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SAT Words for Today

Federico Escobar

ascendancy (vb.): influence, domination.

Use it in a sentence: Joy is on the rebound from Mike, who’s now hooking up with Marla, Marla of all people, Marla as in Joy’s next-door-neighbor-and-childhood-friend Marla, but Joy’s playing it cool, in the cafeteria she’s all smiles, in PE she’s still the high-spirited one on her volleyball team, the clapper, the cheerer, the whoop-whooper, and she plays it cool when Ms. Kulpa asks her to pair up with Mike for the final lab report, on combustion, and some chemicals get along, some flare up, some produce smoke that smells like the men’s bathroom, but Joy isn’t flustered, she’s cool with Marla’s ascendancy over Mike, she plays with her red hair and doesn’t even ask about the hickey on Mike’s neck, the one he didn’t bother covering up with his hoodie, but that’s Joy for you, chipper to a tee, thinking about college, meaning college in wherever, in freezing Dartmouth and not in around-the-corner Duke, Mike can keep Duke and he can keep Marla and her hickeys that used to be Joy’s hickeys, but that’s fine, and that’s when she met Federico.

extricate (vb.): disentangle.

Use it in a sentence: Joy is down to her last classes in school, which means slacking all around, which means tearful teachers telling students that school will come in handy at some point, and students nodding and saying, sure, Othello and derivatives will save my life one day, and in biology Joy watches hermit crab Bob extricate itself from hermit crab Linda, and at nights Joy hangs out with Federico, who’s kind of sweet but a little I-want-you-all-to-myself weird, a little Mr.-Schille-with-his-bug-collection weird, and a month later she gets the acceptance letter from Duke, and she’s like nah, I’m saving myself for Dartmouth, and her parents are freaking out, and she says she’s prepping for even better SATs that’ll get her a scholarship, that his has nothing to do with Mike, and they’re like, wait, who’s Mike, of course it has everything to do with him, sit down, but she goes out with Federico instead and he’s mad excited, he says she’s crossed her first gateway, and he starts asking stuff like what she would do if they had sextuplets, he wants her to act it out, and writes down her answers, until she tells him to fuck off.

usurp (vb.): seize power without authority; supplant.

Use it in a sentence: Prom night, and turns out that Marla schemed with Anna to usurp Felicia’s title as prom queen, no one expected it from Anna, not dapper Anna, not I-won’t-even-lie-as-an-actress-on-a-school-play Anna, point is, guess who shows up at prom, yes, Federico, yes, told-you-to-fuck-off Federico, and he says he doesn’t know what’ll happen to Joy without him, like you’re oxygen to me, mister, and he hovers over the crackers and double dips with the tortillas and taps on his phone like a weirdo, and then Bad Bunny and Billie Eilish start playing and kids go crazy on the dance floor, Joy too, she spins and hops and swirls into people, and then he’s next to her, and she knows who it is without turning, she knows the feel of him, the smell on him, and she feels the back of his shaved head with her nails, lets his breath warm up her brown hair, drags his mouth to her neck, and they sneak past the teachers on duty, and they’re at the gym, his belt clanking on the hardwood floor, the J hanging from her neck doing the same, clank, clank, clank, and she looks up and there he is, Federico, ten feet away, perv-taping Mike and Joy, and she pulls out from Mike and asks Federico what the fuck is wrong with him, take a hint, and he says he’s lost without her, he doesn’t know what to do, and she snatches the phone from him, turns the lens on him, and tells him to do something, something of his own, and he crumbles on the floor, and Mike is up now, pointing at him, laughing, while she tells him it’s over, for real this time, it’s over.

Federico Escobar grew up in Cali, Colombia, and after living in New Orleans, Oxford, and Jerusalem, spent most of the past decade in Puerto Rico—Hurricane María included. He has published short stories and poems, as well as academic articles and translations, in both Spanish and English. His literary work has been published in Passengers Journal, Typishly, the Tulane Review, HermanoCerdo, Revista Eñe, and Stone’s Throw Magazine. He currently works in education.

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