Chan Shows the Word Snooper a Mysterious Message

The familiar crowd – the prepossessing and the dispossessed — was massed at the Central Library entrance as I strode up from the Red Line stop at Pershing Square. The Bluetoothed and the toothless alike were cursing out invisible interlocutors. No sign of C.J. Chan. I wondered whether he would turn up. What was his racket anyway? He seemed to have a very flexible schedule. At last a guard in a uniform that closely mimicked that of the LAPD eased open the heavy bronze doors.

I headed up the escalators to the Literature Department and made for my second office by the English language dictionaries.

Chan was already seated at a table surrounded by the usual suspects: The Word Lover’s Dictionary; Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure and Preposterous Words; Foyle’s Philavery and so on.

I pulled up a chair opposite him. “So, what is it you’re really after, C.J.?”

“Hey, Lexie. Cool office you’ve got here.” He caught my insistent gaze.  “Okay. Well, see, this girl, uh, woman I’ve been seeing…”

A dame. I should have known. I smelled trouble. But in my game trouble is good for business.

“She sent me this text.” He pulled a phone from his jacket and handed to me.

“If U wd B more solent & souciant U’d B more sufferable,” I read.

“Cute,” I remarked.

“I don’t want to admit it, but I don’t have a clue what she’s try to tell me,” he said. “I found solent in one of these dictionaries, but it’s just an obsolete word for ‘usual, customary.’ Is she telling me I’m too weird? Souciant I can’t find at all. I did find sufferable, though. It means ‘bearable, tolerable, endurable.’ It must be the opposite of insufferable. Hell. Is that what she thinks of me? I thought we were getting along so well.”

“You’re wrong, C.J.,” I said. “You have picked up a clue.”

[To be continued.]

Photo illustration by J.B. Herman

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