Jean Douglas had been on nine miserable blind dates in seven months. The degree of her misery varied: one date held promise until the man used the word “supposably”—not just once, but three times during the evening. On another memorable occasion, she never made it to the end of her driveway. Her date had paused on the way to his car to clear his throat in a loud and liquid manner, then expectorated with a splat. Jean had pivoted and walked back into her house, locking the door behind her.
She now decided that she had simply been born in the wrong era. Longing for some past genteel age, she immersed her soul in literature and imagined herself as a heroine on a windswept moor, courted by a handsome and brooding man who knew how to use such words as felicitations and amity.
Because Jean’s sparse income as a research librarian did not allow her to spend frivolously, she vowed never to join the online matchmaking services that touted their successes nightly on her television set. Still, her lonely heart longed for a soul mate, a fellow linguaphile.
So Jean’s mind whirred with possibility when she discovered one afternoon during her lunch break a website that enabled its members to play Scrabble online. She sat up, uncrossing her legs with their sensible work shoes, and shrugging off her woolen cardigan. If I can find a man who is truly adept at Scrabble, she thought, might we not be companionable in other ways? With surging hope, she registered for membership, then searched the listed screen names for those who sounded both male and literary.
In the last minutes of her break, Jean (now jean_loves_words) started a game with word_dude602, opening with a very satisfactory JUNKET. She noticed that the game included a little box in which Scrabblers could send messages with their plays; not wanting to seem too forward, she typed in only a succinct Good afternoon, word_dude602. Happy Scrabbling!
Over the next few days, during every break, Jean and word_dude602 played Scrabble turns and exchanged jovial banter—which Jean brought to an immediate halt when word_dude602 played a particularly rude word, accompanied by an indecent suggestion. She blushed, cancelled the game, and waited a week before gathering the nerve to try again.
Her next opponent was dartagnan4102. Surely a man who names himself after the fourth Musketeer will be no rude buffoon. He opened respectably—WORTHY—and with a friendly note: Did you know that Jean is the real first name of Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird”?
Jean smiled at her monitor. This is encouraging.
Twenty plays later, the game tied and nearly completed, Jean found herself checking her computer often for dartagnan4102’s next move. Their play had been fiercely competitive, their messages full of literary allusions—a quotation for nearly every word. So Jean was alarmed when dartagnan4102 played FAITH along with this comment: Here’s my mom’s favorite Twain quote--“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
Jean fired off her next play with these four words only: How old are you?
The answer came forty agonizing minutes later: 15—how old are you?
With a sigh, Jean played her final tiles and searched out another opponent. Still convinced that Scrabble was her key to finding a companion of the heart, she went through several more players in rapid succession. At least I don’t have to don heels for these gentlemen…
mrscrabble never played a word of more than four letters.
im_your_hero was sweet and funny—and eighty-four years old.
man_of_letters played brilliantly, scoring three “bingos”—and never said a thing to Jean.
It was with a melancholy air that Jean started her sixth online Scrabble game, this one with poetry_guy551. She sat in the break room with her laptop and an apple, and resolved if this one isn’t satisfactory, I shall resign.
Her on-screen rack displayed an unfortunate selection of tiles: LWOELYY. Jean munched her apple and stared at the letters.
“Yellowy.” The unfamiliar voice came from behind her, near the soda machines.
Jean turned to see who had spoken—and had shown her a bingo for her first move. A man with warm eyes bowed slightly and nodded toward her computer.
“Yellowy. Thirty-two points, plus fifty for the bingo. Maybe we can play during lunch some time.” He smiled and headed down the hallway, the suede elbow patches on his tweed jacket exactly the same color as his eyes.
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