The Silence (Story by Risa Peris)

It was at the end of the street for the entire time he lived on Whisk Avenue. The narrow, brick building had a square blue sign. Society of Friends. Quakers. He kept track of who went in. It was only two doors down from his own narrow home. 

“Mary, I just saw a black man go in the building.” Mary, usually knitting or embroidering, would nod her head. 

“Oh, really.” She really didn’t care. “I boiled you an egg. You can have it with some toast.”

The days went on and they evolved into years as they inevitably do. Morris always kept a watchful eye on the building. 

“Mary, a woman in a man’s suit went in. And then I saw two Hispanic kids.”

“Oh, really.” Her energy was flagging and she was getting clumsy. Her eyesight wasn’t as sharp. “I made pot roast with egg noodles.”

In mid-winter, right before Valentine’s Day, Mary died. Morris was paralyzed. His brother had to make funeral arrangements. Morris returned to his home. He wasn’t touching Mary’s things. She’d be back. Surely she’d visit as a ghost. Morris was ready for conversations but for weeks all he had heard was perfect silence. 

He was bored. One day he walked straight to the Quaker building. Inside, people sat in a circle and in silence. More silence? Morris was greeted with smiles. He was offered a seat. An aging woman with dyed red hair whispered to him, “Speak if the Lord moves you to speak.”

Morris sat for ten minutes scanning calm and introspective faces. He spoke up. 

“I’m not peeing right. I think I need my prostate checked. I’m hungry and can’t work the stove. Mary always made my meals. I was expecting her ghost to appear. I assumed she wouldn’t leave me completely alone. I don’t know. It seems pointless to live. I don’t believe in the Lord. I don’t know you people. Can one of you make me dinner?”

“There’s a diner two blocks away that serves meatloaf and mashed potatoes for $4.99. The Lord moved me to say that.” It was a black woman who spoke up. 

“Oh.” Morris left then. He found the diner, ate, and realized that it felt good to speak to those people. But he knew the Lord didn’t move him. It was pure, painful loneliness. As he walked home, he thought he might go back again. At least until Mary’s ghost appeared.