Humor | Fiction

‘Schwa’ Sound Confidential: A Neurotic Noir

C is for caper

Jeremy Hooper
Published in
4 min readDec 4, 2023


Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

Been at ’dis racket a long time. Pinched a lotta cheeks; bagged a lotta goldfish. Yet nuthin’s had me behind the eight-ball like the curious case of why my daughter was placed in the Tigers reading group.

It was a dark and stormy Tuesday, after soccer but before Mandarin. This gal in ladybug rainboots — the one I call “sweetums” — sauntered into my office. Which, incidentally, doubles as the kitchen counter.

She asked for a snack. I asked if she’d washed her hands. She hadn’t, so I had her do that. But she forgot to dry ’em and dripped on the floor. So I cleaned that up. She again asked for a snack. But she couldn’t open said snack. So I did that too. That’s when she laid out the stakes.

“I’m a Tiger!”

“A tiger, you say? Lay it on me, toots.”

“Well, some in my class are Tiger readers and some are Bears and some are, um, other things. I don’t ’memba them all.”

A likely story. The way this lollipop’s gassing me, I know she’s protecting someone. But who?

I rattled off the known suspects.

“Say, what reading group’s that neighbor kid in? The one they call Tiny T?”

“She’s a Bear.”

“And what about Caroline C.?”

“Um. A Starfish.”

“How’s about Caroline S.?”


“And as for the one called Caroline R-F?”

“She’s a Leopard.”

A ha! A leopard. Swift. Speedy. Implies accelerated understanding of tricky consonant blends. Why isn’t my gal with that hyperlexic grift?

I needed the lowdown. I scheduled a play date.

Next day, a member of the Leopard gang and one from the Tiger ring planted their keisters in my office. Which, to remind you, is also a counter. Perfect for serving a snack. Like, say, Alphabet Soup.

“Say, dames — how’s about a game where we spell and read the biggest words we know? Preferably tricky ones that lack grapheme-phoneme correspondence.”



Jeremy Hooper

Recycled politico who ✍️ hahas for adults (@mcsweeneys, @newyorker @weeklyhumorist, @pointsincase, @frazzledhumor) & future adults (PBs) | Rep UTA