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.