Ceremony

He hears her before he sees her, garrulously babbling from inside the drive-thru window

Poor decisions, or unfortunate circumstances, unceremoniously brought her to their employ; skills lost to anachrony – or having none to speak of – she had no choice, she has to live…

He supposes

She was macilent, nearly emaciated, with grey cropped hair, and wore thick-lensed bifocals, fastened to a flowered lanyard hugging her slender neck

As she carries on cheerfully, regaling her half-century younger, fellow employees with non sequiturs and minutiae, her utterances chase after them

They totter here and there, busily filling orders, perhaps being sped up by the words launched in their direction

Soft clicking and tapping percolate from the floor; every step, every stutter echoes with the noise; it’s not unpleasant, rather like the staccato of heels in an acoustical hallway

Curious, he nudges upward in his seat, venturing a quick glance, in hopes of discovering its source

Ears; dozens, upon dozens, hundreds of ears strewn across the tiles

Quite unconcerned with her surroundings, the prattle continues

The ears appear to span years of decay; a gradient from the hardened noise-makers to the soft, silent sliders

Hurried footfalls urge their accelerations and ricochets, fleshy pinballs batted through a grandiose machine

And it’s only then that he notices the glaze in the eyes of the juniors, and the smooth, uninterrupted skin on either side

The volume of her galimatias increases, or certainly at least, he’s now losing sight of the aural detachments

It’s come to this for her, and many like; metamorphosed into a beetle, surrounded by incomprehensible lions

She finds her contentment in the speaking, not in the being heard

Is this where it ends? A tristful journey into senectitude, forced to ignore being ignored? Filling empty space with sound where, of course, it can’t be heard? Feeling useful in a token role, just to make ends meet?

And as she turns her head, still verbally masticating, he sees that her glasses are lopsided, with nothing there to hold up the far side

The young man at the window startles him out of surreal cerebration, and clearly mouths the words “Have a nice day,” while handing over the order

He mouths a “You, too,” in return, before driving away with his coffee, heartbroken…

And earless

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