“They Said It Could All Be Done With Science” – #wordoftheday story


Today’s post is inspired by seven unusual words . . .

  • sciomancy – divination by consulting the shades of the dead (ghosts) and/or shadows
  • estrapade – the attempt by a horse to throw its rider, or, a gymnastic move
  • habile – able; apt; skilful; handy.
  • enchiridion – a book to be carried in the hand; a manual; a handbook.
  • bombilation – a rumbling sound (rare).
  • anencephaly – congenital absence of part or all of the brain (medical);
    brainless, empty-headed, to have a skull with an echo.
  • intenerate – make tender or soft; soften.

. . . from fellow blogger/writer athling2001‘s blog.  If you’d like to view my previous word-of-the-day stories, check out the links at the end of my post!


 They Said It Could All Be Done With Science

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I probably would never have heard of sciomancy if it hadn’t been for Aunt Evelyn.  She consulted shadows of the dead in her practice of divination through sciomancy.  So she told us.  I always thought sciomancy sounded like using science to do magic.  Like necromancy (magic with the dead), or geomancy (magic with the earth).  That would be cool.  The periodic table might be a catalog of hexes.  Or, Newton’s three laws of mechanics could be the key to levitation.  But no. Missed opportunity, I say.

At one of Aunt Evelyn’s seances – I was 11 or 12 – she was conversing with the spirit of a dead girl, a girl who had died after being thrown from a horse in an estrapade.  The girl said she was hanging out in the afterlife with Cole Porter, who had lived in intense for three decades after a horse crushed his legs and he refused amputation.  No pain now, though, the dead girl said.  She didn’t understand why the horse had thrown her, because she had always been exceptionally habile with horses.  Learned to ride before she could walk, she said.

Or, at least, that was the story from Aunt Evelyn.  It wasn’t a surprise that Evelyn turned to fiction in her later years.  She started her writing career with an enchiridion,  a handbook, on the topic of sciomancy, naturally – more fiction than not, but that’s another story.  Late in her life she turned away from divination altogether and focused on a series of mildly successful bodice-rippers.

I always thought I heard an unusual sound during Aunt Evelyn’s seances.  She would hold them in the shed out back of her cottage at Soap Lake.  I was only present a half-dozen times, partly because my mom didn’t want me to get involved with Evelyn’s supernatural claims, but mostly because we moved away to Spokane when I was in junior high.  The sound I heard was a buzzing, droning sound. A bombilation.  No one uses that word today, but the one time I asked Aunt Evelyn about the noise, she said, “It’s a bombilation.”  Huh.  I never did find out what the sound came from.  My mom said, “Maybe the well pump – she needs to get a new one, that one’s ancient.  Likely to go out on her, like everything else.”  My mom used to say – always out of Evelyn’s hearing, of course – that Evelyn was a good example of anencephaly – no brain.  “She’s got a skull with an echo,” Dad would say, shaking his head, whenever Mom mentioned it.  Evelyn was his sister, so I suppose he had a right to say it, but when I was little I used to wonder how a person could function without a brain.  But then I figured out it was all a figure of speech.

Still, my time in Aunt Evelyn’s company made an impression on me.  It’s one of the reason’s I’m studying for my Ph.D.  Laugh if you will, but her continual lectures on the art of sciomancy stuck with me.  They intenerated me.  Not the divination part – I don’t believe in that.  Communing with spirits and the rest.  I knew the story with the dead girl was purely from Evelyn’s imagination.  But my imagination wanted science to perform magic.

That’s why I’m working on something very exciting for my doctoral study in electrical engineering.  A teleporter.

And we’re getting close.


Going through some old blog posts, I came across my earlier “word of the day” stories.  I really enjoy these.  But I often forget about them until I review my earlier posts.

How about you?  Do you get into a pattern of familiar topics on your blog, or do you have a more structured schedule of posts that you follow?

Previous word-of-the-day posts:

#wordoftheday story | B grade


Amanda is studying for her college admission test.  What strange words they use!

My story today features seven words from “Word of the Day” posts on my fellow blogger/writer athling2001‘s blog.

  • mystagogue – one who understands or teaches mystical doctrines
  • psithurism – whisper of wind in the trees, noise of leaves that move in the wind
  • habromania – a form of delusional insanity in which the imaginings assume a cheerful or joyous character
  • cunctation -procrastination; delay
  • pultaceous – macerated; softened; nearly fluid
  • hiraeth – homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past
  • bodement – an omen; portent; prognostic; a foreshadowing


 B grade

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The tutor was late again.  Amanda waited at the table in the Wayward Coffeehouse off Roosevelt Way in Seattle, where the back half of the room was taken up, as always, by role-playing gamers.  This was haven for SFers and geeks – not that she minded, but she didn’t think she needed a tutor anyway.

She’d told her mother she wanted to review for the SAT using online tools, like her friend Emmanuel had suggested.  He was one year ahead of her, and that’s what he had done, and he gotten great scores on the college entrance test.  He was going to Yale or Berkeley – still  hadn’t made the decision.

But all this had fallen on deaf ears, as her mother had insisted, “No, a tutor will be much more efficient.”  So her mother had found this guy, who turned out to be an overworked, underpaid graduate student at the local university.  Teaching too much, not getting his own research done, tutoring college exam prep was just a sideline “so I can fund my music,” he had said.  So far she hadn’t been impressed.

She took out the list of words he had given her “to review” last week.  Some of them didn’t make any sense.  And they didn’t look at all like the words Emmanuel had shown her in his review material.  Mystagogue – a guru.  Psithurism – a wind whisper.  Hapromania – delusions of cheerfulness.

Huh?  These didn’t even make sense.

She looked around hopefully as the door opened behind her.  But it was just another one of the gamers, who made a beeline for the back table and joined the throng of cheerful and chatty people already immersed in Dungeons and Dragons or something like that.

Cheerful and chatty.  She almost wanted to join them.  But she went back to the list of words, dutifully writing the word, a definition, and a sentence using the word, to reinforce the meaning in her memory.

Cunctation – procrastination.  Pultaceous – softened texture, like well-chewed food.  Ugh.  hiraeth – homesickness, nostalgia for the places of your past.

If only he would get here – no, if only he would not show up.  Then she could go home and tell her parents that the tutor had skipped.  Maybe they would dismiss him, and she might be able to persuade them to let her do the online review she wanted to.

The door opened.  But she didn’t look up this time.  She’d copy out the few words left on the list, and if the tutor had not arrived by that time, she would pack up and go home.

Energized, she quickly copied down the words and their meanings.   She would come back to the sentences when she had the list written – going over them a second time would help her remember them, too.

She had just reached the last word, bodement – that was easy – an omen, like foreboding – when the tutor rushed up to the table, out of breath as usual.  “Sorry,” he said.  “My girlfriend just broke up with me and I couldn’t get out of the house on time to get here.”

Amanda’s heart sank.  Really?  He had to tell her about his personal life now?

“That’s okay,” she said half-heartedly.  He unloaded his pack, took out his laptop, and said, “So, did you review the words I gave you last time?”

She held up the list.

“Oh no.  Are those the words I gave you?”  Flustered, he dug through his folders – he had six or seven in his pack that held various review sheets – and pulled out another sheet of paper, a dog-eared copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy page and handed it to her.  “These are the right words.  Those are for something else,” he said, taking back the review sheet she had been holding.

God.  Really?

She’d wasted a week.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“No, I’m sure those are the right ones this time.”  And it did say “SAT REVIEW WORDS” at the top of the page he just gave her.

He flipped open his laptop and powered it up.  “Go ahead and get started on those words, and I’ll bring up the math worksheets I want to give you today.”

She hesitated.  How did she know he hadn’t made another mistake?

Just then her phone bleeped – its text signal – “Sorry,” she told the tutor – and she grabbed the phone and clicked it to “vibrate.”  But not before she caught a glimpse of the text that had come in.  It was from Emmanuel.  “Everything OK?” he asked.

No.  Everything was not okay.

“I’m sorry,” she told the tutor.  “I don’t think this is going to work out.”

“What?  – Oh, did you bring the check?” he asked, looking up from his laptop.

She started putting her things into her backpack.  “I’ve got to go,” she said.

“Oh.  Well, I’ll text your mom about the check, then.” He looked confused.  It wasn’t the first time, she thought.

Afterward she told her mom the whole story.  “Really, Mom, I can do a better job preparing on my own.  Emmanuel aced the test last year, and I’ll use the same stuff he did.”

Her mom still wanted to hire another tutor – “There are lots of students at the University looking for this kind of work -” but thankfully her dad overrode her mom and said, “Let it go, Carina.  I’m sure Amanda can figure this out by herself.”

And she did.

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Do you have those days when you’ve got time to write, but you don’t particularly feel like writing anything?  I had one of those today.  Per my #productivewriter series, I try to think about something that inspires me to write, not just write something dull.  A new story?  Nah.  Something for my “little book” projects?  Nope.  A poem?  Maybe, but … not really.  Oh!  Wait!  I have not done my “word of the day” stories in a while.  I’ll do one of those!

And then (of course), once I wrote the word-of-the-day story for this post, I felt like I was on top of the world.  What else could I write?  … and then I started working on another writing project.

Why is that?  Hmmm … maybe writing this story reminded me of being a writer, that I can imagine things and characters and places, and that they can surprise me, even delight me.  Yay!

As an aside, the Wayward Coffeehouse is a real place that some of our SF writing group meets at periodically.  Do you ever try to write in a coffee shop? Are there favorite places you like to go for a hot beverage?  Do you prefer more noisy, talkative places, or do you like quiet, thinking places?

#wordoftheday story | Being Marianne

Do you ever look at a word and think, that word should be in a story.  I do!  It’s almost as though the word speaks to me, asking me to create a longer work that features the word.  so that the word can live, and be thought of in peoples’ minds.

I have a new story today that features several words from my fellow blogger/writer athling2001‘s “word-of-the-day” posts on her blog “A Writer’s Life.”  Here are the words I used, and a brief description for each word:

  • Bouquinist – second-hand book seller
  • machair – a strip of sandy grassy land just above the hog-water mark used for grazing, only in the north-west of Scotland and the north-west of Ireland
  • velleity – wishing but not really doing something
  • mesonoxian – “pertaining to the hour of midnight”
  • gorget – bright patch of feathers on the throat of a hummingbird OR a piece of armor or linen covering/protecting the throat
  • cryptaesthesia – “allegedly paranormal perception, as clairvoyance or clairaudience”


Here is my story!

Being Marianne

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Second hand books by Rev Stan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

It wasn’t that she’d always wanted to be a Bouquiniste.  Being a second-hand bookseller was not something one aspires to, or at least not in Marianne’s case.  She took the job right out of college when she didn’t have anything else, and it was conveniently located two blocks away from her little apartment on 45th Street.  The owner, an Irishwoman with seven generations of family from coastal Ireland (as she often told Marianne) was always muttering odd Irish words, like machair (MAK-uh).  Much later, when Marianne decided to teach herself Irish using Duolingo, she discovered machair meant “a strip of sandy grassy land just above the hog-water mark used for grazing,” particularly used in the northwest of Ireland.

Marianne didn’t wish to stay in the dusty, small, and decidedly too-quiet used bookshop for ever.  It was vellity that kept her there, a sort of aversion to looking for another job, let alone pursuing a Career (with a capital “C”).

Perhaps her resistance was a reaction to her parent’s continual nagging, or “reminding” as they put it, that she’d once said vaguely that she intended to go to graduate school.  Her mother, a pediatrician, would say, “Have you taken the GRE yet, Marianne?” and her father, an urban planner, would ask her (more gently) if she had any notion yet of what master’s program she would like to enroll in.

It was maddening.

Marianne took to staying up into the wee hours of the morning, becoming mesonoxian, and reveling in it.  She didn’t go out and party, she didn’t hit the bars at that time of night.  She read.

She read.  She read all of Dickens, all of Edith Wharton and D. H. Lawrence.  (Her favorite of Lawrence’s work was Lady Chatterley’s Lover, all that longing and embrassive non-classness.)  She read Willa Cather and Robert Frost and Nathaniel Hawthorne.  (The House of the Seven Gables made her shiver with apprehension.)

But one does not become Something through negative application of effort.  She needed to do something, to propel herself in one way or another.  Through her reading Marianne had collected words, the more abstruse the better, such as the word gorget (gor-jet), meaning the bright patch of feathers on a hummingbird’s throat.  She thought she could see the flash of feathers that the word meant.  What a thing! – to have a word to mean such a small idea, the sight of colored feathers on the neck of a very tiny bird.  Ah.

All those words.  All that literature.  It came together one day when Marianne, fresh from reading Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, decided she must channel the Marianne from Austen’s book.  Perhaps it was cryptaesthesia, the sense of extrasensory perception, that made her feel connected to Jane Austen, to Charlotte Brontë, to Collette.

She would be a writer.  She would give life to all those words she had collected, written in a fine square hand in a small lab notebook she had picked up at the local stationery store.  She would begin with the first word – and proceed through until she reached the end, inventing sentences and phrases, giving life to words crying out to be spoken again, putting them into a story, into a new creative thing that had her mind in it.

The title of her first story?  “The Importance of Being Irish”:  the story of a young woman who decides to learn the Irish language, and then is magically transported back in time to the era of Irish Kings, back to mythological Ireland.


Do you collect words?  Who are your favorite authors?  What fictional character would you most like to channel?

one day in group therapy – part 2

Previously (in Part 1)

Six participants in a therapy weekend decided to end the group therapy session early after the therapist seems clueless.  Together they go across the street to a bar to have a few drinks.

One Day in Group Therapy, part 2

Morning Calmness - San Francisco bay bridge by David Yu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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Morning Calmness – San Francisco bay bridge by David Yu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

In the TGI Fridays restaurant across the street, four of them sat around a bar table on high stools:  Yuri the former Soviet dissident, Louis the compulsive gambler, Clio the woman who thinks she is a cat, and Paul, who has a phobia but who has not yet revealed what he is afraid of.  Miriam had taken off after one drink, even though it was her idea to come to the bar – “family time,” she’d said – and Richard the silkworm cultivator had never made it to the bar at all, disappearing after they left the meeting room in the Conference Center.

“Miss Clio, are you really a cat?” Yuri asked.  His face, despite all the tragedy he must have seen in his past life, was kindly, and he tugged sometimes at his mostly gray beard in a habitual gesture.

“Yes,” Clio said.  “I am a cat.”  She stretched out one hand, curling and uncurling the fingers like a cat flexing its claws.  “We cats don’t like what the human race is doing to the planet.  It is better to be a cat.”

Louis, leaning in, said, “How come you’re drinking a martini, then?”

Clio shrugged.  “It’s all water.”  Just to demonstrate her point, she put her tongue into the cool clear liquid and lapped a few times like a cat would.

It was a strange and oddly messy behavior.  “I thought cats were neat,” Paul said.  He wiped the table with a bar napkin.

“Real cats are neat,” said Louis.  He was a small wiry man with creased cheeks and a not-so-tidy mustache.

“Speak for yourself,” Clio said.  There might have been a row right then, especially with the alcohol involved.  But just at that moment, Anne J. walked in and strode up to the bar.

“I’ll have a glass of Chardonnay,” she told the bartender. She pointed to the group of refugees from the therapy session and said, “I’m joining my friends.”

As she approached them they noticed she seemed familiar.  She took the empty chair that Miriam had vacated.

“I’m Anne J.,” she said, extending her hand to each of them in turn.  “Yuri, Louis, Paul, and of course, you are Clio.”

“How do you know our names?” Louis said suspiciously.

Anne J. just smiled.  With her sunglasses and long dark hair, she had the glamour of a Jackie Onassis from long ago.  She wore a gold bracelet on one wrist and a platinum watch on the other, and her clothes were one-off designer clothes – smart and chic but not overly expensive.

She set her bold leather handbag on the table and took the glass of wine from the bartender as he brought it to the table, setting it carefully on the bar napkin.

“Let’s just say I’m a consultant,” she said.  “I heard that you left the therapy weekend early.  And I thought you might be here.”

“Are you associated with the program?” Paul asked.

“In a way,” Anne said.  “You might say I’m a researcher.”

“Researcher? Consultant?  These words are not specific,” Yuri said.

Anne J. smiled again.

Clio took a drink of her martini.  The regular way, not cat-like.

Paul said, “Which are you?  Consultant or researcher?  Or are you just putting us on?”

Anne took a sip of wine, and then she said, “I’m a makeover artist.”

“Like on a reality show?  I knew it!” Louis said, snapping his fingers.

Paul asked, “So, this was all some sort of stunt for a reality show?”

“Not exactly,” Anne said.  She took another sip of wine and swirled the wine in her glass before setting it down.  “I like a nice smooth chardonnay,” she murmured.

“So – what is it?” Louis demanded.

“Let the woman finish her drink,” Clio put in.

Anne smiled again.  Then she said, “With Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice show on the skids -”

Louis said, “Schwartzenegger isn’t cutting it?”

Anne shrugged.  “Let’s say the network is interested in something different.  Something like an everyman’s” – here she nodded toward Clio – “Every-person’s Apprentice.  What’s it like to struggle with day-to-day with fears, paranoia, compulsions -”

“What’s that have to do with The Apprentice?” Paul asked.  “We’re in therapy, not in business.”

“Exactly,” Anne said.  “The concept is a sort of Oprah-meets-Dr. Phil-meets-Ellen . . . you’ll be the therapy group and we’ll bring in celebrity lifestyle experts; we’re thinking Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer . . . possibly even Suze Ormond – she can do a finance-counseling angle.”

“Wait,” Louis said.  “How’d you hear about us?”

“Oh, well, that was easy,” Anne said.  “We have scouts out.  Richard mentioned you to us.  Any group that has the moxie to get up and leave a group therapy weekend must have what it takes to appear on a national TV show about their fears, paranoias, etc.  Am I right?”

She looked across the table at each of them.  They weren’t wild about the idea at first.  But at the same time, she could see they were interested.

“How much money are we talking about, Ms. Anne?” Yuri asked.

The five-figure amount she mentioned – per episode, six episodes to start – made up their minds.

“I’m in,” Louis said.  Paul agreed and Yuri followed suit.

“What about you, Miss Clio?” Yuri asked.

Clio finished off the last of her drink.  She stretched on the bar stool and narrowed her eyes, cat-like, but did not respond.

“Well?  Whatd’ya say?” asked Paul.

“Hmmm,” Clio said. “I’m not sure.  I mean, these reality shows are all edited to make the contestants look bad.  You know?”

Paul said, “She’s got a point.”

Anne said, “The thing is, it’s the celebrity who will be on the line here.  Not you four.”

There was a pause while they all considered this. Then Clio said, “Huh, a little like Dancing with the Stars, then?  The expert dancer makes the contestant look good.”

Anne said, “Yes, exactly.  It’s the gurus’ jobs to make you all appear perfectly well-adjusted.  You’ll look great by the end of the show.”

Clio said, “It sounds like catnip to a cat.  And besides, someone has to keep an eye on you three.”

“I’ll have the contracts sent to you on email by the end of the week,” Anne said.  “Meantime, don’t go out of your way to get more therapy.  We’re counting on your neuroses, you know.”

As she was leaving the bar, Louis called out, “Say!  What’s the name of the show?”

I’m a Celebrity Guru,” she answered.

“Not a great title,” Clio said after she left.

“Yeah, but you know these things,” Paul said.  “They must go through a bunch of different titles before they settle on the final one.”

Louis said, “I don’t like it.  Maybe something like, Therapy with the Stars.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Clio said.  “Nobody’d watch it.”

Yuri said, “What difference does it make?  We’ll be ahead either way with that kind of money.”

And he was right.  Improbably, the show was a hit. The top-level gurus had declined the show, but the B-list lifestyle counselors the network brought in were nevertheless very popular with the audience, as were the Original Four therapy clients – Louis, Yuri, Clio, and Paul.

In Season Two, so many would-be therapy patients auditioned that the network started a new spin-off series, My Mania, in which participants competed to see who had the most outrageous neurosis.  There was even a third series, Therapist On-Call, in which therapists were paired with clients to be their 24/7 on-call counselor – not unlike the TV show COPS that had been airing since 1989.

All three shows were big hits for the network, while “The Apprentice” was just a speed bump in the rear-view mirror of network ratings.

Read part 1!

Dedicated to my friend and South African writer Anne J. of I think, I say, I do. 




one day in group therapy – words-of-the-day

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

Siberia by hobnob_malevolence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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Siberia by hobnob_malevolence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

“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.

colourful chairs in a circle by Camille King is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Creative Commons License
colourful chairs in a circle by Camille King is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.