Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Falsify

falsify
verb, transitive. To prove or declare false; to make false by mutilation or addition, as a will; to misrepresent; to prevent the fulfillment of.
verb, intransitive. To tell lies.

Mike couldn't keep still as he waited for Mr. Hendricks to end a phone call and summon him. The hard, wooden chair was uncomfortable and he suspected that Mrs. Collier, Hendricks' secretary, was glaring at him when he wasn't watching her. He thought he had been doing well at this job and couldn't imagine why Hendricks wanted to talk to him. Had he been found out after all these months?

Mike knew he shouldn't have falsified so much of the information on his application. He should have known better. It was just that, after all the rejections he received after being truthful, he had become desperate. All he had needed was a chance to prove that he could go straight and do honest work, and he felt that he had done so at this job. What was he going to do after Hendricks fired him? All he could think of was that phrase he had read in some old classic he had been assigned in school before he had dropped out: "Woe is me." Woe is me, indeed, Mike thought in despair. Not admitting that he hadn't graduated from high school was almost as bad as not admitting that he had served time in prison. Both facts would turn up on even the most sketchy background check. What had he been thinking?

"Mr. Hendricks will see you now, Mike," Mrs. Collier interrupted his gloomy thoughts.

He stammered, "Thank you, ma'am," as he rose and entered the boss' office.

"Good to see you, Mike," the man said, gesturing toward an upholstered chair that faced him across his desk. As soon as Mike sat, Hendricks began. "I've been keeping an eye on you lately. You pay attention and work hard. You never try to short me on your hours. Do you know that you're the only man on the loading dock who goes straight to work after you clock in? The others rush to the time clock right after they enter the building. Once they're on company time, they stand around gossiping for fifteen minutes before they lift a finger. Like a bunch of high school girls!"

Mike stared at his boss in confusion as Hendricks paused after that statement. Wasn't he in trouble? It didn't sound as if he was. Why, then, was he here?

"I wanted to ask you something, Mike," Hendricks continued. "Would you be interested in supervising the loading dock? Dave Smith is leaving. He's found another job. You're the only worker I would feel comfortable promoting. If you don't want the job, I'll have to see if I can hire someone to replace Dave."

Mike felt stricken with surprise and remorse. If he accepted the offer without coming clean, the consequences would only be worse when he was found out later. If he refused the offer without explanation, Hendricks would be more likely to have him investigated, something he obviously hadn't done. He squirmed. If he was ever going to confess that he lied on his application, it would have to be now. He took a deep breath.

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, October 25, 2015

Evade

evade
verb, intransitive. To slip away; to take refuge in evasion.
verb, transitive. To elude by dexterity or strategem; to escape; to avoid facing up to; to avoid the performance of; to circumvent; to avoid answering directly

The man wearing the dark-brown sweater and patched jeans was following her, Emma decided. She stood at the window of a gift shop, watching the reflections in the glass instead of looking at the items on display. The man was across the street, about three doors down. Instead of looking into the window of the store where he idled, he had his back to it. His gaze moved about, but returned to her more often than anywhere else.

Emma leaned closer to the glass as if straining to see something better and weighed possibilities. Was he a cop? She doubted it. He had been too easy to spot. That left one of Holland's underlings, or a mugger. Either way, he was a problem that needed solving.


She rummaged for her compact and opened it, her back still to the stalker. She snickered when she saw him flinch, turn and move two doors further away, spooked by the mirror. What an amateur! Didn't he realize that she had been observing his reflection on the window for several minutes? She snapped the compact shut and knew that he would be easy to evade. The gift shop connected to a clothing store by a side door inside, and that store had a coffee bar with an outdoor seating area in the back. Because Emma had worked there, a long time ago, she knew about the hidden gate in the courtyard wall that opened onto an alley.

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.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Deceive

deceive
verb, transitive. To cause someone to believe something that is not true, typically in order to gain a personal advantage. As "deceive oneself," to fail to admit to oneself that something is true. To be sexually unfaithful to one's regular partner.
verb, intransitive. As "be deceived," to give a mistaken impression.

She gazed outside at the unrelieved gloom of a rainy winter afternoon and tried not to wonder how she would manage to get through the rest of the day and the evening. She had nearly finished her schoolwork. She could only stretch it so far. Faintly, she could hear the murmur of voices from the lower floor of the house as her parents and her brothers engaged in their ceaseless wrangling.

The fact that all of them still left her alone to study was a marvel. She could only guess at their motives. She was certain that they were founded upon greed. Ignorant themselves, they probably expected her to continue to further her education, then return to this house and take up a teaching position in the local school. That would ensure that the family could count on the steady income she would bring in, no matter how badly the fortunes of the rest of the family went, or the state of their farm.

She had kept silent about her ambitions. She had doggedly worked at her academic subjects, day in and day out, even during breaks and summer vacations, to keep alive the fiction of her intention to become a teacher. They would never guess her true intention, she thought. There were only a few more months to go.

Like clockwork, the sounds of a struggle rose from downstairs. She could hear the thud of a falling body, then the sound of a fist contacting a meaty abdomen. Cries rose and mounted.

Her eyes closed, and she wished her ears could, too. For the thousandth time, she hoped that she had deceived them so well that they would let her go to college the next autumn without argument. She had to maintain her act until then--long enough to get away from this lousy excuse for a family and find a different way of life. She did not plan to return to this farm, ever.

The sound level from below grew louder. It was only a matter of time before one of them would call her name and summon her to mediate--the family peacemaker. She was weary of the role. She thought briefly of Mary, the friend she had made some six years before, who had invited her to spend a few nights with her family. That was where she had learned what a wonderful thing a family could be--not like her own. That was when she had hatched her plan of escape. Mary had suggested that, with more learning, she could grow up to be something more than a drudge trapped by her family's own ill fortunes.

She fought the tears that rose to her eyes. Why had Mary's family had to move away? She missed her so. Her gaze fell to the history book open before her, but she had not had time to resume reading when she heard her mother call her name.

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, October 7, 2015

Cavil

cavil
verb, intransitive. To make petty or unnecessary objections. Also a noun, meaning an objection of this kind.

Josh tore his eyes away from the sunlit view out the conference-room window. Looking at it would do nothing but distract him more than he already was. The weather had been ideal when he arrived at the office forty minutes ago. He could almost feel the breeze now, here, as his supervisor droned his way through his report. Josh would rather have been outside, his legs pumping as his bike began to mount a hill, anticipating the elated feeling he would have when he reached the summit, slicked with sweat, air searing his windpipe as he made that final effort.

But for now, no. Better not to think of that, if he could manage it. He turned not only his head, but his upper body away from the window and tried to focus on the people around the table. Carol had raised a question about a statement Drew--Josh's supervisor--had made in his report. As Josh listened, he realized that, even though Drew's description of the facts had been accurate, Carol was complaining about his wording. What a waste of time! What difference did it make, when everyone knew what Drew had meant? Again, Josh wondered why he had been called to this meeting. He knew he had better things to do than listen to two lower-management types cavil about adjectives.

He kept his eyes away from the view and listened, however. It wouldn't do to be caught daydreaming about cycling when they finally got around to telling him why he was here. He needed this job, no matter how much he disliked it.

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, October 4, 2015

Bloviate

bloviate
verb. To talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way.

John and Donna settled into their recliners for the national evening news. They had arrived home from work half an hour ago. Donna had turned off the crock pot and put rolls into the oven. Supper would be ready in ten minutes. Both were looking forward to enjoying it while catching up on the day's events.

After a brief introduction, the host announced that the President would be making a special announcement. Donna sighed inwardly and began to cast about for something she could use as a distraction. She was so tired of that man and his empty, self-aggrandizing speeches. How he had gotten re-elected was beyond her. Simply beyond.

John expressed what she was feeling, out loud and in terms no one could mistake: "Not again! He never says anything worth hearing. Why do they give him time on the news when so much is happening in the world that's important--worth learning about?" He settled into his chair, fuming, the bliss of being home after the workday spoiled.

Donna looked at her knitting, but decided to leave it in the basket for now. She would have to get the rolls out in a few minutes anyway.

"Try the other channels," she suggested.

John picked up the remote and clicked through the major networks. All were airing national news now and all were showing the leader making his speech. John set down the remote resignedly.

"Do you want me to turn it off?"

"I guess not. Maybe, for once, he'll say something we need to know."

She might have saved her breath. The man on the screen bloviated, as usual, on a topic she and John had discussed at length over the past two weeks. Despite new information they had taken into account, the speech might as well have been made a month ago. Once this leader fixed on a position, he rarely changed it. To John and Donna's chagrin, his decisions almost never agreed with what they thought would be the best course for the country.

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 30, 2015

Abet

abet
verb, transitive. To encourage or assist someone to do something wrong, in particular, to commit a crime or other offense.

Jill motioned Jason to the window. "Have you ever seen them do this?"

She was referring to the actions of their two dogs, who were trotting across the lawn in what could almost be described as a grid pattern, their noses low to the ground.

Jason nodded. "It's called 'casting.' It's hunting behavior. They found a faint scent and they're trying to find its strongest traces. As a team, they're abetting each other. It's much more efficient than what a dog can do working alone."

"I wonder what they're after," Jill mused, her face leaning close to the glass.

"Probably a rabbit."

"I never had a dog when I was a kid," she told him. "I'm glad we got these two. The more I live with them, the more awesome they become."

Jason smiled and hugged her from behind. "I'm glad you feel that way. I can't imagine living without a dog or two."

"Didn't you have ... like ... six?"

"Oh, sure!" The memory brought out his northern Florida accent. "It wasn't necessarily a good idea. There were times when Mom and Dad couldn't afford dog food. We would feed them okra then."

"Okra!" Jill drew away from the window and half-turned so she could address him face to face. "I've never heard of such a thing. And they ate it?"

Jason was nodding and smiling fondly as he remembered. "They not only ate it, they seemed to like it better than the commercial food, and," he moved forward and pecked her on the lips, "they thrived on it."

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 27, 2015

Zigzag

zigzag
verb, intransitive. To have or move along in a zigzag course, alternating direction. Also a noun, adjective or adverb.

The women paused after emerging from the trees that had blocked the prospect before them until then. The trail zigzagged up the slope--a tracing on the mountain--until it disappeared into a patch of boulders. Trees were few on the mountainside, casting little shade on the trail, that they could see.

"There it is," Leah stated, shrugging to adjust her pack's load. "It looks even worse than I heard."

"Are you sure we shouldn't just camp here?" Carly's voice held a faint whining note. "We could get a fresh start in the morning."

Leah gave her a stony look. "The others are waiting, remember? They'll probably have dinner ready by the time we climb that and join them. The only food you and I are carrying right now are a few snacks and our water. I don't know about you, but I want a real meal this evening."

She turned her eyes to the daunting view ahead. They were going to be exhausted by the time they reached the alpine meadow that they had been told lay at the end of the trail and on the far side of the eminence it traversed. There was no other way to join the rest of the party except to get started. The buddy system was inviolate. Leah would not leave Carly; nor would she submit to her companion's lazy impulse. Besides condemning them to a punishing climb in the morning after an inadequate meal, doing so would worry the rest of the group needlessly.

"I guess you're right. I know you're right," Carly sighed. She, too, hunched her shoulders and fiddled with her pack's waist strap. Then, to Leah's surprise, she took a deep breath and started toward the foot of the trail.

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 23, 2015

Yaw

yaw
verb, intransitive. To twist or oscillate about a vertical axis. Also a noun.

The red-tailed hawk hunted low, skimming across a fence that bordered a pasture, then a gravel lane, then another fence before it swooped up and took rest on the branch of an oak. Its perch was well-chosen: it was cloaked in masses of leaves and could not be seen from the ground. Throughout its passage, it had not uttered a sound.


With a shrill cry, it left its blind on the tree and flew in a different direction toward an open glade carpeted with tall grass. Finding no prey, it flexed its tail and yawed. It slowly ascended a thermal column, spiraling upward until it was no more noticeable to an earthbound viewer than a sparrow might have been.

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 20, 2015

Xerox

xerox
verb, transitive. To copy a document by the xerographic copying process. Also a proper noun.

"Have you xeroxed that report yet?" Gloria, Anne's boss, sounded annoyed even though Anne had not yet answered the question.

"No, ma'am." Anne hunched closer to the machine's keypad, hoping that Gloria would take the statement at face value and continue down the hall to her office. She should have known better than to indulge in such a hope. The days when Gloria wasn't a bitch numbered only about one or two per month.

"Why not?" The intonation of the question was so flat it didn't even sound like a question.

Anne took a deep breath. "Something's wrong."

Gloria stepped closer. "With the machine, or with you?"

Anne felt her temper stir. "Both, I guess. I must have pushed the wrong key. It seems to be stalled ... thinking ... I don't know what's wrong. If I did, maybe I could have fixed it by now."

Her boss was silent for so long that Anne risked looking at her. Gloria was frowning at the machine's keypad herself. "This happened to me on Monday morning. It may be time to call the repairman." She sighed, no doubt thinking of the expense. They had decided not to sign a service contract. "But first," she went on, the hectoring tone returning to her voice, "try turning it off, waiting twenty seconds, then turning it back on." She gave Anne one of her rare, thin-lipped smiles. "Sometimes, when you do that, it heals itself."

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, August 30, 2015

Wad

wad
verb, transitive. To compress a soft material into a lump or bundle. To stop up an aperture or a gun barrel with a bundle or lump of soft material.

"What did you find out?"

Seth didn't respond to Kyle's question for a moment. He wadded the note he had taken from Marcy's desk blotter into a smaller ball in his pocket as he considered.

"She wasn't there." He met Kyle's gaze, careful to keep his own face neutral. Kyle wasn't going to like it later when he learned what Marcy had revealed in the note, but Seth felt that he owed it to her to keep it a secret, for now. He had enough to do this morning without dealing with one of Kyle's tantrums.

Kyle sighed and turned his attention to his monitor. "I guess we'll know when she sees fit to enlighten us," he said, his displeasure evident in his tone. His posture dismissed Seth more than words could have done, as he raised his hands to the keyboard and mouse.

Relieved, Seth made his way to his own desk, wondering when Marcy would return and whether or not she would call the staff together and make an announcement. He had a feeling that the note may have been meant for his eyes alone. On reflection, that idea seemed farfetched. Marcy hadn't concealed it. She had left it in plain sight, where anyone could see it.

He sat and pressed a cursor key to awaken his computer from its slumber. Maybe she had emailed him. He realized that he didn't really know much more than Kyle did at this point. The note had raised more questions in his mind than it had answered.

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, August 26, 2015

Vacate

vacate
verb, transitive. To leave a place that one previously occupied. (Legal): To cancel or annul a judgment, contract or charge.

After the weather warmed in the spring, Ron wheeled the motorcycle out of the front room.

"Come on!" he cried to Marcy as she closed the storm door behind him. "Let's go for a spin and see if my fix worked."

"Not too far," she cautioned as she straddled the seat and encircled him with her arms. "The front door is unlocked, and neither one of us is wearing a helmet."

She could feel his sigh through his light jacket. "You need to learn to be more spontaneous, Marce," was all he said. He jumped on the starter and the cycle's engine roared into life for the first time in months. "Sounds good!" Marcy thought.

After the brief and uneventful ride, Ron parked the motorcycle beside the car in the driveway and the two of them headed toward the house. Marcy glanced at the now nearly-empty living room as she entered and cringed at the black greasy dirt on the carpet, ringing the plastic mat that was supposed to have protected it as Ron worked on the cycle's innards all winter.

"Guess we're going to be asked to vacate this place soon," she griped through gritted teeth. Oh! How she hated having to move.

"Only if Clark comes here and sees this," Ron responded, referring to their landlord.

"In other words, it's only wrong if you get caught?" Marcy turned at the doorway into the kitchen and faced him, feeling her resentment grow. "That sounds like something Al Gore would say."

Ron grinned. "You mean, old 'No controlling legal entity' Al Gore?" he clarified.

Marcy spoke before she thought: "I suppose you think that makes it all right." She knew from the way Ron's face changed that she had said the wrong thing. "Great. Another fight. Way to go, Marcy," she thought, and steeled herself for his next words.

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, August 23, 2015

Ululate

ululate
verb, intransitive. Howl or wail as an expression of strong emotion, typically grief. From the Latin ululat-, meaning howled or shrieked.

The sounds awakened Dan for the third night in a row before he pulled on some clothes and went to investigate.

They were more faint in the hallway; louder in the stairwell. He descended two stories before he realized that the volume was fading. He turned and went up, then: two, three, then four and five floors. On the last landing, he looked up at a rectangle of night sky framed by the open door to the roof.

Cautiously, he tiptoed up the last flight of stairs. It was silent now, except for the whisper of traffic far below. Who was up here on the roof at this hour, Dan wondered? Was he about to see something he would rather not see, or interrupt something better left alone?

He paused in the doorway and peered out. A young woman stood a few yards away, her back to him. She wore ordinary, at-home clothes: jeans and a sweatshirt against the chill air. Her blond hair stood out in the gloom, piled any old way on her head, secured by a plastic clip. He recognized her by that mane--silvery in the dim light: she lived on the fourth floor, in one of the corner apartments. He vaguely recalled hearing the building super say that she sang in the chorus of an opera company.

She ululated a few notes, paused, then launched into a full-blown aria, a capella, her voice carrying into the night across the dark roofs. She was practicing. Maybe she had a chance at a bigger role than one of the voices in the chorus, and planned to make the most of it. Dan was not an opera fan, but the timbre of her voice snagged and held his attention as few voices he had ever heard. She wasn't a soprano--not a first soprano, anyway. Her voice was lower than that, richer. He didn't want her to stop singing. It didn't matter that he couldn't understand the language of the piece. He assumed it was Italian. As he felt whenever he heard Stevie Nicks sing, all that mattered was her voice

Careful not to make a sound, he sank to the floor of the top landing so he could listen until she finished.

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, August 12, 2015

Tot

tot
verb. Usually "tot up." To add up numbers or amounts. To accumulate something over a period of time. Also a noun.

"What are you doing?" David asked, leaning over her shoulder and peering at the monitor.

"Totting up our nest egg," she replied.

He was silent, eyes still on the screen. She added a number to the list she had made on a notepad, then logged off of the online brokerage website and navigated to another. David made no comment as she consulted her password vault and logged in on the new site. After a minute or so, she added another number to her list, then logged out. Turning her attention to the numbers she had written, she began to add.

When she reached for the calculator to verify her work, he spoke again. "If you die, what am I going to do about all this? I don't know how to use the computer and I don't want to learn, but everything we own is tied up with it somehow!"

Without looking up, she answered him. "Ask our son for help. Or my brother. Or your sister. Anyway, I'm not planning to die anytime soon. It could be years before you have to deal with this stuff, if ever."

He didn't feel reassured by 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.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Sacrifice

sacrifice
verb, transitive. To offer or kill as a religious sacrifice. To give up something important or valued for the sake of other considerations. Also a noun.

He pulled the edges of his coat collar tighter against the wind and addressed her, "Please listen to me, Flora. I love you. You mustn't leave. We can still have a future."

She stood, partially turned away, a few locks of her dark hair streaming on the wind that buffeted them both. He wished more than anything that he could have confronted her in daylight, so he could fill his senses with the sight of her face: her flawless brow, the faint blush of her cheeks, those full lips, and most of all, her sparkling grey eyes. This meeting was his only chance, and he had better make the most of it.

A gust dragged leaf husks past them on the pavement. Bare branches tossed above, shading the moon's glow when clouds didn't obscure it. The wind was getting stronger and colder. He would have to hurry if he wanted to change her mind.

"Please, speak to me, love. Can't we talk about this?"

"You have already sacrificed your career for me. Your family hates me. I won't join a family who will only blame me for ruining you."

He felt stunned. When had his mother and brother spoken to Flora? Why had they decided to interfere? He reached for her, but her arm inside the woolen cloak slipped out of his grasp.

"No!" she cried. "It's too late."

She turned and looked him full in the face then, and for an instant the moon shone brightly enough for him to see those dear, dear eyes. Their bright, loving glow was gone now. They looked dull--almost aged.

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, August 5, 2015

Ream

ream
verb, transitive. To widen a bore or hole with a special tool. To clear out or remove material from something. Informally, to rebuke or criticize someone fiercely. Also a noun.

"Who do you think did this?" Patrick queried as he bent to look at the latch-hole in the door jamb.

"I have no way of telling," Mike replied, "but I'm thinking about getting one of those little surveillance cameras and setting it up so that, if it happens again, I'll have evidence."

"I know it's troubling, knowing that someone was in here while you were at work, watching your TV, going through your stuff...."

Mike agreed without saying so. He watched as his landlord, who he considered his friend, patiently reamed splintered wood out of the latch-hole with a chisel and his finger, then studied the hole. Patrick shook his head.

"Too much material is gone. We'll have to drill a new hole, and put the new lock in a different place."

Patrick left to get more tools. Mike stayed in the hallway, swinging the door to and fro and noting how flimsy it felt. When the garage had been converted into an apartment, Patrick hadn't anticipated that anyone would ever gain entrance to the hallway via the door to the outside, then kick in the apartment's door so easily. He wondered if a new deadbolt would do any good. Maybe the door itself should be replaced with a solid-core one. He decided to propose that when Patrick returned. For four-hundred dollars a month, he wanted to feel secure in his own home. Surely his landlord would agree.

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.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Quell

quell
verb, transitive. To put an end to, typically by the use of force. To subdue or silence someone. To suppress a feeling, especially an unpleasant one.

It was dark by the time they realized that neither of them had remembered to fetch the mail from the box by the road. She volunteered to get it. He had spent the day trying to fix the lawnmower and she knew he was tired. She took the flashlight from the counter beside the kitchen door and went outside.

The world changed in an instant as soon as she turned her back to the house. She could see nothing but the ellipse of the flashlight's beam, bobbing before her steps in rhythm with them. Too late, she reflected that flip-flops might not have been a good choice for this walk. What if she had to run?

The thought gave her a shiver. Mountain lions had been sighted in the neighborhood, not that long ago. She was almost certain one had holed up in a thicket near one turn in the trail to the back of their property. Every time she walked past it near sunset, she smelled a strong odor, kind of like domestic cat urine, but not quite. It hadn't stopped her from using the trail to go out before dinner and watch the setting sun for a few minutes, every few days. She hadn't encountered that smell in a long time. She wondered if the big cats ever came around now.

She pulled the few pieces of mail out of the box and closed its door. In the wavering light, she could tell that there was only one item that wasn't junk. She closed her hand on the bundle and prepared to return to the house.

But first, a moment to experience the night and nothing but the night. She switched off the light and stood. Looking around, she still could see almost nothing, but she could hear. A cricket scritched to her left. One of the last katydids scritched in a different key off to her right. Behind, one of the neighbors' horses snorted and stamped a foot. The welcome coolness of an after-sunset breeze lifted the hair from her neck. The idea that, big cats or no, she was home, quelled any uneasiness she might have been feeling.

Finally, she tilted her head back to examine what little natural light was shining down at that moment: the stars. A lighter portion of sky surprised her. It was the Milky Way, back in view now that summer was ending. She traced its path across the heavens with her eyes, then switched the flashlight on again and began to make her way up the drive toward the house, its open door spilling warm, golden light across the porch to welcome her back.

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, July 29, 2015

Pore

pore
verb, intransive. Used as "pore over" or "pore through". To be absorbed in the reading or study of. To think intently. To ponder.

After she exchanged a couple of emails with the client who contacted her after being recommended by one of her few steady customers, Lorrie settled down to an afternoon of fact-finding.

The prospect wanted several labels printed for his product displaying a logo and descriptive text. After she asked for a high-quality digital version of his logo, he admitted that he didn't have one yet, then launched into a description of what he would like. Suddenly, the job had expanded into the creation of a corporate image. Additionally, he wanted his as-yet-nonexistent logo embossed and foil-stamped on the labels.

Lorrie had been in the printing business a long time, but had never designed anything for embossing and foil-stamping. She knew enough about it to know she needed to do research before she produced any work. She spent the bulk of the next day poring over tutorials that printers with websites had had the decency to post. It didn't matter what the subject was, she thought, if you knew what to type into a search engine, you could learn a lot about it in a few hours. Fortunately, she knew so much about the industry overall that the instructions for how to prepare the art were simply an extension to what she already knew.

"I can do this," Lorrie mused as she gazed at the illustrations she had downloaded from a couple of image banks. "I can put this and this together and simplify it enough to make a gorgeous emboss. It will look wonderful under the gold foil. It will look so elegant that my fee for setting it up will seem like a bargain!"

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.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Object

object
verb. To say something to express one's disapproval of or disagreement with something. Also a noun.

John spread the color printouts of the brochure he had written and designed over the past three days on Curt's desk, forcing his face to remain impassive. He knew this would be a great kickoff to a promotional campaign that would wrench the company out of its recent doldrums and bring in new business.

"What do you think?" he asked Curt.

Curt stared down at the sheets, showing photos of the company's equipment being operated by its employees. Descriptions of what those machines could do were placed adjacent to the photos, and specifications were included in a boxed section. The piece was designed to be folded into thirds like a business letter, sealed with a clear round tab and mailed after a name and address had been written on the back panel. John thought it was brilliant.

"I don't want to mail people something that just lists the names of the equipment and all these measurements," Curt objected, his face like stone. "That's boring! We need to promote what we can do, not what machinery we own."

"The copy can be changed," John admitted. "We can make it anything you want. What do you think of the overall appearance? Does it make you want to read the copy? If this wasn't your company, would it make you want to pick up the phone and call us for a quote?"

"No." Curt's face hadn't softened. "All I want to do is pitch it into the trash. It looks like the other dozen pieces of mail that come in here every week trying to get me to spend money."

John felt crushed, but refused to show his disappointment. "Then give me some guidance. I spent a lot of my own time on this. I just want to help the company be successful again. We have to do something!"

"This isn't it," Curt stated, finally meeting John's gaze. His eyes were cold. "You need to think out of the box if you want to impress me."

John picked up the printouts and left the room with them, hurt and bewildered. He had entered thinking that the company's descent into its third straight quarter of red ink would finally convince Curt that it was time to start advertising. He had been wrong. As he entered his studio and sat down at his computer, he shook his head. He feared he was working for a company headed for failure. If Curt wouldn't agree to advertise, it was only a matter of time. John looked at the monitor and made up his mind. Instead of eating lunch in the break room, he would stay at his desk and start searching for job openings online today, and he would do so until he found a new job. This ship was going to sink and he was determined not to go down with it.

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, July 22, 2015

Narcotize

narcotize
verb, transitive. To stupefy with or as if with a drug. To make something have a soporific or narcotic effect.

As Diane entered the central reading room with her classmates, her gaze ascended to the skylights in the ceiling of the vast space and for a moment, she struggled to breathe. Never, ever, not once in her brief life had she seen a place more marvelous, more filled with wonders.

She wrenched her attention to what her teacher was telling the class.

"... more than half a million books, on every subject you can think of, class ...."

Diane believed it. She could see some of them, in stacks that occupied at least half the floor of this huge room. She knew there were more somewhere else.

She knew her mouth was gaping in amazement. She didn't care. She trailed along with the other fourth-graders as Miss Zimmer led them to the globe near the information desk. It was three feet in diameter.

"Find Cincinnati for us on this globe, Gary," Miss Zimmer singled out one member of the class.

Gary stepped to the globe and turned it until the United States was uppermost. There, on the upper right quadrant of the land mass, was a shiny spot where Cincinnati, Ohio was located. So many people had pressed a finger to the globe's surface there to indicate their location on it that the paper had been worn off.

The tour continued, but the evidence of the multitudes who had entered the library and contributed to the wear and tear on the globe would be one of Diane's most vivid memories of it.

Thirteen years later, she entered the University of Cincinnati and frequently rode the bus from the campus downtown on a Saturday so she could use the library's vast resources to research a paper. It was so much more pleasant to use than the university's library, with its closed stacks and slow access system. It was impossible to browse there. Diane much preferred the public library, where a brief look in the card catalog would give her a call number or two, which were like keys to unlock a treasure. She would navigate to them in the stacks, narcotized by the subtle scent of books in the thousands--their pages, bindings and glue--and find, not only the books that bore those call numbers, but dozens more that stood near them, like relatives in a vast family gathering, waiting for her to open them and find exactly what she needed to earn that "A."

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.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Machinate

machinate
verb, intransitive. To engage in plots and intrigues; to scheme.
verb, transitive. To plot a malicious act.

The ruckus from the saxophone section behind her erupted just as Betty and the other flutes were inhaling in preparation for the intro to the next piece. The director's arms shot outward in the signal to stop playing. Betty propped her instrument on one thigh and gazed sadly at the sheet music, following the run of notes across the page as Mr. Reynolds chastised the sax players. She was in band because she loved music and loved playing music. She didn't understand why the students who always misbehaved and disrupted practice were here.

Betty had been disappointed when seat assignments were posted after the brief auditions at the end of marching season. She had earned First Flute, but she was first in the lower band. Band members were so numerous they had to be split into two groups for concert season. The best players were in the elite "Concert Band." The dregs were relegated to the other group. They played less-challenging pieces, and that was where all the discipline problems were.

As Betty listened to the continuing noise as Mr. Reynolds tried to impose order, she made up her mind. She was getting out of this crummy band. There was a system of "challenges" set up for that purpose, and she decided to use it.

After the period ended, she went to the band office and signed up for a challenge. Mr. Reynolds didn't comment as he marked his schedule and told her what piece to practice. There would also be a sight-reading contest, on a piece neither she nor the last-seated flutist in Concert Band had seen before. There was no way to practice for that. All Betty could do in preparation for it was randomly choose pieces out of the books of popular-song sheet music she had at home and attack them.

Betty watched Jenny--the flutist she was challenging--in a class they had together the next morning and wondered if the other girl was aware that Betty was machinating to get her seat. Jenny was the better player--that Betty knew. She had taken up the flute a year before Betty had, and her parents had paid for private lessons. Betty quelled such thoughts as she focused on her class work. It still might be possible to get into the good band, if she practiced hard every day. She had begun the previous afternoon.

How would she fit practice into the the rest of the week? She had play rehearsals every day immediately after band, then the bus ride home, then dinner, chores and finally homework before bed. She had to find a way, or her plan would fail.

The speech and dramatics teacher called her and her fellow actors to rehearse their scene first that afternoon. Afterward, she approached him.

"Mr. Boyd, is it okay if I duck out for half an hour to practice for my band challenge?"

He smiled at her, wishing all his students were as hard-working and considerate as Betty. "Of course. Take longer if you wish. I have a lot of work to do on other scenes. We won't need to go through yours again until much later."

She gushed her gratitude and left the auditorium. She found an empty practice room and spent the next hour working on the challenge piece.

She repeated that process for the rest of the week. On Friday, all the practice rooms were in use, so she practiced in the stage crew's lighting equipment room.

After band on Monday, she went to the practice room Mr. Reynolds used for challenges and did a brief warm-up. Mr. Reynolds joined her, then Jenny trailed in and got her flute out of its case.

As challenger, Betty was required to play first. She performed the challenge piece with one minor flaw and was fairly pleased at the end. She knew she stood a good chance of winning, even with that mistake. She moved on to the sight-reading piece apprehensively, but it wasn't as difficult as she had feared, and she got through it without too many halts and missed notes. Betty heaved a big sigh as she finished, knowing she had done her best.

Then it was Jenny's turn. After a few bars, it was obvious to Betty that the other girl hadn't practiced the challenge piece at all. Several times, she came to a complete halt. Her tone was breathy and her fingering clumsy. How had Jenny ever gotten into Concert Band? She played the sight-reading piece even more badly than she had played the challenge piece. With no surprise, Betty nodded when Mr. Reynolds announced that Betty was to take Jenny's chair in Concert Band the following day.

It was as wonderful as she had expected it to be: a full hour of practice on interesting music, without the frequent interruptions of noisy sax or brass players. She would do anything to stay in Concert Band for the rest of the school year, and the rest of her time in high school. As they swabbed out their flutes and packed them up after practice, Betty eyed the flutist who occupied the next-to-lowest seat and narrowed her eyes. Her best insurance to achieve her goal was to challenge her and win, thus placing herself one chair out of danger.

"Might as well strike while I'm hot," she thought, and headed for the band office to sign up for another challenge.

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, June 24, 2015

Lament

lament
verb. To mourn a person's loss or death. To express one's deep grief about. To express regret or disappointment over something considered unsatisfactory, unreasonable or unfair.

Fran took one last look around the apartment. Now that she was leaving, she saw for the first time how cramped and shabby it was--how mean. It was an old motel converted into one-room efficiencies, after all, not a real apartment building. It had looked so perfect a few months ago when she and Richard had moved in their meagre, starter furnishings and settled down to a life comprised of going to their two jobs, then returning home to cook and eat meals, talk over their planned wedding, and fall into the double bed and enjoy sex for an hour or two before going to sleep and repeating all of it the following day.

Was that it? Had his life with her become a boring routine too quickly? Had he been unable to face the next fifty years of good meals, engrossing conversation and great sex with her? Was that why he had left? Was that why he had turned instead to a neurotic, needy college dropout with limp dishwater-blonde hair?

She stood in the doorway and turned the latch so the door would lock behind her. Nothing was left in the apartment but Richard's belongings. She pulled the door firmly to a close and turned away.

It was a long walk back to campus and her new place. She kept up a brisk pace, barely noticing the pinching of her strappy pumps. She had dressed to the nines, right down to the heels to show off the fresh pedicure, thinking that if he happened to be there when she arrived, he would get a good eyeful of what he was losing. She shook her head as she thought of the cowardly way he had ended it. He had simply disappeared. He hadn't been able to face her and tell her that he wanted to split up. Instead, he had let her wait, alone, in that cheap apartment for an entire weekend, worried, wondering what she could have done wrong, sobbing until her face looked like raw meat, the realization coming at last that he wasn't coming--not as long as she was there.

"Bastard," she whispered.

She looked around as she entered the busy commercial district that bordered the campus. She had always liked this neighborhood of little shops and caf├ęs and now she was going to live here: live here and see what life held for her next. Richard's absence was a gaping hole in her consciousness. She knew she would miss him for a long time, and lament all the dreams for a shared future with him that now would never be, but she also knew that she would be all right. She was strong--much stronger than that depressed doormat he had cheated on her with.

Fran paused to wait for the light to change and considered her rival. Missy. Missy needed Richard, of that Fran was sure, but maybe Richard needed someone like Missy. Maybe Fran hadn't needed him enough and that was what had driven him away.

The epiphany was startling. That was it. That was the reason she had lost him. He had turned from her competent optimism to someone whose flaws and shortcomings made him feel more successful--more needed. "He dumped me because I didn't need him enough!"

It explained everything, and the afternoon sun slanting across the line of storefronts across the street suddenly looked warm and cheering. She smiled as she gazed at her new home, toying with something in the pocket of her skirt. She drew it out and realized that it was her key to the old apartment. Why hadn't she left it inside? She wasn't planning to return there, was she?

No. Not ever. It was over. She looked at the key on her palm for a moment, shocked that the clarity and resolve she had felt just a moment ago could be shaken so easily. Two steps away was a wastecan--one of those big ones with a steel hood to keep out the rain. As the light changed and traffic halted on the street before her, Fran dropped the key into the trashcan, turned away and crossed the street.

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.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Keen

keen
verb, intransitive. To wail in grief for a dead person; to sing a keen. To make an eerie wailing sound.
Also a noun and adjective.

Lisa pulled her socks snug before she put on her rubber chore boots. She knew she was going to enter the woods and wanted plenty of protection for her legs and feet. After zipping her jacket, she picked up the night-vision scope and exited the house.

They had noticed the marker two days ago when they drove up the road toward home: a row of five empty glass bottles, half-sunk in the dirt just beyond the ditch. The following day, Jim had seen three men in the woods adjacent to the bottle landmark, studying the ground and obviously looking for something. He and Lisa had determined that soon, the men would return after dark to dig up whatever they were searching for. She wanted to spy on them, if they did. Hence, her rising at two in the morning and preparing for this nocturnal excursion.

She had never used the night-vision scope before. It was a monocular about the size and weight of a pair of binoculars. She experimented with it as she trudged up the dirt road, accompanied by the two dogs. When she turned on the infrared beam, both dogs stopped in their tracks and turned to look at her. "Interesting," she thought. She had not known dogs could see infrared light. She turned the beam off so it wouldn't betray her presence.

Lisa estimated that the distance to the bottles was about three-quarters of a mile. She reached the T-intersection of the road she lived on and turned right onto the more-heavily-traveled gravel road. An unexpected sound stopped her. She wasn't sure what it had been, and lowered the scope to better concentrate on what she was hearing. For a moment all was silent, then the noise recurred: a car's tires, crunching gravel underneath. "Rats," she thought. "Someone's coming up the road."

The last thing she wanted was to be seen by one of their neighbors, out at two o'clock in the morning with a night scope. How could she explain it? "I'm just going down to the drug-dealers' meeting spot, or their money drop, so I can watch them, if they happen to be there." It sounded utterly foolish, even though it had seemed a good idea before she had left the house.

She plunged into the woods and fought her way through the undergrowth until she was several yards from the road. She kept her back toward it so the car's headlights wouldn't reflect off her glasses and betray her presence. She waited until the car had sped past, reviewing her options. If there was one car, there might be more. Whoever it was hadn't slowed or stopped at the bottle landmark. The men who had placed it could return while she was on the road, and how did she know they didn't have night-vision scopes themselves? She was on a fool's errand.

She struggled back to the road and turned toward home, listening to every noise now, in case another car approached. Suddenly, a coyote keened, somewhere nearby. She froze and looked for her dogs. They were nowhere to be seen! "Thanks, guys," she muttered aloud. "I thought you were supposed to protect me." Scanning the dark landscape around her with her scope, she sped up, hurrying toward the lights and safety of her house.

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, June 17, 2015

Jape

jape
verb, intransitive. To say or do something in jest or mockery.
Also a noun, meaning a practical joke.

"I suppose I could get busy and put that away," Liz said, nodding toward the overflowing basket of clean laundry.

"Or you could pile it on your dresser and  rummage through it when you need something to wear," Steve japed.

Stung by his sarcasm, she moved to the basket, picked it up and carried it into the bedroom. Folding and storing the first few items soothed her, then she came to a pair of his briefs. Turning to his dresser, she halted. Its top was buried beneath two stacks of his clothes: one of shirts, the other of jeans and slacks. They had been there so long, she no longer perceived them as unusual. His remark hadn't been a criticism of her housekeeping at all, but a suggestion he considered entirely valid, given his own method for dealing with clean clothes.

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.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Idealize

idealize
verb, transitive. To regard or represent as perfect or better than in reality.

"What prompted you to move in with them in the first place, Mom?" Mark asked. "The experience was so unpleasant, you've been talking about how bad it was ever since."

"When we met, I thought, 'This couple will be my friends for the rest of my life.' They put on such a good public front that I idealized them. They kept it up for a long time--long enough to convince me that I could trust them in every way. It was only after I moved into their house, with you a toddler, that their true colors emerged." Marge shook her head. "What good actors they are! I have to grant them that."

"Why did you stay after it became so unpleasant?"

"I felt trapped. They were very extravagant, for such indigent people. I was making more money than she was, and he wasn't working at all. It was a relief to take you out of day-care and have him watch you at home, with their daughter. It saved me a lot. Unfortunately, soon everything I made went to support that household: rent, groceries, gas for the cars, utilities.... There was no end to it. I felt obligated to help financially, since they were helping me to take care of you, and because I could. I would have felt mean-spirited to keep any money back for myself while the household needed so much."

Marge paused and stared into space for a minute or two. "The change in the way they treated me took place gradually," she said. "By the time I knew what they were really like, it was too late."

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, June 10, 2015

Haggle

haggle
verb, intransitive. To dispute or bargain persistently, especially over the cost of something.

Fran sat, crossed her legs, and faced Randy, her expression neutral. He mirrored her movements after greeting the clerk who had emerged from the depths of the shop. Fran realized that he owned the entire row of buildings--the office on the corner where she had applied, the music store next to it, and this furniture store where he had led her for the interview.

"Is there nowhere in his office where he can talk privately?" she wondered. No matter. They seemed to have plenty of space here to conduct their business.

"My problem, Fran, is that I have an aging staff," he began. "My receptionist is seventy-four; I have another employee who's ninety-two. I just don't know what I'm going to do when they have to retire. I need to bring someone in right now who can do production, and I'm willing to offer...." He quoted a figure several thousand dollars a year less than she had made at the company that had laid her off a few weeks ago. Inwardly, she smirked. He was hoping she was desperate. She was not going to haggle over the salary. It was the figure she had written on the application, or nothing. Her days of scrimping and doing without in order to make some millionaire more wealthy were over.

"My problem, Randy, is that I need to work four more years until I can retire with full Social Security benefits. It's in my best interest to maximize my income during those four years. I'm already getting so much freelance work that I'm having trouble finding enough spare time to apply for jobs, and I'm enjoying the freedom of being my own boss. I'm unwilling to give up that pleasure for a big reduction in pay."

"Of course, you feel you need more compensation for your long commute," he remarked. She suppressed a giggle. She could almost see him backpedal. "I'll run this by Charles and find out what he says, and give you a call in a day or two."

She stood and held out her hand, smiling. Randy's company would never pay her what she asked. The only reason their staff was so old was that they couldn't afford to retire on what they had been making there. She had no intention of joining their ranks.

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.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Gag

gag
verb, transitive. To put a gag on someone. To prevent someone from speaking freely or disseminating information. To choke or retch. Also a noun, usually referring to a piece of cloth, put in or over a person't mouth to prevent speaking or crying out.

The odor was faint when Amy reached her desk the Tuesday morning after the holiday. She took the case containing her "computer glasses" out of her tote, then paused, sniffing. Something had died in her office over the weekend. Leaving the computer off for the moment, she began to look: behind the desk, against the wall, on the credenza shelves, inside the desk drawers.... She got down on her hands and knees so she could survey the floor beneath the furniture. Nothing but a couple of dust bunnies. This was not good. If the little corpse was inside the wall, there was no way to extract it and get it out of the building before the smell became more powerful. Amy had grown up on a farm and knew what was in store for her. She did her best to prepare: she opened the vent in the celing, even though she knew she would spend the day shivering as the chilly air blew on her. It was worth it to blow the smell away. "Tomorrow," she promised herself, "I'll bring my sweater and a jar of Vicks to dab under my nose." Today, she knew, all she would be able to do was endure it. "Endure" was correct: by early afternoon, the odor was strong enough to make her gag.

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, June 3, 2015

Fade

fade
verb, intransitive
To gradually grow faint and disappear. To lose or cause to lose color or brightness. To lose freshness and wither (of a flower). To gradually become thin and weak, especially to the point of death. To lose strength or drop back, especially after a promising start (of a racehorse). Gradually lose intensity (of a radio signal). To become temporarily less efficient as a result of frictional heating (of a vehicle brake).

They were left only with one another now. At the beginning of the voyage, they had taken turns using the ship's radio, talking to the friends and family they had left behind, sometimes for hours. Their departure had been so flurried, so packed with activities, that they all felt that necessary statements had been left unsaid. Once they left Earth's gravity well, a great silence sourrounded them and their ship, and their duties were too few to fill the time. None of them had thought much about how they would while away all those hours, when they weren't in cryo-sleep, so they called home while they could.

After they crossed Mars' orbit, the signal took noticeably longer to traverse the distance. Their conversations took place as in slow motion. All began to sense an impatience on the part of those on Earth with the increasing delay between question and response. The travelers still clung to those conversations--those emotional lifelines.

After they departed the Solar System, the delays became almost interminable and the signal's strength began to fade. Some of them gave up. They said their last goodbyes, not even waiting for a response, signed out on the ship's duty board, and went to their cryo-pods for the long sleep. Those whose duty was to stay awake for the first three-month watch felt the loss of not only their contacts on Earth, but of most of their shipboard companions. As they monitored their descent into the long, chemically-induced slumber, they already missed them.

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.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Elide

elide
verb, transitive. To omit a sound or syllable when speaking. To join together; to merge. Elide is most frequently used as a term to describe the way that some sounds or syllables are dropped in speech, for example in contractions such as "I'll" or "he's." The result of such an omission is that the two surrounding syllables are merged; this fact has given rise to a new sense, with the meaning "join together" or "merge."

Even after working with him for months, she still had to concentrate to translate Donnie's speech into standard English. Part of the problem was her own diminished hearing. Part of it was his dense, down-home Oklahoma accent. Part of it was the way he elided words that were not contractions when uttered by any other person. The fact that such garbled language could emerge from someone so knowledgable about horses and horse racing was a continual marvel to her. She accepted it as a unique trait and appreciated the knowledge that he distributed every time he entered the room where she worked. He inhabited a different world than she did, and she knew she would never be able to find a place in his. All she could do was listen to him, ask questions, and learn about it.

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, May 27, 2015

Dally

dally
verb, intransitive. To act or move slowly. To have a casual romantic or sexual liaison with someone. To show a casual interest in something, without committing oneself seriously.

Donna could not understand why her mother was always in a hurry--never enjoying the sights and activities that were always going on around them, everywhere they went. Donna could not get enough of this big, delightful world. Now was a great example. When her mother slowed to survey a store's window display, she let go of Donna's hand and Donna leapt at the opportunity to look at something she had noticed down the sidewalk the way they had come: a man playing a guitar and singing on the sidewalk. His guitar case was open on the pavement beside him, and coins lay scattered on the red felt lining.

Donna approached, drawn both by the music and by the bright coins reflecting the mid-morning sunlight. She couldn't decide which was more intriguing: the man's animated face, his robust, deep voice, or the gleaming money--so close to her own hands, so available.

The music won. Donna stood transfixed as the singer launched into an exuberant chorus, the dancing notes his fingers struck transforming into a rhythmic strumming. Her reverie was suddenly broken when her harried mother grabbed her hand and yanked, wrenching Donna's shoulder.

"Why must you dally like this?" Her mother cried, oblivious to the annoyed look the singer and another adult gave her. "You know I'm in a hurry."

Donna had no choice but to hurry herself, running to keep up with her mother's strides, while looking back at the guitar player over her shoulder, wishing she could stay and listen to the entire song, then listen to the next.

"Someday," she told herself as she jogged and stumbled, almost dragged by the hand, "someday I'll be big and I can stop and listen to the music and look at everything I want. Then, I'll be happy. Not like Mother."

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.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Cadge

cadge
verb, transitive. To ask for or obtain something to which one is not strictly entitled.

Jill parked her tray on the bar and mopped it as she waited for Caleb to approach so she could relay her drink orders. Things were slow for 5:15 on a Friday. They'd pick up soon. "They'd better," she mused. Her rent was due in three days and she needed tips.

Caleb was taking his time. He had turned from the cooler door at the far end of the bar to chat with one of the regulars perched on a stool there. Jill watched them, calculating. He would be a minute or two, she judged, and since Donnie wasn't here yet....

She dug in her apron for the pack and extracted a cigarette. She dropped her eyes and studied it as she flicked her lighter. She usually refrained from smoking on the job, but things really were slow, except for the order for that one booth she still hadn't given to Caleb. She glanced at its occupants. They were deep in conversation, leaning toward each other. She wondered what their story was. Businessmen cobbling up a deal? Drug dealers? With a mental shrug, she turned back to the mirror behind the bar and watched herself take a couple of drags. As usual, the act calmed her, but the clock in her head never stopped for long. She dropped the cigarette into the spool-shaped snuffer in the staff ashtray.

"Caleb?" she called. He was talking and didn't respond. She wished she hadn't put the cigarette out and took a deep breath.

Just then the street door opened and admitted a husky woman. When Jill recognized her, she groaned aloud. Marci. Marci, the trainee barmaid, whose customers complained about her body odor, and who couldn't seem to understand that her homeliness was the reason her tips were so meager. Marci, who would spend the rest of the shift cadging Jill's cigarettes, explaining that she needed to smoke so she could get her weight down. Jill's enthusiasm for the evening's work evaporated. She rarely reacted to people this way, but she had developed a strong dislike for Marci after working with her for only one night.

"Caleb!" she barked. "Order up!"

He didn't linger with the regular, but spun on a toe and headed toward her. "I heard you the first time," he remarked testily. "What's the rush? I saw you light up." Then he noticed Marci and his gaze flicked to Jill's face. She thought she read sympathy there. She hoped so. She needed it.

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.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Badger

badger
verb, transitive. To ask someone repeatedly and annoyingly for something; to pester. Also, a noun.

He recoiled from the odor of alcohol on Frank's breath and studied his son's face. Yes, the young man wore that slightly silly grin Mark had noticed every time Frank had been drinking in secret. Mark started to speak, then paused. How much and how often could he badger Frank about this before Frank's ability to listen simply shut down?

"Maybe I'm too close to him to get through to him," Mark thought. "Maybe I should be dragging him to AA meetings instead." The idea elicited a chuckle. Frank outweighed him by a minimum of thirty pounds. Dragging him anywhere would be a brief exercise, at best. "I don't even know where to find an AA meeting," he continued silently. Mark had quit drinking without the support system afforded by Alcoholics Anonymous. He had done so by recognizing that he would die if he didn't. Die sick and alone, after losing his good job and probably all his friends. After his boss had approached him and delivered an ultimatum, he had never taken another drink again. He talked to Sherry about his decision and asked her for her support. He suffered through three days of cravings and strange dreams--near-nightmares--then realized that he was beginning to feel better, and feel better about himself, than he had in a long time. He had never been tempted to drink again after that.

Frank had been too young when Mark quit to recall his father's behavior when he drank, but Frank had evidently inherited the tendency to be an alcoholic. Mark knew he had to figure out some way of helping his son, if he didn't want to lose him.

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.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Abate

abate
verb, intransitive. Of something perceived as hostile, threatening, or negative, to become less intense or widespread.
verb, transitive. To cause to become smaller or less intense. To lessen, reduce, or remove,  especially in reference to a nuisance.

Even though they had never been through one before, the roar of an approaching tornado was unmistakable. They had been watching television, regular programming pre-empted by alarming weather reports, when the power went off and they heard the noise. Their eyes met in the storm-dimmed light of late afternoon.

"Sounds as if we got the cellar built in the nick of time," she remarked. "We'd better go use it."

Uncharacteristically, he said nothing--only nodded.

They paused only to grab what each considered the most important things: his wallet and metal detector; her purse and laptop; then hurried outside. The wind was strong in the eastern lee of the house. Outside that shelter, it was difficult to walk upright. Fortunately, it was only ten yards from the house to the storm cellar entrance. He opened the sturdy door and they entered the stillness within gratefully and descended the steps.

Inside, several feet of earth muffled the sound of the approaching twister. She elbowed the switch to turn on the battery-powered light, then put her burdens down. She turned to her husband. "I hope it doesn't take the house. Just the thought of having to replace all our stuff makes me ill."

He put his arms around her. "If it happens, it happens. That's why we have insurance. We'll still be alive." She nodded.

They stood, embracing, and listened to the muted sound of the wind. In a very short time--ten minutes, perhaps--it abated. They dropped their arms and searched each other's faces.

"Time to look," she said.

He went first. As she was about to mount the steps, she turned and looked at the little room where they had hidden from the storm's fury. Her father had badgered her until she got the loan and had this cellar built. Now, as she had so many times in her life, she was glad she had listened to him. Today, his advice might have saved their lives.

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.