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Town Hearing 177

by Megan Martin 7 months ago in Short Story

A Doomsday Diary Submission

I.

There’s something weird about the weather in my town.

I live in a place called “The N.K.” It stands for “Not Kansas.” Don’t ask me why, believe me, it wouldn’t have been my first choice.

But the weather here is…strange.

It thunders a lot. More than it rains or lightnings. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

I don’t think it makes sense to my mom either, but whenever I ask she always says “some things don’t make sense.” But I don’t think she means it. I can tell she doesn’t believe it. Adults do that sometimes, say one thing when they really mean another. My grandma calls it “nuance,” but, I don’t know, seems like lying to me. My mom is lying to me. I’d be upset about it, but I think it’s just because she wants me to stop asking questions when her head is in the oven, trying to get a fire going for dinner.

But I can’t help it if that’s when I think of them.

“Oh yes you can.”

“But Mom—”

“Dot, so help me, I will cook you for dinner instead if you don’t get out of this kitchen right now.”

I don’t think she means that either. If she really wanted to cook me she wouldn’t bother fussing with my overall strap and kissing me on the forehead before shoving me out the door.

I’ve never seen her do that to one of the cows.

II.

“Banished again?”

“Banishèd?! How hast thou the heart, to mangle me with that word—Banishèd?!”

“Haha! Where’d my granddaughter go? I only see Romeo, of fair Verona!”

My Grandpa’s my best friend. He always let’s me have first pick of character whenever we read a play together. Play’s are wonderful aren’t they? We’ve read everyone in the library. I’ll never understand why people stopped writing them. Anyway, Grandpa always does everyone else so I can really focus on my performance. He’s a real pal.

He’s an inventor too. There used to be a whole lot of them in town, or so he tells me. Kinda a club of sorts. But most of the members were very old, and have passed away. Grandma always said they died of broken hearts, since none of their inventions ever worked. Add that to the list of things that make no sense to me.

Now there’s just my grandpa and Mrs. Flaherty. Apparently they’ve been in a battle of wits for the past thirty years.

“She’s got nothing, I tell ya! Nothin’!

You should hear her go on and on about trying to make these glass tubes. Ha! For what?! What on earth would you do with glass tubes?!

Ha! She’s got nothin’! Nothin,’ I tell ya…”

He kept mumbling to himself as he walked back to the shed, his eyes glowing from the new idea that just lit up his brain. I love that look. I hope I have it one day.

III.

“DOT!! DoT!! dOt!!”

Boy, and people say I’m dramatic.

I glanced down toward the road and saw a huge ball of dust coming my way.

It was Sid. Of course it was Sid.

Sid is my second best friend, behind Grandpa. He lives two houses down, so I didn’t have much say in the matter.

Ten paces behind him, a tall looming figure emerging from Sid’s dust cloud, was Sandra as always.

I liked Sandra. She was cool. She was named for the endless desert that surrounds The N.K. Sand as far as the eye can see. “Vast and beautiful,” as her mother puts it.

But Sid, Sid was just Sid. Much in the way that I am just Dot. I guess poetry and deeper meaning fell out of fashion when we were born.

Wherever there was the fidgety, unruly Sid, and the loveable (albeit at times mischievous) Dot, the stoic Sandra was there, begrudgingly. Just in case anyone fell down or got stuck in a well or something.

“Dot! You have to come look at this right now, no time to waste, let’s go, come on—”

Sandra covered his mouth.

“Hi Dot.”

“Hey San.”

She looked back over to Sid.

“Thoughts collected?”

He nodded his head ‘yes’ and she released him.

“Dot, would you like to come look at the very cool thing with me, please.”

I turned my head back toward the house.

“MOM CAN I GO PLAY WITH SID?”

“WILL SAN BE THERE?”

All three of us responded in unison.

“YES.”

“BE HOME BEFORE DINNER.”

Sid punched the air in excitement and off we went.

IV.

He made us close our eyes for the last forty paces or so. But I could tell by intuition (and, ok, by peaking a little) that we were in the old town hall. When we were finally told to look, we were in a tiny, mostly dark, office. Dust and cobwebs everywhere.

“Sid, we need to go over what constitutes as ‘very cool.’” San lamented.

“Look closer!” Sid bugged. I had a feeling if we didn’t we’d be stuck in here way past dinner. So I did what I was told. I looked closer. I slowly surveyed the room.

There was a small wooden desk and chair to my left. A bookshelf on the back wall, and something covered in a white sheet to the right. I couldn’t tell what it was just by looking at it, it was just a lump. But who am I to judge? Maybe it was a very cool lump.

I climbed up on the desk chair. There was lamp to the left, but not like one I have ever seen. Regardless, I opened the desk drawer and rummaged around for matches to light it with.

Odd bits of paper, paperclips, pencils, but no matches.

I reached to the way back of the drawer and pulled everything forward.

More paper, pieces of chalk…and, what’s this? A necklace. A tarnished silver chain with a small heart dangling off of it. A heart that…opened? And inside—I didn’t really know what I was looking at. Well, I did, but I didn’t.

It was a picture of a man and a woman. Smiling, arms wrapped around each other, but not like any picture I’d ever seen before. No visible brush strokes or pencil lines. It was like I was looking through a keyhole at very tiny, but very real, people. Incredible. The woman seemed to be drawn with more care though, the man had a waxy quality to him, and his eyes…they seemed sort of dead.

But hey, I can only draw stick figures.

“Sid, what is this place?” San asked.

“I don’t know, isn’t it great?!”

“No…no I don’t know if it is. Nothing here makes sense.”

“That’s the cool part!

Like, look at this:”

He pulled a gigantic book off the shelf, bigger than any book I’d ever seen before.

He held it up and read the title with a laugh.

“ ‘Phone Book’, ha! What the heck is a ‘phone’?

And look! Inside it’s just names and weird strings of numbers –crazy!”

“Sid…”

I’ve never seen San look so uneasy.

“And this! Wait ‘till you see this!”

He walked over to the lump and pulled off the sheet.

It was almost like I wasn’t looking at anything. Like it was a magic, invisible lump. I had to squint to make my brain see it. I don’t know how to describe it…

And then, Sid did… something to the…something.

There was a small clicking sound and the room lit up. San gasped. I just stood there, eyes agape, as I watched the back wall transform, suddenly, effortlessly, as it gained a third dimension, as people walked out on to the stage and began to perform.

It took watching it three times through before I could register what the actors were talking about. I was mesmerized, I couldn’t look away. A play just for us. And at the center of it, the main character—the role I’d pick if I was reading it with Grandpa—the woman from the necklace.

The fourth time we watched it I grabbed paper and pencil from the desk and took it down as best I could. It went as follows:

TOWN HEARING 177

OR

An Argument on Telephones

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

HAL (Town council steward)

LIZA (Woman from necklace)

ANGRY MAN #1 (Angry; does not like telephones)

TOM WINTHROP (Head of Town Council; Honorable Judge)

CHORUS (Other members of town council)

ACT I.

SCENE.—Old Townhall. LIZA and ANGRY MAN #1 sit before TOM WINTHROP, the CHORUS surrounds them. Enter HAL.

HAL

Town hearing 177. September 12, 2342. Honorable Judge Tom Winthrop presiding.

TOM WINTHROP

Thank you, Hal. But just as a reminder, this is not a courtroom, nor is this a formal trial. This is a meeting of Town Council, and should be treated as such.

Okay, picking up where we left off yesterday with the “T’s”

Hal?

HAL

First order of business –Telephones.

The CHORUS erupts in an argumentative fashion. LIZA raises her voice to fight the noise:

LIZA

Motion that only rudimentary landlines be allowed, rather than banishing the technology all together—

ANGRY MAN #1

Objection!

TOM WINTHROP

Oh, for heaven’s sake, this is not a courtroom!

(Defeated) oh what the hell, on what grounds?

ANGRY MAN #1

Rudimentary telephones are a gateway technology—

LIZA

—Oh, you have to be joking!

ANGRY MAN #1 continues.

ANGRY MAN #1

—Are a gateway technology and should be treated as such.

The CHORUS cheers.

TOM WINTHROP

Oh, alright. It seems almost unanimous.

I’m sorry Liza, motion overruled. Telephones of any caliber will be recognized as illegal in this community, effective immediately.

More cheers.

LIZA

(In disbelief) Judge! You can’t be serious?! You can’t roll us all back to the dark ages just because—

ANGRY MAN #1

—Because what? Please, elaborate. Explain to the people why you hold telephones in higher regard to those we have lost. To those we have mourned day after day—

LIZA

—Just stop! For god’s sake, stop it!

You know what I mean. This—

ANGRY MAN #1

—No, I don’t think I do know what you mean.

LIZA

Fine. Ban phones, ban everything! Won’t do you any good. You forget necessity is the mother of invention.

ANGRY MAN #1

Then I guess we better make sure our people don’t need anything.

LIZA

Are you hearing yourself?!

ANGRY MAN #1

Are you? Why are you even here?! Who are you doing this for?!

LIZA

(Taken aback) … for us, for Kansas!

ANGRY MAN #1

Oh, Liza. Look around. Haven’t you gotten the memo?

We aren’t in Kansas anymore.

TOM WINTHROP

Okay, that’s enough! Both of you, sit down!

Hal, what’s next?

HAL

Toasters.

The CHORUS erupts in anger.

END.

V.

After the fifth time we watched it Sandra made us stop. The light fell out of the room and the back wall lost it’s dimension as fast as it had gained it. The players were gone, like they’d vanished from the universe.

I looked at my script and the necklace. I didn’t understand. I never understand. Ug!

“Let’s go.” San told us.

I shoved the papers into my pocket and looped the necklace around my neck. Maybe Grandpa could make some sense of this.

Sid was lollygagging as always, he had gotten distracted during the second performance, and was fiddling with another thing I’ve never seen before. A piece of bent pipe or something.

“Sid, put that down, we’re going home.”

“But San!”

“Put it down!”

They struggled for a moment, and then:

BANG!

The loudest clap of thunder I’ve ever heard, it was like it was in the room with us.

A piece of ceiling fell to the ground with an equally loud thump.

It was like it was in the room with us…

I looked down at the necklace and then back up at San. She had that look in her eye, like Grandpa gets.

“We’re going home.” She said.

***

Short Story

Megan Martin

Read next: A freak accident

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