For previous chapters, look for the label GRE
Shelia and I got into JK’s dune buggy. “My henchmen found this in the middle of the desert.” JK said. “I don’t suppose you had anything to do with that?”
I tried to smile urbanely. “Darling, it’s unlike you to have an evening talking shop when it’s time for a cocktail.”
JK smiled a favonian smile. “You’re quite right.” she said as she piloted the dune buggy around the back of a high dune to an empty hinterland. The shadow of the sun made the valley dark. It was devoid of life, except for a shack. Not even tumbleweeds blew in the strong west wind that gusted around us. “You’ll have to excuse my error in punctiilio.” She halted the buggy in front of the shack. “Would you like to come in for a drink?”
“But of course.” I exited the buggy, hoping that a shared drink with a former lover (or so she thought) would lead to some sort of exegesis. “Do you have any Armagnac?”
“No, Jane Smith, I do not.” JK said, her revolver aimed directly at me.
My eyes widened, but I tried to maintain equanimity. “I was hoping to wassail our reunion.”
“You must think I’m an ignoramus. You think I wouldn’t recognize my own lover?” She waved her gun, gesturing that we should enter the shack. “And who goes to a shack and asks for Armagnac? You’re a fool, Jane Smith.”
The wind howled through gaps in shack’s walls. It was a hastily constructed bricolage of wood from broken shipping pallets and other scrap lumber. Some overturned buckets served as chairs. “Sit there.” JK commanded.
Shelia and I did as instructed.
“Jane Smith, either you think I have no acuity or you let Shelia do all the thinking for you. Given that she tried to signal you to shut up three times during our drive, I can only assume the latter.” JK reached into her purse and removed a brandy snifter and a very small bottle of Armagnac and poured herself a drink.
I knew you’d have that!” I exclaimed before thinking.
“But I never share.” She swirled the amber beverage in her glass. “Let’s say for a moment that my goal now is irenic.”
“Then why are you pointing a gun at us?” Shelia asked.
JK shrugged. “I could efface you from earth right now with a flick of my index finger. You’ll just have to take my word for this.” JK sipped at her Armagnac. “It’s not you that I’m after. I want Dr. Cool.”
“Then why are you holding us here?” I demanded.
“Bait.” JK said, standing up.
“What’s all this about?” Shelia asked.
JK sighed. “An interregnum. We have a power vacuum and like dust mites, you two have been sucked into it. No fault of your own, of course. In a certain sense, though, absolutely everyone is a victim of circumstance. You, me, Dr. Cool, Milligan Peg . . ..”
“Milligan Peg is dead.” I said.
“Yes I know.” JK laughed to herself. “I pulled the trigger.” Her blood red lips formed a semblance of a smile. “I’ll have to leave you two here now. No running off.” She walked through the door, shutting it behind her. I started to go after her, but Shelia stopped me. The buggy started up outside and roared away.
“It’s best if we wait for Dr. Cool.” Shelia explained.
The cold wind blew harder through the shack as the sun went down.
A nascent understanding formed in my mind.
GRE Word Usage:
I started to tell her it was a case of mistaken identity, but Shelia ground her high heel into my foot. I recognized this tatic as didactic.
“There’s been a real dearth of you around here. You didn’t even call.” The cat-suited woman said.
I tried to look contrite, hoping Shelia would give me a clue.
Shelia rose to the occasion. “JK, we meet at last.” She held out her hand to shake.
JK gave Shelia a contentious look, but spoke to me instead, “I suppose she is the reason you haven’t been around?” She jerked her thumb at Shelia.
“Oh! Not at all!” I demurred. “I’ve been an unwilling guest of Dr. Cool.”
Jk laughed with derision. “How credulous do you think I am?”
“Darling,” I thought fast, “I’m culpable for clumsiness only. I foolishly fell into a trap. But at no time did I stop thinking of you.”
Jk launched into a diatribe, pointing out any and all of Mr. Anderson’s sins. she pointed out each fault as if she was a connoisseur of shortcomings. I could barely maintina my decorum during the onslaught, and I wasn’t even the intended target.
I tried desperately to think up any excuse, no matter how convoluted in fear she might push us into the mutant corn. But I knew she would only react with cynicism to anything I might say.
Finally, Shelia just interrupted her, “What do you do with highly caustic corn?”
JK halted, mid-rant, “We desiccate it and mail it to Flagstaff.”
Shelia said, “To Acme toxic waste, right? I read a research article about it, but it seemed like the article had been desiccated before publishing.”
JK said, “I think research articles are like that by convention. Here, get in my dune buggy and I’ll take you to our secret lair.”
It was the same dune buggy Dr. Cool had captured us in earlier. Was this another trap?
I have blisters on my fingers that make it hard to type, but there’s ony 9 days keft till admission deadlines, so it won’t stop me from studying . . .
The 15 GRE Words of the Day
- connoisseur (noun) an informed and astute judge in matters of taste; expert He sniffer the cork of the wine bottle with the self-assurance of a connoisseur
- contentious (adjective) argumentative; quarrelsome; casuing controversy or disagreement Some of the elemtns of the book The Bell Curve are highly contentious
- contrite (adjective) regretful; penitent; seeking forgiveness She gave the parole board and the victim’s family a contrite apology.
- convention (noun) a generally agreed-upon practice or attitude Ancient Greek actors had a convention of wearing masks during plays.
- convoluted (adjective) complex or complicated. Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist who drew convoluted machines (involving things like candles buring through ropes, mice chasing cheese, bowling balls, etc) for performing simple tasks
- credulous (adjective) tending to believe too readily; gullible She was so credulous that she believed everything she read.
- culpable (adjective) deserving blame The courts will find Ken Lay culpable
- cynicism (noun) an attitude or quality of of beleif that all people are motivated by selfishness She noted, with cynicism, that celebrities don’t fund charities anonymously
- dearth (noun) smallness of quantity or number; scarcity; a lack We suffered from the region’s dearth of peanut butter, and ate our sandwiches only with jelly
- decorum (noun) polite or appropriate conduct or behavior After reading Miss Manners, I attempted to act with decorum
- demur (verb) to question or oppose I suggested we go back to my place for some drinks, but the lady politely demurred.
- derision (noun) scorn, ridicule, contemptuous treatment Originally, her idea to run a car on vegitable oil was met with derision, but now we run our car on soybean oil
- desiccate (verb) to dry out or dehydrate; to make dry or dull Her edits fixed my grammer but also completely dessicated my document
- diatribe (noun) a harsh denunciation Dr. Laura launched into yet another diatribe against one of her callers – the third or fourth such diatribe that hour
- didactic (adjective) intended to teach or instruct Gerda Malaperis is a didactic text by Claude Piron. The story isn’t very good, but you do learn a lot of Esperanto.
I was chary of returning to JK’s lair after the peril that had last met us there. “Should we report back to HQ and let them know about Mr. Anderson?” I asked.
Shelia kept speeding forward without looking at me. “That was pure chicanery. He’s a prisoner of Dr. Cool.”
This was news to me. “Then why did gaurds hustle him to safety during the cacophony?”
She shook her head. “They were preventing him from escaping. Dr. Cool thought Mr. Anderson could give you a cogent argument to stay put until things cooled off. Mr. Anderson agreed, but then he was capricious and started giving you hints. Why did he say he was out in the dessert?”
I thought back. “He said something about avarice.”
“That’s one of the seven deadly sins. That’s a clue.”
“So Mr. Anderson is bolstering our side, so he must be an ally?”
“I’m not sure he’s an ally or was just getting tired of treating Dr. Cool with complaisance. I’m sure he’s being censured as we speak, though.”
“So whose side is he on?”
“His own of course. Isn’t that the adventurer’s canon?”
Shelia pulled the hovercraft behind a dune, but instead of barren dessert, a bucolic panorama lay in front of us.
“Agriculture!” I exclaimed.
Shelia shook her head. “This is no normal agriculture. Look at the way the plants burgeon.”
I watched a corn stalk grow several centimeters in front of me. “Good Heavens! How is this possible?”
Shelia pointed at the ground. “There’s a catalyst in the soil. The plants grow quickly, but their fruit is caustic.”
“Yes.” said a voice behind us, “and very toxic. Put your hands in the air and turn around slowly.”
We did as told. And found outselves facing a woman in a white catsuit.
“So, we meet again, Mr Anderson.” she smiled, “But this time you’ll face castigation for your trespassing. You will receive the canonical mistreatment of spies!”
It’s serious. deadlines are soon. but I still don’t have an appointment, but i do have . . .
The 15 GRE Words of the Day
- bolster (verb) To provide support or reinforcement. We plan to bolster their efforts by addin ten people to their team.
- bucolic (adjective) rustic and pastoral; charecteristic of rural areas and their inhabitants. Her Heidi books were bucolic descriptions of life.
- burgeon (verb) to grow rapidly; to flourish. Econmic reforms made the middle class burgeon.
- cacophony (noun) harsh, jarring, discordant sound; dissonance Some critics dismissed John Cage’s work as nothing more than cacaphony, designed to shock the middle classes.
- canon (noun) an established set of principles or code of laws, often religious in nature. Tom told me of a type of canon law that is in effect until it is ignored.
- canonical (adjective) following or in agreement with orthodox requirements. We asked her to answer questions and she gave canonical answers.
- capricious (adjective) inclinded to change one’s mind impulsively; erratic; unpredictable Her good looks made her popular, but her capriciousness left a string of broken hearts in her wake.
- castigation (noun) severe criticism or punishment. His actions were met with severe castigation by the authorities.
- catalyst (noun) a substance that accelerates the rate of a chemical reaction without itself changing; a person or thing that causes change. CFCs are bad for the ozone layer because ultraviolet light causes them to break apart, freeing the chlorine molecule (which on it’s own would not have ascended to that height), which thens acts as a catalyst and breaks up ozone into O and O.
- caustic (adjective) burning or stinging; causing corrosion. Helen foolishly mixed cleaning compounds and made a caustic potion which ate a hole in her mop bucket
- censure (verb) to criticize severly; to officially rebuke. The professor’s racist comments were censured by the administration.
- chary (adjective) wary; cautious She was chary of the risks involved.
- chicanery (noun) trickery or subterfuge Their proposal sounded too good to be true and she suspected chicanery
- cogent (adjective) appealing forcibly to the mind or reason; convincing. She provided a cogent analysis of the problem.
- complaisance (noun) the willingness to comply with the wishes of others. They strive with their own hearts and keep them down, In complaisance to all the fools in town. –Young.
My new GRE book sucks.
I awakened in an utterly austere room. I was lying on a cot and bare lightbulb hung overhead. I tried to sit up, but fireworks exploded behind my eyes. Afetr a minute, the fireworks abated. I swung my legs around to stand up. Standing was arduous but I stayed on my feet.
The door at the end of the room opened and a man who looked quite a bit like me walked in. “Jane Smith, we meet at last.” he said, “You’re lucky some of my agents were aboard Dr. Cool’s hovercraft, or you would be dead from astringent gas.”
“You have my approbation for that.” I replied. “Are you, by chance, Mr. Anderson?”
He smiled. “You demonstrate excellent acumen.”
“Thank you for your accolade. Why is everyone looking for you?”
He smiled again, but this time it was acerbic. “They say everone wants to be wanted. But it’s an axiom not to give away too much to your enemy. Ironically, my henchmen saved you because they thought you were me. If you’re amenable you can remain here alive, but imprisoned. Otherwise, it’s really the end for you.”
“Where’s Shelia?!” I demanded.
“Fine. Safe. She’s practicing being an ascetic, as are you. I must say she had a bit more alacrity than you’re demonstrating.”
“Why do you want us imprisoned?”
“Because I’m guilty of avarice. There’s a great fortune to be made out in the dessert, as JK, Dr. Cool and I all realize.”
Just then, there was a large explosion in the hallway. A section of the wall collapsed, opening up the hallway and my cell to the outside. Mr. Anderson umped out of the way and two gaurds hustled him to safety. “Sieze them!” he cried, as he ran to safety. Shelia appeared in the hole grabbed my arm and we ran together outside, where we saw the hovercraft. “Jump in!” She said.
She got behind the controls and piloted us away. The gaurds shot, but their bullets ricochetted off the armored hull.
“How on earch did you escape and blow up the wall?” I asked, filled with adulation for her.
“Oh, just a litle alchemy. I realized that my soup, when compined with bird droppings that I scraped from the window and some household cleaner would make a powerful explosive. Anyway, we must get to Dr. Cool’s hideout right away!”
I lost my GRE book, so I’m working on a different set of words now…
The 15 GRE Words of the Day
- abate (verb) To lessen in degree. After three days, the hurricane started to abate
- accolade (noun) An expression of praise. The movie has released with great accolades from the critics.
- acerbic (adjective) Having a sour or bitter taste or charecter. Although she praised her competetion, her tone was acerbic
- acumen (noun) Quick, keen, or accurate knowledge or insight. Ideally, you want a leader with accumen, not a trained chimp.
- adultation (noun) excessive praise; intense adoration. J-Lo enjoys the adulation of millions.
- alacrity (noun) Eager and Enthusaistic willingness. Bush has an alactrity for warfare
- alchemy (noun) A medieval sceience aimed at the transmutation of metals, especially base metals into gold. Although alchemy is impossible, alchemists accidentally invented chemistry.
- amenable (adjective) Agreeable; responsive to suggestion. I asjed her out, and she was anemable, so we went bowling.
- approbation (noun) An expression of approval or praise. I received approbation from my boss for the project.
- arduous (adjective) strenuous, taxing, requiring significant effort. Taking the northern trail to the top of Mt. Witney is more arduous than the south.
- ascetic (noun) One who practices rigid self-denial, especially as an act of religious devotion. The ascetic rose every moring at 4:00, after only four hours of sleep, to say morning prayers
- astringent (noun) Having a tightening effect on living tissue; hasrsh; severe The IMF reccomended measures were astringent, at least to the peasents, the foreign investors found them to be pleasent.
- austere (noun) Without adornment; bare; severely simple; ascetic. The monk’s dwellings were completely austere. In his room was a hard bed and a crucifix upon the wall and nothing else.
- avarice (noun) Greed, especially for wealth. It was Martha Stewards avarice which lead to her downfall and her insider-trading.
- axiom (noun) A universally recognized principle; taken as a given; possessing self-evident truth. The divitinity of Jesus ius an axiom of Christianity. axiomatic (adjective)
Shelia detailed out her plan to me. It’s genious boggled my mind. “It’s so audacious, it just might work!” I exclaimed.
she just smiled her enigmatic smile and handed me another dossier. “This is the authoritative document on our adversary, published by the justice department. some of it is even correct.”
I scanned it. “Ah, so he or she is named JK and was a belligerent in Columbia, fighting with the paramilitary. Officially, JK is our ally.”
“Only because we favor an authoritarian regime. You know what JK planned for Flagstaff.”
The dune buggy kept bounding accross the dunes of the barren desert. Suddenly, a shot rang out overhead. My revolver was in my hands in an instant as I looked for the assailant.
“We have you surrounded. Drop your weapons.” A voice came through a megaphone.
“How do I know you have us surrounded?” I challeneged. antoher shot rang out and my pistol was violently torn from my fingers. It had been shot out of my hand! A hidden sniper that skilled is as good as being surrounded. Shelia and I put our hands in the air.
A gentleman in a white suit, reminiscent of Boss Hog, stepped out from behind a dune. “So, Jane,” he said with incongrous benevolence, “we meet again. You’ll have to forgive me. My henchmen didn’t recognize Shelia next to you and so confused you with a Mr Anderson.”
That name again! “So you’re letting us go?” I asked, burning with curiosity.
“Oh no, ” Dr. cool laughed bombastically, “now that you know I’m here, you’ll have to be my prisoner.” He took a look at my jumpsuit. “I can see you’ve already visitted our common adversary across the desert. Too bad we can’t work together on this, but I am comitted to avenging your murder of my father.”
Dr. cool’s henchmen pushed us into a windowless hovercraft and started across the desert. “I’ve always found him to be something of a boor.” said Shelia.
A video screen clicked to life across from us, with Dr. cool’s image on it. “Now that’s no way to talk about your host. Miss Manners might severely berate for your lapse of ettiquite, were she as belligerent as some of my henchmen. some of them are quite testy about what yuou did to dad. and for that you will pay!”
Maniacal bad guys are the most difficult to reason with, but still, I had to try. “That video you saw of me killing your father was bogus! It was fabricated by JK to make you dedicate your life to evil!”
“I can aver that claim.” said Shelia
“It doesn’t matter. I avowed that I would kill you in front of my henchmen and I can’t back down now.” The monitor clicked off and gas jets opened around the room to a hissing sound. A purple-ish fog was filling the hovercraft. Is this the end?
As darkness overcame my sight, I cursed Dr. Cool, “May all your decendants be barren!” and the world faded from my sight.
I heard a shout down the hallway, “Resistance is futile! You will be assimilated!”
“My god, is it the borg?” I asked.
“No, my darling,” Shiela said, trying to assuage me, “it’s the new homeland security forces working with the INS to process green card applicants.”
“How archaic!” I looked around, “We must have made the wrong turn and gotten into the federal building.”
“Oh no, my darling,” she said in a voice that filled me with apprehension, “they work everywhere.”
Shelia could stand to be more articulate at times, but she does know what’s going on and besides that, she dresses up my arm very nicely. I motioned that we should duck into a sidehallway. There are some standing warrants for my arrest and an aprehension was not on my agenda for the day.
“We should move from here, my darling.” shelia whispered in my ear. I misread her ardor and kissed her passionately, when I was suddenly assialed from behind. I was out faster than an incandescent lightbulb in a power surge, but apparently Selia put up quite a fight. I came to in a bare concrete room with a bare lightbulb overhead, the very image of asperity, but there was more in store.
“where am I?” I asked, before I got my bearings.
“Ah,” an unknown voice said, “your antipathy toward the law finally caught up with you, Mr. Anderson.”
I sat up. “Look, you’ve got the wrong guy. I’m not even a guy. I’m just Jane Smith, like it says on my drivers liscence.”
“One of you many aliases, Mr Anderson.” the voice spat out with heavy antagonism. I could just make out the speaker standing in the shadows of the room.
“Where’s Shelia?” I demanded.
A shadow next to the speaker moved suddenly and he collapsed to the ground. shelia stepped out of the shadows.
“What took you so long?” I asked as she took my cuffs off
“I was waiting for you to inquire after me.”
I assayed myself, checking for injury. “That’s a pretty arbitrary time to come to the rescue.”
“I had to make sure they didn’t assimilate you. The door is this way.”
As I wondered what was going on, she led me out into an utterly arid desert. Fortunately there was a dune buggy parked there, because it would be a long, waterless walk otherwise.
“Can you explain what’s going on? just start from the top.” I said after we hotwired the buggy and started acorss the sands.
She was driving so she gestured towards her purse. Inside was a document, whose edges were handpainted with intriquite arabesque but whose content was utterly arid.
“It’s all in there.” she said.
I read the whole thing. “My god!” I said, “this sinister plot must be stopped!”
Shelia handed me my revolver.