Friday Flash: The Word Eater


The word ‘normal’ tastes like soured milk. My best friend, Anna, is coconut flavored. The machine they called a ‘SonicSite 4000’, which will prune my crossed neurons with pulses of sound, tastes like pea soup with too much pepper. The word strap tastes like cold molasses.

“Won’t it be nice to read a book without all those pesky associations?”

My eyes move to the vanilla crème nurse above me. Her voice is warm, but her fingertips are cold as she presses them into my scalp. Or is she pressing bits of metal onto my head? I don’t really want to know. The large, round donut machine they’re going to stick my head into is scary enough.

Are they pesky? I don’t think so, but everyone else seems to. To me, they just are. As a square has four sides, the word book tastes like buttered toffee.

“I don’t know,” I sigh. “If you couldn’t taste apple pie, would you still eat it?”

She was light and thoughtful. “Well, I suppose not. Wouldn’t be worth the effort and hip expansion.”

My doctor would have said, “Tasting an apple pie is normal, tasting a book is not.” Which is why I’m here. To become normal.

The word sad tastes like black licorice.

“You may feel a slight pressure on your scalp. How are you doing? Is the valium kicking in yet?”

My face crinkles involuntarily.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes.” Valium is onion flavored. I wish they would just call it a pill. Tart grass, much nicer. I am trying to relax, doing breathing exercises, having faith in those who know better. Those who know what normal is.

Faith. Tastes like perfume. Now I recall the one that really got me in trouble. The one where mom found out I wasn’t normal. The Lord’s Prayer. It tastes like raw bacon. I threw up on the children’s choir director in front of three hundred horrified church goers.

I hear the doctor’s soft shoes on the linoleum before I hear his voice.

“Is our girl ready?”

“Yes, Dr. Bryant.”

“Dr. Bryant,” I repeat. I savor the taste of lemon cheesecake; let it linger on my tongue. A tear slips, slides down my neck. My legs begin to shake.

I close my eyes and let go.

33 thoughts on “Friday Flash: The Word Eater

  1. Jodi MacArthur

    Sensual descriptions. This story left me sad, there is something unique and wonderful to her quirkyness. Why Valium it? (I laughed at the Lord’s Prayer taste like raw bacon. 😉 )

  2. John Wiswell

    Because of gallstones I’ve been on a restricted diet lately. The best thing I’ve been able to eat are cheddar-flavored rice cakes. They have the most flavor and are the most filling of the few items left on this diet. Getting to eat them is the highlight of my eating existence these days.

    This story tasted like cheddar rice cakes.

    Really, brillaint synesthesia idea. I enjoyed the heck out of it!

    1. soesposito Post author

      Oh, John–that’s a horrible existence, rice cakes-yuk! Glad you enjoyed the idea though and hope you get to eat normal soon.

  3. karen from mentor

    OMG why do you do this to me? lol….I was having a perfectly fine productive morning and now here I am steeped in a philisophical discussion with my plants about the value of being “normal”…… *sigh*

    I’ll get no work done for at least an hour….so I’m breaking for lunch.

    Can not tell you how much I loved this.
    [but it was a lot]
    Karen :0)

  4. Anticrombie

    I think I have synesthesia envy.

    Heroes (the T.V. series, not my imaginary friends) started me on a sensory-translation path with their introduction of a deaf woman who sees sounds. Since then, I’ve been wondering what fonts would taste like (Helvetica would be american cheese, while Times New Roman would be a cheeseburger), textures would smell like (the little nub on the ‘f’ and ‘j’ keys would be a nice comforting vanilla) and which songs would be a whole meal.

    And somehow I find that having the ability to taste words would be more ‘normal’ than wondering what words would taste like.

    1. soesposito Post author

      And yet we assume so much, that what we’re seeing, smelling, tasting is “the” reality when it is just our interpretation from sensory input. Arrogant lot, we are. Sometimes a particular food or flavor does come to mind when I think about a certain person. Maybe I’m a carnivore after all. 🙂

  5. Laura Eno

    This concept blew me away! Wow. And why change her? How sad. The Lord’s Prayer tastes like raw bacon cracked me up. 🙂 Of course, you left the ending to my imagination. I hope it didn’t work, pesky doctors.

  6. Deanna Schrayer

    Fantatstic story Shannon! As a lover of words it’s a punch in the gut. I feel so sorry for her. As a mother of an autistic son I know this concept all too well. For people whose brains do not function “normally”, this is very real.
    Love your work!

    1. soesposito Post author

      Thanks Deanna, and I guess I just don’t get why we want everyone to work the same and be “normal”. Maybe autism is a product of our environment or maybe it’s the next leap in our evolution. Who knows? Embrace the different thought processes and learn something new, I say. Which, I’m sure as a mom you do! 🙂

  7. ganymeder

    “As a square has four sides, the word book tastes like buttered toffee.”

    I think I want this to be my new signature. Or something. I just LOVE that.

    I could go on and on about how conformity shouldn’t equal coolness, etc. but let me just leave you with one thought.

    This story rocks.

    Thanks for sharing it.

  8. David G Shrock

    The title reminds me of a short I read in Weird Tales Sept/Oct 2008, a different take on eating words.

    I like the internal thought segmented by the dialogue, both converging into the story. The first paragraph grabs interest and settles the reader into the flow. I’m curious to what ‘apple’ tastes like. Not like an apple, I imagine.

  9. Cascade Lily

    You must’ve got hungry writing this one. Even though I am not sad, I now want some black licorice 🙂 I also smiled at your choice of bacon for the Lord’s Prayer 🙂

    1. soesposito Post author

      Thanks, Lily–It wasn’t my choice actually, it was the piece of reality that sparked this story. There’s a guy in England with synesthesia that said he tastes bacon when saying it. Truth is always stranger than fiction, isn’t it? 🙂

  10. Amy Taylor

    What a great story! How must it be to taste everything said and heard? A very difficult life.

    This story does make you want to eat cheescake though! A whole new meaning to the phrase ‘my doctor’s tasty’!

  11. mazzz_in_Leeds

    I love this – I have been known (as we all have I’m sure) to devour books, I wonder what they would have tasted like.
    and would a book be an assault on the senses, all these words at once?

  12. donaldconrad

    Raw bacon? Bwahahahah.
    I’ll be thinking of this story all week. Tantalizing, really. A real smorgasbord. Thanks.

  13. Olivia

    Oh, Shannon! I want to be you! You write so beautifully no matter what the topic. This one was especially lovely and heart-breaking.

    Which is why I’m here. To become normal.
    The word sad tastes like black licorice.

    That first sentence broke my heart and the few simple words in the sentence afterward said everything we needed to know about how she’s feeling having to go through all this, just to be “normal.” Loved it!

  14. J. M. Strother

    What a fascinating look into an “abnormal” mind. I feel sorry for her and the gift she is losing. For it seems to be, if not a gift, at least not a curse. Very nicely done.

    Sorry I’m so late getting around to comment. November; what a wacky month!

  15. Lindsay Oberst

    Oh, this is just wonderful. The way you weave the concept of being normal into the story is nice.

    Good and humorous way of bringing in the past with the bacon-flovored Lord’s Prayer.

    I love reading descriptions of food. Word and taste associations is something I could read even more about.

  16. G.

    You had me at the title on this one, as, I guess, you would expect. Wonderful idea, and actually very poetic in it’s feel.

    Very well done. Kudos.


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