Mariam thought she was going to be visiting her fellow high school graduate…from the Class of ’63, the Long Island City High School in Queens, NY. Why else would we be driving for hours through the Texas Hill Country to the small town of Burnet, TX? We had three days to spend in the great music city of Austin, but Burnet?
Madeline is her name. Mariam and she re-connected on Facebook in 2013 when the class had their 50th reunion. Madeline had decided not to attend, but the FB chatter grew into a friendship that has reignited after all these decades. They had been out of touch for a long time. Mariam was looking forward to the visit with joyous anticipation.
I, on the other hand, was behind the wheel of our Ford Escape, driving to meet the person who has given me word nightmares for several years. You see, Madeline and I play Scrabble online. I have beaten her a few times, but the truth is that when we begin a new game, I already feel the dread of loss descending on my stylus as I punch out words that I hope will ring up enough points to beat her.
But, I usually fail.
That’s an common feeling for me. I may have written a few books, and I read a great deal…but I can’t seem to come up with the 50 cent words that pile up the points. I had the same problem with my son-in-law, Bob. He would beat me with such lopsided scores that I finally had to cease challenging him. No games = No losses. It’s that simple. Playing with Bob, and seeing the end score is like watching the results of a Notre Dame football game against Catatonk High School. It’s a bit lopsided.
The same goes with my daughter. I hesitate whenever she challenges me to a game. I win perhaps 10% of the time (and that’s a generous estimate), but at least I have a chance. After all, she has my grandson, Elias, to attend to. That can’t be conducive to concentration. But, she is better than me…and that makes me proud of her level of intelligence and literacy.
But, Madeline? I have never met the woman before today. Who will I find at the end of our drive from Arlington, Texas? And, more importantly, why is she so hard to defeat at what is perhaps the world’s most popular word game?
I finally meet her. She seems normal in every way. But then I find out a few facts about her. But do they explain her uncanny ability to come up with 75 cent words? Words I never knew existed. Words like: QIBLA, ASNEIS, ENSUES, QUATE and LAIGH.
Okay, so she’s Phi Beta Kappa. I get that. She has a working knowledge of Greek, French, English, Italian and Latin. Latin? Only priests and 68-year-old altar boys know Latin. And what does Latin have to do with good old American English, anyway?
Okay, she has a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. So does an old girlfriend of mine but she believed in UFO’s, NASA conspiracies and the fact that God won’t allow you into Heaven unless you love a dog…or maybe it was a possum. I can’t remember.
I speak with her. She claims she doesn’t use Scrabble Cheat Sheets. I believe her. Then what is her secret? What is she hiding? Is there a straw doll in a shed on her property that has pins stuck into its Cerebrial Cortex?
Or, maybe it’s because she’s smart. And maybe she’s not afraid to show it?
I wish I had half the gray matter some people have. Then maybe I could win at something…like the PowerBall.