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A Solid Vocabulary

April 5, 2004

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. There's just something about gospel music that lifts me right on up out of myself. Kind of like what happens to leftover autumn leaves after you've raked them into a neat pile and the spring winds come along. Or like when you drop a 5 lb. sack of flour in Aisle Three. Something glorious. The Hopefuls were singing "Shut the door, keep out the devil" when the phone rang. I considered not answering but thought it might be Mr. Sundberg calling from Chicago, so I picked up after the third ring and said, Hell-oo? "Oh, thank God you're home." It was Marlene Sanderson. We aren't able to spend much time together except on Sunday mornings and every other Wednesday when we meet for coffee at Joe's Where Ya Bean Café, so if she doesn't call, I do. Of course I'm home, I said, it's Saturday night. "Oh, the show, that's right. Should I call you later?" No, I told her. She said she needed my advice and went on to tell me all about Charlie and how he's been so distant lately and seems bored and says "What?" all the time. She has to say everything twice and she'll do it but we all know what that's like after a while. Maybe he needs one of those beep tests to check his hearing, I said. "No," she sighed. "He just plain not listening. It's so sad. I don't think he loves me anymore." Oh, Marlene, I whispered and as if on cue this song about unrequited love played and I could smell burning gingerbread and I didn't know what to say. So I just listened and Marlene cried and said she was thinking about growing her hair out a bit and buying a trampoline.

After we hung up, I scraped the blackened gingerbread into the garbage and set about making a new batch. Lemon, this time. Lemon goes with spring and you gotta work to ruin a loaf of lemon bread. I turned up the show while Willie Murphy sang a train song and they sang a Gillian Welch song about being an orphan on God's highway. I got the lump in my throat listening to Rich Dworsky and the song with no words, the piano song he wrote after encountering a couple about to get married. That was when I got out my Webster's and looked up the word "unrequited." I look up words often because no two words really mean the same thing and knowing definitions is helpful in an argument or when explaining oneself after a minor car accident or while making confession (though I'm not Catholic, I can certainly see how a solid vocabulary might come in handy). I was surprised to find "unrequited" isn't there, but "requited" is and it means "to make return for" or "to avenge." Then I looked up "listen" and it reads "to pay heed."

I'm inclined to give ol' Charlie a call and point out that Marlene's got some steel in her and when a woman is faced with the word "unrequited," one would best pay heed. But I think I'll wait. She'll either hop on a train, head west, and call from Vancouver, or -- if you're lucky like Charlie -- you're in for a long discussion and a bill for a king-size trampoline.

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