Noises

I have heard noises I could not account for, as, I suppose, have all of us. I simply categorize the noises as best I can and forget them. The other night I spent a couple of hours identifying a sound going round our neighborhood, finally settling on its being a street sweeper. The sound might have been something else: It might have been a Martian in a spaceship, or it might have been a freight train. But I think it was a street sweeper and let it go at that.

Kinross, on the other hand, would not let it go at that, although he was doing better because of our counseling. Kinross heard noises nobody else heard, or at least paid attention to. Although Kinross's need to describe these noises, actual or mythical, was lessening, he still came on pretty strong. ''Who cares!'' one or another of us more or less shouted at the onset of a noise description. If an attic beam shifted, a bolt on a screw loosened, a tree branch creaked, a bird lifted off, Kinross told us about it. But not in the agonizing detail he used to.

And Kinross complained about these noises at inconvenient times. At the symphony, Tuesday evening, he exclaimed, during Mahler: ''The clarinetist dropped his reed! I think it cracked!'' Now, if a clarinetist were sitting next to you or me, and he dropped his reed, we might, if we strained, hear a flutter. Yet, in a crowded symphony hall, Kinross heard that, or at least complained about hearing it. Heinze told Kinross to shut up.

After Mahler, during intermission, McKay and I explained to Kinross that, even if a clarinetist had dropped his reed, ipso facto, it would not be cause for alarm. If, say, half the clarinetists dropped their reeds at the same time, there might be cause for alarm, but even then it would not be the end. Kinross was quiet the rest of the evening.

On Thursday evening, at Civic Playhouse, he again got that familiar look on his face, although he appeared to be wrestling with the notion. ''Here it comes, '' Heinze blurted. And Kinross fussed about the ''crackling'' sound the hero's mustache made when he kissed the heroine. Heinze's threats stopped it. Later that evening at Kathleen's for snacks, Kinross only briefly touched on the tumult the earthworms were making in the backyard. He simply mentioned the fact, added a detail or two, and then picked up the thread of our conversation easily. I believe he did it regardless of the fist Heinze made. ''Perhaps,'' Kinross said, working on another hot dog, ''I do overdo the noise thing.''

It was Saturday night, and we were riding home from the museum in Heinze's car. The look came upon Kinross, but he blinked his eyes hard and it went away. In a minute the look came again, but he rubbed his nose and cracked his knuckles , and it went away. In a few minutes the look came again, and Kinross made that little whirring sound with his lips, and he began to tug furiously at his hair. He started to form words, but Heinze's eyes in the rearview mirror caused him to give it up.

It wasn't long after we left Kathleen off that Heinze's car shuddered, sputtered, and then stopped dead. I wouldn't want to say there was a smug look on Kinross's face, but I couldn't honestly say there wasn't.

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