Cacophony of voices

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I took a step and to my right sat a plump, balding man, his chin thrust forth as a rooster in strut, pounding his fist in open palm while uttering to a pie-shaped microphone with such passion, I could not help but linger. “…we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”

To his left, almost unnoticed, sat a wild-haired gentleman with a rather large nose, pen in hand, staring out as if deep in thought. On his pad appeared myriad calculations, few of which I comprehended. He mumbled something about relativity, but sensing he was not at present desirous of conversation, I moved on.

Around the corner was a virtual circus of activity, its participants constructing all manner of apparatuses. Boats and furniture, generators and gyroscopes, weapons for war and museums for peace. The noise was, quite frankly, intrusive, and I ventured forth, only to be confronted by a most pungent aroma. I surmised it to be ether, as those in white robes around me were delving into the human body. Blood and fluids were splattered about as intestines, bones, ligament and, yes, even the mysterious brain, were in full view. Half gagging and covering my mouth, I hastened on.

To my utter surprise, my senses were now aroused with such pleasurable aromas I could not help but tarry! I found myself in the heart of a grand kitchen, its inhabitants seemingly joyous at their endeavors. Eggs and flour, herbs and dressings. Casseroles, stews, cakes, pies. Grilled, boiled, baked and basted. What a delectable position in which to find myself!

But up ahead, I was being beckoned. They coaxed me into their quarters and bombarded me with questions. What is true? On what basis do you make such determination? How do the rational and the emotional coexist? And what of beauty? Is it absolute to all or none? What is the chief end of man? How does one reasonably accept the reality of death?

I untangled myself from these heady discussions and hastened onward. I had to escape! Putting my fingers in my ears, I burst past politicians and pundits, gardeners and generals, storytellers and wine tasters. Past children singing and fathers weeping, sculptors sculpting and athletes leaping.

Finally I bust out the doors, out onto the street panting heavily, thankful to still have use of my faculties. I staggered away, regaining my composure, as Blackwell’s Bookstore faded in the distance.

REX ALPHIN of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His email address is