Each section is based on the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the day from April, 2023.
I. smittle, v.
The world is ending. The world is ending and you want to go get groceries. You want to "Keep Calm and Carry On" the apocalypse. The world is ending and you "just need some cold medicine." The world is ending. My world is ending.
II. schlafrock, n.
Wrapped in your robe, you lie on the couch under a fleece blanket, a cough drop skating around your mouth. Snow falls fast, mixed with audible rain outside the sliding glass door, blinds turned toward the opposite wall. I turn the stove off as steam erupts from the kettle, whose water I pour into a mug shaped like a camper van. The bag of chamomile bobs to the surface looking for air; exhausted, it floats in defeat, waits for the end.
III. naumachia, n.
That was the last time before the news broke. Before the apocalypse arrived as a push notification on your phone. “Worst Case Scenario,” you say. “Go.” I reply, “Worst Case Scenario: You cough so much at night that we’re up all night and I fall asleep at work.” “Worst Case Scenario: I wake up so covered in mucus, you realize I’m too disgusting to be with.” “Worst Case Scenario: You die and I end up staring to death, because I forget how to cook anything.” “That would be pretty bad,” you laugh, cough into your blanket, place your phone face down on the coffee table.
IV. supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, adj.
You like to watch Mary Poppins when you’re overwhelmed. An escape when no other can be found.
V. grass line, n.
During the movie, you sink below the hem of your blanket. Your breathing is heavy, labored through bubbling mucus. You say, “A spoonful of sugar wouldn’t do shit.” These things help me know you’re still here.
VI. paenula, n.
Priests visit our house three days after the apocalypse began, sent by the hospital. The doctors assumed it would help. The priests left Bibles and crosses on the dining table. They live in denial of the end of days already being here — delusional.
VII. shishya, n.
We met at a training for new teachers the district required, even though we had both taught for several years prior. We sat at the same table in an elementary school library. The instructional coach lead us in too many icebreakers; we complained about our wasted time instead.
VIII. om mani padme hum, n. (and int.)
In the morning, after work, or after your daily walk around the neighborhood, you sit on the patio in a camping chair next to pots of tomatoes who refuse to grow.
IX. singeli, n.
It’s hard to breathe when the world is ending. Smoke envelops the sky in a gnarled yellow hue. My heartbeats intense as when the bass drops in an edm song.
X. anago, n.
I insist on going to the store for cold medicine. I walk through the aisles like a red-tailed hawk after its prey. I stop by Trapper’s when I’m done to surprise you with your favorite dinner.
XI. ristra, n.
I find you on the couch surrounded by used tissues under a garland of peppers your mother sent for luck after she heard the world is ending.
XII. ogogoro, n.
You’ve been drinking more since your diagnosis. Soothes your throat, helps you sleep, helps you escape your body.
XIII. volksliedjie, n.
I remember our first concert. You told me about this band I’d never heard of who played a genre I’d never heard of. You told me their songs were full of magic.
XIV. wax comb, n.
We walk a bit further each day to build up your endurance. You want to climb Tiger Mountain one more time.
XV. plámás, v.
You scoff when I tell you you’re getting better. You argue when I say you’re not gross.
XVI. quotingly, adv.
You read articles about recent studies, checkout medical journals from the library. You tell me about the many branches of if-thens in our future.
XVII. nemorivagant, adj..
We start our hike up Tiger Mountain around dawn. A slow pace with many breaks in our ascent. Once at the summit, you sit on a rock, watch the afternoon sun crawl over Fall City.
XVIII. coursable, adj.
My paycheck goes to various bills and groceries— integers and decimals losing meaning each day. All we have is time.
XIX. ventilary, adj.
I’m sorry, but sometimes, when you fall asleep before me, I listen to you snore, the rhythm, where it becomes irregular.
XX. omen, v.
It’s difficult to not think about the number of tissues in the trash, the amount of wine you drink, the increasing hours you sleep.
XXI. yum cha, n.
During your afternoon nap, I clean up dishes from brunch. Your tea empty, your plate still covered in spring rolls.
XXII. novaturient, adj.
A spring breeze rolls through our house. You sleep the whole night through, wake with a zeal not seen in weeks—maybe months? You make us coffee, eat breakfast, begin tidying the living room, washing and folding blankets. Feels like the sun emerging from behind a storm cloud.
XXIII. squaretail, n.
You’re mostly quiet as you walk around the lake by our neighborhood. But you still say hello to every squirrel, every crow and goose.
XXIV. pad, n.
The world ends the 24th of April. I wake up in around 3 am. You are cold and still. I hyperventilate through our address with a dispatcher.
XXV. ombré, n.
I watch the sunrise through sliding glass door of the hospital lobby. Stripes cut through the clouds, sections that aren’t ready to move on yet.
XXVI. manhwa, n.
When a doctor calls my name, tells me about the apocalypse in a calm tone, my vision is stuck on The God of High School playing on a kid’s iPad.
XXVII. flag-off, n.
It starts— the forms, paperwork, phone calls— so many phone calls. I have to keep saying you’re dead. Present tense. Forever.
XXVIII. queachy, adj.
Our house feels uneven— a slow-motion earthquake, or maybe a blackhole ripped through the living room.
XXIX. spaza, n.
Our neighbors and coworkers set up a meal train on some website. Someone’s knocks echo through our cavernous house at random intervals, leave casseroles, gift cards, plastic bags of plastic containers, on the doormat.
XXX. bodega, n.
The world has ended. The world has ended and people stand in line at the store. They want to carry on like nothing’s happened. The world has ended and they need something to take the edge off. The world has ended. No one seems to care.