Mark had run to catch up with the others, held back by Hobson over some minor imperfection in his trigonometry workings. He didn’t want to miss his bus and, more importantly, she might be at the stop. He definitely didn’t want to miss that. He slowed to the rest of the group’s walking pace as he came up behind them.
“That’s what she said, I’m not making it up.” It was Cooks – Jason Cooks but just Cooks to his friends – spreading his arms in sincerity.
“Seriously ? It’s that easy ?” said one of the others.
“What ? What are you talking about ?” asked Mark, still slightly out of breath.
“Cooksey’s sister. Apparently they’ve been doing something in English that’s got the ladies of St Benedict’s all excited.” This was Johnson – David to his Mum but Johnson in present company. St Benedict’s was the local girl’s school: a place that was equal parts magical, mysterious, and terrifying for Mark’s friends
“So ? I don’t get it ?”
“Exactly, you don’t and never have. But this just might mean that one day you do.” The others laughed. Mark continued to look confused.
“I mean that they get really – really – excited”. Johnson raised his eyebrows meaningfully. Mark shrugged. “Jesus, Marky boy, I mean more excited than when they had that supply teacher who’d done that modeling for Topman.”
“Ah, right…” a kind of comprehension dawned on Mark’s face. “So what’s got them all worked up then ?”
“Phono something” started Johnson. “Phono… what was it again Cooksey ?”
“Phonoaesthetics” declared Cooks, looking pleased that he’d remembered it. “They do it for A level but the 5th formers won’t know about it yet”. On this point he looked particularly pleased.
“Yeah but what is it ?”
“From what she told me it’s something to do with the sound of words” said Cooks. “But the important bit is that some words, apparently, sound so beautiful that they’re almost hypnotic. Especially when you’re, you know…”
“You know what ?” said Mark.
“When you’re chatting to girls” said Cooks. “I’m telling you, like I told the others, it’s what she said. She reckons some of the girls were practically in a trance when they heard them”.
“What words then ?” asked Mark. “The only sound I can hear right now is the sound of bullshit”.
“What do you mean ?” said Cooks defensively.
“What words give you these Jedi powers over girls ?”
“Well not Jedi for a start mate. Don’t start talking about Star Wars. No wonder you never get anywhere.”
“No, no, I know that.” Mark looked away, less sure again. “But come on then, let me in on it. What words ?”
Cooks smirked, his authority restored. “She gave me one phrase that I think sounds pretty good.” He paused until he was sure he had everyone’s full attention. “Cellar door…”. It hung there whilst everyone contemplated it.
“Selador ? What does that even mean ?” asked Johnson.
“Cellar door.” corrected Cooks. “You know, the door to a cellar.”
Everyone stopped and looked at Cooks. His great reveal was met with a mixture of derision and disbelief. “I know, I know” he said, trying to pacify them. “It sounds ridiculous but it’s true. This phonoaesthetics isn’t about what the words mean, just what they sound like.”
“Phono arse pathetic more like” said Johnson.
“Don’t believe it if you don’t want to” protested Cooks. “It works though. I’m definitely going to try it.” He suddenly looked conspiratorially at Mark. “Maybe I’ll use it at my sister’s party at the weekend. She knows that Caroline Jenkins. I bet she’s coming. She’s in the 5th year so she won’t know about it yet.”
“Don’t do that Cooksey” said Mark. “You know I like her.”
“Well do something about it then. I can’t have this secret weapon and not use it now, can I ?”
“I will, I will” said Mark.
“Ask her now or I’m using cellar door on her” said Cooks abruptly. The others were interested now, waiting to see what Mark would do. “I’m giving you first go Mark – you can even use the killer phrase if you want.”
Mark took a deep breath in and rubbed nervously at the back of his head. “Alright” he declared. “Alright. I’ll do it. I’m going now.”
They’d all started walking again and as they approached the bus stop a group of girls, uniforms emblazoned with the crest of St Benedict’s, noticed them and began whispering to each other. One of them turned from her friends and acknowledged the boys.
“Alright little brother.”
Cooks grinned cockily. “Less of the little. Just been telling the boys about that thing you did in English.”
“Oh really ?” his sister smiled back before briefly turning back to her friends who were all struggling to suppress giggles.
“Yeah” said Cooks, slightly less certainly. “In fact Mark’s gone to try it out right now on Caroline Jenkins.” He nodded his head towards a figure that was now marching with grim determination towards a pretty girl stood with her friends at the next bus stop along. “He’s been wanting to ask her out for ages.”
The older girls couldn’t contain it anymore and burst into hysterical peals of laughter. “He’s not going to use cellar door is he ?” asked Cooks’ sister.
“Yeah. Like you said. The most beautiful phrase in the English language. So beautiful it made you all…”
“Made us all quite giddy with excitement” she finished for him. “Practically unable to control ourselves. Ready to do whatever anyone asked”. She span around in delight. “That was it little brother, wasn’t it ?”
“Something like that” muttered Cooks. “What’s so funny ?”. He looked anxiously over at his friend who had now reached the object of his affections and had begun talking. Caroline Jenkins didn’t look like she was in a trance. She looked slightly scared. Cooks didn’t have much experience in this sort of thing but he was pretty sure scared wasn’t a good sign.
“Turns out I had it wrong” said his sister. “Turns out the most beautiful word in the English language is something different.” With a flourish she turned back to her friends. “What was it again girls ?”
“Gullible” they chorused together.
This is the fourth story in my series of 42 shorts that I’m writing to raise money and awareness for Mind, the mental health charity. Please share if you liked it. If you’re interested in donating to a great cause then please visit my fundraising page: https://www.justgiving.com/42shorts/