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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Game of Life (09/11/08)

TITLE: Play Of Words
By Noreen Ophoff


What word shall I make from these letters, AJSPCKE, to start the Scrabble challenge? Nellie and I are well-matched in vocabulary and zest for these volleys. I place the word JACKS. The J on a Double Letter square making 8 points 16, then the whole word doubled, gives me a beginning score of 52. I can’t stifle a grin.

Nellie is undaunted. She puts JOKES, using a blank for her K, giving her 22 points. We take turns and chat too.

“The meals are still awful.” She declares. “Last evening’s supper was all the same color, absolutely boring and tasteless.”

I try to encourage her, “Remember, I brought supper for you today.”

She nods and plays DREAM and DROP by placing a D in front of REAM for 15 points. The ongoing score is 117 for me, 86 for her. As she replaces her four tiles, she begins to laugh. That means she has drawn all the same letter of maybe four E’s, or the hardest letters QZX. But she doesn’t let on what she has picked, and just shuffles her letters on the wooden rack. I’m shuffling mine too as my rack holds BEHNTUO.

I enjoy playing with this longtime friend. Her smiles start at the corners of her stunning green eyes. She says they are hazel. “What color is hazel?” I ask.

“Mysterious,” she answers, “mystic.” We’ve bantered like this for decades.

With obvious glee she plays QUINT, with the Q on a Double Letter and the entire word doubled giving her 48 points in one turn. She slips ahead, chuckling.

We need to get into the upper part of the playing field, but that word JACKS is hard to add to. Nellie sees the wheels turning in my brain, and offhandedly asks, “How are the girls?”

“Kimberly loves being a Mom, she’s busy with four little kids. She's working part-time from home, she has sitters come in on those days, and she’s home-schooling the two oldest, who are four and two.”

Nellie shakes her head to think of Kimmie as a mother, with two singles and a set of identical twins.

“Rachael is working for a fabric design company, as a buyer. She has a steady boyfriend. We see her about once a month.”

Nell’s next words are SHONE and STINT for 21. Mine is WAG for 14. We’re running out of letters. The Z and X aren’t on the board yet, and I don’t have either. This late in the game they’ll be hard to place, but Nellie is cagey, if there’s a way she’ll find it. She’s a sweet, gentle lady at age ninety-eight. After gall bladder surgery her heart gave her trouble so her doctor didn’t want her rambling around in her big farmhouse alone. She resisted the nursing home, but it had to be. Fiercely independent, a trait gleaming in subsequent generations, she still walks to the diningroom “on her own steam”.

A few little words are put down, then my friend plays the Z in DOZE, the X in OX. I seem to be stuck with BTUVIGU. She’s giggling again. I’m pleased to see her smirks. Mrs. Sneaky puts an S atop QUINT for 34 points. Her score is 237 to my 209. This is serious. She’s smiling broadly now.

The game is over as Nellie plays her final word of WAD for 14 points, beating me 251 to 231.

We always look at the words we’ve made, the ones we don’t recall using before like CANTEEN and OMEN. Other words are familiar, like life scenes, those are DREAM-GO-FLAT-ABLE-VANE.

A weather vane points out the winds of change. Our lives have had changes. One of us is old, one not as much. We’ve had dreams, we’ve been able to go places and do things, and other times we’ve been flat broke and flat in bed.

I push her wheelchair to the patio, my yellow basket on her lap. I serve chicken salad with her favorite apple muffins, strawberries on skewers with pineapple because Nellie loves the color. Cherry pie for dessert, all accompanied by chilled glasses of raspberry ice tea.

The sun is warm on our arms and cheeks. She eats eagerly, appreciating the flavors and the colors. We completed a play of words, and my Mom has nearly completed the play of her life, conquering many challenges, today she is the winner.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/18/08
This is a wonderful story, including the "sneaky" ending. I enjoyed it all the way through.
Robyn Burke09/19/08
Lovely, simply lovely. I would be very challenged to play scrabble in a story, trying to visualize the board and all!