Three Caper Berries

It had been with a burst of knowledge that she had first worked out words have flavour, shape and texture. She must have been fairly young. At the time she wanted to lick the pages of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ because the words left her senseless with joy.

Since then she had been quietly trying out words on her own, a little like a degustation meal. She’d tasted the silky slide of her mother’s murmurings, and gulped the rasp of the language of builders.

And now here she was sharing her meals of words with this man.

She’d known him a little time, long enough to prise open her mouth and share the taste of certain words with him. He’d not run screaming from the room when she told him that she thought that Friday sounded like hot chips, and the word balloon was flavoured with marshmallow.

But she now had a different flavour on her lips.

The words she wanted were salty. That was what surprised her the most. The words had a sharp and salty tang which dared her to say them. She never thought that these particular words would be salty because each time she had heard others reference them they were sweet, oozing and kind of heavy.

But her take on them was that the words were caper berries.

Three of them to be precise.

It was easy to see the words as caper berries. Small and perfunctory on their own, but pickled together in salty brine they pack a powerful punch. They give you the merest warning with their gently undulated surfaces, an innocuous feeling in how tiny they are.

Since she’d been having meals with this man it was as if she’d stored these three words inside her lips until the skin there puckered in complaint.

When the caper berries did fall from her lips she wasn’t quite sure how they would be received. She was grateful they were initially taken as intended but she was aware that the words were out now and this made her vulnerable. Too late to take back caper berries when you’ve spat them out at someone.

But the bigger problem with caper berries is that you can’t avoid them, she discovered. She started finding them everywhere. No sooner had she let the words loose from her tongue, freed them from their hiding place inside her lips, that she had another set, and another and another. All of them waiting for their turn to fall.

Her tastebuds puckered and her mouth ached. The caper berries filled every space inside her mouth daily. She almost wanted to hold her mouth closed against the tide of rising salt, to prevent the surge, but it wasn’t much use. They still managed to emerge and there was always another to take the place of the one which fell.

The man who shared her meals with her understood. He could see the pleasure of the caper berries, and he did enjoy sharing them with her as they went especially well with shiny silvery fish. But she could forsee a time when capers might just overwhelm him, because their tang makes you look up startled and you’re never quite sure where that startle will lead you.

So she started to swallow them instead.

She held the caper words in her mouth, considered them, and then swallowed whole. Down they went into an unsettled stomach, unused to such a weight of salt and power. They churned and wrestled with her, but she knew she had done the right thing. There’s nothing worse than being too much of anything, and everyone knows that capers can be too much for any dish if not used right.

She’s lying down with a belly full of capers now, gripping at her chest when the salt burns, unsure of what to do when another batch appears at her lips. Instead she puts her head on her pillow and waits.

And drinks another glass of milk to settle the pain in her heart.

Three Caper Berries


Joined August 2008

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When you fold in, other things fold in too.

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