“What’s your secret to a happy marriage?” younger friends sometimes ask.

Okay, maybe they don’t ask me this, but I’m sure they’re thinking about it.

“The secret to a happy marriage remains a secret,” I announce, quoting Henny Youngman.

Marty and I repeatedly break the rules of matrimony set forth by experts such as Dr. Laura, Marty’s parents, and the Bible, advice such as “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”

There are times I’m so angry I lie in bed next to my husband and mumble something about marriage being overrated. This happens most often when I’ve had a long day at school and I come home and Marty asks whether I’ve been fooling around with the remote because “it seems to have stopped working.” There are times he’s so angry—I’ve laughed at him for not knowing who Sylvia Plath is—that he ignores me when I try to apologize. I storm out and tell him I’m going to sleep downstairs. I then make a loud stomping noise, wait ten minutes, maybe have a snack, and then get back into bed. “I’ve decided to forgive you,” I tell Marty.

It’s our eleventh wedding anniversary today. We’re doing something really romantic to celebrate—Marty is going to play Scrabble all day with Scott Garner, who’s driven all the way up from Memphis to spend Labor Day weekend here.  Meanwhile, I’m driving to Champaign with a new friend for some shopping. Do I mind that I’ve been replaced in Marty’s Scrabble affections by Scott? Not a bit. I still play Scrabble with my husband.  We go to tournaments. I’m just not as much into Scrabble as Marty is. Do I mind that our anniversary is basically spent apart? No. I believe that making my husband happy is my duty as a wife. Plus, Marty gave me fifty dollars for shopping, in addition to buying me the Cuisinart juicer I wanted.

We also had a nice anniversary dinner on Thursday in Champaign after my court appearance.  Although the judge found me guilty of failure to yield, he lessened my fine, which was fine with me. After dinner we went to the Scrabble club all lovey-dovey. (Me and Marty, not the judge.) When John Fultz, the director, asked whether I’d mind playing my husband, I purred “Of course not. It’s our anniversary. Eleven years of wedded bliss.” Everyone oohed and aahed, though I suspect they may have been snickering behind our backs.

Marty wanted to play Collins, but my brain cells had all been used up in court.

My husband almost always wins when we play.  Thursday, however, I drew all of the good tiles. After a few nice plays, I was ahead.

“Can you hold your tile bag up higher?” Marty asked.  “And look away.”

“Are you accusing me of cheating?”

“Those are the rules.”

Things got worse when I successfully challenged off his GERMINS#.

“That’s the SINGER stem,” I announced in a very loud and important voice. “That’s WE LOVE THE CRAZY POP SOUND OF BOY GEORGE.  No M in WE LOVE THE CRAZY POP SOUND OF BOY GEORGE.”

“In Collins there are three bingoes with M and SINGER. And one of them is GERMINS#,” Marty said very slowly and, I thought, rather menacingly.

I won the game.

A hush fell over the room.  (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little.)

“Well, this is going to be a very long drive home,” I muttered.

But then Marty said, “Good game. You played really well.”

He’s been saying this lately when I do win, which kind of takes the fun out of gloating.

But it also makes me love him even more.

Happy anniversary to my Zebu.


Division Three

Buffalo, New York.

Day Two of the Nationals.  No, wait.  It’s Day Three.

People begin to blend into one another, especially in my division—Division Three.  Or maybe it’s Division Two.  Let me check my nametag.  Three.

Yesterday I sat down at Table 5, my assigned place for the first game of the day.  Everything looked different, kind of hazy and Twilight Zone-like.

“Are you Diana?” I asked a young man with glasses.

He looked at my nametag.

“You’re in the wrong division. This is Four.”

My score sheets look like the scribblings of a drunken monkey trying to learn our numeral system.

I can’t seem to find my way out of the convention center back to the Hyatt. I should have brought some bread crumbs.

The Nationals will do this to you.

Unless, of course, you’re a sharp and steady player with an already firm grasp of reality.

“Have you played any interesting words?” my husband asked last evening. (I managed to get out of the convention center by following a group of players from Division One.)

“I played words.”

“I played WINSOMER for 98 points—a double-double—and then later ETTERCAP, which is only good in Collins, for 80 points, and also WHISKER for 116.  I scored 487 in ten moves. My opponent went first and scored 501 in eleven moves.”

“Good for you.”

“If you write about this remember to put the # after ETTERCAP to signify that it’s Collins. You don’t want to unintentionally mislead people.”

“God forbid.”

“An ETTERCAP# is a spider. The variant spellings are ETHERCAP# and ATTERCOP#.”

“If you don’t stop this minute I’m calling hotel security.”

Marty is playing in the Collins division, which uses the international dictionary. Collins is a tough division, as is Division One.  And Two.  And Three is no piece of cake. Four—well, I could do very well in Division Four. And I could probably sweep the student division, where everyone is in grade school.

“I do remember an interesting word I played,” I tell Marty.  “I played PENIS!”

This tickled my opponent, a very nice and proper young man, to no end. A few turns later he played AROUSED! We giggled like naughty school children.

“I’ve never had a game like this,” my opponent said excitedly.

To top it off, I played CACA.

This is the difference between players in Collins and Division Three. Collins players make words like ETTERCAP#.  Division Three players make CACA.