When I was a sophomore in high school, my English teacher was passing out an unexpected assignment and the cheerleader who sat in front of me muttered under her breath, "Oh great." The teacher wasn't quite out of earshot and she said, "Yes, it is great, and I'll tell you why...."
When she was done with her brief lecture, she told us about a short story she had read many years prior about a man who invented a machine that could hear the sounds of inanimate objects, like the screaming of a tree when it was cut down. She said she'd love to read it again but couldn't remember the story's name or its author.
I moved later that year, graduated from a different high school, and didn’t think about that story again until I came across it in a book of short stories by Roald Dahl, one of my favorite childhood authors. The story is called “The Sound Machine.”
I wrote to my teacher, care of my old school, to let her know I’d solved the mystery. It was more than a year later, and many months after I'd forgotten I'd even written her, that I got a reply.
The letter was long and handwritten and apologized for not writing back sooner. She explained that at the time she received my letter, she was grieving the sudden death of a three-year-old niece.
After reading her letter, I wanted to read "The Sound Machine" again, so I found it on my bookshelf.
I still get chills when I think about the first line: "The box was small and made of pine, about the size of a child's coffin."
Labels: Totally True Tales