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“…catapulted out of operational reality by the memory of a word. Marrowy. As in what it’s like within bone. The deeper blood you never see. I know my veins are empty tracts of hallway patterned with footprints that confuse themselves in dust. The peeled blister on the ball of my palm is healing itself in concentric tides of new – the rings of a backwardly aging stump. Falling down freaked me out – but what’s worse is the healing – the evidence of the fall receding so I can see the point nearing at which I’ll have only the unverifiable memory of the tumble – the sensation of disbalance worrying itself into my head – coming on so strongly that I can’t know if I’m still standing till it’s passed. Trying to chug up the building’s spiral stairs, stopping my skirt riding up with one hand (never know when a pair of eyes will appear behind and casually violate you) and cradling this thing slung at my side with the other; endlessly, as though past steps are sneaking up another route to fall again below.”

Granny Witherwart detected that the three children were becoming restless of her fables (the sun was knocking fiercely on the window) so she skipped forward a little.

“…also when I say the book is thick I mean thick thick, barely carryable beneath one arm. The title is embossed, pressed into the sunsetty red leather. It’s something like a mixed up dictionary of verbs – really nothing more than verb upon verb mounted rudely atop one another in an almost indistinguishably minute font. I pause and browse when I feel too much like I’m climbing toward the center of the stair and not up it at all. The verbs unalphabetized and every single definition no more than a reference to a word on a page before. A real thrill to flick through though, windmilling pages – weep, inhale, thrust, open, sate, seat, usher, pat, give, cease, step, go, guess, offer, make, think, schedule, pinch, wake, recede, feel, purple, watch, remain, bear, know, struggle, tug, thrum, wind, have, recount, calm, spite, dawdle, raise, patrol, scream, eye, feign, illustrate, find, offer, dare, sober, bond, sog, smear, flip, saw, split, notice, windmill, flick, thrill, reference, climb, browse, pause, mount, press, fall, sneak, sling, cradle, violate, appear, ride, stop, chug, stand, tumble, see, heal, freak out, age, peel, confuse, pattern, remember, catapult – barely noticing as the pages split finger skin, saw in, so that in flipping I smear and sog words into incomprehensible mush, bond thin pages irreparably. A sobering thought: to whom will I dare offer this blood-soaked verbiage if the stair end ever finds me?”

Here Granny Witherwart paused and illustrated the story with a feigned expression of extreme consternation, but it was for nobody’s benefit as the children were variously eyeing their dirtied nails, the screaming window, the insects patrolling cracks in the earthenware tile floor, or her chimneypot hat on its door hook. She raised her pitch a little and dawdled through the last paragraph just to spite them.

“I’ll calm them down by recounting an oft had dream: a limb (it changes) is wound with catgut so tight I’m scared to struggle. Somewhere someone thrums it with a dull tune. With each note it tugs. If I struggle I know that I will know that it is impossible to become unbound. I couldn’t bear it, so I remain still. I watch the limb pale, purpling in a ring around the constriction. I feel feeling recede. Every morning I wake with a nerve pinched, limb dead for minutes. I have scheduled the ailment into my morning routine. What will they think of that?”

She then asked the children to explain the moral, making her customary offer of a butterscotch for each good guess.

Said the first child, “Why go backwards or forwards when it’s as well to step sideways…?”

Said the second child, “Never cease to struggle…?”

Said the final child, “Once you fall you have always fallen…?”

She gave each of them a sweet and a pat on the head and ushered them out into the garden, seating herself where she could see them through the now sated window. She opened up her book of fables again, thrust her nose into the spine, inhaled the old pages’ musty scent deeply, and began to weep.