Sunday, June 5, 2011

Master of All Masters

I remember such minutia from my childhood. I remember how to differentiate between doric, ionic, and corinthian columns, for example. Similarly, I can discern cumulus clouds from stratus or cirrus clouds. But the quirkiest thing that my mind has squirreled away was a story that my aunt told me when I was probably only eight or nine. She probably only told me the story twice, but for some reason or another, it stuck with me. Maybe it’s because my aunt is an amazing story teller. Maybe it’s just because my mind wanted a challenge. Either way, I can recite the ending to this story as though it was one of the many books I owned and re-read a thousand times.

The story itself is a bit curious. A man hires a maid and then proceeds to walk her through his home telling her all the strange names that he has given to different items in his home. Fire is not called fire, it is called hot cockalorum, for example. He has names for his cat (Whiteface Shimminy), his pants (squibs and crackers), his bed (barnacle), water (pondalorum), his house (high topper mountain), and himself (Master). He tells her all of these names and then tells her that if she doesn’t use the proper names, he will fire her. (Master kinda’ seems like a jerk now that I’m old enough to notice.) Anyway, the girl works all day and doesn’t say a word since she’s afraid she’ll call something by the wrong name. At the end of the day she heads to bed. In the middle of the night the man is woken by the girl who informs him:
Master, master, get out of your barnacle and put on your squibs and crackers. Whiteface Shimminy has a spark of hot cockalorum on his tail, and if you don’t get some pondalorum, high topper mountain will be all hot cockalorum.
Really, brain? You can’t remember all of the US Presidents, but you’ve been saving room for that?

With the invention of the Internet, I have since looked up the story. It is called Master of All Masters by Joseph Jacobs. Two important last points: 1) No, I did not look it up in order to write this post. That little nugget has been stuck in my brain for nearly 30 years, without the help of the Internet. 2) My aunt's telling of the story was WAY more interesting than Mr. Jacob's.


This post written for The Red Dress Club's memoir meme.