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The neighbors are talking about me - and Mama 's listening

I thought I was alone until I heard my mother's voice. From thin air, like the voice of God, only delivering more guilt, it said, "I heard about your incident."

Already? I thought. How did she hear already? I'd spent my entire day quietly tiptoeing about my business, ducking the radar and maintaining a low profile.

"You must be embarrassed. And since you didn't tell anybody about it, I assume it was your fault," she accused.

While I wanted to insist that I didn't act alone, I couldn't malign my accomplices, Charlotte and Ashley. Besides, suggesting to my mama's creative mind that I'm in a girl gang whose modus operandi is to gregariously bring down bar-bands with loose lips would benefit me little.

If you have not heard by now, on Friday night at the Packway Handle Band concert I was the target of a public shushing -- in a neighborly way, of course. Charlotte, Ashley and I were politely asked by another audience member if it would be OK if she told us to pipe down. She could hear us clear to the diagonally opposite side of the room next to the speakers from which the band's They-Might-Be-Giants-type-stylized-alternative-bluegrass-bar-music emanated at a decibel beyond a healthy range for the human ear; an unfathomable feat.

We agreed our neighbor could breach our fun. Charlotte giggled and claimed she told us to be quiet. Ashley laughed and said we hadn't seen each other in a while --since the day before -- and that we were discussing the high-minded topic of public education. Everything probably would have been fine if I hadn't sarcastically gasped and asked the room monitor if she could hear who we were talking about. It took all the restraint I could rally to keep from questioning if she knew what a packway handle is anyway.

When her lips turned inward toward her teeth, we understood the seriousness of this shushing and muffled our merry-making. The three of us promised that after intermission we would enjoy ourselves in a more operatic demeanor, like the Queen of England at a dog fight. I let out a whoop at the beginning of the second set to establish that I was indeed engaged.

On Friday night it all seemed silly, but by Saturday morning I had nearly convinced myself that maybe my concept of concert behavior was outdated and erroneous. Maybe bar bands these days prefer calmer, complacent crowds who sit in silent appreciation, nodding and crisply clapping, fingers to palm, after each song.

I'd decided to discount the matter as an unfortunate gaffe similar to blessing someone's heart to his face. But word had spread. My mother knew. I asked, "Where'd you hear about it?"

"At Uncle Junk's. Nancy, she lives around the corner from you and Charlotte, asked your father and me how you're doing," my mother explained as I braced. "She heard from Betsy, who lives next to Ashley, that you were in an accident."

"An accident?" I clarified, now thinking that perhaps my mother and I were not discussing the same event at all. "When?"

"Last week."

"I haven't been in an accident," I hesitantly said.

My father walked out to where we were sitting, squinted his eyes and fussed, "You get in a car wreck and you don't even tell us?"

"She doesn't remember it," my mother replied, then paused before announcing, "It gave her a concussion."

Perhaps Charlotte and Ashley were in the wreck and have concussions, too. No one has told me yet. But I think we should all shush now. Publicly.

Lucy Adams is the author of Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run. She lives in Thomson, where she once finger-shushed her own mother. She is thankful it was not in public because the karmic payback would have been far worse than this.

Web posted on Thursday, August 25, 2011

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