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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 4: July 2020
Flash Fiction: 779 words
By Daryl Scroggins

The Lexiconic Labyrinth of Millicent Greaves


Notes, 18 March 2020: Ellen Forrest, visiting resident Millicent Greaves at Wilford Assisted Living Facility, in response to a family request for assessment by a speech language pathologist:

Millicent Greaves, age 79, with a history of stroke-induced Wernicke’s aphasia, is high-functioning, given the extent of her impairment (see PET scan). As a means of addressing her language difficulties, she has set herself the task of creating a personal lexicon, which she is recording in a notebook. Staff reports that this activity consumes most of her daily attention. Mrs. Greaves indicates that this effort will allow others to grasp the new terms of her personal language. When asked whether she thought others would want to learn a new language for her benefit, she said, “Not to come so far will fail in many places.” See below representative excerpts from her notebook, which she readily shared with me:

Axiom: A question asked while not paying attention.

Bauble: A weight-loss product sold in a round bottle.

Catapult: A term referring to the mistreatment of snails.

Dwindle: The part of a windmill that continues working after the well has run dry.

Ephemera: A bag of clothes left outside a theater.

Furtive: A dead squirrel that children have dressed in doll clothes.

Gibbon: A partially eaten gift.

Heckle: To carve ornate patterns in a melon.

Inoculate: To walk while carrying a noisy load.

Jonquil: A writing instrument attached to a horse, once used to paint stripes on roads.

Knob: A small round pond frequented by pointed birds.

Lattice: An alcoholic beverage favored by vegetarians.

Mull: To take umbrage to the point of almost leaving a note.

Nostalgia: A forgotten allergy.

Ovoid: Philosophical despair arising from falling and rolling down a hill.

Patriarchy: A house in the shape of a camel being led.

Quash: To hesitate in the face of deciding what to do about pests.

Rhododendron: The specific brain cells that prompt a person to run from a dog.

Sprain: What hits you when a the bus you are waiting for drives through a puddle.

Taunt: To twist two wires together to the point of breaking off the twisted portion.

Ubiquity: A cake batter that has been overbeaten.

Veneer: The milk of any animal that does not want to give it up.

Wharf: A low-level supervisor who unfairly administers vacation days.

Xenia: A person who knows nothing about flowers.

Yammer: To speak while licking an envelope.

Zygote: A person last in line who must carry everything.


Notes, 12 May 2020: Ellen Forrest, SLP, visiting resident Millicent Greaves at Wilford Assisted Living Facility:

Resident has continued her efforts to produce a personal lexicon, but her pursuit of this aim has become perseverative. Mrs. Greaves is now fixated upon particular words and delves into possible definitions at great length. When I asked about the length of time she might spend on a single word, she pointed at her window, and then took up her pen again. See below one such entry, which Mrs. Greaves willingly shared with me:

Quink: Rorschachs that know what they are. 2) A gray downy feather that appears before one’s face hours after the V has vanished. 3) A tangle in the fuzz inside an atom’s factory. 4) Beer bottles touched in a toast. 5) Those who don’t present themselves with their jokes. 6) The sound a duck makes when it is owned by a woodchopper.

Further indications of focused word-mining appear when generally accepted referents for a word such as “quink,” above, are exhausted, and spurious additions are entered:

7) The sound made by raindrops falling into an already filled tin bucket. 8) A night landscape revealed by a flash of lightning. 9) A driveway deliberately flooded during a hard freeze for the benefit of very small skaters. 10) A coin for charity, given as an investment. 11) A very important nut dropped by a mechanic onto pipes three floors below.


Notes, 17 June 2020: Ellen Forrest, SLP, visiting resident Millicent Greaves at Wilford Assisted Living Facility:

Staff reports that Mrs. Greaves has become listless, with failing appetite. When asked about her change in behavior, resident reports she has discovered that all words contain all other words. Apparently, though, this insight has not generated a depressive state so much as an overriding experience of gratitude. In an effort to engage Mrs. Greaves in prior levels of her project, I asked her to define for me the word “metaphor.” She looked away from her window then, and smiled. “Metaphor,” she said. “The moment a long jailed person is released to a person who has waited. And, two, a thing made of thistles and butterflies.”


—One of five semi-finalists in MacQ’s Quink Writing Challenge

Daryl Scroggins
Issue 4, July 2020

has taught creative writing and literature at The University of Texas at Dallas, The University of North Texas, and the Writer’s Garret, in Dallas. He now lives in Marfa, Texas. He is the author of This Is Not the Way We Came In, a collection of flash fiction and a flash novel (Ravenna Press), Winter Investments: Stories (Trilobite Press), and Prairie Shapes: A Flash Novel (winner of the 2004 Robert J. DeMott Prose Contest). His poems, short stories, and creative nonfictions have appeared in magazines and anthologies across the country, including Blink Ink, Cutbank, Eastern Iowa Review, New Flash Fiction Review, Star 82 Review, and Third Wednesday, among others.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Field Trips, flash fiction by Daryl Scroggins in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 2019)

New to School, micro-fiction in Eclectica (Jan/Feb 2018)

Two Fictions: Almost Baptized, and Against the Current in New Flash Fiction Review (Issue 10, January 2018)

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