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American Contemporary Fiction

They were twins. They weren’t identical twins, physically lookin, but in all other ways one could be exchanged for the other and no one that can’t see could tell them apart. One of the things, and there were many, that could drive you to distraction, was their ability to echo one another’s thoughts.

Robert having been born first I believe inherited the predominant quality that goes with those that are first, and Roger always the echo, the shadow, a faint breath behind his brother where speech was concerned, a close second. 

Some called it the reverberation of duplicity, which none at Bishops Corner could explain the meaning of. I assumed the intent of the anointment was an attempt to explain the confusion the two in concert exerted over anyone they were engaged in conversation with. 

Robert initiated the majority of conversations involving the two, Roger’s contribution consisted mainly of repeating Robert’s words as though an afterthought. The harmony was where the confusion ensued. It was as if you were hearing two separate and equal utterances separated by the time it takes one thought to be influenced by another. 

There are many references to people becoming so familiar with another that they could finish their sentences. That would have been an acceptable reprieve from the echo chamber of any and all conversations held in the presence of the twins. 

It was not simply the split difference that emanated from the two, but the commonality of diction, tone, volume, and hand gestures that reminded one of a puppet dance, or someone with four hands. The entire process distracted from the content, and therefore left most involved wanting to avoid their presence.

They hung out at a small country bar that catered to the local residents of nearby farms. I enjoyed going there for the stories. Some of the best lies I’d ever heard spilled from the beer sodden booths of Bishop’s Corner. 

Elsa and her sister Elly lived across the road in what remained of the old homestead. Malcom James lived just down the road. A hog farmer who was forced by the economic pressures of the markets to abandon his family’s tradition, and is now the "bee man" of Elk Creek. And then there is Rupert Adams who presides over the residents of the valley and their needs. Course there are others who come and go as time and circumstance permit, but this is generally the clientele list at Bishops Corner.

Bishop’s Corner has a sorted past and the stories to go with it. Rupert apparently inherited the Corner when his uncle Zeke Adams disappeared mysteriously one night while coon hunting. Never found a trace, and even though there was no will or testament, no one but Rupert was willing to take over the pitfalls of a rural bar, what with all the newly enforced laws about drinking and driving. 

One night when the twins were at their best and the conjugated verbs and accentuated adjectives flowed in distinct harmony, a story evolved that I had not previously been subjected to. It concerned a new neighbor who had moved into the old Jacob’s place. Elmer Jacob’s had been a long-time resident, who it was claimed was so obstinate, he refused to die. Word has it they made him quit livin alone and moved him to the place we call, The Home.

Henry Ames, the new occupant of old Elmer’s house was the object of the latest story. The twins had primed their pumps and were in the mood to elaborate on the intricacies of the differences between seeing, and believing.

Elsa and Elly were there that night, as was Malcom and of course Rupert. The story was relayed, in the stereophonic reverberations of a radio whose batteries were dying, by the Echo brothers, Roger, and Robert.

Roger and Robert were apparently coming home from the sales barn where they knew once you were pressed into association with someone, anyone, there was no escapin. They enjoyed tag teamin even if others weren’t as impressed. It was late November and the fog had begun to settle on the valley floor at night. It was nearly dark when they left the sale barn and headed towards home. 

Their car, according to them, suddenly lost power. They said it was as if “one of those alien ships come over and took the power away. And we wasn’t doing a thing but wantin to get home.” Robert and Roger debated their options and decided they couldn’t be more than a mile or so from the Corner. They’d push the truck to the Corner, and after further discussion with Rupert and who ever else was at hand, would decide the best way to proceed. 

Robert said that they were pushing the truck down the road, the fog getting thicker by the minute, when they hear these footsteps coming up behind them. Then without so much as a howdy, the footsteps jump in the cars back seat, slam the door shut, and just sit there. "Not offerin to help push or nothing. Not a word." Robert backing him up like any reliable echo would, just to keep things interesting I suppose, although it was distractin.

They get to Hitchcock Hill and the car starts to pick up speed. The boys said they just keep pushin, glad of the hill. Robert was steering from the open window and Roger was pushin from the rear. 

“Then this, whoever, starts talkin about how nice to be picked up,” says Robert. “He says he was heading for the Corner to use the phone. The phone! Their lights had gone out in the house and he didn’t have a phone yet. Now I couldn’t see who was in the car, couldn’t see Roger either, the fog was getting thicker by the minute, like lookin through chicken broth. Chicken broth!

“This voice keeps talking from the back and then he pulls himself up to look over the front seat, and must have seen the car was empty. All he could see was my arm coming through the window. He lets out this scream that would have waked up old Elmer if he hadn’t refused to die. Die! He then jumps out of the car and starts runnin down the road. Well you couldn’t see at all so the next thing we hear is this splash. You got to be careful goin across Bishop Bridge, the rails are only high enough to keep a rabbit from jumpin.

Well there wasn’t much we could do, even if we’d wanted to. To tell the truth I wasn’t sure it wasn’t old Elmer trying to hitch a ride to anywhere but hell. hell! So, we make it to the Corner and sit down to tell Rupert about the ghost that was ridin with us, when this stranger comes in. He’s drippin wet and cussin like Elsa and Elly aren’t women. Rupert tries to get him under control but the guy is so wound up he’s spittin fright.

Rupert finally gets him sittin on the stool, gets him a beer and a shot, and this guy starts goin on about being picked up on the road by this ghost car. Nobody drivin, only an arm steering.”

Well we all knew what liars the twins were, so to have a complete stranger more or less back up their story, was one of those days you hope you live long enough to tell your grand kids about. 

Then Elsa gets out of the booth and comes over to Henry, he told us his name was Henry, and gives him a hug. Now Henry looks kind of surprised, but probably thought it was a custom or something, so he just stands there. Elsa then tells him he should come home with her, she’s been lookin for a husband and could use the practice. 

Elly having been married before and knowing her sister lived in a world of her own, jumps up, apologizes for her sisters extroverted ways, and ushers Elsa out the door. 

Rupert just stands there scratching his bald head, and the twins I could tell were feeling peeved cause they had just had their thunder stolen by a new face and an old spinster. 

I found the entire episode enlightening. I had no idea you could listen to a story told in stereophonic surround sound and come away thinking life is a plug in radio, AM type joke. 

Just when I thought the night was ending, Elmer Jacobs barges in, and proclaims to those four of us left that “I ain’t leavin.” There really is no place like the Corners on a Tuesday evening.

July 03, 2021 23:34

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