SpliceOfLife1.1-Marbles

Demosthenes
The Muse asked me to ask whoever was sitting in the seat next to me if they would be interested in moving ten rows closer to the front of the plane so she could sit next to me. I think the wiry guy wearing the camo ball cap in that seat opined as how he figured he was just fine where he was. I flashed The Muse the no deal sign and settled in. “I gawt m’ shit up there dow’ here already.”

I never did learn this guy’s name. Never thought to ask. I secretly labeled him Demosthenes because he spoke as if he had a mouth full of marbles. Sounded like Amarillo, Texas to me, though he claimed to live in Arkansas; well, Ar-Can-sawr. I later learned that his father hailed from West Texas. My ear’s getting better.

I can’t report that I really understood a single word he said in that two hour flight. He spoke at a volume just below comprehension, yet I understood pret’ nar ‘vry thang he sayed, and he sayed plenty. I knew his story better than I know most of my cousin’s stories by the time we landed. His tale, more splattered and varied than his camo cap.

He’d wanted to be a test pilot, ‘cept you gotsta become a pilot first, and that just wasn’t gonna happen, especially when the marines went to all the trouble of training him then assigned him to a g’dammed ship. Key-ryst, they’d only let him off’n that tub onct; gave him a bunch of shots before grantin’ a single foreign shore leave. “I’ll tell you righ’ now, it weren’t none of my guys fault. Ten of us went into that bar and ten uf us came back out, and we didn’ start it and we were outnumbered. Only took one MP to arrest us all, and that was then end of ouer foren engagement, I garentee ya.” Laughter. Lots of self deprecating laughter.

I barely got the odd ‘that so?’ in edgewise, which I guess amounted to nickel enough to keep the stories rolling. I could see his lips moving and sense the rhythm of everything he said, though I had no sensation of understanding a single word. How did he do that? How did I?

Nobody could have chosen a less likely pair to draw two, me and him. He joined the volunteer fire company sos he could drive their new $300,000 fire truck. “I can garuntee ya it was one purdy machine, and it seemed like a fine ide’ until we was called out on a genuyne fir’. Wa’n’t no fun then.”

I maybe could fill a book with his stories, many featuring sideways encounters with the law, but it wasn’t the content so much as the sheer, unreflective personality they exuded. It could not have been what he said because he had a mouth full of marbles and I had ears filled with cotton and the flight attendants and pilot kept announcing how glad they were to have us flying with them at volumes that would deafen a stone. It was something else.

As the way-too-long noted author of the unfinished book, I was absorbing clues the whole trip. Maybe, I thought as I watched my Demosthenes’ lips move and his whole body amplify in intricate choreography whatever in the hell he was taking about, that the content perhaps matters least. Story exudes personality, the person telling the story; marbles inevitably clattering away, the medium and not the message at all. The message seems subtler and is never heard above the ocean’s roar, anyway. Storytelling is an inductive form of communicating. The words might not matter at all. We’ve all got a mouthful of marbles.

I told him that if the construction biz ever peeters out for him, he might consider renting himself out as a storyteller. He aw shucked me and turned his head away. “I figgure I’ll a’ways fin’ s’thin’ to keep me out of trouble and get in trouble, anyways.” Prob-lee, brother. Hopefully.

©2014 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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