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"Why the Mouth," short story excerpt

Wednesday 10/12/22

Many times I have wanted certain words to come from mouths, and others when I wished they would not. Whether they ended up being the former or the latter has had formidable say in my life’s directions.

This is what I have believed, because this is how it has gone. That’s power. A friend of mine used to say “What isn’t?” or a variation thereon, when you’d expressed something that seemed distinct or new. Once we came upon a hotel, and I said, “That hotel is shaped like a ship,” to which he replied, “What hotel isn’t?”

There hasn’t been a single hotel I’ve looked at since that I haven’t tried to see as a ship. I can’t say that I see the shape of a ship very often as I look at hotels, but that makes me think my eyes still are not properly adjusted or trained. But there is no hotel I just pass by, without applying this manner of perusal. I try to see the ship, whereas before, I wouldn’t have tried to see anything. I also don’t ask my friend what he meant, for fear he won’t remember. It was a long time ago, but on the right days we can still call ourselves young men.

For the past hour, I have heard a soda can being blown by the wind in the city street outside. I assume it’s a soda can. They are more common than beer cans in the street. I’m just playing the percentages.

Each time the wind blows the can, there’s a sound of six notes of metal on pavement. The same each time. I keep expecting the sound to stop, but it doesn’t. I don’t expect the wind to stop. It’s that kind of day.

I expect the can to be blown out of earshot, my earshot, which becomes a strange word when the possessive is affixed. To have been sent on its way down the street. What must be happening is the wind blows it first in one direction, then back in the other. The wind is like words. Or perhaps the wind is like a mouth. I cannot help but be invested in this can. I don’t want to go outside and see it. I don’t want to confirm that it’s a soda can or stand corrected that it’s a beer can. Or something else. An energy drink can.

It’s uncanny that there are six notes each time. That must simply be the amount of wind needed to get the can going, with the can’s weight being such that it will then bounce and tumble a specific amount of times. I am counting correctly.

Do you ever say the same thing twice, meaning that thing the same way each time, except you hear it differently? Or you’ve said it a thousand times, and along comes this new time that invalidates the others? Do they feel as if they’re dead friends now?

The wind is like words. Or perhaps the wind is like a mouth.

That’s me trying out what I just said. I’m not sure it was different. It’s only been a few inches of time, if I’m measuring by the length of the page. Talk to me of shortness, will you? Sure, it means something. Which isn’t the same as what people say about too much shortness. The plethora of brevity. Life as an inchworm, when the inchworm has scrunched itself up and is not reaching for whatever inchworms reach. Apples? Or is that too ambitious?


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