Even the Silence

June 19, 2016

I came out of Joe K.’s restaurant and gasped from the heat. No Genehouse walk today, I thought, not when one could literally have a stroke on Stroke Hill. So keep your eyes peeled for happenings.

I walked towards my car. I saw an 80-ish elderly woman in white pants, struggling to get in the passenger seat of her daughter’s SUV. The step up was too high. She nearly fell backward. She grabbed the end of the swaying door and straddled it.

“What do you think you’re doing, Mom,” the daughter said.

“I’m fucking the car door,” the old lady replied. She pretended to hump the door. Her daughter broke out laughing. The daughter said, “When you’re done, I’ll drive you home.”

I had been going to stop and help, but I walked on by, climbed into my hot car and slammed the dashboard with both hands and laughed the snot out of me. And wrote down what I had just seen.

Back in the days when I was doing writing residencies for the Illinois Arts Council, I was sitting on a concrete park bench in Davenport, Iowa, another bench back to back and facing the Mississippi River. Two bowling ball-shaped old ladies in print dresses were seated behind me and commiserating.

“Oh,” Lady 1 said. “He is coming home from prison tomorrow. What the hell am I going to do with a ex con grandson?”

“Did he catch the AIDs?” Woman 2 asked.

“No,” but his balls . . .” I heard snickering. I sneaked a glance in time to see Woman 1 making croquet ball shapes with her hands. “I am not going near those things. They are so swole up, I don’t know. I seen the picture; the ball sack musta been a foot long. Has to shove it down one pants leg.”

“What’s he got?” her friend asked.

“Damned if I know. The prison doc said get him an appointment. What type of doctor looks at balls for a living?”

“Henry’s balls are low,” Woman 2 said, “but not that low.”

I happened to have a notebook with me. I copied down that dialogue word for word.

Advice to young writers: “Never have a character talk offstage.” Edward Albee “When in doubt, have a man with a gun in his hand come through the door.” Raymond Chandler “Write drunk, edit sober.” Ernest Hemingway. “Write down everything, even the silence. The silence is the smartest thing in the room.” Eugene Baldwin


About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: eugenebaldwin.com. I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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