Cathryn walked into the hospital ward. It was settled into the twitchy hush of a nighttime hospital, its doors an Advent calendar of snores, TV shows, and random screams. Lily was waiting in the common area and instantly magnetized to Cathryn’s arm. “I’m so glad you’re here! Everything is just… weird.”
Cathryn darted her eyes around. Oh, nope, weird is a safe word. “Where’s Henry?”
“He’s over getting to know Matt.” Lily started walking her down one of the halls.
“Getting… what? They’ve known each other for years.”
“Ms. Espy!” The night nurse called from behind and strode mightily after her. “I’m glad you made it. A lot has happened.”
Cathryn flinch-stopped and spun back around to look at her. Continue reading
All four people in the room peered out the window, trying not to be visible to the suit-monkeys disgorging from the limo down below.
“They have to buzz up to get in, right?” James said.
“I wouldn’t count on it,” Maxim said. “Also I’m going to assume they won’t all take the elevator.”
“How strong are your—” Marcy said, and then she heard sounds of banging metal and breaking glass from below. Continue reading
“I didn’t know that it was going to work,” Maxim said. The minivan cruised at an urban pace from traffic light to traffic light. “It was just a lark. We’re supposed to include a mountweazel or two as copyright traps. So I put in ‘marycela’ as one and defined it as ‘a lottery winner’. I didn’t tell her! Not until she won the lottery.”
“It was very sweet of you,” Marcy said. “Of course now everybody knows my secret true name. I’ve been Rumpelstilskinned.”
“Turandotted,” James tossed in. “And now nessun dorma indeed.”
Marcy inhaled as if to speak, and then paused with breath suspended as if to keep anyone else from speaking first. Then she said, “I don’t think Karly will be sleeping, with all those cats.” Continue reading
To: Cathryn Espy
From: Maxim Patryshyn
Hope you like your dictionary entry. Let me know what you learn.
Cathryn read the email on her phone as she sat in ÖL with James, waiting for whoever was in that black limo to go away. She replied: Continue reading
Cathryn set her tumbler down with a rap and spun to see who had tapped on her shoulder. The tapper, a tallish, bespectacled man around 50, stepped back abruptly. “Sorry,” he said.
He didn’t seem obnoxious, aside from having tapped her on the shoulder. “No, sorry, I’m just a little jumpy right now,” she said. Then a thought stiffened her like a foot in ice water. Was she going to jump? She seemed not to be jumping. She looked down at her feet. They were not jumping.
“‘Jumpy’ isn’t one of the terms that have been updated, I guess,” the man said. He attempted a smile. Continue reading
“Wait,” Cathryn said into her phone. “How did you know I found him?”
The minivan that was probably carrying Maxim Patryshyn and Marcy (full name Marycela?) Coachman was now a pair of taillights merging in the distance and then turning a corner. It was cool and breezy in the concrete canyon. For want of anything better to do, Cathryn went back into ÖL and sat back where she had been, at the window end of the bar, as she listened to Pierre von Falk on her phone.
Pierre’s voice was now so professionally polite it was almost shiny. “I get the daily update notices for Worcester online dictionaries. The spelling of your name is…” There was a pause on the line. Then: “…I won’t say it’s unique, because apparently I physically can’t call it that, because there are other Cathryns in the world and the word ‘unique’ has lately been updated by Maxim. But so has the word ‘cathryn,’ heretofore unseen in Worcester Dictionaries.” Continue reading
The elevator trip down was just long enough for Cathryn’s mental wheels to get some traction on who to talk to next. Pierre von Falk seemed pretty much tapped out. Karly Presser was out of the loop. Maxim Patryshyn had the magic wand but didn’t know how he got it and wasn’t fully sure how to wave it. She had one other name to try. And she didn’t want to waste any time. Continue reading
Meeting a complete stranger (and a stranger one than most) alone at his place for tea in mid-evening is not a thing Cathryn would normally do or even advise doing. But she had a Problem to solve. She had a husband unconscious and being fished back from the pool of death and a friend in an almost equally parlous circumstance, and the door to the solution had a lock on it that would only open if you answered the right riddle the right way. If it would even open then. So Cathryn was walking down a mostly empty streetlamp-lit sidewalk with undead leaves dancing around her feet like mocking street urchins, on her way from the subway station to 26 Prince Street. On either side of her, buildings of a sampler of ages and a random distribution of heights rose in expressionist perspective.
And then she was at the door. Continue reading
To: Pierre von Falk
From: Cathryn Espy
Hi, Pierre. A friend just let me know her husband had used “enervated” with bad results. Also “schmaltz.”
Cathryn hit Send and sat back, right arm across her chest, left hand up to her mouth in the no-I’m-not-thinking-of-sucking-my-thumb-why-would-you-ask-that pose. Now. She looked over at the bookmark with the email addresses, which was sitting next to her keyboard. What next? Continue reading
Still available on Amazon.
Cathryn stared at her computer screen. The dictionary hadn’t been pulled off the market.
They knew, right? Pierre knew. But he wasn’t in charge.
But how many people could be buying it? Most people just go online and use the free version – or another dictionary site. Or buy the collegiate one if they want a book. The full Universal was a doorstopper. Too big to be an ox-stunner because you have to be able to swing something to stun an ox with it. And it was… $126.42, discounted price. Who would even spend that?
People with friends having birthdays, that’s who. Given the price, friends they really cared about. Ironically. Continue reading