She was a reader

She worked behind the "lunch" counter at Walgreens where I stopped by evenings for a cup of coffee. She let me read the "Pocketbooks" - 25 cents in 1950 - for free. Her beauty had attracted me; her knowledge of books surprised me. She read everything, and remembered everything. She was a smart girl.

Forty-some years later. Incident:

Reading an old novel, I come upon the word "ELL." The word is flagged and defined in an appendix. Although Joan's head holds a dictionary, I'm sure she cannot have encountered so archaic a word except in a crossword.

So I ask: "Have you ever come across the three-letter word E-L-L in your crosswords?"

"I don't believe I have."

"Would you like to know what it means?"

"Oh, I know what it means. It's an old yardage measurement equivalent to forty-five inches."

"I thought you said you never came across it."

"You asked if I came across it in a crossword - which I haven't."



We both love Dickens. I'm reading "Barnaby Rudge" and ask if she's read it.

"I don't think I have."

"You'd enjoy it. There's this character, Mrs. Varden…"

"Dolly Varden's mother?"

"You said you hadn't read it."

"I guess I must have in high school. As soon as you mentioned Mrs. Varden… Of course as a teenager, I probably missed a lot of the subtlety ….. if you want to tell me about Mrs. Varden?"

"Never mind. Sorry I interrupted your reading."

"That's okay. Want to hear how Barnaby turns out?"



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