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Friday, April 8, 2016

HAPPY DAZE

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 Who doesn't like crossword puzzles?  (Ok, but maybe not you.) The big thing is that I do. So this is all about me.
Every blogger likes to think that his/her words are not only golden but fascinating and far-sighted. Surprisingly, sometimes they are. This is 'kind of' one of those.
Word Play is a short story I wrote about six-years ago. I liked it because it is poignant and it came together well. It has appeared in Every Day Fiction, a site that runs a new short story--less than 1,000 words--every day. To get to the real gist of this post, you have to read Word Play (below) or you'll miss the irony... but that's okay because it's a good story.
WORD PLAY
Seventeen across: ‘Wish it done.’ Four letters.
Twenty-three down: ‘Baa baa mama.’ Three letters.
Rob was always anxious for The Sunday Times because it was the best crossword of the week. It kept him hummingly busy most of the morning… and he usually finished it. This, however, was not one of those days.
“Damn! What is ‘Carpenter’s key?’ I should know that.
Good time to grab a coffee, he thought as he stretched like a hibernating grizzly just waking.
He smiled with smug confidence. This was war: his intelligence and worldly knowledge vs. the cunningly sly and diabolical Sunday crossword.
“Bring it on, baby. When I fill in that last square, I am king of the forty-two across: Celestial orb… World. Where is the Titanic when I need her?”
The self-appreciating silliness was interrupted by his cell’s “Macho Man” ring tone.
“Hi hon…
“Yeah, workin’ the puzzle…
“No. Haven’t cracked it yet, but I will.
“What?  You are done already? No way. Did you use the dictionary?
“OK. Sorry. I know better. Hey, don’t be mad now. I was just kidding.
“You’re not coming over? Why not? We always go for brunch on Sunday. Since when is a sale more important than me?  Honest, Steff… sometimes I feel you don’t love me as much as you love a good bargain.”
Feelings hurt, Rob sat brooding for a minute. And to add insult to injury, he had to admit, she did the puzzle and he was stuck. The Sunday crossword was their ritual weekly competition.
With new fervor, he picked up his paper and pen, determined he would ‘break through.’ But when he looked at his progress, he could only shake his head at the ink-smeared corrections.
Rob was one of those addicts who always did the puzzle with his silver Cross pen that Steff had given him two birthdays ago. It was simply inscribed, “23 down,” cryptically referring to their little secret that time in the elevator.
     He scratched his golden’s ears as she doggedly backed against his leg begging for more.
“Rob loves Steff, Tessie. Does Steff love Rob?
Tess looked back over her shoulder with soulful eyes as if to ask, you’re not done scratching yet, are you?
“I know you know Tess… you just won’t tell me.”
Sixty-four down: ‘Mother of Jesus.’ Oh, missed this one…a gimmie, he thought. Mary.
The crossword’s theme was ‘Happy Daze’ (spelled D-A-Z-E). He hadn’t figured that out yet but he knew the shaded squares were supposed to say something important when filled.  All he could think of was ‘The Fonz’ and it clouded his mind to the obvious.
“Hi honey,” she greeted, using her key to let herself in.
“Steff! I didn’t think you were coming today. What about the big sale? Aren’t you afraid you will miss a bargain?” he asked sarcastically.
“Don’t think it wasn’t a tough decision but I figured you might need my help with the puzzle.”
“That’s right. Rub it in. This is the first time you beat me in five weeks. Gloat, gloat, gloat.”
Steff smiled, filled her coffee cup, and kicked off her shoes as she curled into her favorite chair with the rest of the paper. Rob liked the look a lot and for a moment, thought “The hell with the crossword puzzle.”
Steff broke the mood. “Go ahead. Finish if you can. I’ll just read The Times…and if you still aren’t done, I’ll read tomorrow’s paper too when it comes.”
“Very funny.”
110 across: ‘Hood, affectionately.’ Three letters.
125 across: ‘Hospital infection.’ Five letters. “Hmm… “
“Wait. I may have it!
“Wish it done: Will, of course.
“Baa baa mama: Ewe.
“Mother of Jesus: Mary.”
“Hospital infection” Staph… Steff?”
Suddenly, he stopped, startled and somewhat shaken by his revelation. Calming himself, he grabbed his puzzle and tried to act casual as he walked toward Steff.
“I got it,” he beamed. “Solved the damn thing.”
“Yeah? So what is ‘Carpenter’s key,’ Mr. Smarts?
“That would be my brother, Chuck.”
“Oh? Why Chuck?”
“Because he would be my best man…
“And yes. Yes! YES! I will marry you,” he said as he tenderly lifted her from the chair and danced around the room, almost snapping her head back as they kissed again and again. “I feel like 9 across: One of the 7 dwarfs.
'You mean Dopey?"
"Uh, I was thinking of another one." 
After all the kissey-face smooching, hugging and crying had taken its course, Rob asked her how she ever pulled it off.
“I have a friend who knows the puzzle editor. He agreed it would be a wonderful trick…and make a great puzzle. Lots of human interest.”
“And I did make my sale,” she added as she pulled a little blue box from behind her back.
 “This is for you, my love.”
The tiny inscription inside the ring read, “Second best crossword puzzle solver.  First best fiancé.” 
"Bravo! Great story Jerry."
 Blush, blush. "Oh, thanks. And here's why I asked you to read it:
Visited my son a few days ago as he was finishing the daily crossword puzzle, Merger Bid, below. He told me it reminded him of my story (above). SPOILER ALERT: All the answers are correct.

See, I told you... fascinating and far sighted. But mine had a back story that could make a sentimental blogger sob... sniff, sniff.
So two men are doing a crossword puzzle.
The first man frowns and says, "The clue is Old MacDonald had one... four letters"
The second man thinks for a moment... " Farm! The answer is farm."
"How do you spell it?" the first guy asks.
"I'm not sure" says the friend. I think it's E I E I O"


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