Published Short Stories


The man with the voice by James K Walker

...The man with the voice can’t help himself; like most with a specific talent, his is a natural gift rather than something trained or worked hard on to perfect. It boils down to simple mathematics he has no control over. His mouth is simply too big. There is no mechanism for refinement or control and so noises just slip out. His clumsy loud voice is devoid of temperance and pitch so it engulfs your senses with the same relentless force. He is honest and excited and this is exaggerated by the way he rasps. His words are too quick for his thoughts and leave his lips a quivering mess. The few teeth he has are all over the shop and create the impression of badly placed wicket stumps. His voice whistles through them and you can’t help but worry that one over pronounced word could bowl them out...

...On his head is a Tartan flat cap that perches so eloquently that it could easily be mistaken as part of his head. His face is hyperbolic. His jowls hang from his cheeks like drooping breasts. His ears are bulbous and rise out of his hair like Yorkshire puddings that have spilt out the tray. It is his exact grotesqueness that makes his an interesting face.

The good thing about the man with the voice is he continues talking when you enter the room, politely making eye contact so you don’t feel as if you are about to intrude. Sometimes I join mother on the sofa and am amazed at the perfectly equal distribution of looks we get, so that neither of us feels left out. If the man with the voice was in charge of communism I am sure it would work out. I imagine him some times as a contestant on The Generation Game, where prizes are replaced by people as he talks as they pass him on a conveyor belt...

...When the man with the voice has finished his cup of tea he washes his cup and saucer and places them back in his briefcase…. He then sits back down on the armchair with his legs and arms neatly folded as he prepares for his soliloquy. For this, mother is even prepared to switch off the TV. He always saves the best bits for last, recounting facts, the events that lead up to the facts, and the consequences the facts had on certain individuals. It is all very Jerry Springerish, although I sense the man with the voice is sincere. He should have been on the stage; clutching at his chest and wiping at his brow. I am aware of each and every utterance where with others I am not, and, I suppose that is his power.

The man with the voice is now 73, and I guess by that age you have seen so much you have to get some of it out before you begin to doubt it all happened yourself. It must be like a confessional where the sin is being blessed with a full and healthy life. I am only in my twenties and sometimes think mother is lying when she says once I was a child. We always think we are, and will remain, the person at this exact time in life and I guess this is our greatest mistake. The man with the voice knows this; it is why he will explode if he doesn’t talk. He has found some meaning in the madness, but like all of us, he doesn’t actually know it himself. It is why he is so eager to share what he has seen; it is why his words are like mischievous children running around the room. I can feel them slide down my ears and sea saw on my tongue and I can’t help but admire this wonderful man. Something tells me he has always been like this, even when he had lots of teeth, and you just know he was a three-minute birth who couldn’t wait to get out.

Naturally his lust for life makes me contemplate his death and I am aware that nothing will serve as a suitable reminder when he has gone. A meagre tombstone will not suffice, no matter what is inscribed. What he needs is a tombstone that speaks, like those alarms you get on cars that tell you to step away from the vehicle. His would say ‘Step closer to the grave and listen.’ Instead of placing flowers by the grave it could contain a coin slot where money could be spent. For those with less than ten pence you press a button and you get an ‘Eh up, me duck.’

It would never be the same though and this makes me feel partly sad and partly guilty. I feel bad because the man with the voice is a legend to mother and me and to all those other nobodies he visits with his china cup and saucer. When the man with the voice is gone, nobody will even know or care, apart from those on his round. There won’t be commemorate souvenirs like other celebrities get; only a select few will know he is gone. I feel guilty for this privilege but thankful all the same.
As he leaves he ruffles my hair and asks me about my life and I tell him I just want happiness. He smiles back at me like he really understands what I am talking about. He recognises that one small word is enough and that with such feelings there is no need to be specific, or retort with exaggerated responses, and then he is gone. Off down the road, with saucer and cup into someone else’s world.


Please feel free to email me in connection with anything you've seen here... or even something you haven't seen.

home | about | stories | novels | in progress | articles | contact