Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Writer’s Skill/Craft (04/22/10)
TITLE: The Muses
By Troy Manning
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Lest one should form too harsh an opinion of Nadine, let it be known that she first assumed the voices she heard were in her own head. She noticed, however, when she was away from Robert the voices disappeared. In fact, in the very process of walking away from him she could hear the voices receding. She considered walking out of his life altogether but was afraid that might inconvenience the children. She also recalled her mother’s telling her she used to have to walk to school uphill in the snow, so she knew she was of a sturdier stock.
Their children Eurydice and Junior didn’t hear the voices any more than their dad did. They were not, however, unaware that something was askew when, at dinner for instance, their mother would give answers to questions never asked, or become defensive when nothing offensive was said. All avoided eye contact with one another on such occasions so Nadine wouldn’t think she was being conspired against.
When Nadine would suddenly call out random numbers, Robert and the children knew she was responding to a voice she called Wendell that liked to test her math skills. When she would arbitrarily start laughing, they knew one called Uncle Vladimir had told her one of its apparently very funny jokes. The times she was brought to tears were usually when one named Dominic ridiculed what she wore. When Robert addressed her directly, Nadine often stared back blankly as though his was the one voice not immediately familiar. On a couple of occasions when she responded, it was in languages none of them were aware she even knew.
Nadine quit her day job as the domestic engineer and embarked on a writing career. This was short-lived, however, as Robert soon tired of her following him around the house with a notepad and he insisted she find her own voice. After a few uninspiring efforts with independent writing exercises, she pleaded with Robert’s muses to come visit her. While many said they would, she soon discerned they were merely humoring her as none ever showed. Nadine returned to the housework feeling more lonely and frustrated than ever, and domestic strife escalated to dizzying heights.
When neither marriage counselors nor traditional therapists proved helpful, they decided to try the advice given by a voice called Brother Sherman to speak with a minister friend of his who specialized in divers tongues and legion personalities. Conveniently, they didn’t even have to leave their living room to do so.
“His name is Brother Eldridge,” Nadine informed Robert. “Uh huh. Uh huh. Okay, I’ll tell him,” she said to Robert’s hairline. She then turned her eyes back to Robert’s, “He said Dominic’s right. I need some new clothes.”
Robert got up from the table and walked into the kitchen.
“Hey, come back. I’m losing him…Brother Eldridge? Brother Eldridge, can you hear me?”
Robert returned to the living room with a drink.
“You hung up on him,” she said.
“You know our account is nearly depleted,” he replied.
She looked back at him uncomprehendingly, “Und du mußt noch manchmal borgen.”
“Now I want you to listen to me carefully,” said Robert. “We’re not taking any more counsel from my head.”
Robert and Nadine went to church to speak with their pastor. While he didn’t rule out some form of spiritual oppression, he was able to persuade Robert there was no such thing as the Demon of Materialism. He recommended physiological examinations for both of them. Again, no problems were discovered with respect to Nadine, but Robert was given a referral for further examination.
The brain surgeon with whom they consulted wanted to open Robert up for a look-see. When he did, a disgruntled Dominic was first to emerge. Brothers Sherman and Eldridge weren’t far behind, followed by Wendell and a few minor players. Eventually Uncle Vladimir surfaced with a quip about Robert’s spacious if unfurnished accommodations. He then scoffed, “And to think of the promising writing career you could have had.”
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