The Sounds of Silence.

Wullenweber Circularly Disposed Antenna Array, near Augsburg, Germany

Wullenweber Circularly Disposed Antenna Array, near Augsburg, Germany

The majority of the first 125 incidents of sound (other than the more than 90 that were about making or mentioning music) that I found in Irish Firebrands, had something to do with silence, they were paired with peacefulness (preceding it and/or following it), they had to do with trying to keep quiet, or they attempted to fill a felt void associated with silence.

  1. Curiosity overcame his chariness – but he counted the stairs as he climbed, so he could finesse the treads that squeaked.
  2. He turned the china doorknob slowly, to keep the mechanism from rattling, and he raised the door a bit, to keep the old hinges from squeaking.
  3. Only the tick of the cooling cylinder block broke the stillness as the night faded….
  4. Kneeling beside it, he raised the lid with infinite care to prevent the old hinges from squeaking.
  5. She turned the china knob slowly to prevent the mechanism from rattling, and lifted up a little on the handle to prevent the old hinges from squeaking.
  6. The rain had stopped, and the silence was broken only by the courtship of crickets in the garden outside the window.
  7. Dillon was a quiet man, but today she couldn’t even detect the click of his keyboard –
  8. Bone-weary after a deafening day of jet travel from central Asia, he decided to head for the peaceful country town he called home. He’d unwind over some quick pub grub and a pint at his local, and then settle into his little flat for a quiet night and a long lie-in tomorrow.
  9. He crouched before the stove door, rotated the handle with silent expertise and peered into the firebox.
  10. Silent eternities seemed to elapse.
  11. The silence discomfited her.
  12. They worked in sociable silence …
  13. The chime of the antique clock in the parlour broke the silence.
  14. The whisper of paper filled the air as the kids leafed through their scriptures, and then silence settled over the room while they read.
  15. The teenagers digested that in silence.
  16. He found a fork, and they ate in silence for a few minutes.
  17. Then she read silently for a few moments.
  18. Then Regan’s bawl shattered the silence.
  19. His humble sincerity shamed her into silence.
  20. Silence reigned while Dillon searched her face … and then he sighed.
  21. He stood silently by the table, looking out the window with his hands in his pockets.
  22. He didn’t move … didn’t speak … she couldn’t even hear him breathe. Seeing him this subdued was as unsettling as his emotional outbursts had been. At length, she could bear the silence no longer.
  23. His distress over these discoveries had broken the silence of the night,
  24. but in the silence, the downpour outdoors was echoed by the despair that deluged her heart.
  25. With trembling fingers she timidly tapped at the communicating door – then, terrified by the silence, she turned the knob.
  26. Silence fell between them again … then Dillon cleared his throat.
  27. Silence … then he said, “So, it’s still … ‘not yet’?”
  28. Frank’s praise almost made up for Dillon’s silence about the jar she’d left outside his door….
  29. The two stood there for a long, silent moment, looking into one another’s eyes …
  30. he piloted the pickup in grim silence across the Boyne and through a massive stone barbican,
  31. In the easy silence that coupled their conversations, the thud of falling fruit was clearly audible.
  32. … and again the lonely little boy in the cubicle at the industrial school silently cried himself to sleep.
  33. The silent seconds shambled on … had he gone too far?
  34. until, with only twenty-four hours to go, the ring tone of Dillon’s phone shattered the brittle silence that filled the farmhouse.
  35. Guilt drove her to break the silence.
  36. The two forms contemplated one another silently for a moment …
  37. He drove in silence to town, where he locked the bike to the railing outside Sweeney’s shop and put the key in the letter box.
  38. In the silence that followed, Dillon realised that he’d been holding his breath.
  39. The silence was broken only by the odd animal noise – often quite entertaining – that erupted from pre-verbal infants.
  40. The clock in the parlour ticked ominously in the silence.
  41. There was a protracted silence. When at last he spoke, his voice bristled with suspicion.
  42. Silence … then he said, “Adopting?
  43. Eilish wept silently until Lana finished speaking.
  44. Dillon passed a rough weekend, pent up in a silent flat that clamoured with confused emotions.
  45. Only the counterpoint of his panting and her sobs broke the silence.
  46. Only once did the silence break.
  47. Then, to her dismay, he silently went to the door.
  48. In the following silence, she heard the parlour clock strike three quarters.
  49. And in the silence, Dillon completed the covenant:
  50. A mechanical humming invaded the pastoral peace.
  51. Dillon stepped into the bedroom and quietly closed the door.
  52. It had been very quiet in the flat since the rain had stopped – far too quiet.
  53. Normally she didn’t mind being out in dirty weather – she fancied herself a bit of a storm petrel, in that respect – but a sullen sky quietly incontinent in leaden streams was not the sort of storm she cared to be in.
  54. It was so quiet that she could hear the clock ticking indoors.
  55. Upon her return, the rest of the day passed quietly enough with nary an archaeologist in sight.
  56. Dillon had installed himself in the big bedroom, and after tea time all Lana heard from him was the click of a computer keyboard. She went about her evening routine, which included a quiet hour of crocheting before the fire –
  57. After the disturbance over the torc and a fabulous excursion to England, Drumcarroll was too quiet.
  58. After the furore over the torc and a delightful excursion to England, the flat over Conlon’s shop was too quiet.
  59. She’d spent all evening messing up motifs and unpicking them, and she kept dropping her aluminum crochet hook, which hit the hardwood floorboards with a clatter that rang startlingly in the quiet house.
  60. The pub was peaceful enough, there being no Wednesday trad session, and Geary being an old-fashioned publican who eschewed a telly on his premises.
  61. After a few more quiet moments, he returned the paper to his pocket and rose to his feet.
  62. “I’m going to find someplace quiet where I can ring for reservations, or we won’t get any supper.”
  63. they’d go back to England … and then there’d be no more coming home to an empty flat … nor eating lonely meals … nor lying alone in a cold, quiet bed….
  64. After a couple of quiet kilometres, he said,
  65. It was so quiet that she could hear a bell on one of Seán Murtagh’s sheep, grazing a quarter of a mile away.
  66. “Is this truck running on autopilot?”
    “What do you mean?”
    “You’re awfully quiet.”
  67. He quietly stood by while she showed her passport and obtained her boarding card,
  68. Now he pondered Mo’s quiet fortitude….
  69. “This is the dads’ chance to attend a conference session without having to take out fussy infants – but the downside is that it’s so quiet, you could fall asleep!”
  70. Alone in the quiet apartment, she’d been transported into another world:
  71. She calmed down and lay quietly for a few minutes with closed eyes.
  72. The echoes faded, and in the late-night small-town quiet that descended upon the street, she could hear someone draw a deep breath – and then let it out as a sigh.
  73. “Goodnight, Lana,” Dillon said gently, and he quietly closed the door between them.
  74. She could no longer abide the deathlike stillness that pervaded the farmhouse – it seemed like a coffin awaiting burial.
  75. The calm that enabled the fog to linger intensified the rural stillness and amplified the slightest sound – even the drip of condensation from twigs in the hedgerow seemed loud. Lana paused at a roundabout to listen for unseen traffic … but only heard the lowing of a distant cow.

You may have noticed that a few of the actions on these lists seem to have been repeated. They were – but by a different character, so I counted each one separately. I can’t explain why, without issuing a “spoiler alert,” although readers who have the book (or a 51% preview copy) will have twigged what’s going on, by now. Suffice it to say that there was a reason….

©2012 by Christine Plouvier


Arecibo Observatory Radio Telescope, Puerto Rico

NB: People build huge antenna arrays to help hear some sounds. In one of my pre-novelist lives, I worked at the Augsburg site, pictured at the top of this post.



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2 responses to “The Sounds of Silence.

  1. These are great! 3, 11, 14, and 68 are my favorites. These are wonderful descriptives. 🙂


  2. Thanks! We have a wonderful language, conferring power with words well-wielded, which is why there is no spell without an incantation! 😉


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