The Taste of a Word

For little Johnny, every word had its own taste. He loved to sink his teeth into words, savor them, munch on them.

He and his mom were often moving from place to place, and she spent hours scrolling through the apartment rental ads. He read the ads too, from behind her shoulder, and even though he didn’t know what most of the words mean, he certainly knew how they tasted.

Furnished was tangy. You could drink it in small sips or pick at it; it was too big to be gulped down anyway. Tiled was sleek and sweet, and crunchy, with a glazed surface, like hard candy. Laminated was rich and nutritious, like a pecan on top of a chocolate brownie.

The taste of a word brought other sensations. His favorite treat, laminated, promised a wooden smell, a wooden touch, the stomp of his bare feet on a crude wooden canoe, the shake of his spear and the gargling sounds coming from his throat. When the real estate agent took the group of visitors to another room, Johnny would stay behind, take off his shoes and make a few “canoe steps” to test the laminate. If it echoed in his soul, he would look for other signs that the apartment suited him.

He would check the kitchen – was it a kitchen or a kitchenette? The kitchen would be huge, buttery and steamy, like a cheese pie, or baked potatoes. A stove should be working – whizz, whizz! The taste of red-hot, he remembered well from the time he’d licked the burner. The water should be running – splash, splash! Cool and fizzy like a lemonade. And there would be wooden cabinets – crusty on the outside, gooey on the inside.

Kitchenette would taste like a divine juicy ice-cream. Or mellow raspberry. It would be small, and bright, and have many delicious colors – pink, mint green, yellow and blue, like fresh pastry. Once he even nibbled on the sink to check it. When he looked up, he saw a sour smile on the agent’s face. Well. Most grownups were hopeless when it came to taste.

They preferred when things were bland and boring. They pronounced every word as if it were just a sound. But if you couldn’t taste the word, what could you know about the thing?