Maxwell Ruth, a cantankerous, old high school history teacher falls down his basement stairs and soon thereafter starts hearing “The Words” over and over again— endingtimeendingtimeendingtime. His life is changed forever.
In this story we learn about the lives, loves, and losses of Max, Hargrove and Gwen Stinson, Beth and Bob Hazelwood, and Constance Young. They are lively, funny, at times; a little bit lost or wounded, yet resilient and hopeful. They are wrestling with life’s most challenging issues, including, abuse, loss, infidelity, aging, secrecy and what gives life meaning. And, like all of us, they would like more, more time to find the answers to life’s most important questions. The clock, though, is always ticking and time is always short.
In the days after Maxwell Ruth fell down his basement stairs, he begins to hear something alarming. He decides to tell his best friend, Hargrove Stinson, even though Hargrove has gone through a similar problem when his wife, Gwen, started hearing things after their daughter, Sally, died.
“But something’s wrong.” Max grimaced, his eyes wide.
“Something’s wrong? What are you talking about?”
“Not long after I fell, I started hearing things.”
“What things?” Hargrove thought of Gwen. “Did you hear that?” she’d often say, fear in her eyes. His heart skipped a beat.
“I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. I don’t want you to think I’m…”
“What are you hearing, Max?” Hargrove’s words were more clipped than he had intended.
“It’s like, these words.”
“No, nothing like that. It’s just this repetitive…” Max’s voice trailed off.
“A repetitive what?”
“You’ve been through enough of this…”
“Look, Max, tell me what’s going on.” Hargrove’s eyes didn’t move.
Max looked out the window again.
“Words. I’m hearing words. Woke me up after I got home from the hospital. Words slung together over and over again.” Max shrugged, his jaw went slack. “They go away. They come back. I don’t know what the hell it is.”
“Words, it sounds like words?”
Hargrove’s back stiffened. The hair on his neck prickled. “Listen. I hear her,” Gwen would say. “It’s Sally, I’m sure of it. She needs me.” He scrutinized Max’s face, looking for the terror, for the cold panic so familiar to Hargrove, but it wasn’t there.
“What did your doctor say? Did you tell him you’re hearing voices?”
“Jesus Christ, I’m not hearing voices!” Max threw the marker on the floor and walked to the window again. He wiped his face with his hand. Hargrove went to him and reached for his shoulder but then withdrew his hand.
“Okay, okay, you’re not hearing voices. You’re hearing words.”
“Yes, I’m hearing words.” Max turned around to face his friend.
“One word is ‘ending’ and the other word is ‘time.’” Max shrugged his shoulders.
“Time ending?” said Hargrove, his voice a monotone.
“When I hear it, it’s ‘ending time.’ And they run together like they’re a single word playing on a continuous loop: endingtimeendingtimeendingtime.” Max frowned and nodded his head to one side as he said this.
“That’s it?” Max shook his head. The corner of Hargrove’s mouth twitched slightly. “What did the doctor say?”
“Well,” said Max, looking at the floor. “I didn’t exactly tell him.”
“Look, that’s all I need. A doctor thinking I’ve gone off the deep end.” Max paused. “I don’t need a friend thinking I’ve gone off the deep end either.”
“Of course not.” Hargrove cleared his throat. Max put his hand on his briefcase as if he were about to leave. “But, Jesus, Max, you should have told your doctor about this. I mean, maybe something can be done. Maybe if you had a CT or an MRI, they could find the cause. It has to be something.”
“Had those. Nothing’s wrong.”
Hargrove was quiet.
“You think I’m crazy, don’t you?” said Max.
Hargrove studied Max’s face, his full cheeks and wide eyes seeming almost childlike.
About the Author
David B. Seaburn served a rural country parish, worked in community mental health, was an assistant professor of psychiatry and family medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center for twenty years, and also directed a free public school-based family counseling center before his retirement in 2010. He has written five novels: More More Time (2015), Chimney Bluffs (2012), Charlie No Face (2011—Finalist in General Fiction, National Indie Excellence Awards), Pumpkin Hill (2007), and Darkness is as Light (2005). He and his wife live near Rochester, NY. They have two adult daughters and two wonderful granddaughters.
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