Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Nepenthean Phrase

“Doctor, I want you to hypnotize my husband so you can teach his subconscious a phrase that will make him forget the last quarter hour he just experienced.”

“Ah ha,” Dr. Punjester said. His interest was aroused. “A nepenthean phrase, very interesting, but not complicated. Why, may I ask, do you want to obliterate your husband's short term memory?”

“I can't trust him with my secrets Doctor,” Mrs. Oafleton said. She recrossed her legs and took a drag on her French cigarette. “It's rather a private issue that I'd prefer not to discuss with you. Because of our professional relationship of course.”

“Of course. Confidentiality is my specialty. I won't pry into your marital affairs any further Mrs. Oafleton. What's between you and your husband should stay that way. What phrase would you like to choose?”

“Large banana,” the married woman said tilting her head back as she put the cigarette to her lips.

“Large banana? My, my. As you may know, that fruit is just about the most popular in this country, madam.”

“Never-the-less, my husband has a near fatal allergy to bananas, and we can't have them in the house. I can't tell you how much I miss those large bananas. My life would be so much more pleasurable if I could have my fill. You understand the dilemma don't you doctor? When my pathetic husband goes to the super market, his throat closes up. Bananas may be the death of him.”

“Very good then.”

“Good, so it's settled. Now remember, I will bring him by early next week on the pretense that your hypnosis will cure his severe migraine headaches. So you might as well through a cure in as well.”

“As you wish.”

On Tuesday morning, Mrs. Oafleton surprised her husband with the news that she had scheduled an appointment to see a headache specialist across town. Together they both left their home and drove to Dr. Punjester's office. Mr. and Mrs. Oafleton were told to go right in by the receptionist because the doctor had cleared the whole morning of other appointments.

“Mr. Oafleton, thank you for coming,” Dr. Punjester said as he rose from his desk. The two men shook hands. “Now please get comfortable so we may begin. No time to waste.” Mr. Oafleton took a seat on the Suez-lounge and reclined himself. The doctor took a wide-legged stance near Mr. Oafleton's feet and pulled out a gold pocket watch.

“Keep you eyes on my watch,” he said as it began to sway. “Allow your eyes to feel sleepy. That's right. They are getting heavy, aren't they? Like sand bags or two lumpy sacks of potatoes carried on each shoulder of an Irish farmer. Feel the lids touch together and feel relaxed. I will snap my fingers after I count back to zero from three. When you hear the snap you will be completely under my influence. Prepare to surrender to me. 3-2-1-0.”


“Now! Nod your head up and down.” He did. “Good boy. Shake your head vigorously.” He did. “Now put your finger inside your left nostril.”

“Dr Punjester! Please remember our business,” Mrs. Oafleton said. The smoke from her freshly lit cigarette was spiraling towards the ceiling.

“Just having a little fun, Mrs. Oafleton. I suppose you could say it's a little dirty habit I have. It's so fun to play with my patients. What else did I go through all that medical school for?” Dr. Punjester turned his attention back to her husband.

“Mr. Oafleton, now listen intently. From now until the end of your life, when you hear the phrase 'large banana' you will forget everything you saw, smelled, tasted, touched, heard, and thought within the fifteen minutes prior to hearing the phrase. Nod your head if you understand and will obey.” He did. “Good. And you are also permitted to stop suffering from migraine headaches. Now, when I snap my fingers, you will gently return to an engaged state of awareness feeling as excited as a school boy watching his favorite Saturday morning cartoons.”


Mr. Oafleton opens his eyes and within moments he was awake and engaged.

“Honey,” Mrs. Oafleton says, “how is your migraine headache feeling?”

“Quite fine dear. Let's go home and watch some T.V. Thank you Doctor.”

Two weeks after his hypnosis, Mr. Oafleton was still headache free. He was feeling so good that his job performance had also improved. His boss was so impressed, he let Mr. Oafleton out early. On his way home, he decided to buy flowers for his wife as a surprise. When he entered the house, his wife wasn't in the living room or the kitchen. Thinking that she must be taking a mid-day nap, he quietly walked into their bedroom.

Sprawled limply beneath Mrs. Oafleton's naked back and buttocks were two hairy legs. Her curly hair was bouncing up and down in rhythm with the sex.

Stunned, Mr. Oafleton stood immobile at the doorway. He did however drop the bouquet. “I love your large banana!” Mrs. Oafleton yelped.

Mr. Oafleton's eyes went blank.

“Oh yeah! say it again,” Dr. Punjester, the hairy adulterer said while gyrating his hips. “I like when you talk dirty.”

“Large banana, large banana, large banana!”

Mr. Oafleton's memory was never the same again after that.


  1. I realized this last night. I think your terms are a bit off. Nepenthe literally means no pain. You're thinking of lethe.

  2. ne·pen·the (n-pnth) n.
    1. A drug mentioned in the Odyssey as a remedy for grief.
    2. Something that induces forgetfulness of sorrow or eases pain.

    I'm using the word as something that causes forgetfulness not forgetfulness itself.

  3. Hmm. No offense to you, moreso to the dictionary, but that's a stupid definition. That's not even the drug mentioned in the Odyssey. It literally means, in Greek, no pain. Iunno, I still feel the context is wrong. The forgetfulness that it induces would a drug stupor/turning away. Basically a slow wane from memory rather than the amnesiac properties you'd like. Something like rohypnol (roofies) would be nepenthean... maybe. It all doesn't feel right.

  4. Well despite how you feel about the context of the word within my comedic piece, the definition of the word (and I have included a second source's definition below) stands up within my story.

    For example look at the second definition below. In my story, the phrase is "capable of causing oblivion of suffering" by making the character forget the last 15 minutes of his life.
    ne·pen·the noun \nə-ˈpen(t)-thē\
    Definition of NEPENTHE
    1: a potion used by the ancients to induce forgetfulness of pain or sorrow
    2: something capable of causing oblivion of grief or suffering
    And in the Odyssey, Circe gives the men a potion to make them forget their homeland before she turned them into pigs.

    There was also the lotophag plant on the country of Lotophages which when eaten made Odysseus' men forget everything.