Discourse On Discourse.
There are three of them: C, who is there first, waiting; and A and B, who arrive together, as invited. The space is dim, and empty except for C, seated in a booth, and a man behind the bar. A and B sit down across from C. C looks to the man behind the bar, who brings two open bottles of beer to the table, and sets them down on individual square napkins. Then he leaves. He is unimportant.
C, whose hands have been below the table, drops a fat envelope on the table and pushes it toward A and B. Her hands disappear below the table again. After sitting together in silence for several moments:
A: She’s eloquent.
B: A genuine orator, in the classical sense.
A: In the most classical sense. And ‘oratrix’, if you wish to engender the term.
B: I don’t.
A: And for that I am glad.
B: I could use her words to sweeten my cereal.
A: If we could catch her tongue, we could sell it to a jeweler for a fortune.
B: If we could catch it, but we can’t.
A: For it flies too swift, and too deft, for the likes of us to ensnare it. And that wouldn’t be the hardest part.
B: How so?
A: After the ensnarement would come the holding, and how could we hold it?
A: Enrobed as it is, in salivary lubricant.
B: This is the dilemma.
C, at this point, makes a puppet of her hand, and the mouth of the puppet opens and closes repeatedly as C rolls her eyes, and A and B notice this.
B: Our banter has become tiresome.
A: To one of us anyway. Apologies, of course.
B: A thousand sorries in a sack.
A: Our profession does not lend itself to the conversational arts.
B: At least of the vocal or linguistic variety.
A: Our methods of communication tend to be… non-verbal.
B: Direct. Sometimes brutally so.
A: And there are utterances to be sure. But they are of no formal language.
B: Usually quite informal. Even vulgar.
A: Frequently unflattering to both audience and speaker.
B: Not fit for polite company.
A: But this is just the auditory part of the exchange. The true content of our interactions tends to be transmitted through gestures.
B: Repeated gestures.
A: In a manner similar to, but quite distinct from, sign language.
B: Emphatically repeated gestures.
A: Lacking in nuance, true, but simple, and direct.
B: Directly applied to sensitive, yet unremarkable parts of the body. And also the face.
A: Always in the imperative.
B: At least our side. Their side rarely is.
A: Our conversation partners generally have little to command.
B: And many other moods to employ.
A: Declarative, sometimes. Interrogative, sometimes. Supplicative, mostly.
B: They ask things of us.
A: Such things they ask of us. Things we cannot grant.
B: Outside our purview.
A: The topics of these conversations tend to be narrow.
B: We have limited vocabularies.
A: These talks could, perhaps, all be boiled down to a single question.
B: “Will you?”
A: Though the form is merely a courtesy, as there is no actual choice to make.
B: “You will.”
A: But you already knew this. It’s why you invited us here.
B: No primer necessary.
A: Our small but expressive physical vernacular has preceded us.
B: You gave us a fat envelope.
A: So any explanation thereof is surely unnecessary.
B: Thanks for the beer.
A: Why then indulge us? Why not leave us to our work, and spare your ears our rambling?
B: I think she wants to engage us.
A: She is an orator. But she hasn’t said anything.
B: I mean, engage us in shop talk.
A: She is at a disadvantage there. She is but one person, and diminutive. The arrangement holds a cozy familiarity for me, but it would hardly be a fair debate.
B: Maybe she wants to expand the vernacular.
C slowly places the tip of her right index finger on the end of her nose.
A: There’s confirmation if ever I saw it.
B: A bit abstract, but acceptable.
A: The question now is: why would we want such a thing? In a language such as ours, less is more.
B: We aren’t Inuit, snow is snow.
A: What it lacks in poetry, it makes up for in clarity and concision.
B: There are no misunderstandings.
A: In our characteristic way, we make a statement –
B: “You will.”
A: – and they offer up a response.
A: Simplicity itself. Elegant even. Further elaboration seems unnecessary.
B: Ain’t broke, don’t fix. Et cetera.
A: Where is the advantage, where is the gain, in expansion of our lexicon?
B: Filler. Pleasantries. Weasel words.
A: Why invite misinterpretation? Why confuse complexity with complication, especially when complexity is so rarely needed?
B: We are simple men.
A: And we do a simple job, but we do it well.
B: With pride in our work.
A: We are rarely able to expound upon our craft so vociferously, so thanks to you, we feel indulged.
B: Like kings draped in purple and the finest jewels.
A: And your own economy of speech has been both an inspiration and a special gift that we will cherish.
B: Oh, you shouldn’t have.
A and B rise, and A sweeps up the envelope from its resting place.
A: But now we must go, and pursue the task which you have set to us, so that we might be worthy of the contents of this envelope, and its twin, once the work is complete.
B tips an imaginary hat, and A and B leave. C watches them go, and once they’ve been gone for a sufficient period of time, she takes one of the untouched beer bottles and drinks from it, still eyeing the door. The man behind the bar reappears. C looks at him, but says nothing.
2 thoughts on “Discourse On Discourse.”
I am publicly declaring my love for your writing.
Mizz Unsightly — as always, your compliments would warm the cockles of my heart, if I had a heart and knew what cockles were. As a token of my gratitude, I grant you “dibs” on the second-in-command position in the affinity group/pyramid scheme/quasi-religious cult I plan to start. (It’s really the best position to have, because you get to kill and displace me as leader if I drift too far from the “True Path,” which always happens in these situations.)