Nerds and Hoods: An Allegory for Poets

Once upon a time, two kids named Nerd and Hood lived in a bleak post-industrial wasteland. Nerd liked school. Hood didn’t.

When Nerd went to school, he learned knife skills that would have taken him half a lifetime to figure out. Oh, how he learned to sharpen and clean and twirl knives, scalpels, machetes, switchblades, straight-razors. He cut himself a few times and had the scars to prove it. The old knifemaster was a sour taskmaster who always kept Nerd’s nose to the grindstone. After ten thousand sessions, Nerd mastered the art of knife-juggling, though not to the old knifemaster’s satisfaction.

Nerd listened to disagreeable notions and learned that some of those notions, even the occasional snarling one, were indeed worth keeping. The others he learned to recognize at 50 paces, the better to avoid them in dark alleys. As a sideline to parrying, Nerd learned how to sew up cuts, treat puncture wounds, and apply tournequits to amputations.

Hood preferred to be his own schoolmaster, carving and yawping his texts as they came. He knew some knifemasters, and he had studied their moves closely. He was no slouch at switchblade, but thought the scabbard an outdated symbol of closed samurai circles. He found the sabre tiresome and the foil predictable. Hood was just as smart as Nerd. He would never say so, but sometimes he felt a little bit intimidated whenever he saw Nerd parrying with classmates. Hood hung out in dark alleyways with disagreeable notions and played mumbly-peg with them. He never made a fuss over the cuts crisscrossing his hands.

One evening, Nerd cut through a dark alleyway and spotted a disagreeable notion. It hobbled about, showing its teeth and growling. Nerd thought he might be able to help the disagreeable notion. He stretched out his hand and made soothing noises. The disagreeable notion snapped and lunged. Nerd backed off and observed the notion from a distance.

Hood ran up behind the disagreeable notion and waved his switchblade, hoping to scare Nerd off. The disagreeable notion turned on Hood and bit him on the hand. Blood splattered on the alleyway as Hood cursed and dropped the switchblade.

Nerd knew something about disagreeable notion attacks, so pressed gently on the wound. This kindness only enraged Hood, who had some experience of his own with first aid, thank you very much, and snatched back his hand.

Nerd was somewhat surprised. He’d only wanted to lend a hand. But Hood liked his hand ragged and bloody and didn’t want any nerdy influences on his mumbly-peg game.

Meanwhile, the disagreeable notion ran off into the night. Hood turned to chase after it.

Nerd picked up Hood’s switchblade, wiped it clean, pulled out a whetstone, gave the blade a couple of grinds, twirled the knife, retracted the blade, and slipped it in Hood’s back pocket without making a big show of things. Nerd turned back the way he’d come, saying nothing.

The next day, Hood showed off his swollen hand, which glistened where the meat was beginning to stitch itself back together, and swore he was the king of mumbly-peg.

Nerd allowed as how Hood had skills.

The keen knife winked under the fierce sun.


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