Here is a list of words
Have you ever tried to write a story or a poem using a particular list of words? That’s what today’s story is. My fellow blogger/writer athling2001 posts a word-of-the-day most days on the blog “A Writer’s Life.” Today’s story was created using five of these unusual words from athling2001’s posts.
Here’s a quick glossary of the words-of-the-day I used. Click on the words embedded in the story to see athling2001’s original post with definitions.
- caballine – of or pertaining to a horse
- zek – inmate of a Soviet labor camp
- galeanthropy – belief one is a cat.
- magnanerie – the art of raising silkworms
- mumpsimus – a person who obstinately adheres to old ways
Fiction – a “word-of-the-day” mashup story
“Okay, then,” the therapist said. She sat in a director’s chair at the apex of the teardrop-shaped circle of group therapy participants. They were all seated in director’s chairs, made of canvas and collapsible for storage, and it lent the session a sense of temporary physicality, as though it were only a passing event, and therefore the participants’ psychoses and neuroses might dissipate with the ending of the session, however unlikely that might be.
“Okay,” the therapist repeated, as if she had lost her place. The therapy weekend had begun well enough, with an all-inclusive guided meditation session, “Calming Thoughts,” followed by individual breakout sessions focused on deep breathing, positive self-talk, and other stress- and anxiety-reducing strategies. Practice, they were told. Practice is the key to making these strategies work for you.
Now, after lunch, came the group therapy session. The therapist went on, “Louis was talking about his caballine interests. How do the rest of you feel about that? Do you have anything you’d like to share?”
The group looked momentarily perplexed. The therapist looked around the group, her blonde hair pulled back in an athletic ponytail that contrasted with the formality of her navy business suit. Finally she said, “Caballine. His love of horses and horse culture.”
Louis bet on horses. To excess.
Yuri, who had been in a Soviet labor camp in the ’80s, said, “As someone who has been a Zek in the Soviet camps, I say, ‘to each his own.’ At least you have your freedom!”
Zek? they all stumbled mentally on the unfamiliar word. Maybe it was Russian.
Clio, who suffered from galeanthropy, said, “I’m all for anything that raises awareness of animals and their plight. We cats are bringing this message to humankind.”
The pause was palpable. Everyone felt immensely uncomfortable, knowing Clio believed – truly believed – she was a cat. As she started to preen herself, licking her hand-paw and passing it over one ear, just like a cat, Paul said, “It’s creepy when you do that.”
“Paul,” the therapist put in, “you know we try not to make judging statements. How about rephrasing that?”
Paul frowned. He sat back in his director’s chair. Speaking in an obvious monotone, he said, “I feel creeped out when you do that.”
“Much better,” the therapist said, apparently missing Paul’s sarcasm.
Glancing at her notes, she asked the group, “Have any of you had a chance to review the readings you were sent on registration? Deepak Chopra – he’s a decadist, you know – tells us that ‘happiness is a continuation of happenings which are not resisted.'” She had closed her eyes while reciting that last part.
They looked truly dumbfounded then. Happenings? Which are not resisted? What did that mean? On top of that, what in the world was a decadist?
Miriam spoke next. She liked Deepak Chopra, but she was pretty sure he wasn’t a decadist, whatever that was.
“That’s silly. You might as well call him a sabaton,” she said softly. Then, to the others: “Sabaton. The part of a suit of armor covering the foot.”
“I beg your pardon?” the therapist said. When she shook her head the ponytail swished from side to side.
“I’m just saying,” Miriam said.
“Yeah, stop using those long words,” Elliot said, snorting. “It’s like, I could say I practice magnanerie – that means I raise silkworms – but all it does is distance me from every other person in the room. Because I could’ve just said I raise silkworms. Instead of ticking off everyone with big words.”
“I don’t do that,” the therapist retorted. She shuffled her notes and started to call on Paul again, but Clio interrupted.
“It’s called mumpsimus” – Clio said it MUMP-si-muss – “a person obstinately adhering to old ways.” She sat back with a self-satisfied, highly feline look on her face.
“Way to go,” Paul said. “You think that up with your little cat brain?” Not unkindly.
“Maybe. Cats are smart, you know.”
“I know,” he said. And the glances that went between them suggested there might be some extended cross-species interaction later on.
Louis said, “I take it we’re done here.” He glanced around the circle, then he grinned. “Happy Hour, anyone?”
The other five nodded, and Louis said to the therapist, “No offense, but you gotta lose those long words. Makes you seem stuck-up.”
“The session is not over,” the therapist said stiffly. She had just finished her Ph.D. three months before, and she was not about to lose her first group therapy patients en masse.
“Well, in that case,” Miriam said, “we’ll reconvene the session in the bar across the street.” She stood up and grabbed her coat off the back of the chair.
As they filed out, Yuri said, in his Soviet Russian accent, “Better luck next time, Doctor.” He said it heavily, Dok-tor.
She smiled weakly. He would know the bitter taste of defeat, he who had served time in hard labor, she had heard, in the Soviet camps.
Suddenly she asked, in an eager voice, “Did you know Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn?”
“He was my cousin,” Yuri said, shrugging. Then he smiled.