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A Do-It-Yourself Kit

March 31, 2011

by Peter Cherches

I bought a do-it-yourself kit, on sale. I didn’t know what it was a kit for, as all the writing on the package was in a foreign language I didn’t understand, but the price was right, so I bought it. When I returned home from the store I opened the package and, as I suspected, the instructions were in the same foreign language, but other than the instruction sheet there was nothing in the box. I could have gotten upset, but rather I was intrigued. Now, more than before, I had to know what the instructions said. I wasn’t about to throw two dollars out the window. So I went to the library with the instruction sheet. I assumed the language was Asian, as the script itself was unfamiliar, so I went straight to the Asian languages section and started perusing the books on the shelves. Before long I discovered that the language was Tamil. That was the easy part. The hard part was learning the language. I spent months teaching myself Tamil, and when I was confident I had mastered the rudiments of the language I once again looked at the instruction sheet. But the “instructions” gave no clue as to how to make anything. In fact, the sheet consisted of nothing more than several short passages, with such titles as “School Days,” and “Loyalty,” written in the simple style of a child’s primer, followed by one word at the bottom of the sheet, the Tamil equivalent of “Congratulations!” I finally understood what was going on when I looked again at the box the instructions had come in and translated the big red letters, the name of the kit: “TEACH YOURSELF TAMIL.” Not bad for two bucks.

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Peter Cherches is the author of two volumes of short prose: Condensed Book and Between a Dream and a Cup of Coffee, as well as several limited-edition artist’s books. His work has recently appeared in the anthologies Poetry 180 and Up Is Up, But So Is Down: New York’s Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992. His fiction and short prose work has been featured in a wide range of magazines and journals, including Harper’s, Semiotext(e), Transatlantic Review, Fiction International, and Bomb. Sonorexia, the avant-vaudeville music-performance group he co-led with Elliott Sharp in the 1980s, appeared at such legendary venues as The Mudd Club and CBGB. Cherches is a two-time recipient of New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships in creative nonfiction.

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  1. Karen Stromberg
    March 31, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Clever! I laughed out loud.

  2. March 31, 2011 at 6:49 pm


  3. Olivia Morrissette
    April 1, 2011 at 5:31 am

    Loved it. I laughed out loud, too.

  1. May 9, 2011 at 3:32 pm
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