Noun Swap

April 26, 2010

posted and written by Caroline Picard

an excerpt from WOOF.

An Episode of Childhood: Coat.

Coat comes from Cincinnatti with a pretty little sister, Jessie, and a pretty mom and a handsome father who has worn eye glasses for as long as she can remember. They have always lived in the same house and every summer up until high school the girls went to the same camp and did very well in school and were well known as very nice girls, like their parents, everyone always said what a nice family Coat had. Her parents were academics and the house was therefore full of well-used books, pleasantly unkempt but always clean, their mother washed all woolen things by hand and though the family was not rich by any means, the girls never thought about money or things they couldn’t have or whether or not they could go to college. Their mother drank tea, their father coffee. They shopped at farmer’s markets and kept a garden where they made a pumpkin one year and always had squash and tomatoes and eggplant. Their father was an excellent cook. He made the family meal almost every night for the entire stretch of his daughter’s residence at the family home.

When Coat was six and Jessie was three their parents said “This is a cat,” while pointing to a dog and, “This is a dog,” while pointing to a cat.
Coat and Jessie learned a dog was called a cat and a cat was called a dog and Coat had some trouble at school for a little while because the difference ruptured her understanding of the world. It seemed like a consistent glitch, one that wasn’t caught for quite some time because it was such a small innocuous misunderstanding that no one thought her beet-faced frustration came from a prior conviction that was nevertheless inaccurate. Who knew that one’s world could hinge on the swapping of two nouns?
While she had always been a shy child, she was quite sure of herself especially when it came to the things her parents told her. Consequently, when Mrs. Clark, their second grade teacher, tried to correct the mistake, Coat confirmed earlier suspicions that Mrs. Clark was a batty old fool.
Coat asked Jessie about it and Jessie, who was not yet in school, was neither interested nor perplexed.
When Coat learned the truth she was thoroughly confused.
Her parents called it an experiment of logic.

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