Tuesday, February 21, 2017


BY Darren Webb

Orville lived a solitary life. He roomed at Ms. Fieldings boarding house, in a room on the top floor at the back of
the stairs. He had a separate entrance, which always shrouded his comings and goings in much secrecy. The children who lived in the neighborhood said you always knew when Orville was near for the foul whispering in the air that always followed him, like hushed crowds speaking in angry, muted tones.

Orville worked as an operator on the overnight shift at the newly founded telephone company. The work allowed him to have contact with people without having to physically be in their presence. But, the foul whispers always enveloped him. When he would answer a call at his switchboard to connect a grandparent to their grandchild or a sweetheart to propose marriage to his long distance love, the people on the other end of the line were always subjected to the murmur of voices, uttering horribly vile words. Orville would make the connection for the customers as quickly as he could and then disconnect his line for fear that someone would think it was he who spoke such horrid words.

In a way, the words were Orville's, for where most people have pores in their skin, Orville had in place of each pore, an almost imperceptible, drooling mouth. Minuscule teeth, tongue and tonsils that were all capable of audible speech, but only speech in the most low, whispering of tones. To add to Orville's horror, the mouths never said things like, "How are you this fine day", or "My you look particularly well rested", instead the mouths only spoke in single words, the most vile and repugnant known to civilized man, words that would make even the hardiest and most stout sailor wilt with distress.

Once a woman who called Orville's switchboard asking to be connected to the local orphanage so that she and her barren husband might adopt an unwanted child, became so overwhelmingly distressed by the verbal assault of Orville's mini-mouths, that she passed out from shock. Her irate husband picked up the phone from his fallen wife's hand, heard Orville's mini-mouths filling the line with verbal atrocities, all the while Orville himself trying to offer an unheard apology. The angry husband promised to inflict bodily harm onto Orville should they ever have the chance to encounter one another in a dark alley. This type of misunderstanding occurred often and sometimes the beatings in dark alleys did indeed occur.

At the end of his shift, soaked in what seemed to others to be sweat but, was in actuality, saliva from the drooling million mini-mouths and before the town would awaken, Orville would skulk back to his room on the top floor at the back of the stairs. Once inside his room, door locked, window shades drawn closed, Orville would strip out of his saliva soaked clothes and submerge himself in a scolding hot bath filled with bleach. He would stay under water as long as he could until his lungs would betray him, then burst to the surface, the million mini-mouths gasping for air, the abrasive water burning his skin. This was Orville's way of letting them know how he felt about their existence. Once they regained their composure, the mouths would assail him with their toxic lullaby of hateful notes. Orville would gradually drift off to sleep, knowing he would always be alone.

One Monday night, toward the beginning of his shift at the switchboard, Orville received a call from a young lady, who spoke in a very sweet, yet surprisingly loud voice. She very politely asked if he could connect her to the local bakery, for she would like to order a cake for her birthday celebration that was to take place at the end of the week, promptly at 2:36 on Sunday afternoon. Despite the young woman shouting into the phone, Orville found her voice to be warm and all enveloping. He felt as though one does when wading through a shallow stream during the spring bloom, a sense of joy, nostalgia and tranquility.

Orville was overcome and stammered in trying to find the words to reply, but his mini-mouths did not hesitate. They sensed Orville's longing and began to chant a stream of intolerable words of malice. The sweet, yet stentorian voice on the other end of the line asked Orville if he wouldn't mind speaking louder since she was quite hard of hearing. Orville laughed aloud, not at the young woman's hearing impairment, but because of his realization that she could NOT hear his mini-mouths and their putrid cascade of insults. He was beside himself with joy, for finally, this was the one person who would be immune to the verminous gossip that his pores produced.

Orville and the young woman spoke for hours and hours that first night and each successive night that week, their connection was mutual and adoring. At the end of that Saturday night's conversation, Orville asked if he might deliver her birthday cake in person so that they might meet and celebrate the day of her birth with a lovely cup of tea and a generous slice of white chocolate truffle cake. The young woman on the other end of the line was overjoyed, but a bit nervous, for they'd never yet seen one another. Orville's warm conversation, kind nature and sincere desire to be with her, won her over and she agreed to allow him to deliver the cake for her birthday.

That night, Orville had the most blissful sleep of his life, the voices of his mini-mouths totally drowned out by his excitement over the prospects of a new life a rebirth. He dreamt happy dreams that night in anticipation that his loneliness had finally come to and end at last, but it was not to be.

The next morning Orville woke early, dressed in his finest suit and was completely oblivious to his million mini- mouths cursing and gnashing away. At 12 noon he proudly strode down the busy main street to the bakery, selected the most ornate and delicate white chocolate truffle cake in the shop, had it boxed ever so beautifully. Orville was oblivious to people's adverse reaction to the cloud of cursing whispers that enveloped him, as he made his way to the edge of town to the large house on the hill, where the young woman with the loud voice had told him that she would be waiting.

The house was enormous, completely white and pristine with pink and purple trimming, looking itself like a giant cake. Orville's pores, poured forth their foul murmurings endlessly, but he paid them no notice. He arrived at the giant double front door and a formal butler answered before he could even knock. He directed Orville to follow him to a dimly lit, grand study that was adorned with balloons and streamers. A table dressed in the center of the room, set up for tea for two. Orville was instructed to wait there with his cake.

As the butler took his leave, he glanced back at Orville pausing slightly at the oddly foul cloud of voices surrounding Orville. Three more male servants joined the butler as he whispered suspiciously to them as they all left Orville alone in the room amid his cloud of whispering atrocities.

The study itself was adorned with rich tapestries, exquisite paintings, all quite grand compared to Orville's modest room at the back of the stairs in Mrs. Fielding's Boarding house. He waited and waited, when he suddenly noticed a mantle clock's second hand was about to strike 2:36, when the doors to the study opened and carried in on a settee by the butler and the 3 other powerful male servants was the young lady with the sweet, yet loud voice. From her appearance she must have weighed 800 pounds if she were an ounce. Adorned with silk ribbons and bows, showered in lace, gently gliding in on the straining backs of the butlers, Orville thought that her loveliness put all of the fine art in this grand house to utter shame, for he had never, ever felt like this before. Fate, destiny, love, compassion overwhelmed his entire being and his monstrous mini-mouths could feel it too.

As Orville approached his angel, the one who would rescue him from his lonely, aching life, his mini-mouths shrieked their vicious, mutilating words louder than ever before, desperate to shred Orville's chance at happiness, covering him in saliva, so he looked as though he'd just stepped out of a steam bath, dripping wet.

The mini-mouths strained and screamed as hard as they could, much to the disdain of the servants who could clearly hear
the vile words surrounding Orville but, still unclear of their origin. Orville set down the box with the birthday cake gently on the table as though it were an offering to a goddess, then haltingly took the hand of the young woman in front of him. They peered into one another's sad eyes, when Orville paused for a moment before speaking, still shrouded in the swirling haze of expletives from his mini-mouths, which went blissfully unheard by the woman in front of him. But the million mouths would not let his happiness be.

In the instant that Orville opened his mouth to speak, the mini-mouths all inhaled a deep breath and fell silent. Orville opened his mouth and instead of speaking the loving words he'd been practicing all night, all the day, all the walk over to meet his darling, instead of those words came the hateful, vile words that had surrounded him his whole life! They came pouring, blaring and involuntarily from his very own mouth! The sweet young woman's face recoiled in horror. The servants so wary of Orville from the start, descended upon him and violently dragged him from the house, his beloved, his salvation and cast him out into the street for his shocking cruelty. None of them understanding that
it wasn't Orville at all, but the million vicious mini-mouths.

He sat in a motionless stupor for hours, while the million mini-mouths laughed, and laughed and laughed as he just stared up at that house as the sun slowly retreated and another night settled in.

Orville stumbled home, covered in a haze of those cursed, taunting voices from his own pores. He climbed the back stairs to his room, threw open the door, did not bother to pull down the shades, disrobed and drew a scolding hot bath. The mini-mouths knew it was time for their punishment. Orville grabbed the 13 bottles of bleach off the shelf and dumped them all into the scalding water. Then he grabbed a wire scouring pad and lowered himself into the boiling water. His phone began to ring, but he let it be. Once submerged in the water, Orville began to scrub himself with the wire pad as fast and a hard as he could.  The million mini-mouths cried out in pain as the milky water turned pink, then deep red. The mouths shrieked, the phone rang and Orville laughed and laughed and laughed, until all was quiet. 

No comments:

Post a Comment