At the symposium of empty lawn chairs

The convocation is interrupted: Pretty Boy Floyd has robbed yet another bank and the state troopers have posted a dragnet, closing all roads from Macon to Milledgeville. The police sirens are deafening. 

We at the convocation, which is called a “symposium” in the marketing materials, stop talking. Any word that might be said from this point forward becomes an act of listening rather than of speaking. We’d been sitting outside in a nice semi-circle behind the big white house talking literature amongst ourselves and then, rather suddenly we all got perfectly quiet.

Just before we vote to temporarily disperse, the quietest one among us says, “now our gathering has become a symposium of empty lawn chairs.”

Dispersing, some of us get up and go inside the big house and some of us go for a walk in the woods.

The path is narrow, the trees tall, the insects whirr. A snapping turtle breaks wind in the pond. Then it’s as silent as it is hot and as hot as it is silent. We keep walking. Some of us slap mosquitoes with our right hand, some with our left. The atmosphere feels almost as swampy as truth, serenaded by a backup-band of police sirens in the unseeable distance.

“Gee whiz” one of us says, breaking the hot silence, “this is just like walking through one of those amazing stories by Flannery O’Connor.”

‘Andalusia’, Milledgeville, GA, the family farm on which the writer Flannery O’Connor lived with her mother Regina for the last 13 years of her short life. O’Connor, a practicing Catholic, once wrote, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.” Photo by author, 2019.

‘Andalusia’, Milledgeville, GA, the family farm on which the writer Flannery O’Connor lived with her mother Regina for the last 13 years of her short life. O’Connor, a practicing Catholic, once wrote, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.” Photo by author, 2019.