Linguist, lexicographer, radio host, public speaker


One time, sitting and watching a three card monte game, a different older couple approached me. What with my shopping bags and dough-boy complexion, they judged me a tourist. I was their prey. The woman came to my left. She engaged me in conversation, kept peering around my head to catch my eyes and draw my view to her. The old man circled around to my right, the side I keep my wallet, the side I held my shopping bags. No way to prove it, of course, but I’m certain they were professional pickers. Clean-cut, non-faddish. Pastel color clothes more like the suburbs and the rest of America than the city. Sneakers. Maybe late fifties. White hair both. Again, no bags. Her conversation was solicitous and polite, the kinds of things you might say to a stranger while waiting in line for stamps. My attention veered to the right, where the three card monte game was played. Each time, she would stick her head into my line of sight and slowly draw it back to the left, away from her male companion. I said, These games always interest me. I watch to see what kinds of suckers take the bait. I like to judge the crowd. Who will go? Who will have a turn? How much will they lose? She said, “Oh, yes? How long have you been doing this?” Seven years.

“Well, it was very nice to meet you.” They left.

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Grant Barrett