriquetsorbet says:

    @Miranda – I find that with any piece, the first section of it is the hardest to write. Eventually there is a flow, but like the first season of a television show, the first chapters are where you fall into your rhythms.

    @Allison – This is the first work of yours that I’ve read since your Zombie piece. You have a knack for description that flows well, keeping the reader reading as you get to the action pieces. I’m invested in the characters, and the strange problem that George is experiencing. It’s imaginative and strange.

    1. adrennan says:

      Tina; thank you for your kind words. It’s true that most of the beginning of any story is set up and that can be difficult to make interesting. Part of the problem here is that I’m fleshing this out into around five times its original length, and the entire first post used to be one paragraph, so a lot of stuff got added in there. The feedback is valuable, and I’ll take another stab at it, I just want to finish this run-through first.

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