by Karen Topakian
“How long am I going to sit here?” my mother asked herself while seated on her suburban ranch house’s concrete front steps.
She pulled her German shepherd Pasha, a little closer to pet his furry head. The summer sun warmed her bare knees.
My mother put her ear to the screen door to listen to my father’s conversation with the man who was testing his hearing. She heard muffled voices. So she waited. That’s all she could do. That’s all she’d been doing for the last 30 minutes.
It all started when the ordinary looking man in the dark colored business suit arrived for his appointment with my dad. My father greeted him at the kitchen door and ushered him inside where he promptly shook my mother’s hand. She returned to the kitchen sink to resume washing the lunch dishes.
My father ushered him to a seat at the kitchen table where the ordinary looking man placed a thick black leather attaché case on the table. He carefully unclasped the two locks, gently removed a machine full of dials, gauges, switches, wires and a headset, which he placed on the table.
“Mrs. Topakian, I will need you to leave the house,” he solemnly announced to my mother as she emptied the cold coffee grounds into the disposal. “In order to test your husband’s hearing, I will need complete silence.”
My mother turned from the sink toward my father, eyebrows raised and her head cocked to an angle. My father nodded in agreement with the ordinary looking man.
She wiped her hands on the terrycloth dishtowel then walked into the bedroom to find her sandals. Muttering to herself, “Why do I have to leave the house? Can’t I just go in another room? And what about the dog? He didn’t say anything about the dog. Would he able to stay but I had to leave?”
In a few minutes, she emerged. Opened the cellar stairs, retrieved the dog’s leash and walked out.
After attaching the leash, she marched up the street. Pasha, like any good dog, wanted to spend his walk sniffing. My mother let him bury his nose in the grass for a few seconds before pulling on the leash to keep walking. She needed to finish her household chores on her day off. And now the ordinary looking man had highjacked her plans.
“I need to go to Almacs and CVS. But my keys and list are in the house,” thought my mother. “Plus I need to bring in the laundry from the line.”
She rounded the corner onto Budlong Road and walked for a block before she took a right. She thought around the block would be enough time for the ordinary looking man to complete his test.
Pasha again pulled on the leash to get closer to a squirrel skirting across a lawn. She jerked him back. While he sniffed, she fumed at the inconvenience of having to leave her own house abruptly.
Soon they approached the main thoroughfare at the bottom of the street, Reservoir Avenue. My mother walked carefully on the narrow sidewalk, struggling to keep Pasha out of the path of the cars racing past.
As she turned the corner at the bottom of her street, she saw the ordinary looking man’s car still parked in front of her house. “Was he also testing Armen’s eyesight and measuring him for shoes? How much longer would she have to wait?”
So she sat and sat on her front steps until the ordinary looking man bid her goodbye as he walked past her and climbed into his car.
My mother strode back into the house and declared, “Armen, do you know how long I had to wait? I’m glad he didn’t come in the winter when it was snowing.”
My father looked up from the paper and smiled, “What did you say Alice? I didn’t hear you.”