The Word

She came across the word while she was reading one day. It wasn’t an especially long word, or a complicated one, or one of particularly exotic linguistic origin, but it caught her attention nonetheless. Perhaps it was the configuration of its vowels, or else it concluded with just the right consonant. But whatever the attraction, she was still thinking about it long after she had turned the page, where it teetered precariously on the margin, tethered by a semicolon. When she finally put her book down, she continued to think about it—idly at first, then with increasing attention. She began to imagine what the word would look like if it were seven inches high and made of green glass, and then how a women’s rugby team might go about spelling it with their bodies across a newly mown field. That night she stayed awake for many hours, convinced that the lightning bug on the ceiling was signaling the word in Morse code, and when she finally did fall asleep, she dreamed of steaming the word and tossing it in a light lemon butter sauce before eating it with a side of roasted asparagus. She began to see the word, or traces of it, wherever she went: in the blackened gum embedded in the sidewalk, in the fissures of tree trunks, in the beads of oil shivering on the skin of a puddle.

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