Leaning forward from the back seat of Double-J’s car (a well-maintained coupe no longer manufactured), Butch tapped the top of the passenger side’s front seat. “Why don’t they just borrow us some epees?”

Annie decided not to waste an explanation of the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs. “You talk to Coach Gavy, and she’d be all I don’t have enough equipment as it is.”

“Oh!” Butch leaned back in his seat, Rune shifting on his right to make room. “Sounds pretty shelfish to me.”

Double-J snorted, glanced at Butch’s reflection in the rear-view mirror as he raced his car through the business district of Bark Bay. “This ain’t got nuthin’ to do with lobsters and clams, buddy.”

“When will — ” But Rune’s attempt to divert his friend from pursuing this debate was instantly thwarted.

“Nuh-uh!” Butch’s most ominous exclamation. “Stuff you get from the sea, like crab cakes, that’s called shell fish, cause they’re fish that have this hard shell. But when somebody can’t be bothered to help their friends out, that’s what you call being shelfish, because you’re only thinking ’bout your self.”

“Got it.” Annie was looking out the passenger window, her eyes desperately scanning for signs of intelligent life forms.

“It’s how you say it. Shell — fish, that’s two words, because you’re describing two things, a fish and its shell. But shelfish, that’s only one word, because you’re only describing one thing. That’s the problem, people don’t always use language correctly. Every word has its own meaning, and what you have to do is, figure out what you want to say first, and then choose the right words. But what happens is, people start choosing words without thinking what they want to say, and then what they say comes out all wrong. That’s why people say shell fish instead of shelfish — they’re just not being careful.” He turned in this seat, looked at Rune. “You know what I mean, right?”

“Completely.” And was relieved to see his agreement brought an end to the topic.


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