Word of the Day: Chutzpa

Word of the Day: Chutzpa

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 snaggletooth poked out from the crone’s upper jaw like a solitary upended tombstone floating on a milky red marsh.

“It takes chutzpa to just think about doing what you’re thinking about doing, girl.” Her rotting gums smacked and sucked as she spoke. At the same time, the lone tooth descended in and out of a moist hole in her lower jaw where another jagged pearl sat decades before. The visitor thought the whole display terribly vile, but she knew better than to perturb Old Winnie. Especially after coming this far to speak with her about the Wisdom of the Brush.

She was the only one who knew enough about the plants and their effects to help her quest.

“Phelageous webbonnet, that’s what you want.” Winnie turned slowly, fingering a number of glass pots on a slanted shelf above her filthy kitchen table. “It’s not a common herb in these parts, or any parts for that matter. Harvested from the underside of moss-flecked marble left undisturbed for three turns of the sun. Each stem has just one leaf that turns to dust if it catches so much as a glimmer of sunlight. Too hot and it shrivels, too cold and it dies. Needs constant moisture sloughed off the skins of passing salamanders to exist at all.” She fished down a small, thin tube that encased a few dark green specks at its lowest curve. “A little of this goes a long way.”

The girl nodded solemnly. Winnie explained it all with toothy articulation. One grain of webbonnet mixed in water was enough to paralyze a man for a thousand years; three yielded instant death.

“And what of two grains?” The girl’s eyes grew as wide as Winnie’s mouthy grin.

“Two spells trouble, a painful, permanent torment that not even death can soothe.”

She breathed through her nose. “Then it’s settled. Give me just two pieces of webbonnet in a water tincture, wise woman. No more, no less.”

Old Winnie chuckled and twisted off the vial’s cork stopper.

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