my father used to sleep in the binding of a merriam webster spanish-to-english dictionary
It was something about the way his ear fit perfectly into the binding, The way he could make himself stick to the glue holding it together, preventing him from falling out of it altogether.
After weeks of mowing neighbors’ lawns He was able to pay for the second-hand Leatherbound book with a wad of crinkled dollar bills. During the day, he’d trace the words until his fingers turned black with ink. He left behind the new words he learned on the edges of papers, his mom’s linen tablecloth, the hem of his t-shirts, and the left hand of a girl he thought he loved.
Each night, he’d go to bed, folding the page of the dictionary he was reading into a dog ear — a perfect pillow. While he was sleeping, new words wormed their way into his brain, and during the day, when his mom couldn’t think of words or tripped over the bridges she meant to burn, the dictionary pages flipped through his mind, a hand that pulled her up off the ground. For a while, his mom was able to fit in his binding-bed, but her toes hung off the edge. As more words filled him up, and as he tried to teach her idioms, and as the accent faded from his voice, and as he spoke for her at the supermarket, and as people started mistaking him for American, he took up more space. And soon, his mom’s legs dangled, and then her hips, and soon, she was hanging on by the tips of her fingers, and though he was large enough to fill up the entire binding, he couldn’t string words together fast enough to make a rope to save her from falling out of the bottom.
Téa Franco is a fiction MFA candidate at Bowling Green State University. She has prose and poetry published or forthcoming in Barrelhouse Magazine, Barren Magazine, Foglifter, Dreams Walking, and others.