Today I went down to the Bureau of Words to trade in my autumn onomatopoeia. Usually I put it off until at least the end of November, but this year the squelch-thud of my boots in the mounds of soggy leaves brought me up sharp. I went home, gathered my dry snaps, crackles and swooshes, as well as the cheerful spthooshk of a water balloon left over from August and headed down to the department. The rain hurried down to meet my umbrella, an excellent winter sound for which I had no words. But that would soon change.
The stooped man at the front desk greeted me with a finger to his lips. "We're running the barnyard tests, so we've got to be very quiet. Get me?"
I nodded. Fortunately, the entire antechamber of the Bureau is soundproofed, so my rubber soled boots made no sound on the white carpeted floor despite leaving a great deal of mud.
"What do you have in mind for me today? I'm here for the seasonal trade-in deal."
"Well, we've got snow falling on cedars, rain dripping into a puddle of slush, and ice skates on a frozen pond on display, as you can see" he whispered, leaning towards me. "But if you've got something specific in mind, we can check the back-catalogue." His voice had the quality of very thin paper.
"How much can I get for these?" I spread my prior acquisitions on the mahogany desk, each making its proper sound as I touched it. A beautiful cacophony of leaves, sunshine, the murmurs of children and crunching gravel filled the room. The man at the front desk picked up a shcwisk and examined it.
"Are these second-hand?" he asked politely.
"A few are from here. Some of them," I blushed, "I made myself."
He smiled beatifically at me. "They're lovely." I felt a warm, silent glow in my chest. A drop of rain fell from the tip of my nose to the desk below, making the quietest of pings as it hit the wood.
We sat down to make a deal. I bought several of the featured items and a couple I needed for a story set in India, but at that point what I really wanted was a little personal. I stammered it out when he asked me if he could get me anything more.
Snick, snick. My eyes rubbed against their sockets.
"Could you," I leaned closer to him, "whisper for me?"
The man at the desk looked at me in confusion - then threw back his head and laughed. Who would have thought such a deep, rich sound could come from so wrinkled a throat? In another room, I thought I heard a rooster answer. He nodded. "But," he cautioned, "a whisper is not onomatopoeia."
"I'm going to use your voice for the winds on cold snowy days, when the trees speak with one another."
A pause. "Yes. Yes, I can do that for you."
The wizard's face crinkled. He lowered his eyes and brought a scrap of yellow paper to his lips. All the things he told that sheet, I couldn't tell you. I only heard the rustle of his voice.