Barlow ate his words. Sometimes he would go to great lengths and lovingly prepare them with tasty sauces made of the ripest adverbs and aged adjectives. Preparation time would not be rushed so the flavor of each letter could be coaxed out and blended with the others in a savory olio. On these occasions, Barlow would uncork a bottle of his favorite sharps and flats, let it sit for half hour, while he plated his expressive meal, and then pour a glass of music to moisten his palate and aid in word digestion.
There were other times when Barlow could not delay his hunger, and he would randomly pick a book off a shelf and stuff his face like he was eating a bag of potato chips. His cheeks would puff out with salty verbs and crisp nouns
Barlow began eating words when he was nine-years-old. His parents bought him a set of encyclopedias and one day, he nibbled the “ed” off the word “waited.” From that small beginning, Barlow developed a for taste for Morphemes, such as “the” or “write” or “man.” He would pop them into his mouth whenever hunger struck.
In high school, Barlow began to broaden his palate; he dined on nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, modifiers, and pronouns as often as possible. He learned French and Spanish and was delighted at the flavors of masculine and feminine articles could bring out in words. But it wasn’t until he enrolled at the University of Texas in Austin, as an English major that he soon discovered his favorite subjects were Literary Theory and Creative Writing. In the literary theory course, a new world opened to him, a world of neologisms and portmanteau. His theory professors unlocked secret recipes and offered up rare delicacies reserved for a cadre of intellectuals and competitive theorists. He wandered through the gourmet kitchens of the academic elite, tasting delicious sophistry, philosophy, pseudo-expressions and nonce words, never missing an opportunity to nosh and nibble at the kitchen table. Some of the offerings were hard to swallow, but Barlow ate them with a healthy swig of bubbling water. He could even get the most distasteful lexemes down.
The word eater also took classes in foreign languages to broaden his lexicon. He mastered Greek, Latin, Russian, German, Chinese, and Arabic, adding grams to his brain weight with each new dictionary. His brain began to swell.
The words Barlow ate served him well as a writer. By age 23, he wrote a non-fiction text on 13th century vocabularians. He would lace his work with new words, words he coined to fit his thoughts. They proved to be the tastiest he had ever eaten.
In his last year at grad school, while contemplating his thesis, Barlow the Word Eater suffered a massive brain injury. The Finnish and Icelandic languages proved to be his undoing. His thesis, Culinary Linguistics of Frigid People, required that he learn those languages. A three-month diet of alphabets with strange, pointed letters surrounded by dots and squiggles tore several blood vessels in his brain, and it began to hemorrhage. Syntax began to bleed from his ears, half-chewed Finnish surnames Ran blood-red from his nose, and he fell into a coma. An international team of respected linguistic professors was flown in to resuscitate him, but their mission ended in failure. Barlow died.
At Barlow’s funeral, his younger brother Chet delivered the eulogy. Obviously distraught, Chet stepped to the podium and said, “There are no words to express our sorrow.”