The Scrabbler

[The second instalment in a series of vaguely related events. Though, come to think of it, this one is decidedly irrelevant.]

It was Sunday night, the fourth consecutive night of familytogetherness. The professor was out for dinner with a colleague, so I said to the Gort, ‘I think you’re ready for Scrabble.’

As he led the way with the very impressive ‘mom’ in the center of the board, I thought to myself, ‘Scrabble with an almost eight year old is the way to go.’

Frankly, I’ve struggled with Scrabble. I like words, yes, but somehow when I stare at seven letter-squares resting upon a wooden stand, my mind just draws blank. I stare at the stand. I stare at the board. And instead of inspiration, I find nothing. Perhaps it’s the glacial pace of the game and the way all players spend long, quiet minutes just staring at the board.

Faced with the constraint of a timer (as in Boggle or WordTwist) I tend to fare better. My brain needs to be limited, it seems, in order to function. I’m not sure what that says about me.

But Scrabble with a second grader; someone whose vocabulary is limited to the very basic building blocks of the English language? Now that’s practically enjoyable.

Or so I thought, until I added up the scores and realized the boy had beaten me.

To be fair, I did ‘help’ him with most of the words, past the first handful of rounds, but still. He beat me. Or, even worse, I beat me.

The next morning, triumphant from his first Scrabble victory, the boy called to me from where he was sitting at the dining table. ‘Hey Mom! Scrabble?’

Sure.

We grabbed seven tiles and formulated words and I explained a little more of the game. ‘If you use all seven tiles at once you get 50 points plus whatever your word is worth.’

Little did I realize he’d absorbed the information as a challenge. Because next thing I knew, he carefully laid out his tiles on the table. ‘If I can find a D and an I, I can spell DISBELIEF,’ he mused, matter of fact. As if he were twenty years old. And I, suspended in a state of disbelief, wondered when he had learned that particular word.

I looked at his letters I-S-B-E-L-E-F. ‘It’s pretty hard [read: impossible] to find two letters to use,’ I dashed his hopes of getting that 50 point bonus. And then I stared at his tiles and stared at the board, in the off-chance I was wrong and there was, in fact, a free D and I within seven spaces of each other. ‘You could do BELIEFS instead,’ it finally occurred to me, when I spied a free S on the board.

And just like that, the kid scored 83 points, while I tried my best to compensate with the likes of ZEN and JOT.

(Without the benefit of triple letter score squares.)

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