As some of you may remember from a previous post, I bought, not too long ago, a five-inch-thick dictionary from 1937, which is now proudly displayed on a re-purposed deck railing stand in my living room.
I began documenting the items I found inside the book. First, a newspaper article. Then some roses. A sketch by Mom. Finally, a fern. I was reminded of all these fine findings when I accidentally flipped to the first blank page of the dictionary this morning, only to see this lonely blossom that must have somehow migrated from page 231.
I’ve decided to expand The Unabridged Adventure Series to include my entire book collection. Many copies purchased used. Many purchased new and now used, likely to contain bits I’ve left behind.
There are a number of things someone could say when you tell them you spent $150 of hard-earned cash on a five-inch-thick dictionary for your living room. There are plenty of questions they could ask. Plenty of sidelong glances. Or they could spend days in the basement and build you an Oak stand on which to display it. One that fits together without any nails or screws, and so it easily collapses to transport across The Atlantic.
On Fridays, my brain is nearly finished with me. And so, on Fridays, I steal things. I write only what shows up in front of me. Words the three Turkish children yell as they run up the sidewalk. Songs the construction workers sing between beats of hammers as they make patio doors for our New Zealand neighbors. Sometimes I write the ambulance sirens. Sometimes the church bells. The meows of the impatient cat who likes to sit on the hood of a matte black BMW outside my office window. This Friday, I stole words already eaten. The dictionary page I had opened to yesterday, still wide-eyed on the dining room table, gobbled by a small still-green Asparagus Fern.
Page 571: Something that Looks like Asparagus Fern but Isn’t
Verb: To beget.
Born upon the surface,
especially the upper,
as fungi on leaves that no one can reach.
Noun: A poet from the earth,
growing closer to the ground.
Relating to the epiglottis,
Something always upon the tongue,
the upper mandible,
as a parrot, a gull,
a piece of something that
hangs from the page.
A few weeks ago, I purchased a 1937 five-inch-thick dictionary on Etsy. It smells like my grandmother’s attic, and I’ve been careful so far not to spill my coffee on its tissue-paper-thin pages. Over the course of a couple Scrabble nights and a few random endeavors (i.e. What’s the precise distinction between a steed, a stag, and a stallion?), I began finding things inside this heavily-used reference book. No, not words, actual things. The first: the article pictured above.
This, for me, is how stories are born. You find something unexpected. Or it finds you. You think about. (It, rarely, thinks about you.) And then thinking churns its way into moving: fingers on a keyboard and on and on and on.