"First Words of a Genius" by Nathaniel Tower

“First Words of a Genius” by Nathaniel Tower

It seemed to Mrs. Joppison that her son Edward was never going to say a word. When his muteness carried into the fourth year of his life, she asked her husband if maybe they shouldn’t take the boy to a psychologist.

“Maybe he just doesn’t have anything to say yet,” Mr. Joppison told her.

Mrs. Joppison made an appointment anyway.

A few days later, Edward began to mumble. At first the words were unintelligible combinations of small strings of syllables she’d never heard before. Soon the child was mumbling in full paragraphs of nonsense. Her husband said they should cancel the appointment.

“What’s he saying?” Mrs. Joppison constantly asked her husband. “This isn’t normal.”

“Every child mumbles a bit. Give him a chance to develop his voice,” he said calmly.

Mrs. Joppison would have none of it. The boy’s mumbling drove her crazy, and she insisted he could never function in the real world.

Mr. Joppison contended it was kind of cute, and he was glad to see his son smiling.

“You don’t have to put up with it as much as I do,” she told him before declaring Edward would be locked in his room until he could say something of substance.

That same day she placed Edward in his room for good, giving him food three times a day and promising to care for him just as she would were he not under house arrest. As time went on, she paid less and less attention to him, and Edward in turn spoke more and more of his gibberish. Edward became less and less of a son and more and more of an unknown houseguest. Mrs. Joppison even insisted that they not claim Edward on their taxes anymore. Mr. Joppison knew they couldn’t do that.

In his room, Edward continued to ramble on in a language no one could ever come to understand.


Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online lit magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short fiction has appeared in over 100 online and print magazines and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His story “The Oaten Hands” was named one of 190 notable stories by storySouth’s Million Writers Award in 2009. His first novel, A Reason To Kill, was released in July 2011 through MuseItUp Publishing. Visit him at www.bartlebysnopes.com/ntower.htm