In this series, I will take the Word of the Day from Dictionary.com and craft a short piece of creative writing around it. My goal is to embrace the meaning of the word in some unique way, all the while trying out different styles, rhythms and characterizations. It is as much an exercise in creativity as it is an exploration of grammar. Enjoy!
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By Alex Seise
The graying professor tapped her stub of white chalk against the inky blackboard, impatient and frustrated and stuck. Her normally neat ponytail had come undone, sending wiry gray filaments over the line-etched canvas of her forehead. She’d been at the board for hours, struggling to make the last variables of the equation fit. Now, her only progress was the occasional scratch of white mineral against black stone, followed by a hasty rub-out.
The problem had come easy at first. She ripped through transformations and assumptions and formulae, a flurry of chalk dust spewing into the air and eventually raining down on the rows of desks like Eyjafjallajökull’s ash. But the deeper she dug in the dusty chalk wasteland, the less she uncovered.
One particular “X” caught her attention.
“This should be axiomatic,” she thought, dragging a finger along the board to create an oily dark smudge. “I’ve reduced the equations and aligned the variables. The lines have been drawn, the operations plugged. But…” She stared hard at the X. “But what does this lonely little X have hiding beneath its coat?”
She sighed, then slipped two fingers into the tiny hip pocket of her denim skirt. From it, she produced a tiny piece of yellow chalk.
“Only for emergencies.” She rolled it in her hands, the sparkly yellow bits catching the overhead fluorescent light. It was the chalk that had answered many theoretical questions for her in college and beyond, and all that remained of the blessed stick years later was a miniscule wedge. She doubted the gypsy woman who sold it to her on the streets of Geneva all those years ago was even still alive.
The tiny stub flew to the board like a bird and immediately started scratching a series of yellow lines over her work. It left no dust. When finished, it zipped back to the outstretched palm of her hand.
“Of course!” the professor exclaimed. “How could I have missed that number?”