Hardwick Postcard #8: Talk, Talk

There’s not a bland way to write this: gossip is part of the human condition. Gossip in a small town? Can be funny. Or scorching.

Arriving at a library meeting, someone walks in and says, I’ve been to the post office. I’ve got gossip.

I come out from the stacks where I’ve been shelving books and say, Do tell….

I spend a lot of time at the post office, and I frequently have the odd sense the post office folks know me intimately. While my email inbox may have more details, a whole landscape of my life channels through that slender box. Like gossip, sometimes the mail’s good, sometimes bad, and sometimes rather dull.

From the post office gossip unravels laughter, but then much seriousness, too. The story is about one person, one family, but really about our community. In a multifaceted way, it’s a variation of the contemporary disfunction of our greater society, about emptiness and loneliness, and the natural lust to fill those caverns in our souls, and how badly awry human nature can go.

Then we stop talking for a moment. We just stop.

Later, my daughter sends me a photo of a post-it she found on a classroom building at Johnson State. She snapped the photo and left the note for another passerby to read.

Reading fiction not only develops our imagination and creativity, it gives us the skills to be alone. It gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we’ve never met, living lives we couldn’t possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character’s skin.

– Ann Patchett

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