Crossword Creations #2: What's in a Name? - LetterPile - Writing and Literature
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Crossword Creations #2: What's in a Name?

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I have been writing off and on for many years. Now that I'm retired from the work force, I'm dedicating more time to the craft I love.

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 now a growing pile of completed puzzles in my office. That stack reminds daily that if there is not a pending project, there is, in fact, a pending project.

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. 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

Comments

Ann Carr from SW England on July 14, 2020:

Thank you. It was so rewarding for me - the best job I ever had (and the best students!).

Ann

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on July 14, 2020:

Ann - your work with the dyslexic students sounds challenging and rewarding. It warms me to know that the students had you on their side through the learning process. Thanks again for the visit and the thoughtful comments.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on July 14, 2020:

Nell - Thanks so much. And right! I understand that completely. When I had less time on hand to participate in the sport of crosswords, I'd do the same quite often. It is now a daily task I won't abandon until complete. Further, I only learn from doing the puzzles if I don't cheat, so the internet and dictionaries are not allowed in the process, only in the "grading" after completion.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on July 14, 2020:

Ms. RoadMonkey that is a wonderful comment that I appreciate greatly. The whole thing has its introduction to the world as a contrivance, so the trick is in getting it to grow and come to life in a way that doesn't make it seem contrived. In short, your observation is exactly what I am after.

Hope you have a beauty day!

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on July 14, 2020:

Bill - I love crosswords and think I am passing that along to my son, which warms me. I also think some of the tedium is good for the soul. Making a list of 75-80 words, checking it twice makes one appreciate Santa's plight on the one hand; it also is somewhat therapeutic (like pulling weeds, say), on the other. As always, thanks for stopping by and leaving a great comment, my friend.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on July 14, 2020:

Sha - Aging blows pretty bad. I like being retired but I don't like thinking of myself as old and losing my faculties. I think some of this came from that corner of my mind. The rest of it came from my personal penchant for self-deprecation.

I'm thinking of doing another crossword flash when we go out camping soon. I want to see if the water, wind, crisp morning air will inspire a different write of some sort. That will likely be number three, if there be a number three for me.

Be well, my friend, and have a fantastic week!

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on July 14, 2020:

Flourish - right on the Oil of Olay usage. I figured out just yesterday, too, that the company has downsized the name to just Olay now. It is no longer Oil of Olay. Shows you how much I use it (never) and how much we have on hand around here (none). Though I pulled that from the memarchives somewhere...perhaps I remember seeing the commercials on TV when I was younger.

I do a crossword a day and, hopefully, I'll continue to do that long into the future. I have learned so many new words and ways to use new words because of that. It is my opinion that doing the crosswords that way makes me a better writer in that I have more "tools" to hand when it comes time for me to start crafting. Thanks again for dropping by, Flourish. Happy Tuesday.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on July 14, 2020:

Thanks, femi. It is not often I see the word 'amazing' in the vicinity of my work, so I'll definitely take that.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on July 14, 2020:

John - I hope you do one day find the time to do this. I think you'd find it fun and rewarding. For me, it is somewhat like getting a prompt handed to you; it provides a focus of sorts, puts a delimiter on the work, helps establish a direction. Lord knows I could use some direction. Many days I'm a headless vector with lots of airspeed and no other good plan to work with. In any case, do let me know if you ever put one out there so I can check it out. Be well, and have a good week!

Ann Carr from SW England on July 14, 2020:

Good process, greg. I suppose with the words continuously in front of you, the mind works them out as you do the next clue!

Yes, it resulted in amusing compositions! I didn't have such things at school either. That teaching 'exercise' came from teaching dyslexics in an independent school so it was an atmosphere of encouraged learning from the literacy point of view, with less constraints on my time and lesson content. Great fun!

Ann

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on July 13, 2020:

Ann - I am betting your six word idea resulted in some great works by the young folks. I don’t recall having such exercises when I was schooling. I do at least one crossword per day over coffee and breakfast, sometimes aided by my son, sometimes not. I have realized over time that many words show up regularly and often in puzzles. I’ve also found that now each time I solve I am kid of drafting an idea in the back of my head. It is quite fun and keeps the mind engaged.

Nell Rose from England on July 13, 2020:

Loved it, lol! I sort of do crosswords, well only sort of! What I mean is I get through to the end, can't find the last word and it goes in the trash! What a great idea though!

RoadMonkey on July 13, 2020:

Well, if you hadn't told me those words all came from the crosword, I would not have guessed that the story was based on them. Very good.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 13, 2020:

Great fun! I love free-flow writing, but I hate crossword puzzles. :) I don't have the patience to make a list of all the words, so I'm afraid I'm dead at the starting gate. But it's fun watching your creative mind plow through it all.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 13, 2020:

Box, who'da thunk stringing a story about aging around this list of words!? Your creative mind never ceases to amaze.

I'm looking forward to installment number three!

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 13, 2020:

What an impossible task but you did it! I can’t think of how you’d use Olay other than the skin care cream. Some of those words were doozies.

femi from Nigeria on July 12, 2020:

Amazing stuff

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on July 12, 2020:

What a great read, Greg. You did an amazing job to write an engaging story using all these words from the crossword puzzle. I am still going to give it a try when I have the time. Well done.

Ann Carr from SW England on July 12, 2020:

Very good! This is a good idea; I seem to have missed number 1 but I'll catch up.

It takes some doing to string words together like that. I used to do something similar with my pupils when I was teaching but that was only probably 6 words max! I love to do crosswords so you'll have me working out stories now, as if solving the clues isn't enough!

I enjoyed that light-hearted read, so thanks for that, Greg.

Ann

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on July 12, 2020:

Eric - giggleable is good, I think. As always, I had fun putting it together. I am somewhat amazed with where these end up because it is never anywhere near where I actually started. For example, the first thing I was going to write about here was Marge eloping with Apu on some adventure that might have looked a bit like a Simpsons episode. Instead, I ended up in the doctor's office. I guess that works...

Happy Sunday to you, my friend. Thanks for giving this a read.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 12, 2020:

Truly amazing and delightful. Such great word play.

Alright I am not buying; Meh, 3 names together, Vacay or mare.

This is for sure giggleable.