Ecdysiast

A while back I had texted a friend, “So, what’s the good word?”, and she actually returned with a really good word (though I now don’t recall the exact word, it was a good one!). So I took it as a challenge to craft a paragraph that uses that word creatively, but correctly. Well, fast forward many good words since then, and it’s gotten a bit out of hand – to the point that I wrote a short short (yes, that’s a thing…) to accommodate the most recent (and cursed) word.

Since I wrote it, I thought I’d share with you guys, so I present…

ECDYSIAST

He loved her.
There was no disputing the fact – he loved her.
He knew every molecule of her. Her very essence crowded around him, bathed him in a warm glow he’d not known before. The smell of her hair, the smell of her skin, the back of her neck. The smile that reached the corners of her eyes, and touched a place deep in his soul.
He loved her.
So what happened?
One word had happened, that’s what.

He sat down, the old wooden chair issuing a creak as it took his weight – a sound that went unnoticed by its occupant as he reflected inward, back to that day so very long ago.
Or was it not so long ago?
He was cursed with an imperfect gift. He did not remember things so much as see them in his mind’s eye. But these memories were retained with the clarity of a Polaroid, the edges soft and fuzzy, the images blurring with time.
Still, he could see that one moment with perfect resolution.
The moment he found a sheet of paper in the battered Remington Travel-Riter, the typewriter she used to love to peck at.
A sheet of paper that held a single word, perfectly centered in the middle of the page.
The chair creaked again as he reached for his pen, absently wiping it with the tail of his shirt. He preferred the pen to the typewriter, and despised anything that came after. But a tool is a tool and he did what he had to do. With a careful, almost reverent, motion he unfolded the page and stared at the word again, his fingers tightening against the cellulose pulp. His Polaroid memory not only snapped pictures of the present, but of the unseen as well. It captured entire scenes conveyed by that one word alone.
What does it mean?
He knew what it meant – the stacks of heavy books surrounding him testament to that fact. Merriam-Webster, Cambridge, Oxford – they were all there. So were the pages and pages of printouts from endless web searches. Each page scanned, the cursed word underscored by this very pen – each carefully crafted lookup examined, cross-linked and bookmarked – ejected another Polaroid onto the stack of pictures his brain conjured.
But what did it mean?

With a gentle pressure his finger traced along the characters of the word, feeling the imprint left behind by the impact of the typebars as they formed the word. Nine characters – a prime number squared.
Pluto.
Cobalt, Rhodium, Iridium, Meitnerium
Numerology poured out meaning by the gallon.
More pictures.
But he loved her – loved the smell of her hair, though perhaps somewhat tainted by the sharp essence of polish. Polished metal stabbing though his stack of mental Polaroids.
A soft pop resonated in the stillness of the room as he pulled the cap off the pen. Placing the page on the desk before him, he smoothed the creases flat. With infinite care he placed the pen to paper, just beneath the typewritten word. Allowing the ink to flow, he crafted four words in a careful hand…

    What does it mean?

The perfect symmetry of the page now forever destroyed, the solitary word unbalanced by the handwritten script.
The page defiled.
A life already defiled?
With a sense of palpable relief he snatched the page off the desk, pressed it firmly to her chest and with a swift arc he drove the pen down through the page, through the stack of pages beneath it, and deep into putrid flesh, the resistance of tissues – of muscles and skin – long since passed.
Inserting a fresh sheet into the Remington he typed nine characters onto the center of the page.

Derrick stood up, smoothed his shirt, and walked out of the shed. He was doomed to repeat this day until the Polaroids of his mind faded into obscurity, or he found another word…

ecdysiast

/ɛkˈdɪzɪˌæst/
noun
1.
a facetious word for stripper (sense 1)
Word Origin
C20: (coined by H. L. Mencken) from ecdysis + -ast, variant of –ist
n.
H.L. Mencken’s invented proper word for “strip-tease artist,” 1940, from Greek ekdysis “a stripping or casting off” (used scientifically with reference to serpents shedding skin or crustacea molting), from ekdyein “to put off” (contrasted with endyo “to put on”), from ek (see ex- ) + dyein “to enter, to put on.”

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