So here I sit in the Danville Community College Student Union on an early Sunday morning. I know it’s the Student Union even though no students are present because a large sign announces Student Union in blue neon cursive lettering. And I know it’s early Sunday morning because, well, I’m good at these things.
I’m the self-appointed Scrabble counselor at Marty’s literacy tournament for the Danville Reader’s Route, ready to listen to players’ complaints about bad tiles or egregious plays (“I forgot the i in egregious and my opponent challenged it off the board!”), to advise some of the lower-rated players on strategy (“You need to slow down” or “You need to speed up”), to comfort those in Scrabble distress. “My self-esteem is at an all-time low,” one player told me. I thought of what a student of a fellow teacher once wrote instead of self-esteem: self of steam. The phrase is appropriate for Scrabble. There are days when I’m firmly on the ground, confident and clear-eyed, finding bingos with ease, smiling at my opponents—in other words, a solid player. Other days, however, I’m in the clouds, transposing letters, mis-tracking tiles. My stable identity dissipates into a murky self of steam.
To get back to my main idea—I find myself in the position of counselor because if I were to play in today’s tournament there would be an odd number of players (which is different from “a number of odd players”) and there would be byes (or sit-outs), and these make Scrabble players grumpy. So, I’m taking one for the Scrabble cause. Actually, I don’t feel bad about sitting this one out. I played yesterday. I played well and came in second in the second division from the top (out of five) and won fifty dollars. I would have gotten a prize for high game (545 points) if my husband hadn’t been so democratic (some might say socialistic) and decreed that the high game prize could only be won by someone “out of the money.”
Before Marty got the tournament started this morning, he announced that I’d be sitting out all seven games so that there would be an even number of players. Except he didn’t use the term “sitting out.” He used the term “swing player.” Except he didn’t say “swing player.” He said “swinger.” As in, “Hey everybody, kudos to my wife, Daiva, for being a swinger.”
I shouldn’t be too hard on Marty. He had a serious back operation two and a half weeks ago. Doctors fused his spine (or something like that.) He spent two nights and three days at Rush Hospital in Chicago and suffered greatly. Of course, I suffered, too. This can’t be denied. I, his tireless wife, SPENT THOSE TWO NIGHTS SLEEPING ON AN UNCOMFORTABLE HOSPITAL SOFA. Of course, Marty suffered more. (But he got morphine for his pain. I got nuthin’. We played Scrabble in the hospital room and Marty, high on morphine, still kicked my butt.) The doctors were ready to let him go home the day after the operation, but then they discovered that although he’d drunk a lot of water he couldn’t pee and the urine in his system was threatening to back up like a clogged up drain. The muscular male nurse said that if Marty didn’t pee, he’d have to stick a catheter up his pee hole. (There must be a scientific term here, but nothing’s coming to me at the moment.) So, yes, Marty suffered, but I was the one in the bathroom with him, monitoring his flow, quizzing him on Scrabble words in order TO RELAX HIM SO THAT SOMETHING MIGHT COME OUT.
Which it didn’t.
I won’t go into details about the catheterization because my next client is here. Except to say that Marty found it very very unpleasant.