Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ARTIFICIAL (08/11/16)
TITLE: Communication Frustration
By Belinda Peoples
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“Is that you, love?” Mack called. He was in the couple’s kitchen, trying in vain to match instructions to a collection of items on the bench. Together they were supposed to become a fancy new coffee machine, but to Mack, they seemed like impossibly mismatched puzzle pieces.
“My deeth, Mack! Cleaning lady muth haff pud ‘em thumwhere. I’ff lothed ‘em!” Ruth explained, now off to search in the bedroom.
“What did you toss, dear? Do you need me to check the bin for something?”
“No! Darn cleaner. I thed I don’ know where my deeth are!”
“You’re going to keep her? The cleaning lady? I thought you already told Connie you didn’t want the cleaner to come anymore.”
“I couldn’ dell her the drooth, in the end. Connie thoughd a cleaner would make life thimpler… Argh, Mack! Pud your aidth in! You don’ hear a thing withoud ‘em… I didn’ thay ‘cleaner’, I thed I loth my… Oh, neffer mind, I juth found ‘em.”
“Love, do you have your teeth in? I’m having trouble understanding you!”
“Mack!” Ruth couldn’t put her teeth in fast enough. “PUT…YOUR…AIDS…IN!”
“Sorry love, I haven’t got my ears in yet,” he called. “Can it wait a moment? I think I, yes…oh, hang on, I’ve got it!” Mack thought he’d found a place for another piece of the puzzle, but once more it refused to fit.
“Oh! I give up!” Mack threw his arms up in surrender. “Why do I need to be an engineer just to make a coffee!?”
As he turned to go and find Ruth, he retrieved his hearing aids from his shirt pocket, put them in and switched them on. He only made it as far as the kitchen door when Ruth met him on her way back.
“Are your aids in now?” she demanded, hands on hips.
“Yes, just put them in. What were you trying to tell me?”
“I said I couldn’t find my teeth. The cleaner must have moved them. She left them on the bedroom window sill of all places.” Ruth said, shaking her head.
“Oh…I see. I knew you said something about the cleaner.”
“Listen to the two of us! I lose my teeth and I can’t talk. You forget your aids and you can’t hear me! What a pair! No wonder Connie’s spending all her savings on hiring a cleaner and buying a machine to make our coffee. We’re falling apart!”
“I’m not sure I’d call this,” Mack gestured towards the parts on the bench, “a coffee machine. I suspect it’s an imposter, a poser… a decorative, coffee-themed kitchen ornament… if I ever put it together.”
Ruth noticed the deflated look on her husband’s face as she eased herself into a seat at the kitchen table. Mack had always used humour to mask his frustration. After 52 years, Ruth knew his habit well.
“Not coming along too well, then?” she enquired gently.
“It’s not,” Mack confessed. “I have no idea how it goes together. Look! The pictures on the diagram don’t match the bits at all. I’ve never heard of this brand either — ‘Mister Barista’ — have you?”
“No,” Ruth smiled. “Probably a cheap copy of a more reputable brand, I’m afraid. I suspect it’s all Connie could afford…” she trailed off there, caught up in her thoughts.
“Mack?” she began again, “How are we going to tell Connie? She’ll be here any minute. I don’t want to break her heart, but to have a cleaner come and zoom through the house in an hour… it’s just not me. I can’t sit and watch her any longer, with a phony smile on my face deluding Connie or myself about how wonderful it is.”
“She’ll understand.” Mack reassured. He came and sat next to Ruth, taking her hand in his. “Haven’t we always taught her that no good comes from trying to hide how you really feel? If having a cleaner doesn’t work, there’s no point pretending it does.”
Ruth sighed. “You’re right. What about the coffee ornament?”
They both looked at the mess of plastic and chrome, then at each other and burst out laughing.
“If we’re quick we might get it back in the box before she gets here,” Mack suggested. “Looks like we both get to practice what we preach today!”
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