This is a story that begins in a town called Winthrop—a name that some of the folks in the town want to change. Their town council decides to call in a ‘nomenclature consultant’—an unnamed African-American protagonist—who has, thus far had a successful run in renaming products.
Trouble is three of the main townsfolk cannot agree. Take Albie Winthrop, a descendant of the man after whom the town was named (his fortune cane wrapped in manufacturing barbed wire); Regina Goode, the mayor (she is the descendant of one of the town’s two founders); and Lucky Aberdeen, a software magnate who leads the drive to rename the town. The last would like to call it New Prospera; the mayor would prefer sticking to Freedom, the choice of the black founding fathers; and the town’s upper crust cannot quite see why the name should be changed anyway.
Solution? Quite easily done. Get themselves a nomenclature consultant.
And if you are wondering what that is, it’s a fancy term to describe people who think up names for all manner of things: ‘new cars and toothbrushes and stuff like that so they sound catchy when they hit the market. Say if you have a new breath freshener. Who would buy it if it were launched as Halitotion?’
No one. So you hire someone who thinks up marketable names.
And so our protagonist sets off to chat up the town’s residents of the town—in the process he ends up unpeeling the history of the place. Gradually the reader stumbles on the fact that he has an injury to his foot that makes him limp. This began when he clumsily stubs his toe and covers it up with Apex bandages (they are medicated coloured-bandages that match the many shades of skin that human beings come wrapped in).
One time, he had accidentally stepped into pig poo during a team retreat. Perhaps the coloured bandages prevented him from finding out how bad his toe had got infected. Feeling woozy, he faints on the sidewalk while escaping a tedious awards party. The toe must go and is amputated. It marks his early departure from the old nomenclature firm, and thus begins a life of wandering all over the country trying to make names fit commodities.
And renaming the town? It happens as he tries to sleep in snatches. “As he fell asleep, he heard the conversations they will have. Ones that will get to the heart of this mess. The sick swollen heart of this land. They will say: I was born in Struggle. I live in Struggle and come from Struggle. I work in Struggle. We crossed the border into Struggle. Before I came to Struggle. We found ourselves in Struggle. I will never leave Struggle. I will die in Struggle.”
So why not name the town Struggle? That was the original idea of the other of the two original founders too. Following this, the consultant promptly returns home, where his foot injury continues to bother him even more than before.A good read for those interested in the unusual turn of phrase.