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WORDTH




The conference room was full of words. Professor Smith could see them. Dribbling down chins. Splattered on walls. Ricocheting around, buzzing out windows, slithering under doors, marching onto the street, menacing motorists and pedestrians, causing collisions and panic.

He rose at the chairman’s introduction, lurched forward, and mounted the steps. The crowd fell silent. It was an important moment, the opening address at the Annual Conference of the Association of Carers and Do-Gooders. Professor Smith was the keynote speaker, flown in from a far off city.

He stared, blinking, over a blur of cardigans and pony-tails without a word for a full thirty seconds. The audience waited. Then he rummaged through his pockets as if looking for his notes - trouser and jacket pockets, finally his shirt pocket.

“Aha!” Professor Smith cried, holding aloft a piece of paper the size of a postage stamp.

“Too many wordth, not enough meaning,” he read out, and then after staring ahead with unmoving lips for forty seconds, he bowed, left the stage, swaying, and returned to his place in the front row. How clever. Nobody was surprised by the professor’s speech. He was their most esteemed colleague, a man who had written books, a little eccentric perhaps, but after all, a brilliant man.

In fact, it was not the same speech that Professor Smith had spent the previous month preparing. That speech had comprised five thousand three hundred and two words, a statistically significant proportion of which, had they been subjected to analytical consideration with particular emphasis on numerical aspects of syllabic properties, would have been unambiguously revealed as being demonstrably possessed of a minimum count of four syllables in lengthwise measurement. In other words, it was full of long words and wind.

During the previous night, after arriving in the city and settling into his hotel, Professor Smith had got very drunk on vodka, used that speech for sanitary purposes, then flushed it away.

Earlier in the day, after he’d hurried home for lunch before heading to the airport, his wife had informed him that ‘although she still loved him she was no longer in love with him she’d fallen in love she couldn’t help it with a divine gentleman a good listener caring attentive to her needs who respected her inner self and understood her issues who could really communicate with her at a deep emotional level and it was meant to be.’

“Enough words! Shut your face! I’ve got a conference to go to!” the professor had roared, before grabbing his overnight bag, and stomping out to the honking taxi.

...

The professor’s opening address was a hard act to follow. The other speakers did their best, peppering their presentations with remarks like “as Professor Smith so wisely observed,” and “as Professor Smith would undoubtedly concur.”

Professor Smith did not return home that day as scheduled but stayed for the entire three days, his jolly presence enlivening the conference, as the sun enlightens the day.

This story was written by Bruce Costello. He lives in the seaside village of Hampden, New Zealand. After studying foreign languages and literature in the late sixties at the University of Canterbury, he spent a few years selling used cars. Then he worked as a radio creative writer for fourteen years, before training in psychoanalytically-oriented psychotherapy and spending 24 years in private practice. In 2010, he semi-retired and took up writing. Since then, he’s had over eighty stories accepted by mainstream magazines and literary journals in seven countries.
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