scrabbleboard(A pleasant fiction wrapped around 31 words.)

Watching her walk. “Em wears her zest for living like a feather boa, wrapped as an air of simmering heat playing electrically in her regal aura. It was a presence that followed her everywhere, and trailed an irresistible scent of flora and fauna that storied an earthy life. Everybody wanted to be friends with Em. They couldn’t help it. She’s magnetic. Always has been.

“It had been Emily as a girl, and the name never fit, growing up through the pain of thick glasses, before contacts were throw-away, zits she couldn’t cover, hair she couldn’t wax, in a tiny town where only the youngest children could get away with calling it ‘heap of poop-opolis’ without getting their mouths’ washed out with soap.

“Heropolis wanted to be a capital city once upon a Colonial long time ago. It was built upon the highest hilltop, in the center of a booming, pre-revolutionary wilderness, with a parade wide, ten rod road crossing the hill’s crest east to west at its center, lined with majestic maples and Oaks revealing sculpted vistas of fertile farms, designed to awe the visitor, and lure them to the richness of the surrounding miles, forgetting about the anger and actions of displaced natives dieing out un-quietly.

“Heropolis had to cede its hopes for local preeminence to a low river town in the years when oxen were the prime movers of freight north and south, east and west, and canals were the latest craze in high-speed transportation. Despite the fade in fortunes, the town never lost its aspirations or attitude, building a wannabe castle replica for a Town Hall and Library, in the early 1800’s that perched like a crowned monarch on the high hilltop, commanding obeisance from all the forests and fields it surveyed. The town became known for its ‘therapeutic rare air’ in the early 19th Century time of TB, and earlier, for its ‘enchanted light’ at the zenith of the Hudson River School. The town’s arty reputation, which it still wore like a clan plaid vest and parade kilt on the 4th, was deliberately built early on to avoid the mockery of unfulfilled expectations. It became a haven for a wide variety of thinkers and tinker-ers in its Revolutionary heyday. Some notable inventions, and people, were brought forth from her breasts of necessity and convenience.

But all that history fell into the deep, ever-growing forests, buried by avalanches of Autumn leaves plowed under to enrich the hand hewn open fields, as the ever speedier forms of transportation bypassed the hilltop beauty spot for straighter and faster routes farther west, and life in a backwoods town went on and on, in semi-anonymity, for a century or more. From a jet out of any one of the three nearby state capital airports, in Spring or Summer, the town can’t be differentiated from the surrounding scale broccoli for love or money.

“Heropolis was never going to be enough for Em. She had Thinker and Tinker in her ancient townie blood, and it blossomed as a wide streak of wit, lip and independence her parents didn’t understand, but supported anyway, as Em was their only, and a lucky accident at that. Bamboo loves a cough and cold remedy, she says of her conception.

“Em grew up with a mind of her own despite the pressures of creeping decrepitude and arching conservatism of the backwoods region she couldn’t wait to escape. Her energies earned her the nickname Loco Em Oh, short for locomotive, because she was a powerful thing when motivated, which was nearly Em’s every waking moment. She hung out with bell, book, and lyre at the library, and became every bit the smartest, most vivacious ass in class, if not the most physically beautiful, with the mental dexterity and expressive talents to back it all up. She grew up deliberately, and decidedly NOT rueing the day when she would be out from under the foliage canopy, free to think and act as she saw fit in a bigger world.

“Em earned her Loco rep with adults as well, from the day she could talk back, and avoided becoming a powder keg of teenage frustration, or a turgid blossom of hormonal desires, by channeling her energies into things she wanted to learn, earning the recognition she wanted to get with real hard work, and gaining respect by both giving and requiring it. She was never easy on herself, so she was never easy on anybody else either, except her parents. That made her hard to get close to, particularly for the boys; too many fairy tales to compete with, where the intrepid princes hack their way through a mountain climb of very thick and spiky brambles to get to the princess, and find true love within. Tough row for a young man to hoe, and no boys need apply. Not enough blood or guts.”

“How’d we meet? That was much later, relatively speaking, after college, when she’d gained a handle on the ruder aspects of her personality, fiercely channeling that brusque sharp energy and intent into her work. We caught sight of each other the first time answering the same agency ad for a job a few years before, here in the city. We’re both writers. Neither of us got that job, but our paths started to cross occasionally, because we both landed entry level jobs on opposite ends of Newbury, and one agency always mingles with others under a variety of circumstances throughout the year. We had some casual friends in common, and we’d sort of see each other from afar from time to time, and not know exactly how to bridge the space between ‘Hi, howarya’ and what to say next that doesn’t reveal too much about how strong the physical attraction is, when in those days, … and honestly, now more than ever, … there has to be something else besides sex to make spending a lot of time together interesting, not that sex isn’t great. It’s just not everything. I was a young professional looking for everything, too young and stupid to know what an undertaking that would be if I got it. Good thing.

“It happened fifteen years ago, next week, when we were taking an airbus to Atlanta for different reasons, and chance seated us next to each other on a very full plane. I watched her walk down the aisle, literally the last one to board, and saw the air she carries with her bring that narrow tube to life, … not really for the first time, but for the first time that I was fully able to see, appreciate and admire the style of the whole package. I recognized her immediately, but Em was looking at the seat numbers and trying not to bump elbows or shoulders with her shapely rear, swinging laptop carry-on, or purse. That’s what did it for me. She moved like river water in a tight channel, with awareness and consideration wrapped around gravitational purpose. Riveting. Every man watched, most of the women too. Lots of necks craned around and snapped back, embarrassed for staring. My heart nearly stopped when she did, looking at the empty seat between mine at the window, and this other guy, whose name I never got, on the aisle. She looked at me and asked which shelf might have room in the overhead, since the cabin attendants had already been through to close up before take off. I volunteered to move my stuff to make room above, but she saw to it herself and made everything fit with just a few adjustments. She opened, she saw, she conquered. Wow.

“She only had to look the other guy in the face, he was up and out of his chair, allowing her easy access to the center seat. He too was intoxicated by her visualized scent and a little slack jawed, but still a male dawg in a heated sniffing state, rich with allure. Had to kind of cut him off. My luck was the window that she wanted to look out of to see if the weather would delay our departure. She said there was a storm front coming, she’d seen white water on the bay, and the winds were picking up. They had slowed traffic on the central artery, a truck slapped over by a strong and ill timed gust. That’s what had delayed her. But no rain yet, “Thank Bamboo,” she said in a casual and confirming tone. “If the flight’s on time, we’ll probably get out ahead of this April Fool’s cold snap crawling towards us out of the Arctic. Hope it don’t snow. That would suck. Just got my crocuses up. Glad we’re headed South,” she said, turning to sit. “Supposed to be warm.”

“It was only when she moved and looked in my eyes to say ‘Thanks,’ that she recognized me as someone familiar, but … not. Her quizzical look told me she couldn’t quite place the face, but she was working on it. I was working on not drowning in lust, immersed suddenly in the full force of her in close, palpable proximity.

“The sun chose that moment to pour onto my face from two directions. The lesser one broke through the clouds and the plane’s small window. The ‘gotta wear shades’ one was a dazzling, off-center smile that said ‘I’m pretty sure I know you.’ I saw that her eyes were marbled brown with rings of green-gold encircling the bright life-light dancing on the dark wells of her pupils. And clear contacts.

“I must have been holding my studious breath, because it suddenly burst out of me in an embarrassing spraying gasp that just missed her as she settled into her seat. I did my best to cover the awkward, intoxicated boy move with desperation cool. “Sorry.” I said. “Hiccups.”

“That’s the remedy that always works for me, holding it tight,” she said, with a hint of knowing something more, getting back to arranging herself comfortably, adjusting her stylish business casual, getting her purse and computer under the seat, taking out a folder of work docs to review.

“Doing my best not to stare, or intrude on her process. I still caught every fascinating micro-movement of her delicious hidden body and long loose hair out of the corner of my eye, covering my lingering glances with the book I’d been reading before she arrived. I thought I was being surreptitious, studying her calm concentration, but more than a few times she caught me looking, and then I began to catch her looking, while we were both trying to concentrate on what we were supposed to be doing to kill the time during gate departure, taxiing, and waiting our turn to take off, instead of what each of us seemed to want to do, but didn’t quite know how to start, and not seem over eager or scandalously inappropriate in a tight public place. The looks were getting hungrier, however, as we climbed to cruising altitude.

It was during the first beverage service that we were able to trade names, clear the initial hurdle and acknowledge that we knew each other from town, ‘the industry.’ We shared the few names and experiences we had in common while doing the catch-up, ‘where are you now?’, reintroduction. Em revealed she was headed for a new client pitch, with some ‘hot-off-the-presses’ ideas for the hush-hush unnamed national (beverage) client going big time, full media spread, with a new product. She was her agency’s closer, and had been focused on reviewing all aspects of the presentation for the Q & A grilling she expected from the client. Landing the account would be great, she said with rolling eyes and ‘too-good-to-be-true-corner-office-promotion’ hair shimmering little head shake. I was headed for a shoot I had to direct because I was the project’s subordinate creative director, and had written the commercial. The big name director we’d hired to win us a Clio, had ended up in the hospital with kidney stones. The client trusted me and I’d directed a few things I’d written for smaller budget clients, so I knew what I was in for, and knew what I wanted to do with the spot. I was also aiming for the big time, dreaming of becoming an ‘auteur’ like Bergman or Bogdanovich, or Peckenpah, if not a lesser light commercial star like Abel or Pitka. My head was in Georgia, but my feet were So California bound.

The eternal flame was lit when she didn’t bat an eye with all my namedropping, and said, “I’ve been working on a screenplay adapting Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, but it’s got a long way to go. It’s hard to translate all she writes about into believable settings and conversational exchanges, y’know? And get it all? Between real people with their own unique personality characteristics, living in their own time period and social context, but deliberately played out over time to tell a whole story that has a meaning of some substance, that can be learned and applied by ordinary people, every day. That’s why I have a hard time with Bergman’s stuff, for example. It seems so, idunno, theatrical, stiff and heavy handed, all symbol, no reality … do you know what I mean? Who talks like that?”

It was so easy to say, ”Yes, I know exactly what you mean,” because I did. We both have a life long passion for movies. We thought, spoke and wrote in the same language, and enjoyed playing with it to express ourselves. My preface gave me time to pause and think of something appropriate and interesting to say that would encourage the conversation, and give me more opportunities to listen and learn what she thought about any and all subjects of interest.

“Motion Pictures are a new medium, a whole new language and artistic palette,” I said with assurance, ”and we’ve only just scratched the surface of what can be done with it. We’re in the baby talk stage right now, we’re just beginning to devise effective visual grammar and syntax that combines the power of the ‘tenthousand word’ moving picture with the specific meaning of a given set of interactively spoken words. Look at what’s happened to acting in less than a hundred years of movie making, the huge changes in what we see and how we see it, how filmmakers show what they want us to see and comprehend. And that’s never going to stop. The medium will keep evolving its story content, capture and presentation technology forever. Every time we make a movie it’s a chance to break new ground in a new way, and give the audience an experience that could have a tangible effect on what that person, that audience, thinks and does as a result of that experience.” Em nodded her head in agreement, and thought long about what I’d said, but initially kept her thoughts to herself, again entrancing me, making me wonder what she thought of what I said. Had I been written off as a pompous ass already?

“It had been the flight attendant picking up the beverage refuse that broke the moment’s intensity, and pushed us back to the ‘did you know’ agency BS subjects just to keep talking, limiting the chances to trade the important ‘getting to know you’ info.

“I knew that Em was the one worth fighting for, worth living for, when she turned to me later, during the in-flight movie, – (Rob Roy, starring Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange, at the point where Killearn, … (Brian Cox), the Marquis’of Montrose’s (John Hurt’s) Factor, says to Archibald Cunningham (Tim Roth, playing a semi-royal prick bastard seeking his fortune through the Marquis’ favor and good graces) … as he wakes Archie up from a sexually sated snooze with the departing, casually assaulted, and unfortunately pregnant chambermaid Betty (Vicki Masson), by wafting the stolen drop of his’n’her juice under the swordsman’s sleeping nose, “A wee whiff of quim to start the morning, Mr. Cunningham?” – and she whispered in a playfully husky tone, “Don’t ever try to lay that as a ‘Q’ word on the Scrabble board, buddy. It’s slang, even in Old English type, won’t be allowed in play, and definitely won’t score.” Then she squeezed my inner thigh, grazing the package and near launched a boy’s wet rocket.

The brilliant sun smile turned on again and told me everything I needed to know. We were going to be together, that night, when work was done, starting slow and seeing where it went. We didn’t know yet that we had a whole life to talk about and arrange. Between us we sensed that we could have all the fun that was there to have living the process of getting to know and figuring each other out, growing up and closer a little bit everyday.

For me, it’s been an endless thrill just to be permitted to watch her walk around in nothing but her invisible feather boa.

Mi Amore.

KRPaulson 4/1/12

For Sas, in recognition and acknowledgement of the living force love creates.

3/25/12 Scrabble Asskicking Sarah Astrid Paulson (L) vs KRP (W)

Word List (for building a short story around)

1. Zest
2. Zits
3. Shelf
4. Airbus (shelfs)
5. Mingles (zests) **
6. Lyre
7. Book
8. Bit
9. Em
10. Keg
11. Turgid
12. Loco
13. Rueing (the day rue – oops –another unchallenged slip! It’s ruing)
14. Cover
15. Cede
16. Wax
17. Oxen
18. We
19. Ad
20. Jet
21. Vest
22. Arty
23. Tiny
24. Fauna
25. Quim (combination of Sperm and Vaginal Fluids) (wrong but accepted on the basis of its place in familiar cinema – See Rob Roy starring Liam Neeson with Jessica Lange.
26. Fade
27. Reagal (actually –regal or regale but not this, an error in judgement.)
28. Awe
29. Lined
30. Heap
31. Poop

The pleasure of playing Scrabble, and the verbal/mental calisthenics that one goes through to play competitively comes to a dispiriting end when the last tile is laid. The mind wants the game to go on, because even in the toughest games, the mind is really just waking up to the possibilities for interesting combinations of letters and connections to the word-grid being created.

The thought here is, as a continuing intellectual exercise, to write some sort of a short/story piece that uses all the words. My feeling is that it would make a wonderful English/Literature/Writing class assignment/ homework project. What follows is a first example of what might be done with the assignment and criteria.