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THE INVESTIGATION • by Cat Rambo

We were waiting on the platform when the investigating mime, our only hope, arrived. He stepped off the train, blinking in the bright sunlight. The brass band went through the motions of a welcome march; a few of us threw our hats up in the air, opening and closing our mouths like gasping fish.

Mrs. Klawitter, my elderly neighbor, put her hand out to touch me. Although in poor health, she’d insisted on coming, and I’d helped carry her. A dusting of her lavender talcum powder sifted onto my sleeve.

“Do you think he can help?” she mouthed at me. I shrugged. The train silently produced smoke, then whispered away along the track.

The mime moved through the crowd, peering into our faces. He pretended to take an instrument from his case, and insisted on examining our ears. Frowning, he stood in our center and spread his arms in a helpless gesture, shaking his head. We shrugged back. He stepped off the platform.

We followed along behind him, pointlessly tiptoeing. The mime moved along the street, noting the wordless cracks in the sidewalk, the quiet patterns of grass sprouting around trees. He pointed to a bird, opening and closing its beak without producing a note, and spread his arms eloquently again. He gestured waves coming onto a shore and cupped a hand to his ear, scowling, unable to hear them. We nodded.

The mime stopped, stooped, turned over an invisible rock. Mrs. Klawitter’s grip tightened. A cat came down from a porch and brushed the mime’s ankles, its sides vibrating with the force of its purrs.

Above us, an inarticulate gull glided, the wind pushed clouds around. A discarded newspaper blew by, mutely curling and uncurling in the breeze. Its headline trumpeted in blaring letters: THE TOWN WITHOUT SOUND — EXPERTS BAFFLED.

Stopping to pet the cat, the mime sat down, bringing his hands to the sides of his head, acting out deep thought. We strained our ears futilely and continued to hold our breaths.

Mrs. Klawitter was the first to fall, her face a delicate shade of blue ash. And as the others began to topple, it came to my mind that there were deprivations worse than no sound.


Cat Rambo lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest, in the shadow of doomed Mt. Rainier. Her short story collection, Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight, appeared from Paper Golem Press in 2009. She is the fiction editor of Fantasy Magazine.

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THE INVESTIGATION • by Cat Rambo, 2.8 out of 5 based on 54 ratings
Posted on August 9, 2010 in Humour/Satire, Stories, Surreal
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  • Rose Gardener

    Completely failed to get this one.

  • http://oscarwindsor-smith.blogspot.com/ Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Here’s me probably being very stupid – again – but I feel let down by this very promising story. Perhaps, like Rose, I simply miss the point. I loved the beginning and the mystifying surreal set up and the detail – I could ‘see the pictures’, which, for me, is generally a sign of a good story. I feel sure this began as one of those great ‘what if’ triggers that often result in exceptionally original pieces. But the ending failed to deliver. Perhaps if there was an indication of ‘holding breath’ at the beginning? Lovely writing, though.

    Sorry, Cat.

    :( scar

  • ajcap

    Exactly ditto to Oscar’s comment. Wonderful writing but the last line seemed to diminish the whole build up. As usual, by the time I read everyone else’s comments, I’ll probably ‘get it’, but right now I’m left with wanting more.

  • http://www.deborahblood.com Debi Blood

    If there was supposed to be a point or a message to this story, I’d be vastly disappointed. I love this bit of well-written whimsy! It’s a marvelous way to start a new work day, a new work week.

  • Bob

    Loved it – right up until the last sentence. As Oscar noted, it would have made more sense if everyone had held their breaths in the beginning.

    Readers can tolerate surreality, so long as it’s internally consistent. With this one, the internal consistency fails at the end.

    (One little nit to pick: didn’t really need the headline; you’d done a nice job explaining the situation through description. The headline was too much.)

  • http://www.susanwingate.com Susan Wingate

    LOVE THIS!!!
    I giggled at the first line and by the end had a constant flow of sniggers (with sound) coming from me. Funny. Great detail. Strange. Quirky. Amazing end…
    Let’s all just SHUT UP and ponder this one. Wonderful, Cat.

  • ajcap

    Hey. Don’t tell me to shut up. EDF asks for comments. I commented.

  • http://www.susanwingate.com Susan Wingate

    LOL! I didn’t mean it literally. I meant it figuratively because the short is about no sound. Did not mean to offend. :)

    Cat, this piece rocks. Thank you for your creative gift!

  • ajcap

    ohp, sorry…that’s quite funny. So dense sometimes. All right, I will shut up now.

  • http://www.susanwingate.com Susan Wingate

    No worries! Shouldn’t have “said” SU anyway… someone, somewhere, sometime along the way said “Don’t say that!” And, see what happens when you do? Miss Conception! She’s such a snot, eh? :)

  • http://none vondrakker

    Debi Bloods (#4) description of this piece
    as being WHIMSY…..is right on…and it is definitely well written.
    I belong to a group called
    “The Whimsical Scribes”
    Who cares ??
    Also the word Surreal is a very apt term for this cute bit of FLUFF.
    what the hey…4 ****

  • Jen

    I lpved this story. The ending was wonderfully creepy! Definitly worthy of five stars.

  • http://www.kittywumpus.net Cat Rambo

    Feedback of any kind is always welcome, since it’s always helpful to know what doesn’t work as well as what does — I appreciate people reading the piece! :)

    best,
    Cat

  • kathy k

    Interesting, but not my cup of tea.

  • laura

    hi. i liked this story. i thought it unfinished as it felt like the middle or end of a story. i would suggest to expand it to initiate the deprivation more, and then raise the conflict to the no air deprivation (that’s what i got out of it, that after sound left, the air left too).
    cheers, laura

  • http://sites.google.com/site/linvilleramey/ Steve Ramey

    This is beautifully portrayed and seemingly meaningful, yet I did not quite grasp its meaning in the end. I may be mime-impaired. My only suggestion would be to say “the force of its SILENT purrs” because I read that line to mean a breaking of the spell of silence thanks to the cat, which had me wondering why the cat was significant (other than being the author of the piece, of course). Short and sweetly written; I wanted to love it, but had to settle for like.

  • Fairchild

    I liked it!

  • Linda G

    Loved it. Got it. Thanks, Cat. A very rare five from me.

  • http://www.annwilkes.com Ann Wilkes

    Cat,
    I have to agree with the initial comments. I really liked it a lot, but the end left me scratching my head. I’m still not sure what happened. Explaining why the sound left might have been more satisfying than introducing a new problem in one cryptic punch line. I saw no signs leading up to the air leaving or that they were holding their collective breath. And indeed, why would they? How is that a deprivation if they are the ones holding their breath?

    Or is it that the cat clearly made sound, but they weren’t able to hear it? Was it unclear before whether everyone in that town was rendered deaf or the sound was really absent?

    I think we’d all like to know what the last line really meant.

    Love the idea of a mime brought in as a consultant. Too funny! Where did you ever come up with such an idea?

    Warm fuzzies,
    Ann

  • Nancy Wilcox

    Fantastic! Great ending! In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever read a better one. :) This has me chortling. Quietly, of course.

  • Pingback: Podcast EDF044: THE INVESTIGATION • written by Cat Rambo • read by Matt Cowens | Every Day Fiction - The once a day flash fiction magazine.

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