Death by Scrabble

by Charlie Fish
(London, England)

It's a hot day and I hate my wife.

We're playing Scrabble. That's how bad it is. I'm 42 years old, it's a blistering hot Sunday afternoon and all I can think of to do with my life is to play Scrabble.

I should be out, doing exercise, spending money, meeting people. I don't think I've spoken to anyone except my wife since Thursday morning. On Thursday morning I spoke to the milkman.

My letters are crap.

I play, appropriately, BEGIN. With the N on the little pink star. Twenty-two points.

I watch my wife's smug expression as she rearranges her letters. Clack, clack, clack. I hate her. If she wasn't around, I'd be doing something interesting right now. I'd be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. I'd be starring in the latest Hollywood blockbuster. I'd be sailing the Vendée Globe on a 60-foot clipper called New Horizons - I don't know, but I'd be doing something.

She plays JINXED, with the J on a double-letter score. 30 points. She's beating me already. Maybe I should kill her.

If only I had a U, then I could play MURDER. That would be a sign. That would be permission.

I start chewing on my H. It's a bad habit, I know. All the letters are frayed. I play WARMER for 22 points, mainly so I can keep chewing on my H.

As I'm picking new letters from the bag, I find myself thinking - the letters will tell me what to do. If they spell out KILL, or STAB, or her name, or anything, I'll do it right now. I'll finish her off.

My rack spells MIUZPA. Plus the H in my mouth. Damn.

The heat of the sun is pushing at me through the window. I can hear buzzing insects outside. I hope they're not bees. My cousin Harold swallowed a bee when he was nine, his throat swelled up and he died. I hope that if they are bees, they fly into my wife's throat.

She plays SWEATIER, using all her letters. 24 points plus a 50 point bonus. If it wasn't too hot to move I would strangle her right now.

I am getting sweatier. It needs to rain, to clear the air. As soon as that thought crosses my mind, I find a good word. HUMID on a double-word score, using the D of JINXED. The H makes a little splash of saliva when I put it down. Another 22 points. I hope she has lousy letters.

She tells me she has lousy letters. For some reason, I hate her more.

She plays FAN, with the F on a double-letter, and gets up to fill the kettle and turn on the air conditioning.

It's the hottest day for ten years and my wife is turning on the kettle. This is why I hate my wife. I play ZAPS, with the Z doubled, and she gets a static shock off the air conditioning unit. I find this remarkably satisfying.

She sits back down with a heavy sigh and starts fiddling with her letters again. Clack clack. Clack clack. I feel a terrible rage build up inside me. Some inner poison slowly spreading through my limbs, and when it gets to my fingertips I'm going to jump out of my chair, spilling the Scrabble tiles over the floor, and I'm going to start hitting her again and again and again.

The rage gets to my fingertips and passes. My heart is beating. I'm sweating. I think my face actually twitches. Then I sigh, deeply, and sit back into my chair. The kettle starts whistling. As the whistle builds it makes me feel hotter.

She plays READY on a double-word for 18 points, then goes to pour herself a cup of tea. No I do not want one.

I steal a blank tile from the letter bag when she's not looking, and throw back a V from my rack. She gives me a suspicious look. She sits back down with her cup of tea, making a cup-ring on the table, as I play an 8-letter word: CHEATING, using the A of READY. 64 points, including the 50-point bonus, which means I'm beating her now.

She asks me if I cheated.

I really, really hate her.

She plays IGNORE on the triple-word for 21 points. The score is 153 to her, 155 to me.

The steam rising from her cup of tea makes me feel hotter. I try to make murderous words with the letters on my rack. If only there was some way for me to get rid of her.

I spot a chance to use all my letters. EXPLODES, using the X of JINXED. 72 points. That'll show her.

As I put the last letter down, there is a deafening bang and the air conditioning unit fails.

My heart is racing, but not from the shock of the bang. I don't believe it - but it can't be a coincidence. The letters made it happen. I played the word EXPLODES, and it happened - the air conditioning unit exploded. And before, I played the word CHEATING when I cheated. And ZAP when my wife got the electric shock. The words are coming true. The letters are choosing their future. The whole game is - JINXED.

My wife plays SIGN, with the N on a triple-letter, for 10 points.

I have to test this.

I have to play something and see if it happens. Something unlikely, to prove that the letters are making it happen. My rack is ABQYFWE. That doesn't leave me with a lot of options. I start frantically chewing on the B.

I play FLY, using the L of EXPLODES. I sit back in my chair and close my eyes, waiting for the sensation of rising up from my chair. Waiting to fly.

Stupid. I open my eyes, and there's a fly. Buzzing around above the Scrabble board, surfing the thermals from the tepid cup of tea. That proves nothing. The fly could have been there anyway.

I need to play something unambiguous. Something that cannot be misinterpreted. Something absolute and final. Something terminal.

My wife plays CAUTION, using a blank tile for the N. 18 points.

My rack is AQWEUK, plus the B in my mouth. I am awed by the power of the letters, and frustrated that I cannot wield it. Maybe I should cheat again, and pick out the letters I need to spell SLASH or SLAY.

Then it hits me. The perfect word. A powerful, dangerous, terrible word.

I play QUAKE for 19 points.

I wonder if the strength of the quake will be proportionate to how many points it scored. I can feel the trembling energy of potential in my veins. I am commanding fate. I am manipulating destiny.

My wife plays CHOKE for 28 points, just as the room starts to shake.

I gasp with surprise and vindication - and the B that I was chewing on gets lodged in my throat. I try to cough. My face goes red, then blue. My throat swells. I draw blood clawing at my neck. The earthquake builds to a climax.

I fall to the floor. My wife just sits there, watching.

Charlie Fish was born in Mount Kisco, New York, and now lives in London. This story was previously published at He is the editor of FICTION on the WEB.

Comments for Death by Scrabble

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Aug 23, 2012
Love it!
by: BK

This is a darkly funny story. Were the great Alfred Hitchcock still alive, he would surely film it.

Aug 12, 2012
by: Anonymous

Very funny and quirky! I was interested to hear you are from Mt. Kisco, NY, since I live there! I thoroughly enjoyed your story.

Oct 12, 2011
good story
by: Vartika

good story and a unique way of using a game to express the emotions

Oct 01, 2011
Write on!
by: Tony Brown

Good story. Would challenge you to a game of Scrabble, but one of us would have to die!

Aug 23, 2011
Deliciously Mischievous
by: Anonymous

Dear DeathBS,
As I sit in front of my computer on a sweltering (you may use that in your next game) humid SC day feeling many of the sentiments expressed in your story; I was delighted to find familiarity. My misery at the weather, life (or lack of), and boredom quickly turned to giggles and snickers after reading DeathBS. Loved it. Needed it.
I was looking for information about the way scrabble is scored and that is how I found your deliciously mischievous story. Have not laughed like that in a long time.
Thank you

Aug 02, 2011
loved it!
by: shannon

Loved it! Very creative and funny. Sorry you!

Apr 26, 2011
by: AshAsh

loved it! inspirational!!!

Sep 14, 2010
Fun story
by: Joan Shouldice

Really enjoyed your story. Love Scrabble and liked the mounting tension in the story. At one point I went back and read all the scrabble words to see how they were building but didn't go so far as to reconstruct the game to see if it actually worked(I'm not obsessed here).

My husband doesn't get to me that way, but I certainly understand the lure of fantasy. What if...? I also appreciated the looking for "signs."

Keep on writing.

Mar 14, 2010
by: Kevin Milnac

This is very dire story, plain stupid. I hope I never come across this story ever again and I wish the same for other people that hate this story.

Feb 18, 2010
Great work
by: Daniel

Just that: clever, darkly funny and written as to make a reportedly boring game of scrabble very exciting. Well done, great read!

Feb 10, 2010
by: Jes C

The first story I read on this site and I love it! The outcome seems obvious when I get to it, even still I don't see it coming until it does because I am so distracted by the story. Great job!

Jan 27, 2010
by: Avery

Excellent! Too funny!

Jan 23, 2010
by: Anonymous

I love this story! It really made me smile. Thanks for sharing.

Nov 06, 2009
by: Catharine Kozak

This is such a clever piece. I'm especially impressed by the spiteful, matter-of-fact, meltdown of the husband; the wife's irritating efficiency; and the continual 'play on words', both on the Scrabble board and off! And what a hook the opening line, how could anyone possibly not want to read on? One thing's for sure - a game of Scrabble with my husband on a murderously hot summer Sunday will just never be the same!

Nov 06, 2009
Two Thumbs Up!
by: R. Gomez

Madmen always get our attention. Couldn't stop reading this piece from the start. Good luck with further work.

Nov 06, 2009
by: H. Richardson

I had to read it twice to fully appreciate the subtleties!

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