No Talking

My brother-in-law’s parents were driving us back to their house and my wife Cheri was trying to fill in the empty spaces with conversation. What was most awkward was talking around my brother-in-law’s disappearance, and my wife’s sister’s strange behavior. We’ve been doing a lot of gardening lately, my wife was saying.

We sure have, I said.

We’re growing cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, marigolds…


Yes, squash. Tons of squash. It’s kind of taken over.

If you want any squash… I offered.

Oh, no, the dad said.

Are you sure? I asked. Because–.

Oh, no, we don’t eat squash, the dad told us.

What Monty means is he’s got a health condition that prevents him from eating… What are those types of vegetables called? Come on, Monty, it’s on the tip of my tongue!

Gourds? I offered.

I don’t like them. I don’t eat that, he said.

Well, that’s okay, you don’t have to, I said. We actually have many other vegetables that you’ll love. We have…

I don’t eat vegetables from someone’s garden, Monty said.

He doesn’t eat vegetables, the mom said. You never have, right Monty? Since you were a boy?

When I was a boy I ate them. I did a lot of things then. That sure doesn’t mean I do that now. That quieted down the car for a while. We were all lost in thought. I cracked the window.

Have you always lived out here in East Texas? my wife asked. But the silence continued. Finally the mom said, Monty, she asked you a question. When he didn’t answer she shook his shoulder. Then we started hearing these odd whimpering noises. I didn’t know where they were coming from, mainly because I couldn’t picture them coming from him. Then he drove onto the shoulder and we bumped along for a while before he came to a rough stop on the side of the highway. He’s taken this real hard, the mom said.

William is not missing, he said. I would have liked to see my face when he said that. At this point I was imagining grabbing my wife’s arm and us taking off across the cornfield.

He’s not missing. We took him back, Monty said.

You did? I asked.

Texas did.

Texas did?

Get out of my car.

Okay, I said, looking to my wife. But she stayed seated.

You mean he’s not missing? You know where he is? she asked.

I don’t. I have no idea where my son is. But Texas knows. Texas doesn’t let go of her children. She keeps ‘em. He locked his fingers together.

I opened my door. Okay.

A state, even a state like Texas does not take people or keep people, my wife told him.

Come on Cher, he asked us to leave, I said.

What? And be stranded out here in the cornfield? she asked. No, put the car in gear, Monty. You’re going to drive us back to civilization. NOW! Go ahead! Start the car!

Start the car, honey, the mom said.

I re-shut my door and it became more quiet. Then I heard the engine start up and we were rolling again.

He dropped us in front of an old drugstore in town. Then they all hugged each other but I hung back. Alright, let’s find a phone with service, I said when their car was gone. The clerk at the store looked just like our missing brother-in-law. You know, you look like someone we know, I said. My wife gave me a cold stare.

I get that a lot, he said. I’m a familiar face. He laughed.

Then I was with my wife out front sitting on the curb drinking sodas like I used to do as a boy in front of our store in Jersey. This tastes good, I said of the sugary soda. It actually tastes good for a change.

She had a cigarette going but she put it out. I don’t want to talk anymore, she said. Okay, I said. No talking.

We didn’t say anything as morning traffic picked up right in front of us. But a big smile widened on my face. It widened and widened until I finally felt good again.



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2 thoughts on “No Talking

  1. Sonny Long

    Great story, awesome characters and development. We especially enjoyed the abrupt, almost ambiguous ending. We’d appreciate it if you checked out our short comedy stories at our site. Thanks.

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