“The Peculiar Tale of Twill and Tweed” (Original Story)

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Photo: Melissa Bent

Once there was a thin, burgundy-haired girl that had been given the name Twill by a couple of unthinking drunkards; they had left her for dead the very night she was born. She never had anyone to obey or disobey, simply because there was no one else there. She had never learned how to read books and was never feeling up for any sort of meal because she had no mouth, but only her eyes, nose, forehead, cheeks, and ears—and anything else outside of the mouth that this story might have failed to mention.

None of the other children were ever interested in interacting with her, for she came across as such a peculiarity. Twill was so timid that watching her would have been tiring to any observer. Her little body was always twitching with jerky movements, her knee bouncing up and down like an overly-heated kettle on a stove. Since she didn’t have a mouth to speak quickly or nervously, Twill would continuously blink her eyes and wrinkle her nose whenever she was feeling intimidated or uncertain about what to expect in a situation. Because of this, the other children tried to work through her strangeness in their minds and eventually come to a better appreciation of these quirks, but they were never able to get to that point. All they could ever do was watch her from afar and remind themselves that she had a “condition,” but not one of them was ever able to connect with her.

That is, of course, until an earless, portly little boy named Tweed was dropped off one day by his parents in front of the schoolyard. From the time that the thin little girl without a mouth and the portly little boy without ears first met, they became the best of friends. Tweed could never find children’s pants that were long enough or large enough for his portly body, so he had to borrow his grandfather’s colossal trousers. So, too, Twill was unable to ever articulate her needs or wants in any way other than hand gestures or some other sort of signal. She could even work herself into a frenzy and sob right into a little handkerchief, but she would never be able to make even the teeniest bit of a sound. But there were still ways in which they could communicate. And even so, at least one or the other could always still experience the wonders of music and books.

He read books out loud to her since she couldn’t do the same for him, and she listened to music and made the motions of an orchestra conductor with her hands since he couldn’t hear it, just to show him what the sounds looked like. This was the entire thrust of it all: They both believed that one person should help the other, that a mouthless girl could complement an earless boy and an earless boy a mouthless girl. And yet, they both pined for the day when they would be perfect and whole, without any “conditions,” as the other children called them—a life without any hindrances.

Whenever Twill came across a song that dealt with such a thing, or Tweed a storybook that showcased another child like that, they would each let out an exuberant expression of joy—at least in one way or another.

Twill had her own deep-seated desires to be put into someone’s book as a character, complete with giant multi-colored pictures that would portray her as an older young woman with a mouth.

Tweed wanted to see himself in the storybooks, too, but as a character with massive ears whom the factories commissioned as a song-tester. He imagined he would be shown as a young man with headphones over his hearing implements and use them to judge between one glorious song and another noise, between melodious harmonies and a cacophonous uproar. He imagined them awarding him massive amounts of money for being such an exceptional assessor of sounds.

Still, even with their dreams, it gave both of them a slight tinge of frustration to think on the idea that they were the only two people like themselves in the world. All of the other little children had all their parts and pieces, even the ones that Twill and Tweed were missing.

But suddenly, they both began to discover the odd truth about the most perfect of the other children. Another little one named Emma, for instance, stood right out above all the other girls in that she possessed the largest mouth and lips of them all. Her lips were so enormous and red that they could be seen even from afar. Nevertheless, she was always using her mouth for wickedness and mischief. She would steal little trinkets from people high and low, but when asked about these matters, she would lie and claim to have no involvement.

This did not seem to be in agreement with what Twill had expected of this most perfect of the children with mouths. She was shocked to see such a thing. It would have been better for her if she had never been born with a mouth, Twill thought to herself.

Later on, Tweed would be watching the little boy with the biggest ears of all, a young fellow named Ethan. It was in the children’s music class where he witnessed Ethan being instructed by the teacher to do one thing or another. Rather than seeing him listening, however, Tweed observed the boy to merely be staring at his teacher’s coffee-stained moustache. Another time, too, a child was trying to talk to Ethan, but the giant-eared boy was caught up looking out the classroom window at a yellow-jacket. In spite of his enormous ears, he was usually too preoccupied to even care about hearing anything. It might have made more sense for him had he never been born with ears, Tweed told himself with his inner voice.

And this is how Twill and Tweed eventually discovered the reality about even the most perfect of children—how the largest of mouths was wicked and the largest of ears were unhearing. Even though Twill and Tweed never ended up being like the illustrations they had dreamt about being in books, they were eager to be one another’s mouth and ears, if only to help each other experience the fullness of life. Their case is as curious as it is instructive when it comes to the world of the living.

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