Fiction 2017 / Spring 2017 / Uncategorized / Volume 47

The Zyzzyva—Sara Schmitt

Zune: (see zoon) n. An individual animal produced from an egg.

Despite the various calls she had made in the past few weeks complaining about the matter, when Nora opened her front door on Sunday morning she found that, yet again, her newspaper had been dropped at an unacceptable distance from her front step. Nora hadn’t believed she was asking for such an insurmountable task. All she wanted was for the paperboy to make certain that the Waterloo Weekly made it on to her welcome mat each week. So it was with great chagrin that Nora slowly hobbled down her sidewalk to retrieve her paper.

For the most part, Nora did her best to remain inside her olive paneled rambler. On occasion, she would have to open the door to accept deliveries and pay the neighbor boy for mowing her lawn, but she never went further than the first porch step. Except of course, when the paper was carelessly thrown onto her driveway. When at last she reached her sprinkler dampened newspaper she stooped to pick it up and instantly regretted it. An acute pain twanged through her lower back and she cursed her own thoughtlessness in addition to paperboys everywhere. Nora grasped her back and glanced sheepishly around the neighboring yards to make sure no one had seen her. The last thing she needed this morning was that chirpy Mrs. Michelson flocking about, inquiring about her health. To Nora’s relief however, the street was bare with the exception of a young twenty-something moving furniture into the colonial across the street, too busy to notice an old woman throwing her back out over a newspaper.

Nora gradually made her way back inside and locked the heavy door behind her. She then carried on with her day, as she always did. Plain oatmeal was prepared for breakfast, steel cut oats of course as it is better for the heart, and was eaten during her morning crossword. After breakfast Nora tried watching television, but was unable to turn the station away from that awful Maury show so she switched the television back off. Then her eyes fell upon the yellow-paged dictionary lying open on her coffee table. Only four left.

“Zune,” Nora rolled that morning’s word from her thin lips, just as she had done with so many before. She let it settle heavily on her tongue before continuing, “an individual animal produced from an egg.”


Zydeco: n. A type of lively music from southern Louisiana, that combines music from both France and the Caribbean.

It began for Nora at a very young age. Both of her parents had been English professors at Stanford University, so it was rightfully expected for her to become accomplished in the language as well. Nora had always had a knack for the English language; she had received high marks for spelling throughout primary school. If asked, Nora was not able to recall exactly when it was that she first stole the dictionary from her father’s personal library, only that her adult teeth had yet to come in. Her aunt Ruth had always claimed that it happened right after the semi truck collided with her parent’s Ford on their way to a New Years Eve party.

No matter when exactly it happened, at some point in Nora Brown’s life she picked up her father’s dictionary and never put it down again. In her youth, Nora would memorize as much as eight words a day. By the time Aunt Ruth caught on to her peculiar hobby, Nora was already well into the C’s and possessed the most pervasive vocabulary of her six grade class. Her gradual memorization of the dictionary left those around her in a state of awed uneasiness. Everyone who knew her was impressed by her feat, of course, but they could never understand why she did what she did, so they kept their distance. Not that Nora minded this, she was content with her solitude and kept her words as one would company. After all, words would never leave her like people could. They were her greatest companions throughout university, graduate school, her time as a professor, and into retirement. However, then came the inevitable day when Nora turned over another weathered page with an equally weathered hand to find that it was the last of its kind. So she began memorizing only one word each day, until she only had five left, and then four, and then three.


Zymurgy: n. The study or practice of fermentation in brewing, winemaking, or distilling.

Thus far, Nora had been disappointed with the Z section and was finding herself wishfully reminiscing about her days with the M’s. What was ‘zydeco’ and ‘zymurgy’ to ‘mellifluous’ or the beautiful ‘mondegreen’. To learn ‘mondegreen’ was to fall in love.

Leaning back into a moth-eaten and plum hued armchair, Nora carefully flipped through pages that she had long since memorized. Occasionally, she stopped to smooth out a page, doing so with as much care as one would use to caress a lost love. Behind her, a teakettle whistled from her small kitchen beckoning Nora to achingly pull herself from the chair and to her gas-top stove. Just as she lifted the kettle from the fire there was an intrusive knock on her front door. Nora begrudgingly made her way to the door and tried hopelessly to figure out how it was her groceries had been delivered early. So when Nora opened her door to find that it was not in fact her shipment of Campbell’s soup, she was understandably very concerned. Instead, it was a gracefully greying man of about her own age, who Nora had never seen before.

“Who are you? Are you selling something?” she looked him up and down, from mustache to cane stump, “if so, I’m not interested.”

“Oh no, no,” the man waved off Nora’s suspicions with his cane-free hand and a hoarse chuckle, “I’ve just moved in across the street you see and I thought I should come and introduce myself.”

Nora nodded politely in response, hoping that that would be sufficient enough for him to return to the other side of the street. Nora didn’t want to talk to other people. She wanted to be left alone with her words.

“Anyway, the name’s Frank, Frank Howards,” he reached out his hand to shake hers, to which she hesitantly obliged.

“And I’m Nora Brown. It has been a pleasure meeting you,” Nora replied while slowly moving the door in between them. Frank began to speak once more, though Nora never heard what it was he said as she had already closed the door. Nora finished making her tea, took an aspirin, returned to her armchair, and whispered to herself:

“Two more… two more…”


Zyxt: v. A Kentish word that is the second singular indicative present form of the verb see.

Throughout her life, Nora had thought about the end of her dictionary many times. It is impossible to start a book without thinking about how it might end. When she was young she thought about what she might do when she had finally memorized every word in that familiar book. Nora thought she might travel; she had always wanted to go to Monaco, not for any specific reason, Nora had just read an article in National Geographic about Monte Carlo once and decided if she would go anywhere it should be Monaco.

Those dreams were, however, born from a younger Nora. She was aged and weathered when she neared the end of the dictionary. She no longer thought about Monaco or Monte Carlo, there wasn’t enough time left for that. Nora just thought about her olive green rambler and the dictionary that was hidden away inside. She thought about all those beautiful words and how very soon they would end. As Nora neared the last word, she thought about endings more than anything else.

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