The Sounds of Silence by
(59 Stories)

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Pencil Shavings

The scritch of a pencil being sharpened, or a fountain pen on paper,

the busy clack or hunt-and-peck of a typewriter,

the expected or unexpected b-r-r-r-ing of a telephone,

the overt or covert click of a camera shut-ter,

the whisper or [sigh] of a page turning,

the Tik-Tok I mean the tick-tock of a clock,

all available as digital simulations,

so we can indulge our nostalgia at whim.

What sounds will the next generation simulate?

The silence of eyes staring at screens?


I’ve never been clear whether

that’s laughing online or laughing out loud.

Either way, I’m really not.


What sounds will the next generation simulate? The silence of eyes staring at screens?
Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

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Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    Barb, this is profound and perfect. Your descriptions of sounds evoked a quieter era. And your phrase “the silence of eyes staring at screens” was such a great description of the way we live today. Add the obligatory headphones and there is no room for human communication. BTW, I thought LOL was “lot’s of love” at first, which resulted in many LOLs from my kids.

  2. Marian says:

    This is awesome, Barb, and how true. When I worked for an accountant I recall the click-click of the adding machine keys and the ca-ching when the numbers were totaled. Isn’t it amazing, that, even before the pandemic, we isolated ourselves in the crowd with headphones? How sad to think about now …

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this (and the song your title references). Yes, each sound is lost to the younger generation (unless one is an artist who sharpens drawing pencils, but that is a very few). Your words bring up a specific memory of a sound that will no longer have meaning soon. And we are poorer because of that.

  4. Suzy says:

    Barb, I have to applaud your use of a song title as your story title – and what a fabulous song it is! My earworm for the day, and I’m happy to have it. Also … this is our first RetroFlash story, right? Looks like 100 words to me! And every word so well chosen and perfect. Not only that, but I’m guessing the sounds in your recording were made when you created the pencil shavings in your picture? A perfect unity of visual and aural! Amazing! Thank you.

    • Why, yes, it is 100 words — I snuck in a RetroFlash story! And yes, you’re right about the pencil shavings, and the photo. You’ve got my number, Suzy…I’m so glad you like it all!

      Re the song title, it came to me as I wrote the line about staring at screens…my original title was just “Sounds” and then it hit me. I love it when that happens.

  5. I enjoyed that you turned our attention to all the sounds that have been (largely) lost. And I liked that you did it in the form of a poem. You are continuing to showcase your creativity and versatility–and whimsy. LOL

  6. Wonderful Bebe, what indeed will be the soundtrack of the generation that spends so much of its time silently staring at little screens?

  7. John Shutkin says:

    This is a wonderful marriage of both form and function, Barb. Your poem precisely conveys the message of the (relatively) aural void we now live in, and you have done it in a brilliant adaptation of the ideally titled S & G song.

    What an amazing idea (how did you ever think of it?) and perfectly executed!

    • Oh my goodness, what a wonderful comment to wake up to after a rough night of troubled sleep. Thank you so much, John! And who knows where ideas come from…good ideas are like good looks, gifts we really can’t take full credit for.

  8. Joe Lowry says:

    I liked the poem. I miss some of the old familiar sounds that have been replaced by silence and sounds that are not appreciated.

  9. Loved the multi-media, Barbara! Shavings and the sound of shavings. You ask a profound question about the sound of silence, Barb. As I write this, I barely hear my fingertips on keys. The pandemic has quieted the airways, a lone aircraft drones in stereo from right to left and out of earshot. Don DeLillo has a new novel out simply called THE SILENCE. It begins on Superbowl Sunday 2022 and signals the end of technology. I’m terrified by the prospect of DeLillo’s power exploring the possibility or probability of his prophecy.

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