“Gather, students. Come to the place of learning,” Oscar said, loud enough for everyone to hear. Each of the twelve boys moved toward where Oscar was standing. Their enthusiasm was written all over their faces. Oscar noticed the tingle of excitement as he anticipated the lesson he was about to give. His eager pupils soaked up everything he said with almost perfect recollection. When the boys were all seated in the grass in front of him, Oscar began his talk.
“Greetings, boys. I’m thrilled to be with you today.” They all responded in unison with similar comments. Oscar continued. “Your assignment was to choose a plant and name it. We will now share what you have named your plants. Isod, let’s begin with you.”
Isod was one of the shorter boys but his lack of height was overshadowed by his zeal. He stood with a huge smile and spoke so fast that it was hard to understand him. His rapid speech caused by his excitement made it sound like his words were slammed together. He only paused when he was forced to breathe.
“Ichosethat purpleshrub bushoverthere. Itsareally neatplantbecause ithasfour-” He paused midstream for a gulp of air. Oscar spoke to him gently.
“Isod, you are excited, I can tell.” The boys laughed as did Isod. He was positively bubbling over. Isod bobbed his head up and down in agreement. Again the boys giggled. Their levity filled Oscar’s heart with warmth. He spoke now with deliberate instruction.
“Even though you are excited, you must speak so that we can understand you. Make your emotions work for you, not against you.” Isod nodded, swallowed and forced himself to slow down.
“I chose that purple shrub bush over there. It’s really neat because it has a four leaf hexagonal stem pattern. The berries that grow on it are really sweet,” Isod said, still a little too quickly but at least it was intelligible.
“Very good, and what have you named it?”
“I’ve named it,” Isod let a pause fill everyone with anticipation. The other boys were riveted. “I’ve named it Brizzle Berry Bush.”
The boys erupted with cheers. They could not contain their excitement. The creative process was new to all of them, and they were hooked. Isod returned to his place with pride.
“That is very good, Isod. Who will go next?” Another boy stood. “Thank you, Eduk. Tell us about your plant.” Eduk extended his arm, pointed, and said dramatically.
“That magnificent vine will now be known as The Oasten Fringe.” He sat as the boys cheered. Even Oscar put his hands together to show his approval.
Next it was Shameless’ turn. He named a wide blade grass Rompstandler. After him, Oseas stood. He named a root vegetable The Longstone Ledgemont. On the boys went. With each new name they grew louder with applause. The ceremony continued with names like, Frizzenbalm, Gorgonfronz, Mangrastein, Abrobasia, Fortenbridge, and the crowd favorite, Sapprosious Contridge Misstaxia.
Each name seemed to fit exactly. It was as if there had been something missing until the names were spoken into existence. The boys tried the new words out as they repeated them to each other. Oscar smiled as he watched the new names roll off of their tongues.
All had shared their names except one. The last boy to stand was Abriel. Abriel stepped cautiously to the front of the assembly. He did not have the enthusiasm that the others had displayed. Oscar thought of the conversation they shared beside the tree. Abriel stared at the other boys as he prepared to speak.
“I uh. I guess I picked that tree over there.” Abriel pointed. The boys fidgeted before him, seeming to not quite understand his lack of zeal. “I don’t know, maybe we could call it-“
He trailed off. He mumbled the name.
“Muzz.” The boys stared as if the name was incomplete. There was no applause or celebration. They seemed to sense something was missing. Abriel faltered. He shuffled his feet as he said. “I don’t know, maybe I misunderstood the assignment.”
“Muzz is a perfectly good name,” Oscar assured him. Abriel glanced around nervously.
“I don’t know. Maybe it could be something else, like Triff-“ he watched the boys for feedback, and gathered that they wanted more. “Or like Triffle.” Their eyes were still begging. “Uh, It makes sticks…stick… Triffle Stick… Triffle Stick Tree. I guess.” Some of the boys seemed moderately satisfied now.
“Well which is it? Muzz, or Trifflestick Tree?” Shameless questioned.
Oscar watched Abriel begin to come unraveled. He wasn’t dealing well with the group pressure. Abriel seemed to harden as he responded to Shameless.
“I changed my mind,” Abriel said sternly. Frustration stretched tight across his face. He looked directly at Shameless as he added, “That tree has no name. It will be the unnamed tree.”
The boys muttered to each other as Abriel sat down in a huff. It disappointed Oscar to see the tension between his students. He moved back to the front of the group and regained their attention.
“Thank you, Students. You have named your first plant. This will not be the last-“
“Wait, Abreil didn’t name his tree,” Shameless said. Some of the other boys spoke up as well.
“On the contrary, Shameless. He did name his tree.” Oscar’s words hushed the class. The boys faces twisted in confusion. “He named it The Unnamed Tree. Is that not a name?”
The seeming contradiction danced around the group. Their confusion swelled large for a few seconds until it burst like a bubble. Isod was the first to get it. He made a sound of understanding and then laughed. Others seemed to get it then, and laughter began to fill the air. Even Abriel’s hard shell cracked as he joined in the levity.
“He meant to give it no name, but by doing so he gave it a name. It makes my head hurt,” Shameless said. He dropped back into another round of giggling. “What do you call that?”
“That is a paradox,” Oscar said. He loved their joy in the simplest of discoveries. As the laughter began to die down, another spoke up.
“We like paradoxes, will you teach us another?” Oseas said. Oscar thought for a second before he shared.
“I will tell you one from the world I come from.” He let the anticipation build. “Is the answer to this question no?”
They all sat completely silent for a few seconds. After a long pause Eduk put both hands to his head and made a howling sound as if the question was scrambling his brain. Oscar laughed as did everyone else. He let them enjoy the paradox for another minute before he gathered their attention again.
“Students, you see the joy of learning. You have learned the meaning of a paradox. I look forward to hearing what paradoxes you come up with. However, that is not the subject of today’s lesson.”
The boys concentrated their attention on Oscar as he prepared to teach them. They were eager to find out whatever Oscar had to share.