Chekhov’s gun

A weekly family column for the 100 Mile Free Press

I have a confession to make. I didn’t really do anything outrageous this week. I mostly, when not at work, spent my days as a shut-in hermit with the exception of my wife’s work Christmas party, which went by without any embarrassing incidents.

The axehandle is still firmly attached despite regular firewood splitting and despite his best efforts, my not-quite-two-year-old hasn’t dumped any cereal out onto the kitchen floor nor ate any dog food and is only slowly refining his music preferences.

During my college year, I was also a bit of a shut-in hermit but managed to use my time wisely by picking up skills such as origami. Most of these skills have come in useful at some point. For example, I used to volunteer with children a lot and some of the simpler origami options were great recreational activities. A particularly favourite option was always folding a frog, a word which my not-quite-two-year-old pronounces in entirely the wrong way (I’d spell his phonetic pronunciation out but it’s not newspaper appropriate). Frog popularity was particularly high because by pressing a properly folded origami frog on the rear, it would “leap” away.

This week I didn’t really use my hermit time to pick up any new skills. Perhaps for good reason. If people know you can do something, it’s pretty common for people to ask you to help you when that skill is required. That can turn into a strain on your time really quickly. However, there’s a much more sinister reason, you might not want to pick up some skills. In fiction writing, there’s a principle called Chekhov’s gun that states that “if you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must be fired.

For many years now I’ve been worried because there’s one skill that’s never quite come into use and that skill is Morse code. I don’t know why it’s a skill I decided I needed or even wanted to learn. Furthermore, in today’s world, it’s something that hardly, if ever, comes up. The only instance that jumps to mind is the 2002 Jodie Foster movie, Panic Room. Furthermore, due to a lack of use, my skills have absolutely deteriorated, to the point that I couldn’t follow a Morse code conversation with any level of confidence. However, to some degree still remains. A little cheat would resolve most struggles. However, a few crucial skills still remain, like signing S.O.S., and like Chekhov’s gun, it’s still waiting to be used in the next chapter.

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