Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: REMEMBER (10/19/17)
TITLE: The Leopold Seniors Scrabble Extravaganza
By Lucy Steel
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It seemed half the suburb had turned up for the event. The Leopold Community Hall was packed with (relatively subdued) expectation. Lyn was beginning to regret her recent extravaganza awareness-raising efforts, which had included a letter-box drop, emails to everyone in her address book and a short stint of doorknocking (until a neighbour had threatened her with the hose).
Lyn had made it to the final round – this next game would determine the Leopold Seniors Scrabble champion. Fatigue was setting in, and letters had begun to swim in front of her eyes.
The program named her final opponent as Gretel Sharp – a name that sounded vaguely familiar and also slightly formidable.
A bell dinged. “Contestants take your places!” yelled the compare.
A short lady shuffled over to the trestle table in the centre of the room. Lyn followed. A hush fell over the crowd as the ladies took their seats, the scraping of the chairs breaking the silence.
Lyn faced her challenger, looking squarely into her bespectacled eyes. For a moment she was taken aback – why did her face look so familiar? She had no time to ponder this, however, as the compare began the count-down.
“Wait!” came a voice from the crowd.
Lyn turned, then put her hand to her forehead. It was her husband Allan.
“A blowy!” he shouted. “There’s a blowy!”
Allen rolled up his program and gave chase to the offending blow-fly. The crowd groaned. But Lyn knew he would stop at nothing to eradicate the fly – according to Allen, Geelong had lost the 2008 Grand Final because a blowy had perched on the unfortunate nose of the star player. And he would not let that happen to his wife.
Allan finally managed to swat the fly, resulting in a collective sigh of relief from the crowd.
The compare tried again. “And… go!”
It was Gretel’s turn first. She started with a strong word - rhubarb – which gave her 31 points.
Lyn spelt ‘chuffed’ – earning her 34 points. She smiled.
Gretel fired back ‘quirk’ and Lyn groaned inwardly – the Q was gone. If she didn’t get a Z or X she was finished.
There followed a series of dismal plays from both sides – consisting of many T’s, N’s and A’s – disappointing letters to any seasoned scrabble player.
The crowd began to get restless.
“What’s for tea love?” Lyn heard someone say, followed by a muffled “shhh”.
Then - “the blowy man was more exciting - bring him back!”
Both players looked weary, and, as Lyn added up a double word score, inching her to first place by one point, she thought she saw a tear form behind Gretel’s glasses.
On Lyn’s next go she managed to pick up both a Z and X. This was good!
Gretel gained respectable scores in the teens over her next few turns. Although, she was no match for Lyn, who laid out ‘zygote’, ‘purview’ and, her favourite word, ‘epoxies’.
The last turn for each contestant had arrived. Gretel was visibly uneasy and beads of sweat formed on her forehead as she hunched over her letters. Lyn leaned back – she was leading by 29 points and had the word ‘jocular’ up her sleeve – ensuring at least another 16 points.
Lyn looked at Gretel, noticing how she twirled her hair as she concentrated. Suddenly Lyn remembered why she was familiar – they’d gone to school together! She now recalled one particularly memorable day when Gretel had run from the classroom crying and twirling her hair.
Why had she done that?
Dyslexia! That was it. Gretel had been teased for her inability to spell even simple words. After running out that day, she’d never returned.
Well, good for her! She’d clearly learnt how to spell, and was now proving herself…. oh.
Lyn was hit with the realisation of what this game must mean to Gretel. To play scrabble would take tremendous courage and determination. She’d probably put a lifetime of effort in to get here. And now Lyn was about to smash her dream.
Gretel played a strong last turn, attaining 30 points. But she looked defeated – Lyn only needed two points to win.
The crowd leaned in as Lyn surveyed her letters. The air was heavy with anticipation. Lyn took a deep breath.
“I pass,” she said.
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