The more Max talked the more uneasy the kid became.
'In Germany they're big into it, the silence thing,' he was saying to the kid. 'Some of them are so into it they have their vocal chords surgically removed once they're ordained. I know what you're thinking - why would you do that? Why would a man - monk or not - do that to himself? Wouldn't they just take the vow and not speak? Well, I'll tell you why. They're so into the silence thing that it's not just about speaking - it's about any noise at all. Say you stub your toe, what's the first thing you do? You make a noise - a scream, ouch, something like that - and you can't control it. These monks don't want to spoil their vow of silence in any way at all. If they go to the dentist to have a tooth pulled, you think they're going to be able to sit there in silence if the fucker hits a nerve? No way...'
The kid was about 17. He had picked him up outside a drive-thru. He didn't debate whether or not he should, he simply saw him there holding a sign saying 'South' and pulled in out of instinct. He'd never picked up a hitchhiker before, couldn't remember the last time he'd seen one. He thought it was probably illegal, but that seemed irrelevant.
The story about the monks was a complete fabrication - at least he'd never heard of anything like that before - but he felt the urge to talk to the boy, to tell him strange things. He was getting excited. The boy seemed unsettled by it all, glancing uneasily at Max every so often with a confused look on his face. Max was well aware of his confusion and continued speaking.
'And they won't take any medication, either,' he said, speaking frantically now, 'no anaesthetic for them, thanks very much, unless it's for some serious operation or something... So they have the vocal chords removed. It's the German ones that do that, they're serious fuckers over there - a librarian's dream... you want a quiet library? Go to Germany. Ha!'
Once he'd ceased his crazed giggling, Max asked the boy if he was running away.
'It's okay, kid. I don't care. Doesn't matter much now anyway, does it?' he said, turning to see if the boy understood what he what he meant. It seemed he did.
'Hey, Mister, you can drop me here... I think I'm gonna go back home,' said the boy, his voice trembling.
'Want to hear another story?' Max asked. The boy's eyes were wide now, anxious and searching.
'Storytime!' Max bellowed before the boy could answer.
'No... I... I think I'll just get out here, Mister - anywhere...please...'
'I thought you'd say that!' Max said. He looked at the boy. He saw The Fear. He was excited. He put his foot down, giggling wildly as the car sped up. The boy let out a sound Max hadn't heard before. Max smiled.
Chris Connolly writes from Dublin, Ireland. Allegedly he is not as dangerous as he reads. His first collection of short stories, 'Every Day I Atrophy' (the SideCartel) is available now. If you need to know more about Chris Connolly, he has an excellent and excellently informative website here chrisconnollywriter.com