Fredrick Fillmore Fleegle was a word lover, but not just any kind of word that you could pick out of the dictionary. Fredrick, or Freddie as most people knew him, liked “F” words, meaning, of course, words starting with the letter “F”. Freddie was also a man who enjoyed a challenge. So, when he wanted a new word for his collection, he’d never look in a dictionary or an encyclopedia. He was more likely to search the magazines at his doctor’s office or the newspaper at his favorite restaurant. He even looked in periodicals he found at the library, though they objected strenuously to the method he tended to use for collection.
In fact, most people Freddie knew weren’t happy with the way he would collect words. Freddie had a small pair of folding scissors attached to his keys and he would open these, cut the word out and slip it into his wallet. It didn’t matter how big or small the word was, either. So, more often than not, a customer at a restaurant would be reading the newspaper while he waited for his food and discover two or more holes cut into the paper. Several customers dropped a fork when that happened to them.
Freddie wasn’t flamboyant about his collection habits. He was on the faculty of the local high school, teaching English Composition and he lived a pretty frugal lifestyle as a result, so he really couldn’t afford to parade his fixation before the whole world. Still, he couldn’t escape his fundamental love of words that began with his initials. He kept them in one of ten neatly organized scrapbooks, each scrap of paper carefully sprayed first with a special spray to make it acid-free for fear that they would deteriorate. While other men were out drinking and having fun, Freddie was in his study, pasting the “F” words stored in his wallet into a scrapbook.
Once, while Freddie was at a dentist’s appointment, he happened to notice that the dentist had a copy of Cat Fancier’s Magazine sitting in the rack along with publications like Parenting and Time Life. He had his little scissors out and was busily cutting the title off of the magazine, when the dentist, Dr. Marquis, turned back to him from the faucet where she’d been washing her hands.
“Mr. Fleegle,” said Dr. Marquis, meaning to sound calm, “what are you doing?”
Freddie stopped in mid-cut, his eyes wide and his mouth open far enough that he could have fit a whole fig inside it. He’d never been asked that question before. Usually, he already had the words he wanted cut out and stuffed into his wallet before anyone noticed.
“Um,” he tried, licking his suddenly dry lips, “I’m…uh…cutting out this word. For my collection. ‘Fancier’s’ is such a great…”
“What you do with your own magazines is your business, Mr Fleegle,” said Dr. Marquis with a smile that was meant to be friendly. “Kindly don’t butcher my magazines, please.” With that, the skinny dentist twitched the magazine from her patient’s grip and put it into a cabinet for later repair.
His own magazines. All during his dental exam and the filling he was expecting, he considered that, wondering why it had never occurred to him to buy his own magazines. When the exam was over, and the receptionist had double-checked his insurance, Freddie went to his local grocery store, wondering which magazine to buy. There were a fair number of promising publications, everything from Futures and Forbes all the way to Food and Wine and FamilyFun. In the end, however, he didn’t buy any magazines at all. He figured, correctly, that a single magazine would only buy him one night’s pleasure and probably wouldn’t stop him from trying to collect words from other people’s periodicals. Instead, he bought a small, pocket-sized notepad and a cheap retractable ball-point pen. He kept these in his pocket with his wallet. Then, any time he would run across an interesting word in a magazine or newspaper he’d read in a public place, he would take out his note pad and write down the name of the periodical, its publishing date and issue number along with whatever words were found and the page and, if necessary, paragraph in which he’d found them. Then, at the end of the month, he would visit the local bookstore and buy the periodical with the largest number of entries.
Freddie ran through a lot a notepads this way and he had to learn to pace how many words he took from the magazine or newspaper he bought for the month. Still, he thought, sitting blissfully in the middle of his living room floor and leafing through his scrapbooks, it kept him out of trouble.
This is a ten word challenge exercise. The words I was asked to use have been bolded. Unfortunately, they do not appear in a segment of 75 words or less. But they are used in the order given. Check the instructions and you’ll see what I mean. I should probably add that the word list I was given for this exercise is what inspired this story in the first place.