Moment of Silence

You remember what Mama used to say: You don't have nothin' nice to say, string 'em up from a tree.

That Mama was a tough ol' bird....

A Moment of Silence by Tabitha Wilson

I stood there on the small ladder, noose around my neck. Truth be told, I’d been in this predicament before. You don’t act like a jackass to damn near everybody without ending up on a footstool and strung up on a tree once or twice. First time, I was able to talk my way out of it. I’m pretty good with words that way. Wasn’t going to work out for me this time, not by a long shot. Guy that placed this noose around my neck's deaf and dumb, they say, though I have my reservations about the dumb part. Silent Lou, they call him. Deafer than a haddock, dumber than a bag of hammers, they say. Sort of why I selected him for the job in the first place. I don’t know no sign language or any of that nonsense, but Lou seemed to understand when I outlined the plan on a bar napkin at Slummie’s, his cold eyes staring into mine, his head imperceptibly nodding.

The plan went off without a hitch, save me swindling Lou out of his half. I figured he’d just shuffle off, head hanging dejectedly in his stone-deaf, silent world. And even if he did squeal, the whole town thought he was touched and would laugh him straight out of town. Yep. I thought I’d had Silent Lou pegged.

“Come on, Lou!” I called from my perch, like maybe he could hear if I hollered loud enough. “I’ll give you your money back. Hell, I’ll even throw in a portion of my share!”

Lou just stood there clutching the rifle, deaf and dumb, staring up at me with those dead eyes.

The twine was chafing my wrists something awful, but I’d take that over a broken neck any day of the week. I thought of Lola. Her hourglass curves sprawled out on that filthy mattress, gesturing for me to crawl on top and give her a what-for. Sultry, red-lipped Lola, who had all that beautiful cash underneath the mattress. Our ticket out of here. I needed to think of something quick.

“Hey, Lou!” I said again, brightly. “What say you and me have a nice sit down? We can go over some numbers. I don’t need all that much, really. Just enough for me and my girl to blow this town.” I exaggerated my lip movement as I said it, in case maybe he could read lips, even though everyone said he was too dumb for it. I probably looked pretty stupid up there on that tiny ladder, noose around my neck, lips flapping like rubber bands.

Lola was the one who’d pretty much sold me on Silent Lou. Like the rest of the general population, I thought Lou was basically a write-off. A vegetable. Someone to push around if it felt right on any particular day. I wouldn’t consider myself a bully, really, but I’d razzed Lou a time or two. Like that time Lola got a little flirty at Slummie’s with Bart Sowards and I had to knock her up a bit. Lou thought he was gonna, what? Save her? I shamed that boy right out of the bar, deaf-mute half-wit.

“You know my girl, Lola, right?” I yelled out. “Actually, this whole thing was cooked up by her.” My lips were working overtime now. I hoped Lou was catching some of this. I spoke a little louder and higher, thinking maybe different pitches might penetrate his bum ears. “Lola, see, she had this idea to loot the First National, only we needed a third man for the job. She even told me I should get you to help. She seems to like you. Hell, I like you! In fact, you should blow this town with us! Why not?” By this point, I was shrieking in a falsetto like a fishwife. Lou hadn’t moved an inch, hadn’t changed his expression none neither.

Then he smiled. I realized I’d never seen Lou smile before. Not a pretty sight, at least from where I was standing. He sauntered up close to me, grinning, and like he was lightly shooing a dog away, kicked the stool out from under my feet. Gravity did its thing and I dropped toward the earth. I felt the blood pool in my head and my eyes bulge. In that moment of silence, as my tongue swelled and my eardrums popped, I spied the silhouette of an hourglass figure approaching with a large suitcase, and watched her plant a lipsticked smacker right on Silent Lou’s dumb, mute lips.

Tabitha Wilson is a writer and graphic designer, owns a snarky greeting card company and creates subversive products for Fred and Friends.