Verbapeutic, by Joe Nazare

Illustration by Dominic Black - - click to enlarge

Illustration by Dominic Black – – click to enlarge

That freaking ditz had done it to her again.

That’s what Serena couldn’t help but think as she stood whipping her straw through the red slush of her drink. Twenty minutes late and counting. She had purposely called Nicole at the nail salon this afternoon to verify that they were still on for tonight. “Absotively. I’ll meet you there at 9:30,” Nicole had promised, and ever the foolish friend, Serena had believed her.

“There” was The Port of Call. Potted palm trees, big three-sided tiki bar, carnival lights lining the walls: about as close to a Margaritaville vibe you could get without violating a trademark. The Friday night throng that had pushed Serena about ten feet out from the bar made her even more conscious of her own solitude—of the glaring lack of acquaintances that at the same time kept her from being left alone. She felt like 122 pounds of chum, attracting every toothy shark in the vicinity. Swear to God, she was going to pepper-spray the next guy who got up in her face and said she looked like she could use some company.

As if the situation weren’t frustrating enough, Serena couldn’t even text Nicole to find out if she was stuck in traffic or had just flaked out on her. The manicurist didn’t believe in cell phones, refusing to expose herself to the “harmful aura.”

Serena tried to occupy herself by staring at the big-screen plasma hanging behind the bar. The world news played soundlessly, and from what Serena could gather, a quake had hit somewhere off the coast of Sydney. She watched a muted Aussie mouth his solemn report from a squall-wracked beach. Eventually the video cut back to the Boston news studio, to the female meteorologist pointing to a weather map of the U.S. A swirl of grayed cotton candy churned its way up the Atlantic seaboard, animate icon of an apparent hurricane. Meantime tiny clouds aimed individual squiggles of lightning down at most of Massachusetts. Most of The Port of Call’s patrons reveled on obliviously.

Then Serena ignored the forecast herself, her attention diverted by the pony-tailed redhead in the gleaming silver shirt who’d just climbed down from his barstool and sauntered shamelessly over to the dance floor. Serena moved twice as fast to claim the vacated space.

Ironically, after all the unwanted attention she’d been getting, it was a man’s utter disregard that caught her interest. As she squeezed up to the narrow opening at the bar, her extroverted breasts reached out and rubbed the shoulder of the guy seated to the right. Most of the males there would have readily interpreted such contact as a nonverbal mating call, but this one seemed too focused on what he was writing to even register the contact. He sat hunched over the bar with his left elbow hooking out, like a student who didn’t want you copying off his paper.

A big, beer-bellied galoot, working to maintain his physique by curling a bottle of Corona to his lips, stood close to the right. Olive-skinned, with a frizzy bale of brown hair shooting high up from his head, he had on a tie-dye shirt whose bright Rorschach made Serena think of a splatter of neon barf. By contrast, the seated writer appeared slimly built, and wore a Navy blazer over a white dress shirt. His blond hair, though thinning up top, was neatly trimmed and styled. These two would make for a couple of strange bedfellows, alright—assuming that’s where their evening was headed.

The blond guy bent to his task for the next several minutes. Finally, he nodded in seeming satisfaction, leaned back and put down the black felt-tip pen he’d been using. He handed over something small and flat. Serena only identified it when Tie-Dye Guy held the cardboard coaster up in front of his face.

Squinting, he tilted his head and read aloud from the inscribed backside. “Dirigible,” he recited. “Aphrodisiac. Gulch. Thermometer. Innuendo. Salami. Slapdash.” He stopped and looked at the author of the bizarre sequence. “Awesome.” He waggled the coaster. “I’m def’nitely gonna try this out. Hey, thanks a lot, man.”

“Thank you,” the other spoke as Tie-Dye Guy turned to leave. “Good luck, Leandro. I certainly hope to hear from you.”

Serena’s next-stool neighbor was still smiling to himself as he swiveled his head around to the left. Serena recoiled, realizing she’d been caught eavesdropping.

“Sorry,” she blurted.

“Please,” he waved off any need for apology. “This place is a glorified sardine tin tonight.” His bespectacled eyes studied her. “But I bet you’re wondering what that was all about just now.”

Well, since he’d brought it up… “Honestly, yeah. For a second there I thought that guy was speaking in tongues.”

“It’s hardly as crazy as it sounds,” the stranger assured her. Like her, he didn’t seem to be a native New Englander; he lacked the r-torturing accent. Come closing time, he wouldn’t be one of the drunken idiots trying to remember where they pahked their cahs. “Before I go launching into an explanation, though, I probably should introduce myself: Bryce Ambrose.”

Sounds like he belongs on a soap opera, Serena inwardly reacted to the name. Then again, with that set of ears winging out from his head, Ambrose wouldn’t be getting a casting call anytime soon for The Bold and the Beautiful.

She set down her drink so she could shake the hand Ambrose extended. “Serena.”

“Wow, that’s a terrific name. Nice to meet you, Serena.”

“So tell me,” her curiosity spurred her. “What was the Deadhead so grateful for?”

“Oh, Leandro and I are seeing if we can help each other out. I work as a graduate assistant in the linguistics department over at the University.” Serena’s eyes flashed to the class ring Ambrose sported, onyx-stoned with a large “M” dominating one side of the silver band. “I’ve been working on a special project, trying to gather the data to support my theory.”

“Of?” she took the bait.

“The euphonic effect of select words in the English language,” Ambrose promptly and proudly recited. “Words that are simply pleasurable to hear. I believe that the practiced articulation of a prescribed list of such words can give the speaker a significant psychological boost. Take, for instance, an everyday word like ‘arithmetic.’ There’s some real pizzazz there, if we just stop to appreciate the pronunciation. A-rith-me-tic,” he repeated, accenting each syllable. “These kinds of words, they flow from our lips, slip right back in through our ears, and slide into our brains. They’re like mental lubricant, helping the machinery run more smoothly.”

“Hmm,” Serena responded, not knowing what else to say. Like most hyperintellectuals, Ambrose came across as a bit of a kook. He seemed a decent enough guy, though. Hadn’t once sent his gaze plumbing her cleavage, not even when he thought she wasn’t looking.

“You might say I’m exploring the interzone where poetry meets physiology,” Ambrose continued to chew her ear. “Of course, my colleagues”—he dabbed air quotes around the word—“dismiss my work as New Age nonsense. They scoff at my assertion that words are the ultimate key to unlocking the doors of perception.”

“Well,” Serena had to admit, “it does kinda sound like you’re trying to get people stoned on vocabulary.” An old joke popped into her head: Your mama is so stupid, she sent you to rehab when she heard you’d gotten Hooked on Phonics.

Ambrose wagged his index finger in gentle disagreement. “Not exactly. A drug like marijuana blunts cognition. What I’m admittedly pushing is a healthier, more stimulating sense of euphoria. A natural verbal dose of bliss, if you will. Let me be clear, though: I’m not talking about any of those silly words that bring out the giggling kid in all of us. Words like ‘gobbledygook’ or ‘chitchat.’ ‘Nincompoop.’”

Apropos of something, maybe, Lady GaGa’s latest hit presently blared through the Port of Call’s speaker system.

“The rhyme or rhythm of the syllables isn’t the reason the words I’m talking about sound pleasing. Short words work just as well. ‘Spritz.’ ‘Drawl.’ ‘Thatch’”—here Ambrose pointed to the bar’s shaggy canopy. Then he waved an open palm, presumably indicating the song playing: “‘ditty.’ ‘Yogi.’”

Serena grinned. “Cute little old guy who does all those commercials.”

“Actually, I was thinking of any guy who practices yoga. But you bring up another important point: the euphonic effect has nothing to do with denotation. A person can have only a vague sense of what a word really means and still relish its sound: ‘verisimilitude’; ‘boondoggle.’ Or a word can be indisputably negative in its definition—‘misogyny,’ for example—and yet make for a positive pronunciation. As long as the speaker is willing to let go and just listen. Sadly, though, most people struggle to do just that. Which is also the reason why I avoid employing proper nouns in my study—I don’t want to increase the chance of a personal association skewing the subject’s reaction. A shame, really, because imagine all the wonderful names that could be invoked. ‘Palahniuk.’ ‘Dunedin.’ ‘Rastafarianism.’”

Ambrose paused at last to take a sip from his coke, which Serena started to suspect was hardly Bacardi-free.

His whistle wetted, Ambrose resumed: “Fortunately, the English language, great linguistic melting pot that it is, gives me plenty of material to choose from. So many euphonic words from foreign languages have worked their way in. From Spanish, we get offerings like ‘aficionado’ and ‘guacamole.’ French gives us ‘dossier,’ ‘abattoir.’ Greek: ‘hermaphrodite,’ ‘hyperbole.’ Not to mention all those terrific items of Native American origin, like ‘wampum,’ and ‘sequoia.’ But really the influx is from the whole world over.” He fired off a crackling string to prove the point: paparazzi; origami; aardvark; babka; yeshiva; fez; doppelganger.

“Wow. So what do you, like, spend all your time studying the dictionary?” Serena kidded him.

Ambrose shrugged his shoulders, curled the left side of his mouth into a smirk. “A good scientist delves into his research,” he said. “Speaking of which—care to try a little exercise?”

Serena sipped her drink. “Um, no, I—”

“Oh, c’mon. I can tell you still need convincing about my theory.”

“What is it you want me to do?” she asked, wary that his next words would be “look deep into my eyes.” Was this guy making a strange play for her, hoping to geekspeak his way into her panties? Up to this point he’d shown no more interest in her than he had in Leandro. His passions seemed limited to the work he discussed.

His answer eased her fears that she’d encountered yet another womanizer. “We’ll go right from A to Z. I’ll give you a euphonic word and you’ll repeat it, really concentrating on enunciating it. Then we’ll see if the set has had any effect on you.” Hopefulness beamed through the lenses of his glasses. “So what do you say?”

“Um,” Serena deliberated. If nothing else, it would help her kill the final few minutes she was giving Nicole to show. “Alright, what the hell.” She sat up straighter, tried to tune out the bass-heavy music and the buzzing undercurrent of the barflies.

Fantastic.” Ambrose sounded as if Serena had just promised him a night of carnal delight. He ran his palms across the thighs of his blue jeans, smacked his lips. “Okay, so here we go: ‘amalgamate.’”

“Amalgamate.” Serena took her time with the term, letting it slither up her throat. She fought to keep a straight face, though, feeling suddenly like she’d stumbled into a scene from Seinfeld. She could picture Kramer spouting such an incongruous word, his head bobbling and eyelids fluttering.

“‘Brainpan,’” Ambrose brought her back into focus a beat later.

“Brainpan,” she echoed.

And so they two-stepped right on down the alphabetical line…Cachet. Dilapidated. Embezzle. Fortuitous. Gurney. Harmonica. Indigenous. Jigsaw. Kiosk. Licorice. Mahogany. Noodles. Ointment (that one was a curveball; Serena’d been certain Ambrose was going to hit her with “onomatopoeia”). Pumpkin. Quotidian. Retrospect. Symmetry. Tabernacle. Ukulele. Vaudeville. Whimsy. Xylophone. Yammer. Zest.

Serena chuckled after pronouncing the last word. “I didn’t think you’d be able to come up with anything for Z.”

“‘Zaibatsu,’ ‘zinfandel,’ ‘zucchini,’ ‘zydeco,’” Ambrose rattled off. You had to give it to the guy, he came prepared. “Feeling any different?” he was eager to know.

“I’m not sure.” Her mood had improved in recent minutes, but she chalked that up to the fact that her interaction with Ambrose had enabled her to shed the embarrassment of being obviously alone in such a public place. “I feel alright, I guess. But not like I’m floating on Cloud Nine or anything.”

“Well, understand that this is just a default list I use for introductory purposes. The set of words I composed for Leandro a few minutes ago was much more extensive.”

“Yeah, getting back to that: you said that you two were looking to help each other out?”

Ambrose pushed his eyeglasses up the bridge of his nose, leaned in toward her. “To be perfectly honest, Serena, I came here tonight on business rather than pleasure. Figured I would find no shortage of, ahem, worthy subjects. Folks who, come tomorrow morning, will realize they’ve had too much to drink, and too much loud music pounding against their heads. Folks who’d then have a good reason to put my theory to the test, and hopefully experience the euphonic effect of the words I’ve supplied them.”

“Is that what this all comes down to—Ambrose’s World Famous Hangover Cure?” The teasing remark came out harsher than she’d meant it, and Serena immediately fretted that she’d gone too far in dismissing the other’s work.

But he gave no sign of having taken offense, or of wavering in his belief in the importance of his project. “Hey, change people’s moods, their mindsets, and who knows what a different world this can be.”

“No, you’re right,” she granted. “Ok, so let’s say Leandro does his word regimen and feels like he’s gotten something out of it. What’s supposed to happen next?”

“If a person in fact proves receptive to the word list, I only ask that he call me up and let me know.”

“And then?” she prompted again. She kept waiting for the catch. Maybe it was going to be financial: Ambrose’s patented system can be yours for three easy payments of $39.95 plus shipping and handling.

“And then I invite the person to come out to campus to participate in a more formal study. Compensating him for his time, naturally,” Ambrose hastened to add.

Serena liked the sound of that. Her job working as a receptionist for dragon-breath Dr. Tobias just wasn’t cutting it. She needed to start squirreling away some money so she could go back to school.

“I’m simply looking to gather enough quantitative data to present to my department chair,” Ambrose explained. “And then maybe, if the stars are right, I can get some serious funding for my work.” He grabbed the felt-tip off the bar and held it up. “So what do you think—like me to write up a list for you?”

Serena didn’t have to think hard at all. She remained skeptical about this whole “euphonic effect” business, but if Ambrose was willing to pay her to play around with his words, who was she to turn down the cash? “Sure, why not,” she said.

“Great.” He reached across the top of the bar, helping himself to one of the coasters stacked there like a circular deck of cards. As he uncapped his pen, Serena noticed the black smudge stretching down the side of his left pinky, telltale sign of his prior efforts this evening.

Ambrose stooped over to begin writing, but then turned back to her. “Only thing is, this might take me a few minutes. Why don’t you let me buy you a fresh drink while you wait?” He flagged the attention of the bartender, a pretty brunette costumed in a grass skirt and coconut bra that partially covered a similar-shaped pair of implants. Ambrose’s pointing finger directed her to take Serena’s order.

“Another strawberry daiquiri,” Serena told the girl, and then swung around to face Ambrose. Grinning, she said it again: “Dai-qui-ri.”

Ambrose’s smile reached right up into his eyes. “Hey, now that’s the spirit.”

The godawful pounding knocked her out of her muddled dreams. Serena lay there momentarily disoriented, then snorted her frustration when she realized what she was hearing.

Her bed paralleled the room’s left wall, a too-thin barrier whose far side faced the stairwell of her elevator-less building. Some inconsiderate kid played out there now, bouncing what sounded like a basketball but might as well have been a cannonball for all the havoc it wreaked.

Hey, knock it off!” Serena shouted, and instantly winced. But at least the clomp of retreating footsteps replaced the reverberating boom of the basketball.

Serena gingerly cupped her forehead, groaned and then slid her palm so she could rub her eyes. Now that the little LeBron wannabe had taken off, she could hear the TV-static hiss of the heavy rainfall beyond her bedroom window. Yep, this was shaping up to be a wonderful day.

The weather outside, though, couldn’t be blamed for her miserable state. She was the one who’d chanted “daiquiri” a few too many times to the bartender at The Port of Call last night. Sucked down all those frozen drinks, until her brain was as fuzzed as the center of an ice cube.

She stretched her jaws in a yawn, brought them back together to grimace. Her tongue felt like a shag rug that an unwashed mutt had slept on. God, she hoped liquor had been all she’d imbibed, that she hadn’t gone and done anything stupid with anybody.

Groaning again, Serena untangled herself from the sheets and rolled slowly out of bed. As she moved to cross the room, she kicked the black dress that she must have sloughed just before toppling last night. It skidded about a foot across the hardwood before being left in the wake of her slit-eyed shuffle towards the bathroom.

The frigidity of the toilet seat jolted her further awake, but a lengthy pee only left her feeling further dehydrated. She washed her hands, splashed water on her face, and then slid open the mirrored medicine cabinet, which looked like it contained enough products to stock a Rite-Aid. Her impatient rummaging, though, could not uncover a single bottle of aspirin. Perfect.

Having swaddled herself in her purple flannel bathrobe, Serena trudged into the kitchen. First order of business: load fresh water and a dark-roast pod into the Senseo. The coffeemaker’s rumble a minute later as it discharged the brew sounded jackhammer loud this morning. Serena grabbed hold of the smoking mug, turned and plopped down at the round table centered in the room.

And just sat there zoning out, unwilling to put her brain through anything as taxing as thinking. Periodic sips of coffee did nothing to nullify her headache. Her scalp felt like a lid on a tightly sealed jar that some invisible hand was trying its damnedest to wrench off.

Where’s the justice, she asked herself. Nicole was the one dying to meet up for some drinks. Unreliable as ever, the girl never shows, and I end up holding a losing ticket in the old blotto lotto.

“What we have here is a failure to recuperate,” Serena mumbled, acknowledging the full-fledged hangover palling her. A second later she jerked herself straight-backed. Her eyes widened as detail filled the gaps in her memory. The World Famous Hangover Cure. That guy last night with the words. Andrews? No, no: Ambrose. Bryce Ambrose, a soap star in name only.

After a brief chew on her bottom lip, Serena pushed back her chair. She scurried into the bedroom to retrieve the clutch purse that had accessorized last night’s outfit.

En route she heard someone walking in the stairwell. Not the basketball dribbler from earlier, though. This sounded like an adult, judging from the unhurried taps upon the stone steps. Apartment living had long since taught Serena one of life’s great paradoxes: grown men and women usually made less noise than tiny children when moving about.

Serena returned to the kitchen table and started digging through the purse. Despite the dense tangle of cosmetics, she quickly seized upon what she was looking for.

The topside of the drink coaster pictured a sailboat docked at sunset in front of a large grass hut. The Port of Call’s logo, below which the italicized slogan beckoned: Come Ashore for an Assured Good Time.

She flipped the coaster over to its more relevant side. And there were all the meticulously printed words, separated from each other by dashes. In her soberer state, Serena noted the circularity of the arrangement. The words did not form concentric rings like on a target but rather one continuous chain, starting at the ten o’ clock position at the coaster’s rim and coiling around and around towards the center of the disk. Ambrose must’ve felt that was the best way to fit the most words in the limited space. Or maybe the arrangement was just an artistic flourish meant to make his work seem more impressive.

The corridors resulting from the blank spaces between the curling lines reminded Serena of one of those mazes that tempted you to pencil a path from start to finish. Only difference, this maze here clearly lacked any dead ends.

Figuring she had nothing to lose except a few minutes out of what otherwise promised to be a lackluster day, Serena decided to put Ambrose’s theory to the test. Cradling the coaster in her palm, she lifted the word list to eye level. She wet her lips, took a deep breath. Then launched into her deliberate pronunciations.

“Lullaby. Gardenia. Quartz. Marshmallow. Benevolent. Angiogram. Condominium. Peninsula. Nectar. Promiscuous. Colloquial. Nymph. Balsamic. Gypsum. Toboggan. Clique. Emanate. Kudzu. Aquarium. Haphazard.”

She paused to swallow. “Uvula. Ether. Ambiance. Idiosyncrasy. Glacial. Mezzanine. Scintillate. Galore. Epitome. Buccaneer. Al—Alacrity. Patchouli. Jambalaya.”

A smile tugged at the edges of her mouth. “Daffodil. Lasagna. Inertia. Prism. Moccasin. Dungarees. Cinema. Iridescent. Easily.”

And that’s when she started to feel it, whatever “it” was. Some indescribably positive effect. An eagerness to proceed with the exercise washed through her; she had to force herself not to rush her speech.

“Caviar. Homogenize. Grizzle. Debacle. Ragamuffin. Finale.”

A sigh of contentment wafted from her mouth. This was incredible. She felt like the recipient of a scalp massage that just kept working deeper, down through her skull and into her brain.

“Ambrose, you’re a freakin’ genius,” Serena proclaimed to her absent benefactor. She could sense her headache shrinking with each passing enunciation. The flow of words was like some magic elixir curing her hangover and infusing her with euphoria. If she had to choose an image to fit her present mood, it would be of herself floating on a pool raft under the brilliant Florida sun while drinking an ice-cold kiwi lemonade.

But why stop here. Serena slid her eyes further along the verbal curlicue. “Dubious. Daguerreotype. Ticklish. Coagulate. Peccadillo.”

She broke off upon hearing a bang out in the stairwell. After a singular shake of her head, she continued: “Polygamy. Eclectic. Anathema. Gossamer. Fungi.”

The same noise outside her apartment, except louder this time. Serena heard the dishes in her kitchen cabinets rattle. Someone must be struggling to transport a fridge on a hand truck, one crashing step at a time.

Agitation crept into her voice. “Hemlock. Erogenous. Facsimile.”

Again, the bang, which Serena felt as much as heard. The movers sounded like they were closing in on the landing for her floor.

“Incestuous. Bacchanal. Chrissakes,” she deviated from the list. There had to be some bylaw in the tenant’s code prohibiting such a racket this early on a weekend morning. Serena stood and stormed into the living room toward the front door of her apartment, but then froze in her tracks.

You know what, she told herself, it’s not even worth the aggravation to get into an argument. Better to just stay here saying her words, because she could feel her headache making a rapid comeback.

Quickly, she mouthed a few pills: “Medley. Meningitis. Habitual.”

The framed O’Keefe on the living room wall seemed to mimic Serena’s startled bounce as the nearby noise pounded into the apartment like the aftershock of a Godzilla stomp.

Serena gulped the sudden lump in her throat. That was no refrigerator being moved out there.

She stared at her front door, down at the word list in her hand, and then back at the door. Anxiety pinched her face as she test-spoke the next three words trailing across the coaster: “Acolyte. Gelatinous. Supremacist.”

A trio of resounding booms punctuated each utterance.

Gooseflesh popped up all over her forearms. Serena held her breath and cocked her ear. The ensuing silence only heightened the sense of a presence right outside her door.

Apparently, Ambrose had been a player after all, but one from a much different league than she’d ever anticipated. Sudden intuition told her that if she were to dig out the business card the con artist had handed her last night, the listing on it would prove as bogus as 555- number in a movie.

A bolt of anger shot through her, zapping her out of her tensed state of listening. This was ridiculous. Damned if she was just going to stand here and be tormented by the unknown.

Gritting her teeth and flaring her nostrils, Serena stomped forward to confront whatever it was she’d been duped into conjuring.

As she threw open the front door, she couldn’t help but think of that old Poe poem. The impression of acting out “The Raven” grew even stronger when she saw what loomed in her building’s second floor hallway.

Darkness there and nothing more. Well, not darkness exactly, just the gloom from the gray day outside that had filtered through the windows in the adjacent stairwell. The key point was that both hallway and stairwell were devoid of life.

Confusion crinkled her brow and parted her lips. What was next, a tapping at the window, and then a black bird flies in and haunts her with its habitual croak of “nevermore”?

But she gasped even as she formulated the wry thought. Because when she came to “habitual”—a word Ambrose had inked onto the coaster—she experienced yet another concussive thud. It sounded twice as loud now that her eyes verified that it originated from nowhere outside her apartment.

The maddening din, she understood at last, was all in her head.

As nausea roiled inside her, Serena made a desperate but futile attempt to remember Ambrose’s ramblings about the great doors of the mind. She managed to slam the door of her apartment before staggering backward. Realizing she still grasped the coaster in one damp palm, she frisbeed the cursed thing across the room.

Turned out, though, she could not be rid of the disk so easily. The circular inscription seemed to have imprinted itself on her mind’s eye, albeit not as a static image. The black words had started pinwheeling, yet remained terribly legible.

centripetal – discombobulate – imbroglio

The accompanying pain was so fierce, Serena wondered if it would make rubble of her skull.

And still the disk whirled, trapping her mental gaze. Helpless, she tracked the spiraling words. Their uncanny clockwise churn made her think of dirty water swirling up out of a drain. For some reason she flashed back to the weather report she’d glimpsed at the bar last night. While struggling to draw a connection, she distantly heard the torrential downpour now seething outside her building.

stymie – deluge – graffiti – prelude

Synonyms for agony, all.

She squeezed her eyes shut, but the bulging orbs felt like they were about to punch right through the lids like a pair of cold capsules thumbed through their foil packaging.

tumultuous – buoyant – triumphant

It’s only in your head.

Whimpering, she pressed the heels of her palms to her throbbing temples.

maelstrom – jubilee

Only in your head, a small, terror-stricken sector of her mind reiterated.

She shifted her hands to her ears, trying to staunch the warm gush coating the sides of her neck.

cerebral – incubator – nautical

Only in your head.

The snot bubbling in her nostrils failed to block the stench of her coursing sweat, an abysmal, fishy reek.

avatar – behemoth – incognito – liquidity

Only in your

And a sudden and inexplicable brininess filled her mouth, as if her very saliva had undergone a sea change.

fiasco – canonical – eldritch – effervescent – chasm

Only in

This last sensation prefiguring the final, choking flood of hard c’s…

cosmology – concatenate – cunnilingus – cankerous – canticle



Joe Nazare

Joe Nazare

Joe Nazare’s fiction, poetry, and nonfiction has appeared in such venues as The Zombie Feed, Pseudopod, Damnation Books, Shroud, Star*Line, Death in Common, and Butcher Knives & Body Counts; forthcoming tales will be published in Stupefying Stories and Nameless.  Since August 2010, Joe has been writing the blog Macabre Republic (, which is devoted to the study and celebration of American Gothic in literature and culture.

Story illustration by Dominic Black.

If you enjoyed this story, let Joe know by commenting — and please use the Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus buttons below to spread the word.

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5 responses to “Verbapeutic, by Joe Nazare

  1. The most interesting story in the issue I must say… I enjoyed how you managed to be extremely descriptive within such a short story. A rare feat…


  2. Either those are some big coasters at the Port or Ambrose can write very small!

    Fun story, Joe! Thanks.


  3. I had the pleasure of doing the audio reading for the podcast version of Joe’s tale. It has been the most fun I’ve had so far doing these readings! It may seem strange to use the word “fun” when describing a Lovecraftian story, but I had a smile on my face the whole time. Um, gotta go now, I hear something banging outside my door.


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