“I’m all ears,” I said as I lowered myself onto the tree stump opposite the doctor. The doctor fished one hand into a worn-looking pocket in his coat and pulled out a short wooden pipe. Over the next couple of minutes he also retrieved tobacco and a lighter and proceeded to do all the right things with those three objects. He made a couple of sucking sounds and exhaled a small cloud.
“Well,” the doctor said, after quite a long wait. “Well, you’re not all ears,” he continued. “There’s a mouth there.” He pointed at me with the mouthpiece of the pipe, a far better use for the item than using it to smoke in my opinion, though I kept the thought to myself.
“Yes,” I answered with a sigh. “This right here is a mouth. Technically, I’m not all ears but for all intents and purposes I am.”
We sat in silence for as long it takes a doctor to inhale and exhale from a pipe three more times.
“How did you know who I was and where I was?” he asked.
I shrugged my ear-covered shoulders. “I’m not sure what you’re asking there.”
“You don’t have any eyes,” the doctor continued.
“I’m over 90% ears,” I replied. “Despite not having any eyes my hearing prowess enables me to build up an in-depth view of the world that’s probably better than every other person on the planet.”
“A bit like that superhero in that bloody awful movie?”
“Daredevil? Yes, I suppose so. I suppose you could say I’m just like Daredevil if Daredevil was a walking bush of ears. Do you think there’s much call for a comic book adaptation of a mostly-ear bit of shrubbery? Is that the sort of superhero kids will want to be?”
The doctor looked uncomfortably at his pipe.
“I’m sorry for snapping,” I said. “I’m just after some help. I’m tired of being this way. Can you help?”
The doctor took another deep puff. “My doctorate is honorary,” he said, punctuating the sentence with a smoke ring and barely-concealed look of joy at the O-shaped cloud. “And it’s in philosophy.”
I slumped, defeated.
“Have you thought about taking up pipe-smoking?”
“No hands,” I said. “I’m all ears.”
The doctor tried his best to ignore me, tried his best to concentrate on smoking, and I sat in silence for a few moments more. After what seemed a satisfactory amount of time to convey my disappointment and send waves of what I hoped was guilt over the man in some petty way of spreading misery I lifted myself off the tree stump and walked back down the mountain away from the cabin. I crossed the brook and made my way along the barely-a-path that wound its way through the young conifers.
A minute or so later the doctor finished his pipe, stood up, stretched his legs, and muttered how much of a freak I was.
“I heard that!” I shouted up the slope, my voice echoing with a mix of menace and depression.