Molly Gibbons flung her coat over the banisters and kicked
the front door shut behind her. All normal ideas of decorum
were suspended as she rushed to open the small brown box.
Her hands with their knuckles swollen by arthritis fumbled
as she inserted the intricately engineered piece of plastic
and switched it on as the nurse had shown her.
‘Now what will I experiment with’, she wondered,
in a flurry of excitement. ‘Of course the tv, it'll
be set at the same height as I last watched it.’ Molly
settled herself in her usual seat with her feet up on the
old camel saddle stool, gaudy with red and gold tassels.
It was her favourite memento of all the foreign holidays
she'd taken when Billy her husband was alive.
"My ankles are up like baps," she observed, "hah!
The joys of old age." Molly had a habit of talking
to herself, product of living alone for the last 10 years.
She jumped as the sound came on the tv. "Merciful god
I must have been as deaf as a post." She watched the
green bar decrease as she flicked the remote; 19, 18, 17,
- 26 down to 16 now; she reflected as the tv reached a comfortable
Only half watching Molly remembered how she'd resisted
the idea of a hearing aid. Her Glenda had harped on about
it but she hadn't wanted to listen. Hearing aids were only
for old people and at 75 she wasn't old, no not these days
75 wasn't old. Young ones nowadays mumbled that was the
real trouble. But this last Christmas had been the turning
point. It had been great to have Glenda and Patricia and
their husbands all seated round her table; smiling and chatting,
and the table looked lovely - the silverware glittering
in the candle light, the thick red napkins and everyone
looking silly in the too tight paper hats. But it was like
dancing a waltz with someone who had no sense of rhythm.
The conversation clunked as the punchlines had to be repeated
for her benefit and she found herself laughing without knowing
the joke - never mind getting it. It spoilt the Christmas
a wee bit in the end. ‘I was like a bag of weasels
by Boxing day and was glad to see them all go.’
The girls had both nagged her since.
"Get a hearing aid Ma, it's only vanity that's stopping
you. If you couldn't see you'd get glasses and wouldn't
think twice about it, well a hearing aid's just the same
- at least try it".
Eventually she'd agreed to see about it. Glenda and George
were visiting tomorrow and what a surprise she had for them.
Molly turned off the tv but not before she again watched
the green bar slide back up to 26 and smiled contentedly
Almost dozing in the chair Molly was startled awake by
a strange whistling and a vibrating noise she'd never heard
before. Turning her head from side to side, she finally
located it to the chimney.
‘Heavens above what a racket and it's only the wind.’
She checked the old papers and bits of cardboard that closed
off the now defunct chimney and all was in place. ‘God
keep the poor sailors on a night like that’, she thought,
‘but there was no forecast for wind.’ Looking
in the mirror above the mantelpiece she peered carefully
to see if the hearing aid was visible. No her hair came
down over her ears so that was good. Vanity or no she didn't
want to tell the world she was old AND deaf.
Stretching her stiff back Molly ambled into the kitchen.
A wee cup of tea and a paradise slice, that would be a suitable
celebration. Waiting for the kettle to boil Molly tried
to read her magazine but she was repeatedly distracted.
‘That bush needs pruning’, she thought in irritation,
as the branches tapped and scratched against the window.
Her footsteps seemed to echo loudly as she made the tea
and walked about the kitchen. The old pendulum clock was
particularly loud in the quiet house.
"There's nothing as lonely as a ticking clock in an
empty room,” she said aloud. The earlier jubilation
was fading. Tick tock, tick tock, scrape scrape, tick tap,
scrape tock. She stared unseeing at the lights of the town
spread out beyond the window. Usually the view fascinated
her; endless movement and coloured lights breaking the dark
- now it just seemed to emphasise her aloneness.
"Jesus what's that! - Ach look I've spilt me tea.
Ye stupid clart", she reprimanded herself sternly.
"God save us but the house seems haunted this night.
Now, what was that and why do I keep talking out loud to
myself like some demented old craitur." She again followed
the sound and this time traced it to the central heating
boiler under the stairs.
"Well this bates all," she said and reaching
up she plucked out the recently treasured hearing aid, switched
it off and shut it firmly back in its little brown box.
The familiar silence returned, the house was its normal,
quiet, cosy, self. The wind died and the clock didn't tick.
Cocooned in her deafness Molly settled to do the crossword
with her tea and paradise slice, muttering the clues and
answers aloud as usual.
"By god" she cackled, pencil poised in mid-air,
"now I'm free to choose what I hear and when I hear
it - ain't old age great!"