birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


Don't ask me to rate one part of this body against another, or compare it to anyone else's. None of the parts like that, though they all have stories they'd probably like to tell. I look at it this way: I would miss any one of them if it weren't there. Last week, two people I'd known long ago told me they'd had parts of their lungs removed in the time we've been apart. "There's something you don't know about me now," K said before we got together for tea. "I had lung cancer. It's gone now, but we'll have to take it slow walking. Did you know your left lung has three lobes? Mine has two now. Let's not go too far." She parked in a space 15 feet from the door, but then had to go back and move her car, and by the time she got inside, she was red and sweating, exhausted. She's learned to sip in breath and then blow out candles, she said. Sip and blow, sip and blow. Conscious and slow. "It's supposed to get easier, but let's not go far." Then P let me know that since he lost a lobe, his short-term memory's not the same. The sharp pain of breathing's gone now, the cancer too, but his mind is so fuzzy. No one mentioned anything like that before the surgery, how long it takes to come back. 

So I could complain about my ankles, but maybe I just want to thank them for being there, especially after all we've been through. One doctor who wrapped one up said the whole construction of ankles is precarious-imagine marbles held together by rubber bands-and it's inevitable that they wind up twisted and taped. Mine have my whole life, and I put it up less to a design flaw than to high curbs and platform shoes, exacerbated by walking while thinking of something else, which I do all the time. I keep a self-sticking bandage roll or two on hand, and an ice pack in the freezer because that's my injury. Ankle sprain. From the time I was tiny, I've tipped over on the side of my foot, either foot, and wound up with a sprain and a limp. Most dramatic-torn ligament-was in gym class trying a handstand and crashing past the spotter who was supposed to break my fall. Half cast (heavier than you'd think). Crutches. (Exhausting, even in junior high.) The most recent was the summer before last-sandals with a platform heel, uneven sidewalk, and head snapped back to catch sight of something in an open doorway. Next: ankle bone touching the pavement, foot tucked under, everything already beginning to swell.

For the hell of it I look to see what Louise Hay has to say. "Inflexibility and guilt. Ankles represent the ability to receive pleasure," the summary goes. Good god, that's probably true, I think. But then, it would probably be true if the mind-body definition said "Tendency to rush through life" or "Need to slow down" or "Fabulously keen ability to think every flaw and character defect in the world belongs to you!" But this is the thing: it's not the ankle's fault. It's just a fragile tender spot, trying to keep me moving. Trying to hold me up.

The Means Well