How was I supposed to know?
She showed up one morning with a Scrabble game, which seemed innocent enough, but they weren’t alone. They were accompanied by a brittle, yellowing, well-thumbed copy of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (Third Edition). I’ll be honest, the book set off alarms. Lashed together with Scotch tape and rubber bands, it was a cluttered heap of loose pages and hastily scrawled Post-its and ghastly pink highlighting. It had been studied, scrutinized, reviewed, and pored over.
Every survival instinct told me to run. This isn’t a woman seeking fun, a tiny voice cautioned, this is a lunatic. And the tiny voice was right. Seated behind a rack of Scrabble tiles, my neighbor morphed into a pushy, domineering, officious know-it-all. A tyrant. Hers would be the final word. Oh? Yes, she was the more experienced player, she knew the rules backwards and forwards, and, most importantly, she was in possession of the official dictionary.
Fine, I wasn’t going to argue, I wanted this over. The less I cared, the faster it would go. The thing is, I usually like games, I like fun, but this was neither. Scrabble wasn’t being played, it was being waged — like war or a vendetta. As though lives or honor hung in the balance.
Most of my words were quickly disallowed, perfectly fine terms like shithead and OT, xyflogh and nutjob. They were out, o-u-t. Her words, meanwhile, stunted little misfits like qi and mu, were triple word scores and brilliant (according to her). I considered qi and mu syllables, but I was overruled.
I was browbeaten and heckled, nitpicked and fussed at for two exasperating games. Games I lost by hundreds of points, ladies and gentlemen, hundreds. Oh, how my neighbor gloated as she packed up her paraphernalia; I shouldn’t feel bad, respectable showing, worthy opponent, all that. Yeah, yeah, off you go now.
I was giddy with relief. Sure, I’d taken a dive, but I’d also taken a Scrabble tile. The ‘x’ is wedged between my sofa cushions as we speak. Nert nert nert.