Ever try a Tongue Twister? Here’s a short story that might lift your spirits, make you smile, and try a tongue twister.

I was 35 years old when the surgeons were finally able to untie the knots they found in my tongue. 

The surgery went well, but I was warned never to try delivering tongue twisters for the rest of my life.  It started innocently enough.  When I was young, my friends delighted in getting me tongue tied from tongue twisters.  There were the usual “peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” and the “she sells sea shells by the sea shore.”  My reaction was always certain to leave my friends, and family, delighted that I would become so flustered at my inability to get through the phrases.  But rather than shirk the challenge they presented, I swore an oath that any tongue-twister challenge would be met head-on (or mouth-on).

I practiced dutifully for hours a day, and when I emerged from my room I would rattle off scores of twisters I had mastered.

“I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit,” I barked at my sister repeatedly until she raced out the door to escape my assault.

“A Tudor who tooted a flute, tried to tutor two tooters to toot,” said I to my mother, who was so surprised she dropped the pot roast she was preparing.

I started out with “three free throws” when I confronted my schoolmates – those who had been particularly malicious in teasing me before I became the Yoda of tongue twisters.  A follow up of a “flea and a fly flew up in a flue” started to get their attention.  When I threw “a tree toad loved a she-toad who lived up a tree” at them, they were mesmerized – moths to my flame.  The coup-de-grace came with my “fuzzy duck, ducky fuzz” tongue twister, the one where I got one of my friends to say the opposite two words each time I said one or the other two words.  It left them red faced, and not just from laughter, just as I intended.

My fame spread like wildfire.  Teachers, professors and, later in life work colleagues sang my praises.  When it came time to settle down, I found a wife who was enamored of my ability and what my tongue could do (enough said).

The first hint of a problem came when at a regional contest I stammered through an old favorite, “which witch wished which wicked wish.”  I brushed it off to a lack of practice.  Over the next several weeks, other telltale signs came when I totally messed up “six short slow shepherds.”  I couldn’t understand what was happening.  Even my wife became concerned when my usually artful tongue lost some of its spark.  “It’s not the same anymore,” she complained one evening.  That led to suspicions that I was overusing my tongue … with someone else.  My proclaimed innocence was not enough for her.  I was desperate to prove to her that there was some other reason for my problem.

Desperate, and as a last resort, I sough medical help.  Only then did they discover the knots into which I had managed to tie my tongue.  They were sympathetic, but also overjoyed that they would be able to publish their findings about such a rare malady … meaning medical history for them.

For me, they tried loosening the knots with heat, massage and chemicals, the latter leaving me to babble unintelligibly even the simplest phrases.  Finally, it was into the operating room where several hours later and still woozy from the anesthetic, they coaxed me into uttering, “my dame hath a lame tame crane.”  Success!  Their diagnosis had been wrong – I would twist again.

Today I am back to my old self with the added benefit of giving demonstrations and lectures around the world about my ordeal and always leaving the crowd with a favorite such as “old oily Ollie oils old oily autos.”

As for my wife, her smile says it all … the tongue is back!

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  • martie on Jun 22, 2011

    This is incredibly cute!

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