Gwen Petersen: In a Sow’s Ear 6-11-12
How do rumors get started? A universal question you might say. Some rumors affect entire populations; some ruin an individual’s life or puff him or her up falsely; other jargon purports to be cure-alls for an assortment of conditions … such as fixing your love life, your neurotic habits, your spouse’s lack of attention, your dog’s bad breath. Whatever the subject or concern, some soul will “hear” a rumor, turn it into a fact and pass it along as gospel truth.
When my phone rang, I answered with the usual response.
“Oh gosh,” said a voice. “It’s so good to hear you speaking.”
“Well, thanks,” I replied, wondering if this was a relative, a long unheard-from old friend, or another politician wanting my “opinion.” There was no heavy breathing on the line so I dismissed the probability of a rude joke.
The caller identified herself. “This is Sylvia.” (not her real moniker) “I had to call because … because …” Sylvia uttered a rather impressive sigh.
“Because why?” I queried. “Is something wrong?”
“No, not any more,” said Sylvia. “But the thing is, somebody said … well, they said you had died!”
“You gotta be kidding!” I chuckled.
“No, I heard it at the hardware store from one of the clerks. I tried to call you earlier, but your line was busy for a long time. I started to wonder … well …” Sylvia sighed again.
“Sorry about that,” I said. “I had the phone off the hook because I was taking a nap. As far as I know I woke up or else I wouldn’t be talking to you.”
Before the afternoon was over, two more people called. Later I drove into town. As I stood at the counter in the drugstore a woman approached me. She looked pale and big-eyed. I wondered if she was ill. She sidled up close. “I-er-I have something kinda … well … a … someone said you had passed away. I’m so relieved to see you.”
I reassured her that I was still vertical and looking down at grass rather than up at roots. From the drugstore I drove west of town to Janet’s Hair, Nails and Massage Salon. I intended to make an appointment for a soothing massage which I figured I ought to have if I’d become deceased. Might loosen me up …
When I walked in the door Denise, the masseuse, burst out laughing. “So and so reported you’d died,” she said, still chortling. “I told So and So I’d just seen you get out of your pickup and you didn’t look dead or even stiff.”
Well, suffice to say, it was an interesting afternoon as I fielded expressions of disbelief and shock which usually dissolved into laughter interspersed with clever witticisms such as: “I checked the obits and didn’t see your name …” Or: “The Sheriff said he hadn’t hear anything …” Or: “Nobody notified the mortuary …” The jests seemed to bubble up like a bursting geyser in Yellowstone.
Returning home I decided that I needed to put a cork in the tale of my demise before it ballooned any further. So I wrote a “letter to the editor” of our local paper.
A rumor has been flying around that Gwen Petersen has passed on, croaked, kicked the bucket, turned up her toes, expired, breathed her last, departed this life, gone to meet her maker, gave up the ghost, left this mortal coil, perished, has become deceased, expired, went to meet St. Peter and otherwise is no longer on top of the grass. I wish to inform all that the rumor of my death is grossly exaggerated. I can only hope that whoever started the story was not indulging in a flight of wishful thinking. Be assured that if I was gonna die, I would’ve called first.
Still kicking, still breathing in and out, Gwen Petersen.
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.