Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary – Chatoyance and Chatoyant

Chatoyance: When someone endures incessant chatter, despite wanting peace.  Chatoyant: Someone primed to chat, someone who lives for chatting and when chatoyant, is unable to refrain from chatting, no matter how inconsequential the subject.

Roland and Brisbane were brothers.  As children, Roland was the silent, austere, studious one.  He wrote well, with never a word out of place or in excess.  From infancy, Brisbane was gregarious and loquacious.  At first, other babies seemed to understand him, but after a few minutes of Brisbane’s incessant babble, they crawled away.  By the time he was in school, he loved words and when writing, used as many as possible.  Five page paper assignments never satisfied.  He had to write ten.  Ten page papers quickly became twenty.  His diary filled his room and his parents had to rent storage space.

For many years, Roland listened to Brisbane politely.  They never fought, because Brisbane didn’t want to take the time away from talking.  But Roland only listened.  He never responded to Brisbane’s curious questions, other than non-committal mono-syllabic answers. He liked to spend time in his room, at peace with himself.  Behind a locked door, he found refuge from Brisbane’s constant comment.

Brisbane, however, kept close watch on the young chestnut tree growing beside the house.  By the time the brothers were teenagers, the tree had grown strong and tall and Brisbane was at last able to climb it to the second level of the house where he built himself a tree house with a platform outside Roland’s window.  From his perch he was able to resume talking during those hours Roland kept to himself.  At first, Roland was mildly amused.  He had made a great study of various species of monkeys, as well as Buddhist theology and decided that his brother Brisbane accurately fit the mold of the “chattering monkey.” However, he soon grew weary to the point of chatoyance. Even in his sleep he imagined his brother’s barrage of words.  “Please stop” had no effect.  “Go away and leave me alone” didn’t last.  When Roland secretly tore down the tree house, Brisbane simply hammered it together again.  Then two things happened.  One month in summer, when Brisbane was off at public speaking camp, Roland took his father’s power saw and cut down the chestnut tree.  He dug out the stump, smoothed out the ground and planted grass seed, which grew thick and luxuriant.

Brisbane was devastated when he came back.  He’d lived in that tree for the last year, even during blizzards and torrential downpours.  He loved its strength, its beautiful flowers and nuts, and the opportunity it provided for him to have a personal speaking platform.  It soon became apparent to Roland and the rest of the family that Brisbane was no longer chatoyant.  He gave up speaking.  Oh, he’d nod or shake his head in reply and occasionally utter a grunt, or when pressed, some sort of mumble, but he’d entirely forsaken his former eloquence.  He ignored Roland, who sometimes saw what he perceived as a mysterious gleam in Brisbane’s eye.  The brothers graduated from high school and Brisbane left town and did not return. Roland continued to live in the house, long after his parents died.  As an old man he hired a detective to search for Brisbane, who was rumored to have immigrated to Australia, but the detective was unable to confirm anything.  The only Brisbane he found proved to be a seven year old girl fond of ballet tutus.

One fine fall day, Roland was raking leaves when he turned the corner of the house and below his window, found a scattering of chestnuts on the grass where the chestnut tree once stood so many years before.  He felt the prick of fear and looked around him. There was no one in sight.  Was this a practical joke?  He threw the chestnuts down the hill behind the house, along with piles of leaves.

That night, as he pulled on his pajamas and lifted the covers off his bed, about to crawl in, he spotted a chestnut, still in its spiny case, smack dab in the middle on his pillow.  “Hello?’ he called.  “Who are you?  Why are you doing this?”

No one answered.  He threw the chestnut out the window.

The next morning, while pouring his Special K cereal, out plopped a chestnut.  This time, instead of throwing it out, he took it outside, scratched away a swath of grass underneath his window, and planted the chestnut, along with a great quantity of rare fertilizer, known as “guanaco” he’d obtained on one of his European trips.  The tree grew quite well and within a couple of years was already reaching the level of his second floor window.  He’d had no other chestnut experiences.  A second detective had failed to turn up any traces of Brisbane, save for some graffiti in a marketplace in New Delhi, India, which read, “Brisbane talks,” although it might have been left over political sloganeering.

Then one night around three a.m., Roland woke up.  He heard something scratching against the side of the house.  “Branches,” he thought.  He closed his eyes.  “I’ll trim them in the morning.”  Then he heard the sound of tapping, which grew louder and louder until he recognized it as hammering.  “I must be dreaming,” he said to himself.  The hammering continued for another hour and then he woke up again as he heard his window being lifted up from the outside.  And now there was a familiar voice, one he hadn’t heard in decades and oh how he’d truly missed it.  The voice grew in volume. The words began to flow.  The sentences built into paragraphs.  The paragraphs became full blown oratory.  He listened to the words of someone who over the many years had at last become not a prodigious bore, but a brilliant chatoyant.  “Brisbane?” Roland said.  He thought he heard a whispered “yes” amidst the endless river of words.

Chatoyant actually means: having a changeable luster or color with an undulating narrow band of white light. Chatoyance is the quality or state of being chatoyant.

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