Neil Leadbeater is an author, poet and critic currently living in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. His short stories, articles and poetry have appeared widely in anthologies, magazines and journals both at home and abroad and his work has been translated into Spanish and Romanian. His latest collection, Librettos for the Black Madonna, a series of poems set in Central and South America, was published by White Adder Press (UK) in 2011.
The Word Store
The day it opened it was the talk of the town. Business was clearly booming. Mr Chapter and Mr Verse, word practitioners par excellence, were the brains behind the outfit. “Because our store is like a Thesaurus, we owe a lot to Roget,” they said. “We offer words off the peg. Our holdings are considerable and designed to meet any occasion. We are here to serve those who are lost for words.”
Mr Chapter, flushed with success, showed me round the premises. “ When people walk in and see the size and scale of our operation they are speechless. Words fail them. We see it as our job to put those words back into their mouths,” he said.
Inside, it was a bit like a shoe shop. Rows and rows of shelves were lined with boxes which were all of a uniform size. “You will find our words arranged in several different ways,” said Mr Verse. “For example, the stock over there is all arranged in strict alphabetical order. We also do special categories such as proper nouns and loan words.”
“At the back of the store,” Mr Chapter interjected, “we have an extensive collection of words - everything from air and space vehicles to wine bottle sizes and zodiac signs. Our staff are specially trained to know what to look for,”
“We do branding and slogans,” said Mr Verse, “57 varieties of saying the same thing in a slightly different way. You know the kind of thing.”
“Is there anything you don’t do?” I asked.
“Yes,“ said Mr Verse. “You must understand that we are an ethically motivated company and that our credentials are sound. We don’t do jargon, there’s far too much of it being banded about at the moment and we don’t want to encourage it. We don’t do swearing or anything that borders on the impolite. We have no words for hatred or strife. We want our customers to be satisfied with their shopping experience.”
“Is there anything we can help you with, today?” asked Mr Verse.
“Yes, I think there is,” I said. “Seeing as it’s Valentine’s Day. I’d like you to find me another word for prize in the context of that which is held most dear.”
Almost immediately he came back into the room with a box marked VALENTINES. “In alphabetical order, I can give you adore, adulate, appreciate, cherish, desire…”
I stopped him before he went any further. “Adore and adulate are over the top and appreciate has lost its value. Cherish has had its day; desire is too risqué. I think I’ll settle for love,” I said.
“By all means,” he said, “being such a personal matter, the choice is entirely up to you.”
I wrote down the three words that every girl longs to hear, took them to the front, and placed them on the belt. The girl at the check-out smiled. “You’ll want them gift-wrapped,” she said.