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Silent Communications (standard:action, 3216 words)
Author: Alpha43Added: Aug 04 2005Views/Reads: 2587/1963Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Sometimes actions and gestures can speak clearer, more vividly than words.

Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story

facial expressions wordlessly stating “I want you to like us” and then 
asking “Do you like us?”. If a picture is worth a thousand words, 
Gladys’s facial expression, her eyes, and that confident smile was 
worth a thousand pictures. Everybody in attendance felt they knew 
Gladys Knight intimately after that performance, and that was exactly 
what she had hoped for. Right then, we all knew Gladys was a future 
super-star, it was written all over her face. It is true that there was 
no more speaking, by Gladys or any other group member, but the 
communications went on vividly for the next two hours. 

Back to the present. Just the other day, my wife Kathy and I had left
the Beacon Theater after watching a rather uninspiring detective movie 
who’s title and cast members escape me. Everybody exiting the theater 
was making comments of some sort, and I believe we had just settled on 
what and where to order our dinner, a double-cheese, mushroom, & 
pepperoni pizza from Scarletti’s. 

I noticed that we were part of a small group of exiting movie-goers; we
had a young teenage couple walking just ahead of us, two elderly ladies 
ahead of them, a couple with child walking directly behind us, and an 
older nicely dressed black chap was a step ahead and a step to our 

We all had exited the theater together and it was rather nice to have
some company as we moved away from the well lit main streets of town. 
We had made a couple turns, but our small group was staying together; 
maybe we all had parked behind the Sear’s store off Mariner Ave. As we 
made the final turn through the narrows of the alley which would 
eventually get us back to streetlights and a sense of security, a huge 
black man stepped out from the shadows on our left, and then a smaller 
Hispanic looking man stepped out from the right, followed by the 
unmistakable double “click-snap” of two switch-blade knives locking 
open in unison. 

There were a couple weak cry’s and gasps as I grabbed Kathy, holding her
in place while I stepped in front of her. The child was sandwiched 
between her parents behind us, and the two teenagers seemed to have 
frozen in place, but the two senior ladies were noticeably trembling. 

The smaller hoodlum spoke slowly, with a high-pitched whiney
‘south-of-the-border’ accent. “I usually stick somebody immediately, 
jus to make sure everybody pays attention. I intend to leave here 
tonight with every valuable in yous possession. This transaction can be 
completed very quickly and painlessly if you will jus pass billfolds, 
purses, wristwatches, and all jewelry to my friend Leroy on your left. 

“If this is going to require bloodshed to get cooperation, I can oblige
you with that too. But it would be much better if everyone ...” 

“Not a chance!” was the statement that interrupted the strong-arm
speech, and this came from the older, but smaller black gentleman on my 
right. We all looked at this fellow, and then back at the very agitated 
assailant. The older gent then spoke again: “No way man, this is not 
going to happen!” 

The smaller thief turned to his friend: “Did you hear what dis madman
sez to Hector? Well, I guess we’ll have to set an example, and I can 
think of no better place to start than with dis foolish old man.” 

The small Latino switched knife hands, placing the knife in reversed
position from what you would expect, with the business-end of the knife 
aimed out from the pinky end of his awkward left-hand fist. This thug, 
Hector, was now crouching down in a stance that was similar to a Sumo 

The older black gentleman was actually picking a piece of lint off of
his sports-coat as he said “You would do well to listen to me, you 
really don’t want to do this. I am positive that you will not want to 
harm the young lady here,” gesturing towards the child, “so let’s be 
gentlemen, politely put away your weapons and we will allow you to 

This man’s words came very slowly, but steadily, with a hint of a
southern accent, but each word was pronounced correctly; clear, 
flawless diction. The voice was extremely deep in tone, and it sounded 
like it could be used to make radio announcements. 

As I looked at this fellow it was apparent to me that this chap was
making a statement via his expression and demeanor, he was not out to 
harass these hoodlums, he was simply making a strong statement with his 
unruffled actions. 

It certainly wasn’t a grin he displayed, but there was just a hint of
contentment on his face, which showed slightly more vibrant when he 
looked down at the thief’s unusual grip on the knife. 

Our elder spokesman showed no sign of fear, he seemed as calm as he
could be, but he did display a powerful sense of confidence, yet in his 
mind he was merely stating the obvious, vocally and physically. I am 
surprised I remember his words, because it was his extremely quick body 
movements, yet his laid-back mannerisms with a “total-control” attitude 
that delivered the message, not the words. At that moment, in what had 
to be less than a nano-second, the gentleman stepped forward into a 
shaft of light, then he patted the small would-be assailants shoulder 
with his left hand, as he plucked a mosquito out of mid-air with his 
right hand, smiling and holding the insect up by it’s wings. 

Everybody gasped at the lightning speed-blur of motion that this man had
demonstrated, but I was watching the gentleman’s expression. The 
gentleman wasn’t even looking at the assailant, he appeared to be 
totally engrossed with the captured insect. 

The little Latino man mumbled an expletive and the large black man
stepped back, both in awe of the speed of motion displayed just seconds 
ago. As I stared into the eyes of our well-dressed bug exterminator, I 
realized his sureness and self confidence were doing the 
communications, his words were just there for the ride. He had said 
“NO”, but his persona is what actually declared there would be no 

Watching this demonstration of wordless communications, my mind sent me
drifting off to the 1970’s, when I was a student at Western Michigan 
University. Our small Petroleum Distribution group was on a 
Honors-Class field trip to Peoria, Chicago, and Milwaukee, visiting 
mid-level executives at numerous corporate headquarters. It was just a 
one in a million chance that the then famous Gladys Knight and Pips 
were performing nightly at the Whitney Hotel, where we were staying 
that night. I borrowed money from nearly every student on that trip to 
get enough cash to purchase an ‘Up Front’ ticket for that night’s show. 

I admit that conditions were much better now than during my original
exposure to this Classic group. The Whitney Hotel had a tiered 
decorated stage, professional lighting, a live band, and a sound system 
that might even make me sound good. The sister Brenda was gone, but the 
fellows looked the same except their dance routines were unbelievable. 
The outfits must have cost many thousands of dollars, and it seemed the 
men were laden with jewels. 

The band struck a chord, then the harmony and the “Do-Bee-Do-Dahs” were
filling the ballroom as a smiling Gladys proudly strutted into the 
spotlight, stage-right. She wore a tasteful, but basic black gown, had 
on a single strand of pearls, had her hair up in an French twist, but 
mostly she wore TOTAL CONFIDENCE. Her movements were as if they had 
been scripted and choreographed, the smile was as warm as a smile can 
get, so contagious that everyone in that hall could not help but smile 
as well. 

This performance, her eyes did not beg for acceptance, they boldly, but
warmly announced: “Gladys is singing now, stay loose, you are in for a 

Her first actual words were a warm greeting to the audience, and just
like the first performance so many years before, she urged everyone to 
get ready for nearly two hours of non-stop singing by telling us all: 
“And now I’ve got something very special just for you, only you. Can 
you handle it?” She gave that million dollar smile, then she asked “Are 
you ready?” as she seemed to be looking into each and every individuals 

She was totally into every song, again as though taken directly off an
engineered master track, the sad songs had no smiling, the funny songs 
were accompanied with all sorts of antics, and moon-eyed stares 
accompanied the love songs, but at all times her eyes always looked 
deeply within you. But everybody in the house held that same opinion, 
“she is only looking at, and smiling at, me!” 

After thousands of performances, you would think the slightest hint of
boredom might show through, but not with this Lady, she loved every 
minute of these displays of near perfection. She was having more fun 
than anyone, and no one doubted that for a second. I felt every emotion 
in my heart just by looking into her eyes. The quick breaking smiles 
and side-ways glances after certain musical stanzas were as if she and 
yourself were “in” on a big secret, and you both were relishing the 
moment. I remembered none of the lyrics, but cherish every warm 
expression, grin, and smile. As it was in the first performance, the 
show closed with “Midnight Train To Georgia”, by now a Pips classic. 

My mind arrived back in the alley when I heard our senior savior say:
“If this goes beyond this brief conversation, if you should choose to 
agitate me, then I can promise you three things.” As our southern 
gentleman was making these statements, he was be-bopping to the left, 
to the right, up close, and even behind Hector, all in super-sonic 
paced bursts of motion. 

“First, you will be in police custody in a matter of minutes. Second,
you will sustain injuries that will keep you directly under a 
physicians care for many weeks. And finally, this will be the last time 
you ever consider robbery as a means to support yourselves.” 

These were strong words, but the statements true meaning was defined by
this gentleman’s expression and the slight tilting of his head as he 
stared intently into Hectors eyes. It was the gestures that told the 
complete story and sent the very real warning. 

“Now, if you would just step back, we will continue on our way to our
transportation.” Again, as the senior fellow stepped ahead, you could 
see with absolute certainty that this chap was not threatening anybody, 
he was merely stating facts. His eyes showed pure confidence, he meant 
and truly believed everything he said, no threats, just promises. But 
his stature and mannerisms, just as with Gladys Knight’s, said far more 
than his words. 

In another near blur, he placed a hand on the back of the man who was
accompanying his wife and child as he softly told them to go on, 
assuring them they would be fine. 

The slightly built hoodlum was now pushed to the limit, and as he
considered confronting this old black man, he paused to urge his much 
larger associate to join him so they could approach the annoying 
big-mouth distracter together. As Hector did double and triple glances, 
you could see the frustration mounting as he realized his large friend 
had long ago departed. 

I found myself with that same foolish all-engrossing smile that captured
me both times as I watched Gladys having her wordless fun. I too was 
enjoying this moment, even though personal injury could still threaten 
everybody with one insane action from the upstaged, agitated, and 
embarrassed assailant. 

As Hector took a second to look around the quickly departing group, the
southern man wheeled to his left, speaking several words in what must 
have been Spanish, and in a flash he spun right, elbowing the knife 
hand of the now befuddled robber. The switchblade spun straight upward, 
the older fellow then leaned in to stare intently and directly into 
Hectors eyes, and in a bolt-of-lightning reflex, he snatched the 
switchblade out of mid-air, depressing the button that allowed the 
honed edge to snap back into the closed position, doing all this 
without looking in the direction of the airborne weapon. 

“You know what Hector, on second thought, I don’t think I want you to
leave just yet. Stick around, we’re going to have a little fun, you and 
I.” Hectors expression begged for mercy, but was displaying utter 

“I want to thank you for this gift, this beautiful surgical steel knife,
but before I put it away, maybe we should play a couple games. Back in 
Atlanta we used to play ’Between the Toes’ and “My-Oh-My, Bicep or 
Thigh? It’s more fun with 2 knives, but this quality knife you so 
graciously are giving me will do nicely. Here, I‘ll even allow you to 
go first, but surely you can‘t be cold, why are you shaking? Now try to 
relax, grip the knife like thus, but keep it pointed away from...” 

Again the words were not the communicator, they were almost comical. The
hand speed in knife handling, the footwork that placed the senior to 
the left, to the right, and directly in front the assailant 
instantaneously, and the cocky half grin while verbally whipping the 
outmatched crook were a curtain-call performance in themselves. 

As our group quickly and silently moved off into the Municipal parking
lot, I heard Hector engaged in more of his whining, stuttering numerous 
pained shouts of “Oh man no”, with some louder expressions in both 
English and Spanish. I too was moving rapidly towards safety, but I 
froze in place just for a second as I swear I heard our friend again 
speaking to our would-be assailant: “Come on now Hector, I’ve got 
something very special just for you, only you. Can you handle it?” a 
short pause, then “Are you ready?” 

It was then that I realized that I was not the only person tonight who
was blessed with experiencing lessons in wisdom without words. I knew 
one other person would soon have the ability, but certainly not the 
pleasure, of someday being able to recall undeniable confidence in 
facial expressions and he would also witness volumes of wordless 
communications by simply looking into someone’s eyes, all while being 

Yes, being serenaded. To my utter amazement, I heard a deep voice, laced
with a hint of southern dialect, start humming several bars, and as 
Hector proceeded to yelp and howl, that rich baritone voice began 
beautifully singing the 1960’s classic “Midnight Train To Georgia”. 


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