Bowdlerizing Buskin

Sometimes I wonder why I first chose Wednesdays for a word of the day writing challenge. Why not bust out on a Monday with a brainteaser right away? Or, better yet, on a Friday, when I don’t need a whole pot of coffee because I’m already skipping into the weekend? To be honest, I only question Wednesday’s when the Wordsmith master stumps me, like today.

from Wikipedia

Today’s word, from
buskin. noun. A thick-soled laced boot, reaching to the knee or calf, worn by actors of ancient Greek tragedies.

I posted the picture from Wordsmith’s site, so you too can have an idea of just what kind of boot we’re talking about. I see those boots, and my lips purse. I shake my head. Those boots do nothing for me or my muse.

But, as a writer, I can’t choose the moments when inspiration strikes. Some days, I have to make it happen. The exercise in Wednesday’s word isn’t about writing on a prescribed string of letters I like; it’s an exercise in drawing out the story from any word.

Back in September, I posted a story from the word bowdlerize by playing with its definition. I took apart the letters, rearranged them, and discovered something new. I looked at today’s word the same way. When I broke buskin down, these words fell into line – bun, bin, sun, sin, nub, sub, skin – and fueled the flash fiction below:


The reflection of the sun hitting the snow was too bright to look straight ahead while Betsy walked, so she studied her boots instead. Her boots snapped and crunched the snow and left a perfect imprint along the path. Anyone could track her, she thought, if they wanted. But no one had been down this trail in a while.

The real estate agent said little about the back pasture and creek when they first looked at the house. She emphasized “acreage” and “deer,” then leaned in and suggested they not let the dog run wild lest the coyotes get him. So Betsy discovered the trail that ran alongside the creek on accident, late last summer when she went searching for wild mushrooms. Near the creek’s shore, she thought she spotted a morel. It was too late in the season, but still she moved in closer. She squatted and squinted.

“Beefsteak. Too bad.”

She stood up then, and saw the house: small, red, and hidden behind a thick cluster of trees on the other side of the creek. She jumped three stones and risked a mud-landing to reach the little house. Through the window by the door, she could see a miniature chair with faded red upholstery. A wooden crate lay upside down, for a table she guessed.

She didn’t go inside that day, but after her tech-obsessed husband bought his first Kindle and started throwing out her old books – because “all the world should digitize!” – she knew she would go back to the house. The day he ran to the hardware store to buy a bulk-pack of batteries for his Kindle, she grabbed what books she could and made off for the barn. Later, she carried the books from the corner of the barn to the safety of the little house.

This morning, Phil left for a two-day conference. She kissed him goodbye, watched his car leave the driveway, and grabbed her bag. The creek was iced over, so she skated across in her boots. She slipped once, and, as she fell, her leg landed on the tip of a stick frozen in the water. The point was dull, but the impact ripped her pants and would leave a bruise later. She made mental note to concoct a good story. She didn’t want to tell Phil about the little house. She didn’t want him to find the books.

She placed her hand on the doorknob and went inside. The house was lit by the sun streaming in from a window on the back wall. She put her bag down and took out several candles. She lit them and set them in a half circle around the chair. She figured in such a small space, they would keep her warm, or warm enough.

She picked up My Antonia from the small stack of books near the crate. Phil told her he could get it on Kindle. She was horrified at the thought. She bought her hardback copy from a used bookstore when she was in college. She breathed in its scent and her mind rushed back to her apartment on the corner of Lyon and Maine.

She unfolded a blanket and wrapped it around her. Then, she pulled her knees up to her chest and nestled into the small chair. She read Willa Cather’s dedication:

“In memory of affections old and true”

“Phil can have his Kindle,” she said, and she flipped to the first chapter.

“I first heard of Antonia on what seemed to me an interminable journey across the great midland plain of North America.”

And, she fell into the story.


8 responses to “Bowdlerizing Buskin

  1. First off, I’m amazed at what you come up with on these prompts. Such imagination.

    I would probably have written about an actor who always got the parts where he had to wear buskins. Or about relatives that live on an old bus … you know, buskin.

    I anticipated this would end in murder, which it would if my husband threw out my books. ๐Ÿ˜ก

  2. Very timely. I’m glad she found the little house!

  3. Oh, I do like this one so much. In my heart never a Kindle will be. And the little house, her passion and their secret affair–so clear and vivid.

  4. I really enjoy your writing, and especially this piece. You inspire me.

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