Portfolio » Short Stories

Arthur Hated Words

Arthur hated words, he despised them. Not every word, mind you, but certain words made him sick, just the thought of them. Sometimes he even hated entire categories of words, like names of countries, or adverbs that don't end in "ly." One of the first words he started hating was the word "it." He couldn't stand it, not for a second. He would turn his paper in to the teacher and get marked for redundancy, be he didn't care, the word was simply too foul, awful, it put a bad taste in his mouth.

But it didn't end there. As he got older, Arthur began to discover that he had begun to loathe more and more words every month. His essays began to get more difficult to write.

It wasn't like he was deliberately hating words. In fact the whole situation bothered him a great deal. Sort of like when his parents made pea-soup for dinner one night and it made him nauseous. He had never even considered the possibility of pea-soup before that night, but when he smelled it, tasted it, the texture, it was no good. He was really sorry, it almost brought him to tears but he couldn't help it. He didn't -want- to hate it, he just did.
But this hatred for words was beginning to get tedious for Arthur, not to mention frustrating. It was taking him all night to write a simple two page paper. He wasn't sure what he was going to do when the use of numbers in sentences started making him sick and he had to write that science report. His paper was full of "seventy-eight thousand two-hundred ninety-three meters", and so on. He even got marked down for it, but there was nothing he could do. He was helpless. His teachers were already extremely concerned, especially after the use of pronouns dropped entirely from his writing. But they figured if they marked him down for it, then it would stop. They didn't realize the severity of Arthur's situation, this was something beyond his control.

Just listening to him speak was difficult, he would stumble with his speech in class, shivering, nervous that he might accidently speak some word and he would get a sharp pain in his chest and have to go to the nurse's office.

His parents weren't quite sure what to do, they were distraught, to be perfectly honest. Their son was turning into a mute right before their eyes, and it seemed as though nothing could be done. They tried sending him to therapists and psychiatrists, who even wrote out some prescriptions, but none of it helped. The pills just made Arthur care even less about the fact that he hated all these words.

Eventually, Arthur stopped talking to his friends at school, who were a little weirded out by his development. They didn't understand. To them, words were nothing, like dust, little specks to be blown about by the breath, crumbs spilled on the page. Words were puny, tools to be used when they were needed, and put back on the shelf for later. But to Arthur, words were so much more. They were power and energy, unless they were a bad word. No, a bad word was an abomination, a defection, a bad word didn't belong in ordinary rhetoric. It didn't belong at all, like mutated DNA, a mistake on language's part. And it made him queasy just to think of all these words that weren't right.

Shortly before Arthur was old enough to leave home, he stopped speaking altogether. There was hardly a word left he could even bare to bring to mind. He sat on the porch swing and considered his predicament. Language is a foul business anyway, he thought, for a brief moment. But that was his last thought. His parents were lost as to what to do with him. After a little research they found a facility in the northern woods of Wisconsin that would suit his needs. And they decided to send him there. It wasn't too expensive, a pretty basic place for him to live.

So, on a dry, windy July afternoon, the whole family rode in their beige hatch-back to the center and left Arthur there, where he would be free to live a thought-less, word-less, life. He would never need to write essays or stories, he would never need to speak. No-one would need to ask him his name, or what he thought of the weather, or what kind of food he liked. There would be no discussions about war or poverty, or physics or astronomy. Thoughts would be unnecessary. To him, it was a little bit like heaven. A place void of language. And after a few days he realized that, for the first time that he could remember in all those years, the dull pain in his chest had gone. For so long it had been like a tiger, waiting, ready to pounce at the slightest hint of a repulsing word. But here, for once in his life, Arthur was content.