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Crossword Creations #2: What's in a Name?

I’ve enjoyed writing for many years. I'm dedicating more time to the craft in my retirement days.

Crossword Creations Flash Fiction

One day before the sun woke up, I found in a stack of papers in my home office a folded, completed crossword puzzle section from our local paper. I spent the better part of that morning crafting a flash fiction story that came to me from the words in the solution to that puzzle. My conception of Crossword Creations was born that day, and there is always on hand a small stack of completed puzzles in my office.

There is really only one rule to crossword creations: every word in the puzzle solution must be used in the story. Other than that, it's a writing free-for-all that takes me wherever the muse might roam.

I hope you enjoy this second edition of Crossword Creations as much as I enjoyed putting it together...or more, even!

BROKERAGE – 8 JULY 2020 USA TODAY CROSSWORD By Zhouqin Biurnikel Edited by Erik Agard

BROKERAGE – 8 JULY 2020 USA TODAY CROSSWORD By Zhouqin Biurnikel Edited by Erik Agard

What's in a Name?

I don’t remember when I first sensed it, but I established on my own that my mind errs more with age no matter how hard I try to avoid it. I’ve experimented here and there with some of the memory, calendar and other apps to help me along, but for the most part, good ideas, cogent thoughts are sparse these days, and even if they do come along, they don’t stay. Nothing like when I was younger, had a mind that could cipher with great speed and do mental acrobatics reminiscent of Lara Croft hopping around in Tomb Raider. I‘ve taken to calling it roof damage, but my wife calls it retirement age and just me acting like the same old me I always will be. The doc says there’s nothing there, and the scans she took are inconclusive so she just tells me it is what it is. As egos go, mine’s not one that requires continuous stroking, but the coup upstairs has done a lot lately to taint my sense of self-worth.

“Haha!” the doc chortles. “Even elms age,” she adds, in a way that seems to indicate she believes it might make me feel better. “And folks with MBAs have bad days, too.”

I give her a wide-eyed stare, looking best as I can like an aye-aye from Madagascar. I don’t have an MBA, and I haven’t worked since Feb '20. None of this has anything at all to do with my academic credentials, with whether I’m a NASA astronaut, an NBA superstar or any of a million other ilks. It’s not wrapped up in any of that.

Aye-ayes are only found in Madagascar

Aye-ayes are only found in Madagascar

As if she were reading my thoughts, the doc says, “Look, odds are it’s just because you’re not getting any younger, that’s all. You need a vacay. Get away, have some fun. Pretend you’re not married. Buy your wife a colorful A-line dress and elope with her to Cancun or maybe even Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef. Or, even better for your long-term well-being: get yourself trained up for a triathlon, avow you’re going to get rid of that spare tire. Avoid fatty foods, eat some taro. Eat more red cabbage, too; less USDA-approved, corn-fed Iowa beef. Don’t drink so many ales—and particularly before noon—drink more green, red and black teas instead. Slather on the Oil of Olay. Build for yourself what I call a rescue package.”

“A rescue package?” I ask, getting more and more confused with her all-over-the-map medical advice.

“Yes,” she says quite quickly, “very much like the stimulus checks sent out in the US during the pandemic period. Only you won’t be receiving money, really, you’ll be spending money. Think of it as using your pesos to stimulate your morale, get yourself off the patio and on the plane. A rescue package!”

“I see,” I say, but don’t. I am still confused, like a mare at an opera, drunk on rum, listening intently to—but not understanding a word of—the aria the big lady sings as the poinsettia on the small table sags and wilts under the bright, hot lights of the stage set.

“But what about Aaron, Alan, Apu, Elle, Ernest and Paula?” I then ask, not thinking until too late (just as the words were passing over my tongue, leaving my mouth, actually) that this would inevitably cause a brain tango for the doctor, might also change her diagnosis. At minimum, she’ll think I’ve been smoking the hookah pipe or indulging in some other equally unhealthy vice.

She puts both hands on her hips, gives me a serious look. For just a moment, she looks not so much like an MD but instead a breathless boxer in the ring after knocking her opponent down, waiting for the ref to count to ten, declare a knockout. Then she reaches up with her right hand, curls a brown tress of hair around two fingers, looks away and asks, “Pet cats?”

“No ma’am,” I say too loudly, like I’m Al Bundy on Married…With Children, or maybe the emcee on The Price Is Right.

“They’re hens.”

“What?!”

The doc lets loose her locks, swings her head round quickly to look me in the eye, then slowly covers her mouth with her hand, fails miserably to conceal her obvious amusement. “Who ever heard of a hen named Apu?” she finally says, biting her tongue to keep from bursting forth with a full-on laugh. “You really raised the bar for stupid with that one!” she finally yells while holding her tummy, laughing so hard her body shakes visibly.

“Psst,” I begin. “Hey, doc…hey, look lady, you’re supposed to be helping me purge aches and pains and bad thoughts and stuff, working with me on my self-esteem, you know? What the hell is wrong with you, laughing at me like this? And furthermore, Apu is a fine name for a hen. What, you think the others are ok? Aaron and Alan and Ernest? Those are good? Those are all ok? My god, it must be a conspiracy.”

“Meh,” is all she can say after she sits upright, regaining her composure following the fit of laughter.

And I do what any proud, right-thinking man would do: I pull myself up by my boot straps, grab my jacket, walk out her office door, slam it behind me.

As I walk slowly—more slowly than usual—looking down at the ground, taking the circuitous route home, I wonder how I’m going to tell my bride about this visit to the doctor. I can already hear the ‘I told you so’ when she finds out about Apu.

“Oh, no ma’am,” I mumble to myself while kicking a stone off the walk and watching it tumble into the grass. “She didn’t say a damn word about the names you picked out.”

Word Tracker

 

 

Tango

X

NASA

X

Apps

X

Avoid

X

Olay

X

Coup

X

Roof damage

X

Tire

X

Own

X

Scans

X

Tinge

X

Haha

X

Sensed

X

Retirement age

X

Elope

X

MBAs

X

Tri

X

Elms

X

Vacay

X

It is

X

Feb

X

Pipe

X

A-Line

X

Rescue package

X

Sparse

X

Errs

X

Taint

X

Patio

X

Meh

X

Rude

X

Red Cabbage

X

Ales

X

USDA

X

Aaron

X

Part

X

Most

X

Tress

X

DOWN

X

Taro

X

Avow

X

Noon

X

GIF

X

Odds Are

X

No Ma'am

X

Alan

X

Sags

X

Aye

X

Acting

X

Poinsettia

X

Purge

X

Speed

X

Ache

X

Teas

X

Hips

X

Stay

X

Reef

X

Elle

X

Tomb Raider

X

Emcee

X

NBA

X

Ring

X

I see

X

Vice

X

Apu

X

Ilks

X

Psst

X

Acrobat

X

Ernest

X

Pet cat

X

Aria

X

Strap

X

Paula

X

Peso

X

Adds

X

Mare

X

Egos

X

Hens

X

Rum

X

Bar

X

© 2020 greg cain

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