Sunday October 2nd, 2016

The exercise:

Write about: the speaker.

Spent the morning with Miles while Kat and Max went to a birthday party at the park. He was fussy and generally giving me the impression that he has had quite enough of his cold and all this teething business, thank you very much.

I, too, am very much looking forward to this cold being done and over with.

The afternoon wasn't much better either, as he was only able to take short naps with his stuffed up nose. He seems to be down for the night now, at least.

Amazing what exhaustion will do for the guy.


You can tell a lot about a man by the way he speaks. The words he chooses, the order he places them in. Where he places emphasis. Where he doesn't. The confidence behind each word, or the lack thereof.

And accents. Even the smallest hint of an accent can say so much. What country you grew up in, what city, even what neighborhood. At least, if you have the ear for that sort of thing.

You can never know who is paying too close attention when words are slipping from your mouth. What their intentions are. Who they might be looking for.

That's why I choose my words very, very carefully. Whenever possible, I don't speak at all. It's safer that way. Let the loud mouths draw all the attention to themselves. That suits me just fine. I don't need the spotlight. In fact, I prefer not to have it. The shadows are a fine home, and I am comfortable there.

A man in my line of work, well. Let's just say that enough has been said. And, just a word of advice? Well, several words, if you wish to be technical. Either way.

Don't ask too many questions. The less you know about me, the better it is for you.

And the less work it is for me.


morganna said...

It sounds quite interesting
But attention drifts away like
Leaves on the wind.

Greg said...

@Morganna: I can picture myself both sat in a seminar room at university realising that the invited speaker is talking about something dull (and you've nailed it there) and also at parties slowly realising that all the fun people are in a different room. I like how flexible your poem is, and how well it captures a common experience for us all. And there's a certain lassitude to it that makes me want to smile faintly, turn away, and watch your leaves :)

@Marc: I hope Miles gets better soon, without you coming down with the cold yourself!
I find myself identifying with your speaker today, I definitely prefer choosing my words carefully and avoiding the spotlight. I like how their humility gradually becomes slightly threatening, but in the nice "don't bother me and I won't bother you" way. It's almost soothing.

The speaker
The watch on the dead man's wrist said it was noon but the drifting clouds of poison gas obscured the sky and if it was noon then the seed-planes would be flying with the silver iodide soon and bringing the rain behind them. The wind was cold and found ways through layers of drab beige and olive clothing; the heavy wool overcoats and rough wool undershirts were just too coarse to keep it out. Attica shivered and undid the watch strap with stiff fingers: a watch was a watch after all. He slipped it into his pocket and checked the other hand for rings. None.
The trench stretched roughly east-west and he was heading west. So far it looked as though the offensive last night had failed and the soldiers were all food for the crows over the top. There was a tiny room up ahead, fashioned from sandbags and a piece of corrugated iron for a door, as he got closer he could see it was splashed with the burgundy paint of war: blood.
He kicked aside someone's arm, and then a boot that still contained a foot. The door screeched as he pulled it open, and to his surprise a voice greeted him.
"Stop! Ich hab' noch'n'Waffe. Damn... Ich hab' so'n' Luger."
There was a click; the hammer falling on an empty chamber, or maybe the ammunition was wet. The stench of damp in these trenches had made Attica vomit when he first arrived and it was still there, an everpresent undertone of rot and hate.
"Deutsche?" he asked, walking in. Confidence, always be confident. The room was gloomy; there was a lamp on a tea-chest but it was weak light. The batteries must be low. Sitting in a chair -- the only chair -- was a thin man in an officer's uniform. Blood soaked the jacket and upper part of the trousers and he was as pale as a vampire. He dropped the gun he was holding.
"Certainly not!" he snapped. "Come on then, kill me."
Attica spread his hands. "I'm not German either," he said.
"Ah. So. A looter then. I've swallowed what's valuable, you'll have to cut me open for it."
Attica smiled at the man's audacity: he was clearly dying and still putting up a fight.
"Not a looter either," he said, acutely aware of the stolen watch in his pocket. "I'm... I'm just a Speaker."

Marc said...

Morganna - hah, I've been there before. Super interesting stuff being discussed, but just can't focus on it for whatever reason. Tiredness, usually.

Greg - thanks!

Fascinating stuff here. Great details and scene setting. And the conversation at the end... leaves me wanting to know more. As usual :)