Wordplays | Linda Heartlein

RUG – The color of Grandma’s was brown. She told us it didn’t have to be cleaned as much. The card table’s feet sunk into it as I leaned my elbows next to the now vowel-ridden tray in front of me. Dinner would be Orzo in chicken broth and I couldn’t wait to finish the game and walk across the soft floor to devour two bowls of it. Double letter score: 6 points.

FOUR – The number of hours sat in O’Hare at the end of Christmas vacation. My mother sipped on her cappuccino with her legs crossed, more than pleased that she had decided to pack the Travel Edition plastic board. Being a preteen meant I rolled my eyes at her, wishing I were zoned into my Game Boy instead. Double word score: 14 points.

FELT – What Grandma did to read the tiles when she went completely blind but still wanted to play. I watched her rub her thumb on each one, slowly working out words that weren’t what they used to be. My father arrived with two steamy McDonald’s bags. I threw down letters fast so we could finish up, not knowing it was the last game she’d ever play. Triple letter score: 15 points.

SPEAK – What we didn’t do when I determinedly decided to beat my mother at her favorite pastime. We passed the Sour Patch Kids bag silently and rested our chins in our hands for hours. Sixteen with mascara-laden lashes, I ignored any buzz from my cellular unless I already had my next play mapped out, back up plan included. Double letter score, double word score: 32 points.

RELAX – So I told Tom, who started sighing exasperatedly after ten minutes in the game. We could’ve gone to the movies, but my mother had cornered us with the beat-up red box just in time. I liked his three-letter words that somehow missed all the board’s colored squares. He told me later that he’d been brought up on Monopoly. Two triple letter scores: 30 points.

QUIT – I oh-so-badly wanted to do so in order to catch the end of Ker’s parents’ Christmas party. They’d have coconut shrimp and Irish coffee there, but I was stuck at our kitchen counter with four I’s on my tray and no sour candy to munch on. I had been blessed with a U though, and suddenly felt like I could finish the thing right after all. Triple letter score: 33 points.

ZEAL – I felt it that May night, the screen door open, a box of dark chocolate nonpareils between us. I had three and a half months of summertime and a fantastic selection of consonants in front of me. I looked at the 54-year old next to me, repositioning the reading glasses toward the end of her nose. In this quiet place we played, knowing we were both where we wanted to be. Triple word score, double letter score: 42 points.

Living in a cozy corner of Somerville, MA, Linda Heartlein fills in the cracks of her days with writing. Having graduated from the University of Mary Washington in May 2011 with a B.A. in English, she takes inspiration in the tiny details she sees while traversing through post-college reality. She appeared as the featured artist of Apropos Online Literary Journal’s 2010 issue and was co-founder and editor of Dear Abby Normal Online Literary Journal in 2011.


Nonfiction for the restless soul. Published online quarterly.


  1. As a fellow Scrabble enthusiast, I enjoyed this immensely.

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