vex

Her brows were spiked angrily v. Her eyes were cut to half-open e. Her mouth was puckered tight x. His face looked afflicted.

“I am vexed,” she said, her mouth puckering bitterly and her nose wrinkling as she said the word. “Vexed. We’re in a fine fix thanks to your vacillation.”

He faced his vehicle. “It’s not my fault!” he said, his arms as on a crucifix. “The road is excessively convex! It was quite inadvertent!” The truck teetered on an apex, its axle transfixed. He gave the vehicle a couple of swift kicks, to no effect. He circled around to the back and pulled out a flag, which he affixed to the antenna.

“Well, this is just the sort of wreck that one expects,” she growled, crushing gravel beneath her Blahniks. “Wicked with words, but sucks with trucks and such mechanicals.”

He swept his hand to direct her look to their context. “We are in word country.” Syntax trees branched on all sides. Close by was heard the chuckle of an onomatopoeic brook.

“And what word is this?” She indicated the vexing convexity.

“I – um…” he bent close to look, genuflected, peeked. “I think it’s a root. It looks green…”

“A root?” One eyebrow arched. “What’s the root of convex?” Her tone was not expectant or respecting.

“Well… one wants to say vex…”

She gave a triumphant look, threw her arms up and started to walk away.

“But it’s not that vex!” he said. “The vex in convex – and vexillum –” he indicated the banner affixed to the aerial – “comes from vehere, ‘carry’, same as in vehicle.”

She paused and looked back towards him. “No wonder,” she said, “your vehicle” – her voice dripping with pique – “is such” – she spun and started to walk again – “a vexation!”

“But vexation – vex – vexed” – he started to walk after her – “is a different root! From vexare, ‘shake, agitate, disturb’!”

“Go shake, agitate, disturb yourself,” she growled, unstopping, shaking.

He exhaled, exasperated. “Well, you’re doing dick to help fix this!” He turned back. “Vixen.” She kept walking.

He muttered to himself as he approached the truck once more. “Why is there a root in the middle of the route?” He paused, transfixed. “Root. Route. Vex Route. Vex Rte. Vertex.” He ducked back down to look again. “Yes, there’s our mix-up! Vertex – the peak, the angle, the point on a curve or surface where the axis meets it.” The truck’s axle met the root in one spot. “But what’s the root?”

He turned again, looked at her back as she walked away. Then he turned back. “Vert. It only looks green! Vert, from vertere, ‘turn’. Inadvertently hit vert… What can turn this around?”

He vaulted into the cab of the truck and turned the steering wheel hard right, then, all four wheels engaged in reverse, pressed the accelerator. The front right wheel caught a grip and pushed the axle loose. He continued in a backward circle until he was turned completely, and free. “Vert-uoso!” he said, exultant.

He put the truck in forward and accelerated, leaving the convex vertex reflected in his mirror. And behind it, breaking her Blahniks in a sudden sprint, was vexation.

Thanks to Margaret Gibbs for suggesting vexed.

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