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Randy was looking up the word “abandon.” He’s read the word many times. Whenever the word appeared, his eyes tripped. As if the word were a pebble dropped from above. A speck of something landing onto the sentence. Like a dark flake of randomness, microscopic at one point, grown to disruptive size, confusing Randy and his comprehension of the moment. The moment in the book’s story. His own moment. Both disrupted. That was the only word he could think of. It wasn’t a bad word.

“I’m not dumb,” he told Sarah. “My vocabulary isn’t great … or amazing … or super, duper fantastic.” He smiles. He’s making a joke. She’s half-listening. No fault of her own. Was that right?

“How do you say, ‘No fault of her own,’ in a sentence?”


“How do you say something is no fault of her, or his, own?”

“I don’t understand.”


“What does it mean to say, ‘No fault of his own?’”


“It’s something out of their control. I’m pretty sure.”

“What does ‘abandon’ mean?”

Abandoned? Left behind or rejected or something.”

“But ‘abandon.’ When it’s a … a noun.”

“I’m not sure.”

Sarah wasn’t listening. She was holding the mail and reading. That wasn’t her fault. Was it? Randy wasn’t sure. Was she making a choice? Was his choice to ask her complicated questions while she read … wrong … impolite … reckless?

“I’m looking up the word. ‘Abandon.’”

“I’m not sure.”

“Do you think I have a good vocabulary? A decent vocabulary?”

“Yeah. You’re smart.”

Randy felt restrained in his speech. Was his current interaction what they call “blunted?” Or does that describe a type of emotion? Was Sarah blunted? No, she was reading. But not really. She was opening a letter, looking at the TV. She could listen if she tried. She could pay more attention. Was she distracted?

“It’s on the first page … I was right. It’s a noun. Abandon … Synonym: unconstraint? That’s a funny word.”


She wasn’t listening.

Unconstraint,” he repeated, reading it again.

“I heard you.”

“Oh, that’s the bottom. The second definition. But I think that’s the one, the meaning, I was looking for. ‘A thorough yielding to natural impulses.’ Huh.”

Randy craved a hug. That’s what was happening. He hadn’t felt abandoned by his parents or Sarah. The word “abandon” was in a novel. It fell and splatted, or splattered, on the page, just as he felt it had. A couple of days ago. The tripping over the rest of the words, the structure of the sentence, wasn’t the first time “abandon,” as a noun, had disrupted his thinking and sense of … emotion?

“Do you think I’m emotionally … sound?”

Sarah looked at Randy. Sarah focused on his eyes. She was reading him.

“What’s the matter, Randy?”

He lowered his eyes. The dictionary had “abandonment.” That was not the word for which he was searching. He read: “‘to give oneself over unrestrainedly to a feeling or emotion.’”

Sarah’s eyes were locked on him. She hadn’t looked away. She scanned over the dictionary and his hands. She was waiting. She was waiting for an answer. An explanation for his actions.

Randy suddenly cried. He wasn’t ready for such a reaction. Neither of them knew he’d cry in the room before the television and pile of junk mail. He didn’t know why he cried. He hadn’t chosen to do so. He couldn’t find the word to describe what was happening to him, the room, Sarah. He was crying, the appropriate word for the action. He didn’t feel ashamed, but he was … confused?

Randy would choose a short word. A three-letter word. He didn’t need courage to say the word aloud. He needed a dictionary, possibly, to explain what was happening to him.

Or could he say the short, three-letter word without seeking synonyms? Would the simple word be the perfect word? Did Randy need for Sarah to understand anything else about his … inquisitiveness?

He’d need a sentence. A subject. A verb.

He wasn’t sure if the three-letter word was a verb. And he wasn’t smart, was he? Sarah may have been humoring him. He wouldn’t ask. He’d make a statement.


“What’s wrong, Randy?”

“I need a hug.”

Dan Jones

Author Dan Jones

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