Fiction | June 01, 1984

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His wife told him at the dinner table that it wasn’t right for male and female cousins to be living together under one roof.

“It was bad enough when their grandmother was alive,” Alice Rogers said.  “Cora was so deaf those two could have been humping till daylight for all she’d know.”

“She was only deaf in one ear,” Orson Rogers said, extracting a piece of gristle from his mouth.  His wife always bought cheap roasts, and he felt swindled.

“She only heard what she wanted to hear.” Alice Rogers tapped her finger on the table in a precise, aggravating beat. “I asked Cora Hendricks which side she slept on at night, and she said the right.  That’s her good ear! Orson, that woman winked at me; said it was a blessing to be deaf in one ear.  All you had to do was sleep on the good one.  The walls could fall down around you for all you cared.” Alice wiped her fingers over her mouth.  “What do you suppose kind of noises she was shutting out?”

His wife’s voice took on a hypnotic depth and power whenever she talked about other people.  Initially, it had been the husky magnetism of her voice that had drawn him to her.  For several Sundays during the summer he was twenty-five, he had listened to her read the Bible, then proposed to her like a man spellbound.  Her oratory had stirred him to imagine what passion lay behind her words.  After he married her, he decided it had been the idea of burning in the afterlife.

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