This Word Is Body

By Harmony Button

There is a certain horror to the ordinary. Every day, we force ourselves to do things that go against the messages of the body. I watch the nurse turn towards me, needle in her hand. She swabs my inner arm and I look away. Run! says the body. Bite and fight! But instead, I stare at a spot on the wall and try to count to ten.

The nurse tries to make conversation. I can’t remember what comes after three.

“So, are you married?”

I tell her the truth: I am not.

“Just having fun, then,” she says, drawing the blood.

This woman does not know me. Everything about what’s happening is wrong. I need out of this immediately, and my body pulls the ripcord.

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This Word Is Cop

By Harmony Button

I had a pretty awesome childhood. My best friend Greg lived on a hill out in the middle of farm country with corn fields and grape vines and crab apples. In the fall, the trees would drop buckets of gnarly apples that would roll down the drive and collected in a soupy bank at the side of the street. This was back in the days when disgusting things were totally entertaining, so of course we poked at them, squealing at the worms and mush. We didn’t have The SnapChap or The Twittergram, so instead of taking pictures of ourselves pretending to eat nasty worm-apples, we had to get a little devious.

I don’t remember whose idea it was, but it didn’t take very much effort to relocate the sweet heap of semi-rotten fruit into a speed-bump-ish berm that spanned both lanes of Dublin Road. Then we crouched down behind the corn stalks in the field on the far side of the road and waited, gleefully, for the next vehicle. Continue reading

A Little More Pirate Now

by Harmony Button

“A Little More Pirate Now” is part of our “This Word Is” feature.  Please see the submissions page for details, and then send us your words!

I’ve always loved a good heist story.  It starts with an underdog: usually someone clever and lovable with morals that don’t necessarily adhere to social standards.  Sometimes our hero has a dark past, but has worked hard to get back on the straight and narrow.  Sometimes this figure, heretofore innocent, has been so vastly wronged that the only avenue for justice is one of criminality.  The social system has failed, or has fallen into corruption, and Robin Hoodery is the only choice.  These are the honorable thieves, and they are cheeky, courageous and righteous in their cause. 

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I am Always Leaving

By Maya Lionne

When Dinah asked Lucy to write something for Tanya’s birthday gift, Lucy went to work immediately, not with actual writing, but with searching the stacks of correspondence in her room for a particular set of letters from several years earlier. After hours of sifting through piles of letters, envelopes, and envelopes without letters, Lucy found what she was looking for: a stack of letters, bound with burgundy ribbon, envelopes yellowed with age and prolonged exposure to sunlight on a windowsill in her old apartment in New York, where she developed the habit of leaving letters until the piles grew too large and threatened to block out the light. She sat down, removing them from their envelopes, the paper still faintly smelling of an odd-but-reassuring combination of her mother’s perfume and her father’s hands, which were perpetually crusted with wood glue and soldering flux, and a few other scents that brought back memories long filed away.

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Birds Call, Dominik Mosur Listens

By Elizabeth C. Creely

Dominik Mosur stood in the middle of schoolchildren, who were busily running through San Francisco’s Randall Museum’ wildlife exhibit. A tall, powerfully built man with a mild expression, he wore a tee shirt that read  “Made in Poland”. Mosur was born in Poland and although he has the laid back attitude and accent common to most coastal Californians, he pronounces his surname with a distinctive Eastern European lilt.

Just then he looked tired. “There aren’t usually this many kids at once,” he explained. “I think there are actually two classes here at the same time. Someone’s always gotta be on the floor with all these kids.”

As an animal care attendant for the museum, he’d also dealt with an emergency that morning: a sick Great Horned owl.  The Randall Museum, which functions both as a natural history museum and as a refuge for the city’s wildlife, has had the owl in residence for many years. (Born blind, the owl would have died in the wilderness.) The stress of transporting a sick owl to a wildlife vet showed on Mosur’s face. “I’m pretty behind right now,” he said.

Mosur has the distinction of identifying the most bird species in one year in San Francisco County and has mastered the art of bird identification by listening rather than looking. This is sometimes the only way a bird can be identified. Songbirds like the Pygmy Nuthatch measure three inches in size and roost in the tops of mature conifer stands. “If you’re lucky, you might see one fly by,” observed Mosur, sounding doubtful. Listening for bird calls depends on a sonic atmosphere uncluttered by anthropogenic noise. In San Francisco, this can be a challenge.

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Make Me Over

By Maya Lionne

I started telling fortunes for ten bucks a shot after I ran away from home, Dinah began, her fingers taking their time to scrawl her thoughts on the white college-ruled notebook paper that had yellowed with age in the years it sat on her desk almost totally unnoticed. “No, that’s too recent,” Dinah said out loud, to no one in particular. “Gotta start further back.” Writing her story was difficult, despite the fact that she’d known of Tanya’s impending 18th birthday for several months. She’d procrastinated on finding a gift, and even when Bridget had approached her regarding a book composed of everyone in the house’s stories, Dinah hesitated writing her own. But why? Continue reading

This Word Is Church

by Harmony Button

This essay is the first in our new feature “This Word Is” where writers meditate on a single word and its meaning through sound and memory, anecdote and etymology. 

One Sunday morning, my brother and I woke up early and, while our parents were still asleep, we changed all the clocks in the house an hour forward.

“Oh well,” we said, when the adults came downstairs. “I guess we’ve missed church today. There should be scrambled eggs and Smurfs instead.”

By the time they figured it out, we really had missed the service.

This move became known as “pulling a church” or “churching it.” My wary, clever mother learned to ask if I was “churching one over” on her.

I tried, but unfortunately, it never worked again — not for the dentist, not for the doctor’s, and definitely not for church.

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