The Soupster’s head throbbed as he tried to remember what it was he had just been thinking about. He was walking down Lincoln Street, happy with himself and his thought, when it took flight. “I hate when that happens,” the Soupster said, quoting television.
Crossing the street ahead of the Soupster, coming at him from the opposite direction, a young man and woman held hands as they walked..With his free hand, the man pushed a baby carriage and the care he took with the little chariot indicated that the low-slung seat was occupied.
In the shadows, the Soupster couldn’t make out who they were. Just another fresh-faced couple trying to find shelter and employment when the old fogies like himself already owned everything, he thought. But that wasn’t what he was trying to remember.
“Soupster!” the man called out and the Soupster knew immediately who he was. Like nails on a chalkboard, amplifier feedback, hyena screams and removing rusted lug nuts, the tenor of this man’s voice carved the listener a new gullet. The Soupster already had a gullet, but he had no choice but to answer back.
“Gene!” the Soupster said.
Gene’s voice was famous in Our Town, he was kind of a local Gilbert Gottfried, the voice of the AFLAC duck. But he was the duck with a megaphone – Gene’s voice was grating hearty and LOUD. Gene once told the Soupster that in all his hours on the water, he had seldom seen any marine mammals. With the sensitivity of the great beasts’ hearing, the fact seemed to the Soupster to make sense.
But when Gene came into view, the Soupster experienced the man’s other distinctive feature – he was easily the best-looking guy in Our Town. He was handsome in a way that made other men want to work for him or have him on their team. What Gene made women think and feel, the Soupster knew he could not grasp.
Gene was with his wife Audriella, as they were inseparable. Audriella was as acutely homely as her handsome husband was spectacularly not. Many in Our Town asked “what had made this striking man choose this unmemorable woman? Then, she opened her mouth and people knew. There was her charisma and obvious intelligence, of course. But there was also her voice. What a voice! In it was the song of birds, the rich sweetness of honey, the promise of the sky.
“Soupster!” Audriella called out with her lovely instrument.
The Soupster could see their faces clearly now. The Soupster knew his own face and voice were good enough for government work — mid-range compared to these two on either extreme. He wondered, which would it be better to be? Great-looking and sounding like a wounded goose? Or the plain-faced owner of angelic pipes?
“Come see Katey,” Audriella said, as Gene smiled, and with that voice and that smile the Soupster could not refuse. Ahead, the Soupster could see the blanketed bundle in the stroller squirming. Which parent would be baby take after?
Audriella pulled the blanket aside, revealing the most beautiful baby the Soupster had ever seen. Little Katey opened her mouth and the Soupster stiffened, expecting the worst. But the child’s voice was pure music.
That’s what I was trying to remember! the Soupster thought. That sometimes it just all works out in the end.
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