Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Molly Hopkins has won our short story writing contest on the theme of The Unknown with her piece "Kerplunk."
Molly Hopkins is a feisty individual, who lives out adventures in her mind as there is little she can do with her body. Driven to writing due to a severe chronic illness, Molly finds purpose, intrigue, and joy in the world of her imagination and the art of storytelling. For more of her work, visit www.goldinthegray.com.
I hear a warble, which isn’t too strange. I sometimes hear blurry noises when they are loud enough. The doctor tweaks the magnetic implant in my skull, and suddenly, the garbles form shapes, edges, tones. He is speaking to me. There are clicks and growls and round sounds, but I cannot make sense of them.
I frown and squint at his lips as he makes the same shapes and noises again, but I’ve never been very good at lip-reading. Behind him, my dad speaks. My jaw drops, hearing the creamy sound of his voice for the first time. He signs as he vocalizes.
Can you hear us?
I bob my fist, and he signs back. Try to say it.
I’ve taken speech therapy for years and can say simple things if I focus. I think for a moment and say carefully, “Yes, I can hear you.” But what comes from my throat sounds like a waddling walrus. I make a silly face, and my family laughs, my mom and dad and brother, Trey. Each laugh is different and beautiful: a giggle, a chuckle, a snicker, like a blossom of tie-dye.
They talk snappily, pinging off each other like pinballs, and I don’t know which of them to look at. And all the while, everything is making sounds. The doctor’s shoes scuff as he pushes his squeaky chair over the linoleum to his computer. The paper on the table beneath me rustles. I can hear my excited breathing. A popping sound erupts behind me, and I whip around to see the door creak open. A nurse pokes in her head. She chitters something, and the doctor rumbles back, a smile on his face.
My mom touches my sleeve and simcoms (simultaneous communication, sign and speech together). The words don’t sound like I had imagined they would, but her excited, concerned noises match her barrage of questions. I’m too overwhelmed to answer very well. Her voice is like the wind, up and down, fast, slow, and ceaseless. Everyone talk, talk, talks, and the doctor clickety-clacks on his keyboard. It's wonderful and amazing and SO LOUD. How does anyone ever think?
Pat, pat, pat, the receptionist straightens her papers. Blab, blab, blab, the old ladies blather in the waiting room. The lobby door shushes against the carpet. The doors clatter shut. The car beeps as it unlocks; the doors whap shut. Click goes the seat belt. Yammer, yammer, yammer, Trey prattles. The wind whooshes past the car. A truck down the street honks.
Scuttling shoes, crinkling shopping bags, the clicking of light switches, and the yowling of our housecat, Sir Poufalot. Does anything not make a sound?
Trey is nine and feels the need to show me every truck he owns that makes a blaring, grating, honking, squealing racket. He thumps and stomps and whoops and hollers. Are boys one big noise?
Chink, gurgle, gulp.
Munch, smack, swallow.
Eating sounds gross.
After dinner, I pull up a music app on the TV. The bar blinks silently in the search box, waiting. I type in my parent’s song, the one they danced to at their wedding. I’ve bobbed to its vibrations before, read its sweet lyrics, but now, hearing the swell of instruments I don’t know the names of and the articulation of words I haven’t yet tied meanings to, I understand it for the first time.
The melody is sultry like satin and wine, but at times it’s also like home, cuddly and safe. Dad hugs Mom from behind, swaying her gently. Smiles light their faces, smiles just for me, and happy tears splash down my face.
Kerplunk! I’ve entered a fourth dimension. Like a space traveler who discovered that color tastes or that stars have souls. God and science have let me in on a cosmic secret, one that’s exhilarating, strange, and passionate. But I have a secret of my own. When the day is over, and I’m alone in my room, I am glad to take off the magnetic earpiece and listen again to the silence.