Oly-ology


“It is warm in there, warm as a badger hole,” said Elizabeth, who was 10 and therefore considered very practical and mature.

“How do you know how warm a badger hole is?” Michael interrupted, even more practical at 12 and dull as dirt, at least to Elizabeth.

“She just knows, so you shut up,” said Isabella, who was almost as old as Michael, and competitive, as cousins sometimes are.

“But – but- but “ said Jeremiah ,stretching his words for dramatic effect, “It wasn’t just the horse who went crazy that day.” He bulged his eyeballs and rolled them at the smaller children, who laughed or whimpered, depending on how much younger, and how susceptible.

“It wasn’t just the horse who went crazy that day,” Jeremiah repeated, stretching his teeth into a tight grimace and bugging out his eyes. The children stared, and laughed, uneasily, or tucked their noses into their cousins’ warm wooly armpits, eyes peaking out beyond the fear.

“It was also the sparrows, and the finches, and the robins,” he listed solemnly. Each bird, as named, made a silent space in the room for each child, as they thought back about sounds they’d never heard, not this spring, more silent than any spring before. More silent than any spring since, although they’d no way of knowing that at this moment in time.

Michael, Jeremiah and Elizabeth would meet many years after this initial encounter at a conference on entomology, mythology, and oly-ology held in San Francisco in a building that looked like a crochet hook, reaching up to the sky and then dropping down a handful of conference rooms on the tag end of the hook, conference rooms that swung slightly for 48 or 72 hours, engendering both a slight queasiness and a sense of comfort. Deeply felt conferences were cradled in that hook – Elizabeth looked back on these as a kind of magic, although not necessarily a magic she would be comfortable wearing every day.

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