Contemporary Fantasy Fiction

“This is idiotic, Eileen. Why should I practice this speech in front of a mirror? I know exactly what I want to say. I don't even need notes.” Tom Raddison is in front of the hall mirror muttering to himself. “I feel like a damn fool looking at myself.”

His wife came from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron as she walks. “Tom, I know you know what you want to say. It's not what you're saying that you need practice on.”

“Then just what the hell do I need practice on?” Tom looks at her. “This seems so stupid. Talking to myself in the mirror.”

Eileen puts a hand on his arm. “You're not talking to yourself. You're talking to a room full of interested people. But when you do, your facial expressions start to change. I lost all concept of what you were saying just watching your face. I've never seen you do that before. If you practice in front of the mirror, maybe you can see the faces you're making. And then, you can do something about them. Otherwise, I'm half afraid no one will get your message at all. They'll just be waiting for the next face.”

Tom and Eileen have been married nearly forty years. She has listened, and watched, as he has given speeches over the years on various topics to several organizations. Regardless of how convicted he was in the speech, she has never noticed before how much his facial expressions change as he talks. Is it just this particular topic? Is he so wrapped up in it that he expresses himself facially?

That sounds stupid even to Eileen, but something was different about Tom as he practiced this speech. She shook her head and went back to the kitchen. Tom can be so stubborn, so unreasonable. By this point in time he surely knows she only has his best interest at heart. If he could only see how his face seems to change as he gives this speech.

It's not a major issue. Well, maybe to Tom it is. The City is proposing to shut down all the dog parks owned by the City. There are three. Their locations make a dog park close to just about everyone as they are widely separated. “I don't understand why he's so adamant about even speaking. We don't have a dog.”

At dinner, Eileen decided to ask why he was so impassioned about this issue. “Why is shutting down the City dog parks such a big deal, Tom? We don't have a dog.”

Tom fiddled with his food for a few seconds. “No, we don't. But half the people I work with do. And a majority of them live in apartments. It's an issue to them and they feel they aren't significant in this town to make a difference. I'm not significant either but I've talked before the City Council a lot of times about a whole bunch of different things. Street parking; school crosswalks; City maintaining the parkway trees. You know that I'm not afraid to open my mouth in front of bigwigs.”

That made sense to Eileen. He was, once again, being the good guy for people afraid to speak up. “Okay. I understand perfectly where you're coming from. But, please, do me a favor and practice to a mirror. Maybe the one in the bathroom has better light than the mirror in the hall. I swear your face changes as you talk.”

Tom knew it was useless to argue. Maybe he does scowl or something while he talks about this issue. So that night he brushed his teeth and then practiced his speech to the bathroom mirror. “Eileen may be right. Maybe I am scowling or frowning a lot. I'll try to not do that.”

However, Tom found that when he concentrated on not scowling or frowning, he lost track of what he was saying. “That's not good. I know what I want to say and if I frown while saying it, that's just the way it is. I am not going to screw up this opportunity because I frown. Maybe the Council will understand it is a frown and realize how serious I am.”

Many of Tom's co-workers agreed to go to the Council meeting as part of a protest when they learned Tom had permission to speak to the Council. They respected the man and appreciated that he had included all of their concerns in his five-minutes. He had shared his notes one morning in the break room and asked for their input. He explained he doesn't have a dog so is not intimate with the parks. While he wants to protest their closure, he doesn't want to sound like an idiot doing so. He went home that evening and incorporated the remarks into the speech. Tom was surprised how important a dog park can be to a dog living in an apartment. The benefits were huge and closing the park could be disaster for some of the larger dogs, especially.

Tom faced the mirror the evening before the Council meeting and felt he had more or less conquered the scowling. Eileen agreed that his facial expressions were 'toned down'. Though he was sure he knew what he wanted to say, he took a three by five card with pertinent points with him. Just in case he had a 'senior moment'. That was Eileen's idea and phrase. For a change, it didn't bother him. His wife has always wanted him to do his best.

Sixteen co-workers showed up. All with their dogs. There was no prohibition about animals in the Council Chamber providing they were well behaved. Tom wasn't sure it was a good idea but Eileen thought as this issue was about dogs, dogs should be present.

There were two issues before the Dog Park Closure. Tom was surprised the dogs had behaved so well sitting nearly half an hour. There were three speakers before Tom in the dog park matter. Eileen leaned toward Tom after the first two. “That was pathetic. A lot of rhetoric and nothing definitive.” Tom nodded. While both were protesting the closures, they really didn't give any reasons why. Just don't do it. The third speaker was a bit better. She had her dog with her. In fact, it sat on the podium in front of her as she spoke. She did bring up a couple issues why the dog parks should remain open. And the crowd applauded her as she sat down. They had not acknowledged the first two speakers in that manner. Tom was hoping they would clap for him. He knows his speech covers a lot more.

Tom was called to the podium. He turned to face the crowd for just a brief second and then turned back to the Council. “My name is Tom Raddison. I do not own a dog. However, many of my friends and co-workers do. Listening to them talk about the advantages of a dog park available to them made me realize that I should outline some of those things for the Council. Perhaps you, yourselves, do not have a dog. Perhaps you do not know of the benefits of a dog park if you have a dog, especially if you live in an apartment.”

Eileen could not see Tom's face and wondered if he was scowling. Two of the Council members were suddenly leaning toward him – as if to hear better. Or was it to see better? But Tom's voice was strong and his diction was perfect, Eileen thought. Surely no one is having trouble hearing him. Twice during the speech, applause broke out. He hit some very strong points and the audience was appreciative.

He had about thirty seconds left on his time limit. He had timed his speech carefully so as not to lose any point he wanted to cover. The entire Council appeared to be engrossed in what Tom was saying. They were all leaning toward him.

The buzzer indicating his time had expired sounded. And Tom said, “Thank you for listening.”

The applause was thunderous. Not just his co-workers but the entire audience were on their feet. Tom turned around and the Chamber went entirely silent. Now Eileen could see why the Council members all seemed to be straining to see him better.

Tom was stunned. Great applause then complete silence?

He reached up to run his hand through his hair. Something is wrong. His whole face was covered with hair. As he stood there, the local newspaper reporter took several photos and hurried out of the Council Chamber.

Tom looked like a dog. His face and ears were covered with fur. He had morphed into a dog while talking.

Eileen nearly fainted. She gathered her strength to walk up to him but noticed as she came closer, the fur was receding. In another minute, Tom was back to normal. He turned around to face the Council, all of whom were almost cowering at the huge curved desk. Tom was back to normal. The Council Chairman banged his gavel.

“Stunts were not necessary, Mr. Raddison, to get your point across. I don't know what you did or how you did it, but it was totally unnecessary.”

Tom stammered. “What are you talking about?” While he had felt the fur and pointy ears, he had not seen himself.

The audience decided it was the best of pranks and certainly emphasized his message. It was again on its feet and applauding and cheering for Tom. The Council members conferred with one another. Perhaps they had seen an illusion – his plea was so passionate their minds tricked them. Eileen put out her hand. “Are you ready to leave, Tom?”

Tom still didn't understand what had happened. It was obvious his speech went over well but there was more to it than that and he didn't know what it was.

His co-workers and their dogs walked Tom and Eileen to their car. All were chattering about the great speech and the impact his dog face illusion had made. Tom was still confused.

The newspaper the next morning showed Tom what had happened. A large photo of Tom with a doggy head was on the front page. “MAN TURNS DOGGY TO SAVE DOG PARK”. The accompanying article was word for word what Tom had said. The reporter had recorded all the speeches. At the end, the newspaper commented, “This was one hell of an optical illusion. Tom Raddison, an accountant for General Matters, is not a magician but he certainly put on a magic show at City Council. A vote on the Dog Park closures is scheduled for the Council meeting next Thursday.”

December 06, 2021 17:19

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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