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.



  1. #1 by Marisa Birns on November 13, 2009 - 3:05 pm

    This story tastes like chocolate. Rich, creamy, delicious!

    Loved it!

    • #2 by soesposito on November 13, 2009 - 4:23 pm

      Now I want hot chocolate! Thanks, Marisa 🙂

  2. #3 by Jodi MacArthur on November 13, 2009 - 4:03 pm

    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. 😉 )

    • #4 by soesposito on November 13, 2009 - 4:22 pm

      Exactly. Why Valium it. Why change it at all.

  3. #5 by John Wiswell on November 13, 2009 - 4:13 pm

    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!

    • #6 by soesposito on November 13, 2009 - 4:22 pm

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

  4. #7 by karen from mentor on November 13, 2009 - 4:15 pm

    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)

    • #8 by soesposito on November 13, 2009 - 4:21 pm

      LOL, Karen–you crack me up! Thanks.

  5. #9 by Anticrombie on November 13, 2009 - 5:08 pm

    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.

    • #10 by soesposito on November 13, 2009 - 8:11 pm

      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. 🙂

  6. #11 by Eric J. Krause on November 13, 2009 - 6:46 pm

    What a quirky and delightful story. It was chocolate cake good!

  7. #12 by Laura Eno on November 13, 2009 - 6:53 pm

    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.

  8. #13 by Deb on November 13, 2009 - 7:19 pm

    What a deliciously rich, sinister story! I love the sensory associations! Great piece!

  9. #14 by Deanna Schrayer on November 13, 2009 - 7:35 pm

    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!

    • #15 by soesposito on November 13, 2009 - 8:07 pm

      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! 🙂

  10. #16 by ganymeder on November 13, 2009 - 11:32 pm

    “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.

  11. #17 by Mark Kerstetter on November 14, 2009 - 1:22 am

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who tastes raw bacon in a church service. ‘Take the bread, this is my body…’ gross.

  12. #18 by David G Shrock on November 14, 2009 - 3:19 am

    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.

    • #19 by soesposito on November 14, 2009 - 1:53 pm

      Now you’ve twisted my brain, David. Good question.

  13. #20 by Cascade Lily on November 14, 2009 - 9:36 am

    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 🙂

    • #21 by soesposito on November 14, 2009 - 1:52 pm

      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? 🙂

  14. #22 by Amy Taylor on November 14, 2009 - 3:30 pm

    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’!

  15. #23 by mazzz_in_Leeds on November 14, 2009 - 4:06 pm

    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?

  16. #24 by ~Tim on November 15, 2009 - 12:04 am

    This is indeed a tasty tale! I like it a lot.

  17. #25 by donaldconrad on November 15, 2009 - 1:25 pm

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

  18. #26 by Olivia on November 15, 2009 - 6:28 pm

    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!

  19. #27 by Lou on November 15, 2009 - 7:03 pm

    Excellent writing. Loved it.

  20. #28 by J. M. Strother on November 16, 2009 - 6:17 pm

    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!

  21. #29 by Dana on November 16, 2009 - 7:37 pm

    Oh wow, this was awesome.

    I feel bad for the girl. This was such a good blend of fun, sad and neat.

  22. #30 by Laurita on November 18, 2009 - 2:10 pm

    I loved this. Loved it. It was exactly as Marisa said, rich and creamy. It also made me a little sad. Luckily, I like black licorice.

  23. #31 by Skycycler on November 27, 2009 - 5:23 pm

    Entertaining, synaesthetic, delicious! I enjoyed this.

  24. #32 by Lindsay Oberst on December 8, 2009 - 1:15 am

    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.

  25. #33 by G. on December 15, 2009 - 9:53 pm

    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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