The Sound of Silence –by: Barbara Constant
First Page:Transcriber's Note:
This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction June 1962. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.
BY BARBARA CONSTANT
Most people, when asked to define the ultimate in loneliness, say it's being alone in a crowd. And it takes only one slight difference to make one forever alone in the crowd....
ILLUSTRATED BY SCHELLING
Nobody at Hoskins, Haskell & Chapman, Incorporated, knew jut why Lucilla Brown, G.G. Hoskins' secretary, came to work half an hour early every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Even G.G. himself, had he been asked, would have had trouble explaining how his occasional exasperated wish that just once somebody would reach the office ahead of him could have caused his attractive young secretary to start doing so three times a week ... or kept her at it all the months since that first gloomy March day. Nobody asked G.G. however not even Paul Chapman, the very junior partner in the advertising firm, who had displayed more than a little interest in Lucilla all fall and winter, but very little interest in anything all spring and summer. Nobody asked Lucilla why she left early on the days she arrived early after all, eight hours is long enough. And certainly nobody knew where Lucilla went at 4:30 on those three days nor would anybody in the office have believed it, had he known.
"Lucky Brown? seeing a psychiatrist?" The typist would have giggled, the office boy would have snorted, and every salesman on the force would have guffawed. Even Paul Chapman might have managed a wry smile. A real laugh had been beyond him for several months ever since he asked Lucilla confidently, "Will you marry me?" and she answered, "I'm sorry, Paul thanks, but no thanks."
Not that seeing a psychiatrist was anything to laugh at, in itself. After all, the year was 1962, and there were almost as many serious articles about mental health as there were cartoons about psychoanalysts, even in the magazines that specialized in poking fun. In certain cities including Los Angeles and certain industries especially advertising "I have an appointment with my psychiatrist" was a perfectly acceptable excuse for leaving work early. The idea of a secretary employed by almost the largest advertising firm in one of the best known suburbs in the sprawling City of the Angels doing so should not, therefore, have seemed particularly odd. Not would it have, if the person involved had been anyone at all except Lucilla Brown.
The idea that she might need aid of any kind, particularly psychiatric, was ridiculous. She had been born twenty two years earlier in undisputed possession of a sizable silver spoon and she was, in addition, bright, beautiful, and charming, with 20/20 vision, perfect teeth, a father and mother who adored her, friends who did likewise ... and the kind of luck you'd have to see to believe. Other people entered contests Lucilla won them. Other people drove five miles over the legal speed limit and got caught doing it Lucilla out distanced them, but fortuitously slowed down just before the highway patrol appeared from nowhere. Other people waited in the wrong line at the bank while the woman ahead of them learned how to roll pennies Lucilla was always in the line that moved right up to the teller's window.
"Lucky" was not, in other words, just a happenstance abbreviation of "Lucilla" it was an exceedingly apt nickname. And Lucky Brown's co workers would have been quite justified in laughing at the very idea of her being unhappy enough about anything to spend three precious hours a week stretched out on a brown leather couch staring miserably at a pale blue ceiling and fumbling for words that refused to come...