Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Harbinger of Spring

Two words surfaced today out of a day of words that rose and fell in the usual way - breath in breath out, that sort of thing. These two stood up, and held their nine-lettered selves straight as posts, so I could see their puffed-up chests and their vibrating throats.

Asparagus. The girl came over to us as we drank the coffee she'd made, leaned into our conversation and said it quickly, losing the 'a' so it sounded like sparrer grass. 'I just can't think how to spell it today.' She was opaque with embarrassment. We stopped and were helpful, although I always prefer to write words down to be sure. A-s-p-a-r-a- ... and Hilary took over, g-u-s. And we nodded and sipped, and the girl smiled, trusting us, and turned to walk back to the blackboard where she was writing the specials for the cafe. A sparrow for gus, I said, to give her a way of remembering next time [it works best with a cockney accent], but she was intent on her chalk. I always did that when I was learning to spell: took apart the sounds a word made, or made the word into a sentence of its own like bee - ay - you - ti - full. Which sounded like I was talking to a bee full of tea.

Harbinger. The nine-letter word in Target today. Paul already had it by the time I arrived home girded with the story about Asparagus. He does Target every day in study break and sometimes I lean over his shoulder to help. I stare at the nine letters - with the letter in the middle highlighted because it has to be part of every word - and I kind of clear the space around each letter and let them hover there uncluttered, and sometimes the nine-letter word clears the page and hovers in the air, and I pinch the edge and lick it and stamp it down. The other day I got handbrake but harbinger is better. We always make a bit of a song and dance of getting the long word, or I do. Paul is more businesslike. He didn't say a word today until I picked up the paper and put it on the kitchen bench. Harbinger, he said through the wall, I don't know what it means, I just know it's a word.

Only later I think of them as going together somehow: one growing spear-straight, the other standing upright to do that trumpeting thing. About doom and such like. No, spring.

1 comment:

Rachel Fenton said...

That's just how I remembered spellings...with sometimes hilarious results..and the picture of asparagus really tickled me!