Monthly Archives: September 2020

Delve (verb)


1.     To dig or labor with or as if with a spade.

2a.   To make a careful or detailed search for information

2b    to examine a subject in detail.

(Ref: Merriam-Webster Online, Word of the Day, 18 September 2020)

Use it in a sentence

My mother warned me not to ask too many questions – that a lump of coal under extreme pressure can become a diamond, but only if left buried underground for centuries. I pointed out that it was just a silly myth and, in fact, I’d watched a video that turned a spoonful of peanut butter into a diamond and that was no truer than the coal lie.

‘You’re missing the point,’ she grumbled. ‘Just leave it alone!’

But once you think someone, your boyfriend, is somehow not who he seems, even after so many years, you cannot rest easy until you delve a little deeper. My mother, desperate for a grandchild, would forgive him anything, if it meant he would marry me and produce offspring sometime soon.

It’s just that, when he arrived home at night, he seemed breathless, as though he’d just escaped some calamity and was quite relieved to be indoors. ‘Alright?’ I’d ask. And he’d stare at me for a moment before smiling broadly. ‘Yep! Just a long and busy day!’

He worked in an independent book shop that was only kept afloat by a handful of loyal repeat customers.

Then there was the unusual smell on his clothes. Not perfume. Nothing like that. No, it was more like leather. It was faintly animalistic, with rich earthy undertones. It wafted after him when he went to wash his hands. But the smell was in his clothes, and until he changed his shirt, it lingered on my palate, like cigarette smoke.

It was not the smell of modern paperbacks.

One night, I snooped through his briefcase. Not my finest hour, I know. But my curiosity was eating away at me and the more I casually dropped pointed questions, the more evasive he became. I quickly flicked open the latches whilst he showered. I found the usual briefcase detritus – half an orange wrapped in a sticky napkin, several used bus tickets, a packet of chewing gum, and three leaky pens. But, there was also a crumpled up newspaper clipping about the Botswana government looking for a new hangman, a box of matches (he didn’t smoke), a pair of socks (clean, I think) scrunched up into a ball, and an appointment card for laser hair removal.  

Confounded, I snapped the briefcase shut, and held still for a moment. What on earth was going on?

Abscond (noun)

Photo by JJ Shev via Unsplash


  1. To depart secretly and hide oneself.

(Ref: Merriam-Webster Online, Word of the Day, 13 September 2019)

Use it in a sentence

Chops was clearly on a steep decline. But, whilst he could still eat and shuffle from mat to lawn and back again, the family indulged his occasional pee mishap and the messy slobber he left on your shoe. The St Bernard had, after all, been collected from the breeder just two weeks before their first child, Abigail, was born almost 12 years ago. They couldn’t remember why they would do such a stupid thing – breaking in both a newborn and a puppy at the same time – but it felt like Chops had always been in the family and they loved the dog dearly. Abigail especially, had a deep affection for him, naturally.

Chops, however, was quirky. He was not a placid St Bernard. He was cantankerous and prone to sulking. He never snarled or tried to bite anyone, but those big brown eyes seem to scoff at you, as though he loathed you just for being human. After staring at you for some time, he would turn his big head away first, then his whole lumbering body, as though he couldn’t stand to hear another word. He would tolerate only Abigail ruffling his ears and holding up his big droopy cheeks in a mockery of a smile.

So, it was ironic that it was Abigail he should betray so horrendously. For her 12th birthday, the family decided to have a BBQ with all of their friends and family. It was such a bright sunny day and they strung up balloons and put out paper hats for all. Chops was especially grumpy with all the to-ing and fro-ing and shouts of ‘Move it, you big lard arse!’ Only Abigail took the time to boop his nose and take him gently by the collar. ‘Come on Chops, come and sit down on your mat. Everyone’s coming now!’ She led him over and pushed him down. Chops lay down dutifully but was sullen.

Soon the BBQ was smoking, and the adults were cracking open the wine and alcopops while the cousins guzzled coke and cordial. Abigail hovered around her father who dutifully flipped the burgers and pierced the sausages. He wielded one of those serrated edged stainless-steel spatulas in one hand, and a beer in the other. Abigail kept trying to pinch a sausage right off the grill. Her father swatted her. ‘Get out of there! You’ll burn yourself!’

She giggled and tickled him. Chops lumbered over to see what the fuss was about, wagging his tail slowly. Abigail kept poking her dad who cried out a little anxiously, ‘Stop it love!’ Abigail jabbed his kidneys, and he winced and laughed at the same time, and jumped back – colliding into Chops. His arms flailed as he stumbled and tried to catch something – the table nearby, Abigail, anything. The trouble was that he still had the beer and the spatula in his hands. The bottle slipped and smashed on the concrete. The spatula came down hard on Abigail’s hand and sliced her tender little pinky finger clean off.

There was a moment of horrified silence as Abigail and her father looked aghast at each other. Then she opened her little mouth and howled long and loud for a few seconds, before promptly fainting. Her father caught her on the way down and swept her up in a panic. ‘Ambulance! Call an ambulance!’ There was a frantic and confused rush as the family quickly figured out what happened. Someone shouted, ‘Find the finger! They can sew it back on! Get some ice!’ and everyone dropped to their hands and knees, frantically searching for the finger.

They wouldn’t find it. Chops had absconded with the finger hanging out the side of his mouth like a cigar. He nosed his way through the half-open back door, circled his indoor bed before sitting down and staring out the window a minute. Then he started chewing methodically, thoughtfully, as the humans crawled around crying and shouting, oblivious.

Malaise (noun)

Photo by Tyler Delgado vi Unsplash


  1. An indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness,
  2. a vague sense of mental or moral ill-being.

(Ref: Merriam-Webster Online, Word of the Day, 11 August 2020)

Use it in a sentence

The sisters had their coffee on the porch every morning. Even when it rained. Especially when it rained. But today a warm summer sunshine lapped ever closer, up the porch steps, soon engulfing their feet and then their calves until they flinched or tucked up their legs.

‘Another hot one’ Clarissa murmured.

‘Mmm….’ said Alice.

The brilliant blue sky, the undulating magpie calls, the smell of freshly cut lawn would invigorate others. You could see neighbours rolling up their sleeves, clearing out sheds, getting into the garden. The children shouted, teetering on newly purchased bikes. The sisters often heard the rhythmic crack of the cricket ball, the sudden elated and victorious cries signalling the batter’s demise.

They didn’t exactly mind all these things, but for them summer usually triggered a general malaise that lasted until the first autumn showers. They found the dry and unrelenting heat oppressive, aggressive. Clarissa and Alice had never really adapted to the hot weather and December came upon them with a vigour they just didn’t have the capacity to embrace.

They missed Canada.

Nevertheless, they always insisted on hosting Christmas lunch. They were both of them gregarious and friendly, and had soon collected an overlapping circle of friends, almost all of them invited to the festivities. But they almost wept into their cranberry sauce, trying to recreate the stiff and bracing cold celebrations of Vancouver. Beads of perspiration would collect on their foreheads as they prepared the pastry for butter tarts. Their kitchen felt as hot as a blacksmith’s workshop with ovens on full blast, with a giant turkey and all the roast vegetables baking away. Their friends laughed kindly, offering suggestions for next year – some nice prawns, a few salads, maybe some cold meats. But the sisters persisted with heavy Christmas pudding, drowning it in an eggnog sauce that was an old family recipe.

They were loved dearly, but this staunch refusal to accept their fate, to adapt and adjust to their new home, pinched at their guests’ nerves. They felt uneasy, and their smiles were forced until the last bit of gravy was wiped off their plates. Their guests felt as though Christmas was a day of mourning for the sisters, and not a celebration.

Afterwards the guests would creep out to the porch, into the back room, lie on the back lawn and fall into a languid stupor, sometimes a deep sleep. Someone would make sure any lawn sleeper had some shade. Once the sun started to wane, they would rouse and come inside for seconds. A late guest would swan in with a pavlova, and once they’d had that with a glass of sherry, everyone revived and relaxed at the same time, and they playing card games late into the night, cackling with laughter and emptying bottles of champagne and beer.

But once the holiday season was over, there was nothing but the long deadening summer ahead of Clarissa and Alice. They sat on the porch for a minute longer.

‘Alice, go in and turn on the air con’.

And Alice, inhaling then exhaling deeply, did as she was asked. They crept back inside, shut the doors and drew the curtains.