November 12, 2020:

Walter, retired Foreign Service, owns a primer which promises to improve his vocabulary.

"Learn one word a day!" To me it's unclear whether that's a promise or an order.

For Walter it turns out to be neither. He learns exactly one word, which he carries-on using month-after-month: "chide". He'd say, speaking of a housekeeper, "I chided her for missing one of the sinks"; or, speaking of our boss, "She chided me for being late with expenses." Always emphasizing chide, that one syllable, whether or not it's the natural cadence of his sentence or his thought, as if to advertise his large vocabulary.

In reality he has a mediocre vocabulary. He doesn't know that the "germ" is the part of a seed which sprouts, or that to "interdict" is to interfere in such a way as to prevent something from happening. He actually doesn't know his head from a hole in the ground, and while in many people that would be irritating, with Walter there's something endearing about it.

He's a bureaucrat, a boot-licker, a cover-your-asser; and over the two or three years when I work with him he embezzles tens of thousands from our mutual employer by manipulating the accounting for bills which customers pay by American Express. To get away with this he's in league with a young, pretty teller at the bank where our deposits go. The two of them daily take leisurely lunches together at mid-tier cafés, carefully avoiding the tonier bistros they certainly could afford. Walter is typically absent two-three hours daily with deposits and lunches. I watch him the whole time and never turn him in. Even with a mediocre vocabulary and a head resembling a hole in the ground he deserves the lucre far more than our dregs-of-humanity employer.