Saturday, September 29, 2012

Whack

whack
verb, transitive. To strike forcefully with a sharp blow. Special usage: To murder.

Every now and then, she would be seized by the urge to keep house properly. This urge would result in a cyclone of unaccustomed activity: sweeping, dusting, vacuuming, and carrying rugs outside so she could whack the dust out of them; followed by washing: every surface, top to bottom. The work was so intense that she rarely finished more than one room, and almost never felt the urge to pick up the cleaning where she had abandoned it previously. As a consequence, her house was never better than tidy, and usually much less than that.

Definitions adapted from The New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005 (eBook Edition, copyright 2008), and from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Company, Publishers, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, 1965, depending on which is more convenient to hand.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Vacate

vacate
verb, transitive. To leave a place that one previously occupied. To give up a position or office.

The orchestra had just begun the movement he loved in the Dvor├ík symphony when he felt his phone vibrate against his chest. With a yearning regret that it never summoned him when he would welcome an interruption, he vacated his folding chair, squeezed Marcia’s hand, and hurried up the aisle to the grove of trees behind the amphitheatre, where he could talk without disturbing anyone else’s enjoyment of the music. It was Frey, the intern who had been assigned to watch the aneurysm patient come out from under anaesthesia. “Something’s wrong, sir,” the young man said. “He says he can’t hear and he’s panicking. An anguish more powerful than anything the lovely distant music could evoke seized him and he told Frey he would get there as soon as possible. He ended the call, turned his back to the orchestra and the crowd, and walked through darkness to his car. Long practice meant Marcia would understand when he didn’t return to his seat at her side. That was the reason the two of them always went out in separate cars.

Definitions adapted from The New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005 (eBook Edition, copyright 2008), and from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Company, Publishers, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, 1965, depending on which is more convenient to hand.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ulcerate

ulcerate
verb, intransitive. To develop into or become affected by an ulcer (an open sore).

Frank either worked full-bore or he didn’t work at all. He had never been a middle-ground kind of guy. On this particular day, he didn’t realize that the blister that had formed beneath his work glove had ulcerated until he felt an unaccustomed warmth inside it, pulled it off, and saw the blood.

“Not good,” he said.

Dale could see it from his station a few yards down the line. “Take a break, Frank. Don’t bleed on product.”

Indecisive, Frank shook his head. It was important to keep the line moving--they had been told so. The workers were spread thin as it was. He didn’t want to drop out for first aid and make the others take up his slack. The sore wasn’t that bad. It looked worse than it felt--a stinging, that was all.

He started to put the glove back on, then felt hands at both elbows. Dale and John--from the station opposite Dale’s--were at his flanks, pulling him back from the line.

“You gotta go take care of that, Frank,” John told him.

“But the line...”

“We’ll fill in. Go, before you get all of us in trouble.” John bobbed his head toward the glassed-in observation platform, high on the wall. No one was visible at the window. Not yet.

Definitions adapted from The New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005 (eBook Edition, copyright 2008), and from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Company, Publishers, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, 1965, depending on which is more convenient to hand.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tab

tab
verb, transitive. To mark or identify with a projecting piece of material. To identify as being of a specified type or suitable for a specified position.

The market was not too crowded this late in the morning. Most customers arrived soon after the gates were unlocked, stocked up, and left with plenty of time to get home and prepare a big Saturday-noontime spread with some of their purchases. Phoebe was pretty sure that the only ones still shopping were single people like herself, who slept late and had no one at home waiting for them.

She approached a stand whose vendor she had never seen before: an elderly woman, wizened and white-haired, who possessed that rapidly-moving, nervous quality some people display all their lives and never lose, not even with age. As she worked on her stock, she reminded Phoebe of a wren.

The woman was selling plants in four-inch pots. They were larger than seedlings, but still quite young--just big enough to be transplanted. Phoebe wondered what they were. None were blooming. Each pot was tabbed with a yellow Post-it, so she moved closer in order to read them. The labels each bore a price, below an incomprehensible name. Was it in Latin? Phoebe picked up one pot to study the plant’s form.

“He’s never going to ask you to move in with him, much less marry him. You might as well move on.”

Phoebe nearly dropped the plant, she was so surprised. She glanced from side to side, but the old woman was the only person within earshot. Phoebe squinted at her. Did she know this woman? Was she a heretofore-unknown neighbor who was in a position to have observed Phoebe’s wrangling and desperate ploys with Don?

No, she was certain she had never seen the woman before in her life, so what had prompted that statement? The woman’s face was impassive, cool. Her eyes were on her own hands as she fashioned something out of twigs, or handled a group of twigs. Phoebe wasn’t sure. She appeared to take a handful of dark-green stems and drop them on the stained wooden board before her, then bend slightly and gaze at the patterns they made when they fell. Phoebe began to feel breathless, almost dizzy. Then she began to doubt whether the woman had even spoken. What if the words had issued from her own mind? What did that mean? How could she be sure?

There was only one way to find out. “Why did you say that?” Phoebe addressed the vendor.

Definitions adapted from The New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005 (eBook Edition, copyright 2008), and from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Company, Publishers, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, 1965, depending on which is more convenient to hand.