Thursday, 24 July 2014

E.T Phoneme Home - Friday Flash

It certainly wasn’t my intention to overhear what the two men at the table next to me were saying. They’d been there for an age jawing away without me picking up on anything. But when I sneezed it hurtled me into their conversation. Or rather it thrust their conversation into me.

I guess my head was propelled towards them by my whole body spasm into the expulsion and that put me within range of clearer articulation. But the crescendo and uneven modulation of the assault of my sneeze upon my own ears, meant that I only grasped the merest snatch of their exchange. Just two words that emerged somewhere between my head jagging forward and the fluctuating percussion of the sneeze, which thereby rendered the words random. Certainly ripped from their context placed within the rest of the sentence.

The two words were “rude” and “ire”. I say words, but I far more credit them to have been syllables. I mean who uses “ire” in everyday speech these days? And by the same logic, I have to hope and trust the same applies to “rude”, otherwise I fear they were discussing me and labelling me thus. Wholly without justification, since despite the ambush of the snout salvo, my reflexes were such that I managed to whip out my handkerchief and safely snaffle the discharge.

Even though I was averse to, my mind involuntarily begun trying to surmise what the full words might had been. It fixed on the “ire”, perhaps because that was indisputably a snapped off longer form, or maybe it didn’t want to dwell on the possibility that “rude” was delivered as it was meant. “Fire”, “hire”, “retire”, “acquire”, “conspire”, it could conceivably have been any of these. It might not even have been a word containing the lexeme “ire”, but as a homophone could very easily have been “liar”, “flier”, "pyre", “briar”, “supplier”, “buyer”, “prior”, “friar”, although I think that last one is likely to be an outlier. Normally one would have the added cue of the speaker’s face, but at that moment of course I had been confronted solely with the tabula rasa of my handkerchief (now imprinted with a mucal Rorschach of greens and yellows no artist’s palette could replicate), while at the moment of eruption my eyes were reflexively lidded and seeing of nothing. 

My mind would not rest however, resolved to determine whether I had been castigated and insulted by the other table for “intruding” in their chit chat. For being somehow crude when dabbing prudently to snag any snot extruding from my nostril. How else could the word “rude” be construed? They were unlikely to be pontificating on the morals of any woman called “Gertrude”, since who these days is bestowed with such a name? Whether such a woman was a “prude”, with or without a “brood”. Hang on a tick, it is just possible that it wasn’t the prefix which was overlain and sawn off by my nasal detonation. It could have been a suffix, as in “rudimentary”, or a bloke called “Rudolph”. Gertrude and Rudolph, who would have thought it? “Desire” that’s another “ire” word. How could I have possibly missed that one? I bet they had been parleying nothing more than a good bit of lewd prurience. A rudimentary desire to… 

There was only one way to determine this definitively, well one way apart from asking them directly which would be intrusive and rude. I would see if I could pick up any clues by observing the rest of their conversation. I stared at them surreptitiously, but they were no longer engaged in colloquy. Instead each was cutting their meat, stabbing it on the end of their fork, hoisting it into their mouths and silently chewing. That augured to a certain level of etiquette, which naturally could have proved the case either way. That these two were relatively effete and therefore quick to take offence at the perceived rudeness of others. Or that they hadn’t registered anything of my unfortunate sonic interposition earlier and remained oblivious to my very existence next to them. 

There was only a single action remaining to settle this for good. I removed my handkerchief from my pocket, opened it and began to counterfeit inspecting it, all the time peeking just above its edge for their reaction. 


Steve Green said...

Brilliant Marc. Who would have thought a simple sneeze would have kick-started all that brain work?
Your imagination is certainly not to be sneezed at though. LOL.

Helen A. Howell said...

Now that wasn't a story to be sneezed at! Loved it!

Casey said...

That was great. As Steve said, who would think a simple sneeze could create such mental anguish. A great sense of delving into the possible words that could have been uttered too.

ganymeder said...

Ha! Eavesdropping via sneezes! Awesome!

Cindy Vaskova said...

Remind me not to ire around this guy!
I've never heard of a person sneezing and overthinking a random thing like a half-heard conversation and what might his sneeze I just, I can't.... Hell, he's overloading his brain with the trivial of things. Amazing story! Definitely not to sneeze by!

Jon Jefferson said...

Go for gold, or in this case yellow and green!

Katherine Hajer said...

This MC reminds me of some of the people I met in uni, usually ones halfway through post-graduate degrees. Like that medievalist who wanted to turn the single line "I'm going to get medieval on your ass" in Pulp Fiction into a full-on analysis of the entire film.

Surely the MC will go home and write a short Python script to generate a list of possible words and phrases?