By Nancy Smiler Levinson
Seven letters. Seven postage stamp-sized tiles each bearing one black letter of the alphabet. All selected blindly from a little cloth bag and lined up on a six-inch plastic stand facing the players at the table. The game’s center-piece is a board designed with colored squares for the tiles’ perfect fit.
The letters match with points to score. Vowels count one point. K is worth five. Z and Q ten. What do we do with these tiles? Create words. New ones. Add-ons. Reconfigures. The board notes extra points toward the totals with spaces offering double or triple letter or word score.
Begin spelling a word with the first set of seven. Next player adds letters up or down, left or right to form a new word. S E A R C H. Place R and E in front. Voila! End a word with Z and gain a triple word score! Bonanza!
SCRABBLE is the only board game I have ever liked. I’ve never had patience to sit and play Canasta or Bridge. But oh the fun and challenge of SCRABBLE! I admit, though, since youth I’ve been overly competitive when the pastime ought to be, well. . . fun and games, and, yes, I groan when opponents set up a little hourglass timer to prod my move while I labor over figuring a brainy or topnotch word.
Throughout the years I’ve played this game on many occasions. At home in Minnesota with my mother and sister on a winter night while a wind howled amidst a whirling snowstorm. When visiting a disabled friend in her California apartment. At the kitchen table with my husband, keeping him pleasantly occupied as Alzheimer’s disease was claiming his mind. Actually, I played for both of us.
Words. Words. Words. Think of it! All the words and sentences, paragraphs and chapters, stories, poems, essays, stories, reports, treatises . . . everything in the English language is written using only 26 letters! Astounding!
Nancy Smiler Levinson is author of MOMENTS OF DAWN: A Poetic Memoir of Love & Family; Affliction & Affirmation, as well as work that has appeared in Poetica, Voice of Eve, Dreamers, Burningword Literary Journal, The Copperfield Review, Rat’s Ass Review, many anthologies, and elsewhere. She is a one-time Pushcart nominee in a creative nonfiction category. Nancy lives in Los Angeles.