Word War

Daily Deviation
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By xlntwtch   |   Watch
54 111 3K (1 Today)
Published: July 1, 2010
     Brian meant to lose the game, though he knew Dad wanted him to win. He often won, but he didn't want to now. Brian was twelve and tired of playing kids in his group, mostly girls. Tall, clear-eyed girls, awkward, and much more competitive than Brian. He won anyway.  
     "Are you studying the OSPD?" Dad said.
     They were going to the auditorium.
     "Of course," Brian said.
     He lied.

     Though he held the book, he'd gutted the 'Official Scrabble Players Dictionary' so it held the slimmest Gibson book he had. A few clean pages of word lists stayed, in case Dad looked.
     Brian wore glasses, used big words and got called a 'geek' by other kids.
     Dad called his glasses 'spectacles.'
     Not a good Scrabble word. Only three letters counted over one point, the 'P' and 'C's, and it used too many 'S's. It may work with other words.

     Brian wanted to wear contacts. He wanted girls to see him a new way. He wanted many new things. Scrabble was a game he played with Dad for years. Brian was intrigued when he was able to play competitions. Playing a hundred tiles in only twenty-five minutes seemed great.
     But now he was a 'geek.'

     "Here we go," Dad said. "Got your lucky talisman?"
     "Of course," Brian said.
     It was a toy from a drive-up after a good game long ago.      
     He lied.
     Brian and Dad joined more parents and kids.
     Parents sat on bleachers and were silent during games. It was a new rule after some mean altercations. Kids played one competition game a day, but parents...
     'Altercations' was a good word if a player got a triple word, played off 'alter' and had too many vowels. 'Cariole' was better. Save the 'S' for add-ons.

     Again Brian sat across a table facing Frances. She was good, but got too excited to think well after fifty-point Bingo plays to be a top player. She was like ice at the start of a game.
    Brian would be icier ice.
    She played defensively.
     Frances began the game with 'yaw.'
     She got a fair start score but 'yaw' was very easy to build words from.
     Brian's seven tiles were great.
     Too good.
     He took the full three minutes allowed, just to figure out a loser. He chose 'would,' made 'yaw' 'yawl' and wasted point letters 'W' and 'D.' No doubles. He put 'O' next to an empty double word square Frances could use, if she got the 'X' and 'O.' She could play 'ox' twice, with 'wo.' Good points.

     He tried not thinking.  
     The game seemed endless. Brian kept getting good tiles.
     But he was smart, smarter than even Dad knew.
     Brian knew how to lose, and lose he did.
     Frances was secretly shocked, but said her prim "Thank you" and left without a smile. Typical.
     Fifteen tables and thirty chairs got put away.
     It was over.
     Going home was almost silent.
     "Brian," Dad said. "What were you doing?"
     "I lost, Dad."
     "You know I watch you. You could've won. Why didn't you? That's what I mean. W-h-y, Brian."
     "I'm tired of Scrabble, I guess."
     "I don't want to play."
     "You're close to a trophy, more money. What're you saying?"
     "Dad, I'm nearly thirteen, you call my glasses 'spectacles,' you make me read the OSPD like it's the only book there is and... but I can't now. I'm sorry, Dad. It's just too hard."
     "I taught you..."     
     "I know, Dad. You taught me to win and I won. I can lose too. I'm sorry, Dad. I want contacts, not 'spectacles.' I'm sick of thinking of girls like words they play. I already think about one girl a new way. Carol. Scrabble's making me sick!"
     "Sick? Who's Carol?"
     "I know these weird words nobody else does! At school they all call me a geek! Except Carol! I won't play, Dad! I'm just... sorry." Brian looked away. 
     Brian worried he'd hurt Dad. He liked him, but hated that game.
     Dad picked up the OSPD and Brian nearly grabbed it.
     Dad didn't give it one look. He threw it out the car window.
     "Um." Brian didn't know what to say. He had more Gibson, but...
     He said, "Why'd you do that, Dad? It's littering, isn't it?"
     Dad glanced at him.
     "I suppose. I guess I needed to clean out my head," he said. "I can help you grow up other ways. It's girl-time, it seems. You can go back to Scrabble later," he said. "Probably years later." 
     Dad sighed.   
For the "five antonyms contest"* at ...:icongivemeyourwords:...

...and for the July... :iconscreamprompts: ..."Flash fiction = One right, one wrong/or two right/or two wrong/with at least three characters" prompt.

*The antonyms come from the song "Brown-Eyed Women" written by Robert Hunter and found at www.dead.net .
"Bad" to "good" - "dusty" to "clean" - "dregs" to "top" - "red-eyed" to "clear-eyed" and "gentle" to "mean."

theWrittenRevolution ScreamPromptsUnconventional-StoryModGetWatchersModWord-SmithsTheWritersMeow

...for anyone who cares to comment...

Can you picture what a Scrabble competition is like?
Can you picture both Brian and his dad?
Are there ways I can improve description/dialogue?
Does the story leave anyone confused?

anonymous's avatar
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PennedinWhite's avatar
PennedinWhiteHobbyist Writer
Congrats on the DD! Wonderful read!. :heart:
PennedinWhite's avatar
PennedinWhiteHobbyist Writer
Of course! :heart:
beeswingblue's avatar
Congratulations on the DD! :heart: :heart:
xlntwtch's avatar
xlntwtch Writer
Thank you! :hug:
ShadowInSmash's avatar
ShadowInSmashHobbyist General Artist
I want more of this. You could, like, make an actual story with multiple chapters and a bunch more characters and plot twists with this. I know I would enjoy reading it, and I'm sure a lot of other people would too.
xlntwtch's avatar
xlntwtch Writer
I doubt there'll be more, but am really glad you like this enough to want more. Thank you! (:
Emmery's avatar
EmmeryHobbyist Digital ArtistFeatured
You wasted no time with visual descriptions of the auditorium, instead focusing on the people present, and it totally brought me into the scene. I could relate to the protagonist so much that my imagination (and previous spelling bee experience) filled in the rest. It wasn't just a clear picture, it was like being there in person. That is some literary magic yo.
xlntwtch's avatar
xlntwtch Writer
Your reaction is just right - I'm very glad you saw this story the way you did. That is some readership magic yo.
Seriously, your kind comment makes me very happy. Thanks! (:
LindArtz's avatar
LindArtzHobbyist Digital Artist
Congratulations on your much deserved DD!  Enjoy the limelight. :)
Congrats on DD By Marphilhearts by LindArtz
xlntwtch's avatar
xlntwtch Writer
Wow. That's fancier than the gold banner. Thanks a lot! (:
EricVonSchweetz's avatar
EricVonSchweetzHobbyist Digital Artist
Congratulations on the DD!
xlntwtch's avatar
xlntwtch Writer
Thank you! (:
wh0rem0ans's avatar

Yes, this is good. I was expecting something about playing both sides of the board but this is good. :frail:
xlntwtch's avatar
xlntwtch Writer
I only now fixed one glaring error.
There are a couple lesser ones.

You're kind to call it "good."
I guess it's fun. At least I recall having fun writing it.

Back "then" (writing this) seems so long ago now. Eons. So limitlessly looong ago...
xlntwtch's avatar
xlntwtch Writer
William Gibson.
wh0rem0ans's avatar
I had never heard of him before you mentioned him. I do live on a weird planet all my own.
xlntwtch's avatar
xlntwtch Writer
It's more likely that many have never heard of Gibson.
Especially younger folks (I think). I'm not sure. :confused:
My own kid officially moved to her own "weird planet" awhile ago. (Or maybe I did.)
Anyway, *RalfMaximus is a big Gibson fan...
wh0rem0ans's avatar
Ralf ... that does not surprise me. I have stayed away form sci fi for the most part. The pre-Industrial age makes the most sense to me. I can even remember history from one country to another through the Dark Ages. Then it all gets complicated. I now read urban fantasy, loved Star Trek TNG, but mostly sci fi leaves me uninspired. My husband nearly memorized The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so I tried it. I even watched the movie. It's just not funny to me. Pratchett and Gaiman ... now *they* are funny. And Jim Butcher cracks me up.
xlntwtch's avatar
xlntwtch Writer
That movie is a shame to Douglas Adams' memory.
I only liked the first book in the "Hitchhiker" series myself, though.
Even then, only the first few chapters were truly funny (to me).

Gibson is rarely amusing.
He is current sci-fi (for folks like me)...uber futuristic sci-fi.

I finally made a note of "Jim Butcher" to look at his work on Amazon. Thank you!
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Shabboth's avatar
ShabbothProfessional Writer
Can you picture what a Scrabble competition is like?
More or less, yes. The essentials from an experiential standpoint are covered, a bit more physical description of the environment might help set the tone more.

Can you picture both Brian and his dad?
Within reason, yes, although I'm filling in a lot of detail on my own. The only real physical description we have is the glasses/spectacles.

Are there ways I can improve description/dialogue?
Absolutely. More physical description of the setting, especially if it is coloured by a character's reaction to or feelings about it, can both tell us more about the character and help us form a firmer picture of where the action takes place.

Regarding the dialogue, this is probably a case where less is more. During the confrontation between Brian and his dad, Brian explains too much. It rings false. If Brian felt comfortable enough to express himself this clearly to his father, they would have had this talk a long time ago. I'm not sure what "thinking of girls like words they play" means, but I'm assuming he's "tired of only thinking about girls as scrabble opponents." Also, young boys don't start thinking about girls a new way one girl at a time, they think about them all a new way at the same time, although they might only be interested in one particular girl at a time. Something a bit more realistic might be:

"I don't want to play scrabble any more, dad. I hate scrabble! I want to spend time with my friends. I want to have friends. There's more to life than a stupid board game you know. What about hanging out? What about social skills? What about... girls?"

He's angry, hurt, socially awkward and well spoken. That should come across more. He absolutely shouldn't tell his dad specifically about Carol. We might find out about her as an internal monologue, but no 11 year old, repressed bookish boy in the world is going to name the object of his first crush to his father. He'll throw a hint out there and hope his dad picks up on it and then leaves it alone.

With the father... was he pushing Brian to excel at scrabble to help him grow up, or to fulfill his own ambitions? Generally an overly competitive parent is treating the child as a surrogate through which he (the father) can attain success he never achieved himself. Having him realise that scrabble was more about him than about Brian might feel more genuine, it's also a bit cliched, but for a reason.

Does the story leave anyone confused?
Nope, but is he 11 or almost 13?

Okay, that being said...

What a wonderfully written story. It is obvious that you play (and enjoy playing) scrabble, not just from the knowledge of the game you demonstrate, but from the playfulness with which you choose your words. Your characters are believable, and the reader can't help but feel empathy for both Brian and his father. We have all had moments of awkward tension and miscommunication with one or the other of our parents, making this a very relatable dilemma. Well written! :ninjabattle:
xlntwtch's avatar
xlntwtch Writer
Thank you very much for a thoughtful and thorough reply.
I'm not sure I want to "visit" this story again yet, though I may soon(ish) and it'll be with your critique in mind. :)
:iconthankyousignplz: ... :iconninjaglompplz:

PS. Brian's almost thirteen, in case you keep wondering.
Shabboth's avatar
ShabbothProfessional Writer
I understand thoroughly. :D
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