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Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Hummer. By John von Daler

                           It started involuntarily. He was all by himself. He sat in his own tiny cubicle and either worked at a computer or took telephone calls in the great, curved, white building.

                The hummer had not at that point begun to hum. He just sat and read contracts. He was careful and concentrated; he solved many a little irritating problem for his clients, charging them much less than any other lawyer. Right's right, he said.
                Most of his contacts found him via the internet, so he worked all day long with the cases of people he had never seen. The first few years he sat in silence. But somewhere during the third year he started to hum.
                You are thinking, How irritating! Think of sitting in a cubicle all day humming away. He could at least turn on a radio!
                But you are wrong. The radio would have disturbed him. It was not attuned to his thoughts. He did not want to hear that a storm was approaching off the coast of Sweden just as he had found a loophole that would have allowed the seller of a house to demand compensation for his own shoddy upkeep. No, full concentration. But humming was different.
                Humming started at the right times, in the down periods of his reading, and it built up slowly, together with his command of the text of the contracts, so that he would reach a musical climax often at the exact moment when he had saved his client an illegal and exhorbitant fee. You might say that his humming made up a kind of score to the movie of his working life, that he was his own skilled composer fitting in the phrases at exactly the right moments.
                In addition his voice was beautiful. His rendition of the G major melody from the first movement of the Mendelssohn violin concerto may even have surpassed Heifetz in intense lovliness. Something about his voice put any listener at rest; life is good, it sang. Go on with it in peace!
                Usually he stopped humming when he took the bus home. But one day the man next to him in the seat by the aisle had started to rant about the damn foreigners. He muttered and growled ugly thoughts about people he did not know. The hummer, almost to protect himself from the cascade of those ugly thoughts, started up on a little melody by Brahms. His humming voice was higher than his speaking voice, smooth, without much vibrato, but soft and round as a ball of yarn.
                The man beside him frowned as he spewed epithets, but he let down his shoulders after a while and settled back in his seat. Finally the awful words stopped hurtling out of his mouth and he fell back in the seat and rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. Through the glass in the top of the bus he watched the small white clouds scuttle through the blue sky. All you could hear was Brahms.
                When the Hummer discovered what he could do with this little trick, he decided to learn ventriloquism. He learned to conceal the starting point of the melody. On his best days he could quite anonymously hurl small, pleasant musical packages way across the bus.
                He stopped a fight between some teenagers because he hummed an old folksong. He calmed a girl who was crying in a corner seat by humming a lively showtune. He even made the busdriver stop braking and speeding up so that the passengers could stand without bashing into each other. The busdriver had gotten Beethoven's Ninth right in the ear. And nobody ever found out how these things were done.
                Now I've caught you again. You are thinking he should be in a newspaper or on television. Some talent show. He could sit in the audience and project his songs up onto an empty stage while the judges churn around to find the soloist. The Invisible Man Wins American Idol! you are thinking.
                Well, you better stop all that nonsense. The only ones who ever will know about The Hummer are us here. Sometimes the good secrets in life should just be kept.

I don't hum.
But I do write.
Put a smile on your face.
Buy my book,
Just click on the picture:



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