Growing up where I did, we heard smart a lot. “You look smart today,” “is the party going to be smart?” “That’s a smart jumper!” Natty falls into the same category, but we didn’t hear it as much. It was old fashioned to my ears, and most people fell back on “smart” to describe something that looked especially fancy. Natty is more clothing-specific, I have always felt, and really how much can you describe clothing when you’re five?

Time is funny, though, and the mind plays tricks. Associations slide in and out of the dusty corners of my mind. Being dyslexic adds a layer of encryption that is random and undiscerning. Known words evolve and expand; the more I read, the more baggage I give to any word. When I read a novel expression, one that strips bare a known word and dresses it back up in new clothes, I revisit the word in my own mind. I stand back and reimagine the word in this new light, and see how it glitters differently now. I smooth the dust from it, I turn it just so. Sometimes, I turn my back and the word shakes itself and returns to its usual, expected form. Sometimes, however, I find myself retracing my steps to my freshly disheveled word, delighting in the weirdness, and so it finds itself stuck, only visiting its former self but no longer living with that association.

Once in awhile, I visit a word, and it has changed by itself. I am nervous around these words. I know the word that I know isn’t the word that other people know. It’s a stranger, lurking in my mind. I don’t know who else it has been visiting. I don’t know if it’s rubbing off on other words; the mutation may be catching. I don’t always know how it’s different, or why. This is how dyslexia manifests for me. Maybe everyone experiences gradual dissonance with words; I don’t know.

Some words are mischievous. They are the kid in class who pushes boundaries. The word is a trickster and doesn’t mind being dealt wrongly — in fact, delights in it. These are words I just learned wrong, and know they are wrong, but I can’t break the association. Like breaking a child of a beloved lovey or pacifier, these words cling, stubborn, willful, eternally prepared to resist. Sometimes other words see the fun that these words have, and join the revels. These words are the bastards, of course. These words are the kids whose parents have to repeatedly ask, in frustration and exasperation, “if all your friends jumped off a bridge…”.

Natty is one of these, for me. Natty is a follower, with low inclinations. Natty first awoke to the possibilities of ill repute when Natural Ice and Keystone first entered my lexicon. Of course, the only beer worse than Keystone is Natty Ice. It is base. It is cheap. It is the sole of a $4 shoe that is separating, flapping madly to no purpose, tripping you. It is the smell of a beach arcade at 5:15am, after the tide has rushed back to the horizon. It is the sticky underside of a hightop table in a bar. Natty Ice is so bad, it has infected natty by association. And natty is thrilled to be on such an adventure. Natty, who was once the smartest, wearing fancy dress even on the greyest days, now is enthusiastically holding up tatters, grasping a ripped pair of Spanx many sizes too big while wrapping up in a lurid pink boa that’s missing too many feathers. Natty has a pair of sunglasses with a lens missing and a dirty cup full of something oily. Natty is a mess, and natty doesn’t care.

This is my entry for the Daily Post one-word prompt: natty.

4 thoughts on “Natty”

  1. For me the beer is Natty Bo — Natural Bohemian. It has an exotic name but a truly terrible taste.

    Your descriptions in the final paragraph of how awful Natty Ice is are brilliant, especially the $4 flapping show sole and the low tide arcade: dank, dirty, sour, sticky. Love it.


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