Eaten Words

“I have eaten too many words,” Stephanie said, then proceeded to vomit an entire library across the kitchen floor.  Alan was halfway back from the linen closet before he realized a tea towel wouldn’t un-spill a library.  He dropped the towel where he stood, next to a stack of 700s, and rang a professional.

The librarian answered the phone. He hesitated, then stammered out “Do you, have… you ever tried printing all million pages of Wikipedia?” He couldn’t bring himself to say what just happened, not aloud anyway, that would make it real. The librarian wasn’t amused. She muttered about the importance of expertly verified content and hung-up. If he called back now, told the truth, what were the chances she’d believe a library much like her carefully curated one was vomited up in seconds all over his linoleum floor?
Alan wondered if he could be high? He wondered if there was any way he could go back in time to see if he’d taken drugs that morning? Time travel seemed more real that what had just happened, and that logic itself would have convinced him he had ingested something had he not immediately tripped over several copies of Gulliver’s Travels.
Stephanie was still standing in the kitchen door when Alan hung up the phone, she was wiping the corners of her mouth with her thumbs and looked paler than he’d ever seen her. By the way her body was slowly pitching, he could tell she was getting ready for another wave. There was no way Alan was going to let her vomit in his kitchen again, and fuck it all, if it was another library it wouldn’t fit in there anyway, it’d break out the windows and walls.

The smell of old paper singed Alan’s nostrils with nostalgia, it was overwhelming. His eyes stung and watered; thoughts of hiding his pockmarked teenage face in outdated computing books, trying his best to be invisible.  His emotions couldn’t take it, he had to get out of that kitchen fast, and he had to get Stephanie out of that kitchen before she completely destroyed it.
“Has this ever happened before?” he asked her as he forcefully grabbed her arms and tried to spin her out the kitchen’s back door. They stumbled and kicked at volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica as they went. “I didn’t even know they still published” Alan said, half amused.

Stephanie stepped out of the door and into the sunlight. She opened her mouth to answer but the language that came out was French and Portuguese and Spanish translations of Kafka, burying the begonias! Her knees bucked and she fell forward, scattering the stack of Kafka translations haphazardly into newly planted rows of string beans and squash. She began to cry big drops of black ink. They fell on the brick patio and beaded into small black pearls.

Alan watched the tears sink into the porous rock, leaving grey ghosts on the brick he and his father had laid the year previous. Stephanie’s hands were over her mouth as she tried to stop crying, her face was a red blotchy mess covered in greying stripes of inky tears. Alan, for the first time since Stephanie stepped into his kitchen, and maybe for the first time ever, felt sorry for Stephanie and patted her shuttering back. “I liked you better when you devoured math,” he joked, “At least it came back-up in tiny exponents.”

 

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