In ‘The Last Campaign’, from her story collection Orange Horses (Tramp Press, 2016), Maeve Kelly portrays a marriage whose members have deeply contrasting – and sometimes clashing – communication styles. Martha and Joe are a middle-aged couple devoted to each other and to their farm, on which much of their conversation turns:
Herself and Joe met at the tap on the wall outside. He hosed down his boots, thinking about something.
‘Isn’t it a beautiful day, Joe,’ she said. ‘You might get the last of the hay drawn in today.’
‘I might,’ he said, looking up at a small, dark cloud away on the horizon and checking the direction of the wind. ‘If it holds. I think there’s a change.’
‘It’ll hardly break before this evening,’ she said.
She wondered to herself why his sentences were always so short. Words spilled over in her own mind so much. She had to hold them back, conscious always of his brief replies and afraid she might become garrulous in her effort to fill the void. ‘Communication,’ she reminded herself sometimes, ‘is not only made with speech.’
From this brief exchange we understand not only each character’s expressive preferences but also the effect of the difference on Martha, who would likely be more talkative were Joe not so taciturn. For this lack she must console herself with truisms. And yet their mutual fondness is unmistakable and is underscored implicitly as the tale unfolds.