The Close Talker

‘I tell you what, that Jimmy was a close talker.’

‘Is that right?’

‘He’d sit real close and poke his head in front of you, like he’d never had any attention and wanted to steal all yours. He’d drain the stuff right outta you and leave you feelin  all uptight and jumppity, ‘cause you weren’t never to know when he was gonna do it again. That’s what Jimmy was like, Grandpa.’

‘I heard he had some unsettlin ways about him, Mitch.’

‘Probably got too close to whoever killed him. I can picture it right enough. Probably got hisself killed for close talkin.’

‘That ain’t a rightful thing to be killed for.’

‘Well, anyone could’ve killed him for all sorts of reasons, Grandpa. Close talkin’ was just one of ‘em.’

‘You shouldn’t be speakin ill of the dead, boy.’

‘I ain’t speakin ill of Jimmy, Grandpa. It’s just the truth. It’s the way he was. He was a low talker too.’

‘Well now, I guess he’d have to low talk, bein a close talker an’ all. That’s just natural sense.’

‘That’s the darndest thing though. Jimmy’d wait ‘til he was way aways away to talk low. Talk so low you couldn’t make out a word he was sayin.’

‘Just the same, Mitch, I ain’t never heard of no one being killed dead for low talkin.’

‘Well, that ain’t all he did, Grandpa’

‘No?’

‘No, he’d be givin you stuff too. Offerin it to you when you was least expectin it.’

‘That sounds right kind, Mitch. Ain’t no reason to kill a man.’

‘That’s true, but it weren’t nice things he’d be givin a man, Grandpa.’

‘What kinda things then?’

‘Small things. Like, one time, I was sittin stampin that big ol’ library stamp on all them cards to be put in the catalogue, like I’d been taught, when BAM, he’s right in front of me.’

‘Close talkin?’

‘Yeah, real close. Then he says you wanna paperclip, Mitch. I got me a boxful of paperclips. But I ain’t never had no need for paperclips when stampin things, Grandpa. There just ain’t no need at all for that kind of stationery when stampin. Then, this other onetime, we was both filin’ stuff in these big-ass filin’ cabinets when Jimmy starts his low talkin at me. So, I sidles over to his cabinet and get as near as I think I need to be, to be polite …’

‘Like I taught ya.’

‘… yeah, like you taught me—but, Jimmy’s talkin so low I have to get a whisker away from his chin, then he says you wanna vitamin C capsule.’

‘Well, I’ll be. What would you be wantin a piece o’ fruit in a damn capsule for? They turn a man’s waste water bright yella. That can’t be natural.’

‘It ain’t. Once, he offered me a packet o’ seaweed too. Seaweed—in a bright orange packet.’

‘Well, that’s different, Mitch. Seaweed ain’t no bad thing. You can mash it up and put it on your vegetable patch right enough—brings up a man’s turnips a treat.’

‘I know that, Grandpa, but he give me the seaweed straight off as I opened up the door to step outta the men’s room. Straight off, like he’d been waitin the whole time I was in there.’

‘Oh, that ain’t right. A man needs a time o privacy on leavin the men’s room just in case he’s eaten too many turnips. It ain’t proper natural manners otherwise.’

‘Like you say Grandpa.’

‘That why Jimmy was killed, do you think, Mitch?’

‘Could be, Grandpa. Some o the townsfolk here are right sticklers for natural manners.’

‘That ain’t no lie, Mitch. Old man Cartwright from the bookshop woulda hollered the place down if he’d been surprised by a man handlin seaweed outside the privy door. Did you holler?’

‘A little. Jumped mostly.’

‘You was always one for jumpin, ever since you was a toddlin and a dribblin. Well, one thing’s for sure, poor Jimmy ain’t  gonna be causin no one to be jumpin no more.’

‘I guess that’s what comes of close talkin.’

‘There’s a lesson in that for all of us, Mitch. Speak up, mind yer manners and don’t startle a man goin about his ablutions.’

‘Words to live by, Grandpa. Words to live by.’

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