The Two Missing Words
By Dave Henson
When a commotion outside Mep Dugan’s open bedroom window woke him, the dream scurried into the thick undergrowth of his subconscious. Widow Splenks was arguing with baker Brown. Mep stuck his head out the window and saw that a toss further down the street Lucas Diddle was shaking his fist at the milkman.
Mep wondered why nobody in the village got along anymore. The thought yanked the dream into daylight. The dream tried to squirm away, but Mep held it tight ‘till it was clear in his mind: Two words had gone missing from the village, and their absence was the reason no one got along anymore.
Mep couldn’t remember what the two words were but felt he’d know if he saw or heard them and so set out on his search.
The first place Mep looked was the library. What better place for words to hide? But after rifling through the pages of nearly a hundred books, he was overwhelmed. Volume after volume, shelf after shelf. Mep asked Lydea the librarian for help. He didn’t tell her the whole story. She had a way of arching her eyebrow at Mep and making him feel peculiar. Mep just asked Lydea to be on the lookout for two words that, while perhaps unknown to her, felt vaguely familiar. Words that seemed out of place, perhaps in the margin of a book or in a sentence where they didn’t belong. Despite Mep’s careful manner of asking Lydea for help, she arched her eyebrow.
The next place Mep sought the missing words was on Lerry Lowdly’s street corner. Lerry took to the corner from dawn to midday and spoke mostly nonsense to no one in particular. The village folk ignored Lerry’s gibberish, which Mep thought made it an excellent place for the words to hide in plain sight.
“A day of clouds seeks the shadows,” Lerry said as Mep approached him.
“Never mind me, Lerry. I’m just going to stand with you a spell.”
Mep listened as Lerry went on about such things as the soil having its way, bark shinnying up the tree and stones in soft places. After a few hours, Lerry announced that the river’s climb to the sun was steep and walked off.
Mep wasn’t ready to call it a day himself. A short ramble outside of the village, was a babbling brook — a tranquil place for missing words to hide.
When Mep got to the brook, he was shocked at how many rocks the words could be hiding under. But determined as ever, he took off his shoes and socks and waded into the stream. He flipped over stone after stone, but found no missing words. Exhausted, he sloshed to dry land and lay down under a tree.
… A pain in Mep’s foot awoke him — a crow was pecking his big toe. “Hey, stop that.”
“I’m here to help,” the crow said. “I have the two missing words.”
The crow told Mep that his tenacity was impressive and that it had long-standing familial ties with a murder of crows in the village. For those reasons, the crow gave Mep the missing words.
When Mep heard the two words, they shone in his mind like shafts of light through breaking clouds. No wonder their absence had caused so much trouble. Mep thanked the crow and offered to dig up some worms to show his appreciation. The crow said thanks, but no thanks and flapped away.
Mep, so excited he forgot to retrieve his shoes and socks, rushed barefoot to the village. He spoke the two missing words to everyone he met and convinced the town crier to repeat them over and over.
The missing words found their way back into the villagers’ vocabularies and conversations. Arguments grew less frequent and nearly stopped. But the villagers began to overuse the words, wedging them into verbal exchanges where they weren’t necessary, where their intent was to dismiss, manipulate or create advantage.
One morning the crow who had returned the missing words to Mep glided through his open bedroom window. The crow told Mep that if the villagers didn’t stop using the words selfishly, they would disappear for good at dusk.
Mep spent the day begging his fellow villagers to use the rediscovered words as they were intended so that their little town didn’t again find itself in the throes of acrimony. No one paid him any mind.
Just before dusk, as Mep noticed the crow circling lower and lower, he came upon Lydea the librarian in the park. Mep explained all that was at stake to her.
Mep thought Lydea’s face softened, thought he’d gotten through to her, that there was hope. “Peace be with you, Love,” she said. Then she arched an eyebrow. “Now fuck off, you peculiar little troll.”
David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best of the Net and has appeared in numerous print and online journals including Fictive Dream, Pithead Chapel, Moonpark Review, Fiction on the Web, Red Fez, Bewildering Stories and Literally Stories. His website is http://writings217.wordpress.com. His Twitter is @annalou8.