DORD, 6 points

“I challenge, grandpa!”

It was the finishing move of the game and grandpa had placed his remaining two tiles, two letter “D”s, above and below the existing word “OR.”

Grandpa had been waiting years to use the word in a Scrabble game. With a glimmer in his eyes that was hard for him to conceal, he turned and slowly reached towards the bookshelf behind him. He knew exactly where the book was but he made a point of running his index finger across the spines of several others before letting it stop on the right one.

“Ah! Here it is! Trusty dusty old Webster’s Second. I’ll let you look it up for us, eh?”


In 1934, a previously unheard of word appeared in Noah Webster’s Dictionary. It was discovered some five years later on February 28th, 1939, by an editor who just happened to be flipping through the massive tome. He noticed the strange word because it lacked an etymology.

Going back into the company files, he found a little slip of paper. It was sent in by a chemist and on it was written, “D or d, cont/ density.”

Rather than as the abbreviation, “D” for “Density,” the previous proofreader had read the note to mean “Dord, Density.” He came up with the phonetic pronunciation of “dord” on his own. He even decided to eliminate the “cont” portion of the note, which glaringly meant that there would be more to follow about the letter “D.” In its place, he signified the word as a noun.

“plate change imperative/urgent” was filed by the surprised editor and the word was removed before the next printing.


“Well?” grandpa asked.

“Well, I’ll be. You win again,” the boy said disappointedly, “right between dorcopsis and dore. How do you know these words?”


iacta alea est

The shepherds were already refreshing their flocks at the little river when the sun rose. It was a fresh winter morning and they stood quietly looking down in a huddle, with their shoulders pulled up to their ears, rubbing their arms and hands vigorously. There was an ineffable coldness on the backs of their necks they couldn’t shake.

In the silence, a few weak notes rang out. Not a bird, but something else. Music possibly, from a pipe? The sheep stopped drinking and the shepherds raised their eyes and turned. They didn’t speak but their gazes shot searchingly back and forth between their sheep and the shadow of the woods where they knew the soldiers were camped. For a full minute they stood motionless, straining to listen for another sound. Even the animals seemed to be listening, with their heads erect and their ears pointed open wide.

The peace was abruptly broken by the hard thwack of wings beating against air as scores of black birds took to flight from the trees and landed on the bridge nearby the shepherds. A cold wind began to blow and the birds alit again, flying south.

From the woods came running a young man, handsome, and dressed in fine clothes. In his hand was a trumpet, and when he reached the bridge he stopped and sounded a piercing blast. Across the bridge he then bolted and seemed to disappear into a mist before he even reached the other side.

A second man then emerged on horseback and he slowly followed the path to the river-crossing. He wept as he rode and his shirt was rent down the middle. Forlornly, he shouted to his legion, “The die is cast!”

It was January 10th, 49 BC, and Julius Caesar was about to cross the Rubicon.


Shin Plaster

The sunrise was concealed when General Washington emerged from his tent.

Things were looking up though.

The British fleet had just been destroyed and the secrecy of his army’s location at Williamsburg was intact. Soon, the combined French and Continental forces would strike a fatal blow to Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. But he was still concerned, and it showed.

The Marquis de Lafayette noticed Washington looking over his troops and approached him casually.

“Rainy skies today, oui?"

“It appears,” Washington said without taking his eyes off the waking army, “but not because of the dark clouds. Look, see those soldiers stuffing their boots?”

Lafayette squinted, “Ah, oui. What is that?”

“That’s their pay they received in Philadelphia a few weeks ago,” Washington sighed, “Continentals. Based on nothing. Worthless, and they know it. They call it “shin plaster”, they use it to keep their feet dry. Our monetary system will have to be fixed, my friend, when this is over.”

Eight years later, President Washington authorized the First Bank of the United States to print money, explicitly backed by gold and silver as mandated in Article I, section 10 of the new Constitution.

Within twenty years though, trouble was already looming again on the economic horizon. Thomas Jefferson was one of the first to comment on it, “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

On September 15th, 2008, exactly two hundred and twenty seven years after Washington watched his troops stuffing their boots in Williamsburg, and thirty-seven years after abandoning the "gold standard", it all came crashing down.



India was in a state of upheaval. The partitioning of its borders into Pakistan and East Pakistan in 1947 had sparked a forced population exchange that in turn created a humanitarian tragedy of immense proportions. Tens of millions of families carried everything they had on their backs, including their old and their ill, to destinations unknown. They slept on the roads, they begged for their food on the roads, and they died on the roads. They had nowhere to go.

Delhi, Agra, Bhopal, and Bombay all felt the initial hit from the incoming masses in the northwest but as the refugees found the cities full, they continued on as far as they could go. Those fleeing from Bengal in the east poured into what was already one of the most impoverished places on the continent - the slums of Calcutta.

Those that made it there found themselves in a living hell of disease and squalor. They became faceless ghosts, ignored by the authorities, turned out by the hospitals, and preyed upon by everyone. They became starving filthy dregs of humanity that everyone wished would just go away. They were an embarrassment.



On December 21st, 1948 though, a light appeared in the darkness of Calcutta, under the guise of a skinny little woman by the name of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. It was her first day stepping into the slums. Like the poor, she had no home. No possessions. No food. Like the poor, she didn’t know where she was going, just that she had to. She would know when she arrived. Eventually, thousands would come to follow this little woman who didn’t know where she was going.

In her native Albania, they knew her as Rosebud. The rest of the world would come to know her as Mother Theresa.


First Blood

Pike County, Kentucky was still a bastion of Confederate sympathies and Harman had gotten a less-than-welcoming reception upon returning home from the war. The valley around the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River was truly no place for a Union veteran. Only a few of his many relatives had stopped in to see him and his broken leg left him unable to do much. Luckily, he still had his slave, Pete, to take care of him.

One visitor that did make a point to stop by though, was Jim Vance. It wasn’t a friendly visit. It was a warning and it scared Harman to the core.

“The Wildcats is a comin’ for ya, ...”

The next morning, Harman was outside drawing up a bucket of water when two shots echoed from the hills behind his cabin. Splinters of stone flashed up from the side of the well a few feet from where he was standing followed by the eerie whir of a ricocheting projectile. Harman couldn’t have gotten back inside his cabin any faster on two healthy legs.

That night, he and Pete made an agonizing trip to a cave at the southern end of the valley, bringing with them food and blankets. It’s where Harman would stay. He instructed Pete to return in three days with a few buckets of fresh water.

In the morning, it began to snow heavily.

Pete had trouble getting back through knee-deep drifts, spilling much of the water along the way. But he made it.

Unfortunately for Harman though, Pete left a distinct trail in the snow that led straight from the cabin to the cave.

On January 7th, 1865, Asa Harman McCoy had no chance against the Hatfields when they came for him and spilled the first blood of the Hatfield-McCoy feud.


Sicilian Vespers

Lent of the year 1282 had been especially trying for the Sicilians. Besides their fast and their sacrifices offered up in anticipation of Easter, they also endured the humiliations of the occupying French who grew more repressive with each passing year. Rape, theft, and murder had become regular occurrences and they were stressed to the point of breaking.

When Easter finally arrived, the Sicilians breathed a collective sigh of relief. At last, they could let loose some of the frustrations they had been holding inside. They took to the streets. Wine flowed freely. It had been this way every Easter for nearly sixteen years, ever since the outsider, Charles of Anjou, claimed control over the kingdom.

On the evening of March 30th, in Palermo, the townspeople were gathered outside of the Church of the Holy Spirit. Their mood was jolly but there came an uneasiness in the air. Some French officials had arrived, with soldiers. They were randomly searching men, supposedly looking for weapons.

Sergeant Drouet was in charge of the soldiers.

“And don’t just check the greasy young men! You can’t trust the old ones either, they may try to hit you with a coin! Seize anything you find on the scum!”

Drouet grabbed a cup of wine from the hands of a cripple and barged his way through the crowd, roughly shoving aside anyone in his way. He stopped when he came upon a group of young women.

“Woman! What have you got hidden in your bosom?” he said maliciously and gripped her tightly by the arm and pulled her into his chest.

The bells began to ring in the church tower. It was vespers.

Drouet, along with 2,000 other Frenchmen in Palermo, died that night as a moment of husbandly protection turned into a full scale rebellion.