This was a short story I read in a sci fi anthology in the nineties, however the book had stories from the 1950’s and 1960’s in it. I really can't remember the cover.

The tale begins with a prospector/oil explorer or similar, a man whose job had him way out in the lonely American deserts for 3 or 4 months at a time.

His usual thing once he returned to small town civilization was to check into a lodging house, have a bath and get changed, then head to a barber's for a haircut and a shave. (Not sure but I think he had a co-worker who did the same)

While in there his practice was to regale the hairdresser and clientele with yarns about the silence and unchanging scenery out there, they would sigh with envy because of their non-peaceful busy lives.

Until one day he sat in the chair and casually mentioned where he'd been and how totally quiet it was, the barber turned with a threatening finger pointing at him and warned him to cut out that kind of talk if he knew what was good for him, or else he might get railroaded out of town.

Puzzled, he asked what was going on, he was told to look out the window. He observed how tidy the town looked, all cars waxed and gleaming, picket fences and houses freshly painted, well scrubbed children out playing in crisply laundered clothes.

The incident had happened months ago, TV and radio stopped working worldwide, newspapers revealed it to be some strange solar activity and it kept blocking the signals. The barber told him that initially people were going to the cinema but that was an expensive undertaking on a regular basis and not convenient every night.

Nobody knew who it was but within a few days a housewife banged a couple of paint tins down in front of her bored husband and it all kicked off from then. Now everyone filled the long empty hours with decorating projects and home-making.

He warned the man that, in this new world, people could be lynched for extolling the virtues of quiet.

Note: I thought this was Bradbury but I can't find it in his short stories.


1 Answer 1


Almost the End of the World by Ray Bradbury

Almost the End of the World shows Willy and Samuel driving through Arizona ... back to town after working for a prolonged period of time and having a conversation why it was important they go back to this town and how the town itself needed them as much as they needed it. When they finally reach it, Willy hits the breaks for how it’s changed, color-wise and the additions of some gardens and seeming to be extra clean. Willy then makes the bet of doom awaiting them with the oddness of the town, Samuel taking him on. Their first stop is to a barbershop which is loud before they enter and becomes completely quiet when the people within set eyes on them. When Willy starts to talk, one of the barbers rushes forward to shut him up and warn him he’ll keep quiet if he knows what’s good for him. Willy sits down in one of the chairs vacated by one of the freshly buzzed and shaved men, the barber then advising them they should probably watch the news since they didn’t realize what had happened in their absence out of town. When the television nor radio worked the barber explains the technology seemed to have stopped working and continues the first few days of this had everyone in shock also explaining the cause and why the town was freshly painted and how it wasn’t only their town which had changed in such a sustained way. He continues about how people having become more active with their time and interests. Willy now understanding why he was told to be quiet so quickly since he’d have been conversing about the nature they’d come from.They get their hair cut and see their car had been polished whilst they were inside. The two deciding to go see what the rest of the world must look like, especially the cities which were usually dirty.

Book Fiend, Bradbury Stories


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