Eking One Out — J. Conrad Guest

I thought I’d share a piece I wrote some time ago, one I’ve always been particularly fond of. Based on a true life experience, I don’t know if it qualifies as flash fiction or a memoir.

J. Conrad Guest

J. Conrad Guest



“What is that?”

“Are you challenging?”

“Believe it.”

Greg reached for the SCRABBLE Players Dictionary and began flipping its pages. He’d played this game against his old nemesis, Barry, plotting his strategy carefully. Playing his last tile a few minutes ago, Greg held a slim lead—347-341. The nearly three-and-a-half-hour epic battle had gone nearly the way he’d planned it. Barry had darted out to a quick early lead; but Greg had slowly reeled him in and, by the halfway point, he’d gone ahead, keeping it close, trading Barry’s scores nearly point for point. Greg’s catch me, kiss my ass strategy was to win by a single point if he could manage it, first pouring vinegar into Barry’s wound before rubbing salt into it; however, whether he won by a single point or six points, the game shame would be all Barry’s.

Greg had only to wait as Barry futilely searched the board for someplace to play his final tile, “K,” and come up empty. Maybe he hoped to tag it onto the end of a word somewhere—how many words ended with a “K?” Ink, blink, think, sink, stink, lick, stick, seek, peek, kick, monk, blank, click, tick, pick, pack, back, sack, peak, book, luck, cock, work, milk, chick, walk, talk, flick, link, bank, rank, drank, frank, junk, oak, quick, suck were just a few (Greg had played “pee” horizontally early on, scoring double word points, then made a new word of it a few turns later, adding “R” to the end of it when he played “harem” vertically, scoring triple letter points for the “H”). Or maybe Barry hoped to nestle it in between two letters to create something that, in his moody blues wildest dreams, would amount to seven or more points.

And so Greg had settled back into his chair, lips besmirked (not in the SCRABBLE Players Dictionary), smugly waiting for Barry to concede checkmate; the chair creaked from the weight of his great bulk, and he listened to the clock on the kitchen wall ticK its tocK. Greg was about to clean Barry’s clocK. All he had to do was wait for his capitulation.

This was going to be sweet.

FreaKin’ great.

Until clicK went the “K,” onto the plastic surface of the deluxe SCRABBLE playing board: EKE.

“Fahk,” Greg said, closing the SCRABBLE Players Dictionary.

“No, eke. To supplement with effort; to obtain with great effort.”

“Fahk me,” Greg said.

Barry nodded. “Eke. Five points for the ‘K’ and one each for two ‘Es.’ I guess I managed to eke out this one, old friend.” Barry did his best Ricardo Montalbán impersonation from The Wrath of Khan, as Khan had repeatedly referred to Captain Kirk as “old friend.”

“I hate you, Barry. I freakin’ hate you.”

Barry didn’t think Greg sounded at all like William Shatner.

A Retrospect In Death (forthcoming)
500 Miles To Go (forthcoming)


Filed under writing

2 responses to “Eking One Out — J. Conrad Guest

  1. That’s one long scrabble game!

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