Watchword

Facetiae, sb. pl. 1529. [a. L., f. facetus FACETE.] Humorous sayings or writings, pleasantries, witticisms.

The watchword for the day is facetiae.

“Mm? What are you doing?”

“Looking up a word in the dictionary.”

“Wha’? What on earth for? It’s… Oh, God, it’s half past six. On a Sunday morning.”

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Mmf.”

“I’ll put the light out.”

Instead he closed the book and sat with it in his lap, hands folded on the cover. She had rolled away from him and lay with the pillow half pulled over her head. It hid most of her cropped hair but he could still see a gold-brown wedge of fluff on the side of her neck and he watched the way the lamplight glinted among the curling strands. After a while he put the dictionary back on the bedside table, then leaned over and blew gently making the soft fuzz bend and flicker.

At half past nine he got up to make breakfast. He heated half a dozen croissants, put butter and strawberry jam into matching dishes, spooned coffee into the cafetiere and filled it with water just off the boil, then tucked the newspaper under his arm and carried it all through to the bedroom. The bed was empty, but he heard the bathroom light click as he put the tray down.

She had found an old T-shirt in the airing cupboard.

“Hope you don’t mind. It’s bad enough finding your way round a strange flat, without doing it bare-arse naked. Wow! Do you feed all your conquests like this?”

“Of course. Though ‘all’ is overstating it a bit.”

“And the plates are warm! Do you want a job? I’ve been looking for someone like you.”

They sat side by side and ate. She consumed four of the croissants and he had to fetch more jam. Between mouthfuls she read out their horoscopes and the problem page from the supplement, adding succinct advice of her own.

“Get rid of him! Gawdalmighty, some people enjoy being walked over. The bloody woman isn’t looking for advice, she wants an audience.”

Later, a third cup of coffee poured, her eye fell on the dictionary.

“What was that all about, at six thirty on a Sunday morning?”

“It’s what I do when I wake up. Open it at random and read the first word that catches my eye.”

“Improving your vocabulary?”

Jonathan smiled. “Sometimes. Mainly it’s supposed to give me a handle on the day. Whatever I’ve got on, something genuinely unexpected can make me look at it in a different way. “

“So you stagger through the next twenty-four hours thinking aardvark or whatever? That makes your life easier?”

“Of course not. The words are there if I need a new angle, that’s all. Mostly they never come up. It’s no different from looking at your horoscope. Except it’s real – nobody’s telling you what you want to hear. There’s no mumbo jumbo.”

“Hm. So what’s today’s?”

Facetiae.”

“Yech!”

“No, facetiae. It means a collection of humorous writings.”

“Does that mean you’re going to spend the rest of the day making smart arse remarks? If so, I’m going. What was the word yesterday, when we met?”

“Heliotrope.”

“Ah? Oh well.”

“It’s a plant that turns its flowers to the sun.”

dictionary

About Malachi

All metaphor Malachi, stilts and all.
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