Thursday, 17 November 2011

Speak To The Monkey Not The Organ Grinder - Friday Flash

As with the rest of the species, I was to discover ones parents were capital betrayers.

For they were to spoon feed me the cod liver snake oil of language. The viral broadcasts of talk Radio Malt. The contagious pathogens of linguistic wheat germ. Antibody inoculations against self.

The inheritance conferred post-natally, rather than at the cessation of their own lives. The baby reins that shackle us our whole lives.

It commenced sat at my mother's knee. Insidiously. The incandescent glow in her face- her maternal pride before my imminent fall- a fleshy interrogator's beam blinding me. Effacing all my features, save for my mouth. Freud's psychosexual developmental continuum, freezing at the initial oral stage.

Mincing and dicing her own words into gobbet sounds. Mummy bird regurgitating the syllable boluses and spitting them into my mouth. Coated in her indelible mucus. All the while I still clamoured for the pulpy plasma emitted by the teat. But jabbed in my face now, was only the solid heft of language etched on the labial contortions of her moon-face. Duty eclipsing love.

Apparently it no longer sufficed for me to smile, blow raspberry bubbles nor catenate saliva strings of unadulterated joy. Now I must append clarifying sounds for such emotions. Ghee whizz.

Every day mother takes me through my facial calisthenics. To coax the pink fleshy worm from its lair in the floor of my mouth. To start waggling and perform a dance of the seven veils as it exposes my inner being, plastic and unformed as it is. Therefore it is what my mother tells me it is. The intravenous word stock she salts away under my skin.

Now that I am a fatted calf chock full of lexemes, she addresses me differently. Dice becomes splice, as I have to string them together like amino acid chains. Any avoidance of syntax is met with a scowling sin tax demand, rigidly posted on her visage. She will countenance no deviation.

So now I'm sat there bouncing up and down on her lap- no, since I am being armed with this depleted expressive ordnance let's wield it with laser precision shall we- I'm jouncing on her lap. Parading before house callers (not to be confused with bingo callers calling "House"). Each ruffled my hair or pinched my cheek as inspection, eliciting a forced/natural (depending on the pressure imparted to their gambit) performing monkey smile from organ grounded me.

As each well-wisher approached, I could feel mother's shaped breath parting my downy hair from behind as she went over my head. Sotto voce family lore delivered on each and every one of them. Their unimpeachable blood relationship to me, underscored with her tone indicating her judgement on their moral values and behaviour. I believe I only wanted to go with my own impressions, the moisture of their hands, the lingering dab of their fingers, the unmodulated pronouncement of their grip on me. But her cadences overrode every thought I might muster. They coloured each gladhandler's touch, so that caress could be turned into pinch just by her envenoming word.

While she layered the domestic realm with monochromal spite, my father took me out into the world and immediately shrunk any expanded horizons to be derived there.

We would go for walks and he would point at the clouds and name the object shaped therein. A veritable bestiary of terrifying giant creatures in spectral white. He would pounce on flowers, inform me of their poetic, lyrical names, before trepanning them as he plucked them from their coddling soil. Back home he revealed to me his collection of butterflies, each delicately staked out with a brutal, unseen pin on to a cork. To be named is to be tagged and labelled. To be held still and lifeless in place so as to uphold the name. No sliding off into grey areas of the inchoate. Purity and therefore no danger.

Nouns therefore seemed wholly pernicious to me. Stultifying, static, strangling. But my muscles developed and my body began to inhabit verbs. Father couldn't just march me hither and thither through suburbia's green killing fields. I demanded to exercise my rights, wrongs and scraped knees on the playground obstacle course. All he had to do was sit down on the bench and let me run free. He relented, albeit with a corrosive parting shot. He named the bloody apparatuses. The slide, the see-saw, the climbing frame and the roundabout. Cunning devil had ginned me. All my physical surety drained from my body.

It may have been his enunciation of the word 'swing'. My favourite playground activity as I was wont to push myself to ever vertiginous heights. And yet I had also been sternly counselled against swinging my arms when walking, a most unladylike motion. In the realm of the domestic I'd been forewarned against swinging on the furniture, "like monkeys in the arboreal". Father had painted me a picture of frightening men sat on the benches quaffing from tin cans, whom he advised me would inevitably be taking swings at each other with their fists, such was the countermanding control exerted by the "demon drink" (alcohol was always diabolic, inhibition and self-restraint divine). He had further clotted up my ears on a previous occasion about swing votes in elections, demonstrating the lack of constancy and muddied thinking of "the great unwashed".

Then there was its near cousin "spring", rhyming but no more poetic in his throttling epiglottis. An even more terrifyingly promiscuous word with a welter of inferences. Spring was first and foremost the season associated with maximal tutelage as he laid bare Nature's pullulation (sans birds and bees causality). The season when father most definitely had a spring in his strident step. Then there was the spring mechanism for the rusty rocking frog in the playground, that has since been removed by Health and Safety, for fear of being a death trap. Traps waiting to be sprung. Gaol breaks springing dangerous criminals from their incarceration. A springing leap for freedom as he demonstrates his spring heels to stay out of the clutches of law and order. Mother's blessed spring clean. Springing up, springing forth, springing back in recoil. Springing for someone as you steadfastly refuse to change your nationality to Dutch. Springing a leak, like porous language itself, unable to hold meaning through its riddled apertures. Springing from the source, in this case the primordial soup of obfuscation.

With such a variety of meaning, it appears that context is all. But I want to flow free, like a babbling brook. I don't desire word lumps and slabs to be sewn blocking up my bed. Damming and channelling the course of the flux.

But parents are the organ grinders and we the children, their dancing monkeys.


Icy Sedgwick said...

Wonderful play with language, but I'd expect no less from you!

Adam B said...

Fantastic and brilliant as always, Marc. Superb control of language.
Adam B @revhappiness

Li said...

Great title :-)) This reminds me of how lucky I was to have a father who engaged us in wordplay and repartee.

Larry Kollar said...

Ah, the demon language! Prevents us from naming and thus owning the things of the world!

It took me a while to figure out where this was going, but as always perseverance is rewarded.

Lacy said...

"Now I must append clarifying sounds for such emotions." - Loved this line.

Sonia Lal said...

Pretty poetic! Read it slowly to make sure I wouldn't miss anything, but I really like the word play.

ellecee said...

Never has language been so delightful and stifling all at once. I can't wait to read this over and over again.

Anonymous said...

Particularly brilliant this one! I just love the premise and there are many gems 'facial calisthenics' the description of the word regurgitation and the disappointment of the constraining of experience when the father took the child out. I've missed reading your flashes!

Craig Smith said...

Such a way with words. We can all learn something from you I think.

And great story and I remember being put on show when I was small. Not always fun.

Tim VanSant Writes said...

Sure, but remember how happy they were when you said "Mama" or "Dada" for the first time?

Unknown said...

I started reading, got lost, said, "Oh crap, I have to turn on my brain for this one." And started again :)

Fun story, and interesting how a piece written like this is so involved with a child learning vocabulary.

You are the undisputed king of language.

Helen said...

A master weaver of words - written only as you could! Wonderful!