The old man sits there, all tweed and spectacles and proper. He has a musty smell about him and a papery quality to his skin; he looks like he might tear if you manhandle him. He rubs his arm, upsetting his smoking jacket, revealing words tattooed across his forearm just under the sleeve. He looks at the youngster across from him, and a crinkly smile touches his lips.
The youngster, in turn, regards him coolly and with a little bit of disdain. With his immaculate black suit, his smooth skin, his modern, metallic scent, he feels far superior. He too has tattoos, a series of binary numbers visible just above the stiff neck of his dress shirt.
“What exactly are we supposed to be doing here?” he asks, impatient, his voice crisp and clear. It has been an hour since he was placed in this room with the old man, and he was growing weary of the company. He could feel the dust accumulating on his spotless visage.
The old man shrugs. “I do not know, but I have all the time in the world to find out.”
The youngster glances at his watch. “Well my time is limited. I tune out in approximately 3 hours and 22 minutes and 5… no, 4 seconds.”
“Enough time for a story.”
A smirk touches the youngster’s lips. “I bet I can tell a story better than you. And why stop at one?” He taps his forehead. “I have an excellent memory. I have like hundreds of stories stored up here. I bet your feeble mind cannot remember more than one tale.”
The old man shrugs again. “Such is my curse, I suppose.”
The youngster stretches languidly. “I’m going to play it fair. Let’s tell the one story you know, and the winner is he who tells it best.”
The old man smiles. In a soft voice, he tells the story he read countless times before. The youngster watches and listen, first bored then with increasing attention. The old man’s rustling voice envelops him, drowning him in the story, and as he listens, he wishes he was a child again so he may sit on the old man’s lap and snuggle closely to him. There is something intimate about the way he tells the story, something tangible. He looks so… unmodern, but it doesn’t affect his storytelling, whereas he has to upgrade his appearance and gadgets every month to keep up with the trends.
When the old man finishes with a quiet, “The End”, the youngster breaks out of his reverie and tries to appear unperturbed, like his feathers hadn’t been ruffled. He acknowledges the old man’s recital with a tight smile then launches into one of his own. The old man reclines in his chair, listening to the smooth and fluid voice of the young narrator. He is secretly jealous of all the knowledge he possesses and feels sad that he will never be able to tell more than one story. He wishes he could walk around and gesticulate with his hands like the youngster, but he’s not so light on his feet.
When the youngster is done, they both regard each other silently, each withholding the fact that they both enjoyed the other’s recital, each not wishing to admit the other’s virtues. Then the old man smiles.
“It’s really the story that counts, doesn’t it, regardless of who tells it?”
The youngster allows himself to return the smile. “Agreed.”
This was written in response to this week’s writing challenge, which posed a question about eBooks and physical books. I thought it would be interesting to have the two subjects discuss it among themselves. Can you pick out the attributes I highlighted in each one? Do you agree with their conclusion?