176. Sax ad, noun

Sax ad, noun: personal ad that disguises itself as something equally fun and freewheeling but rather less lurid.

The word was printed on page 2,954 of the Oxford English Dictionary – and thus had some credence to it – yet it was a phantom, inserted for the specific purpose of tracing blatant plagiarism in other dictionaries.

So it was quite a surprise to Averick Ghormenghoul, literary phenomenon and main OED contributor, to come across the word during his daily rummage through the tabloid back pages, in a bland typeface, undistinguishable from the personals that surrounded it:

‘SAX AD – woman (27) looking for man to jazz together. Age irrelevant, mastery of instrument paramount. Experience a plus.’

The ad read like a joke yet seemed serious as well. Averick was rather curious: why would a 27-year-old place this ad in-between dozens of overtly less cryptic ones? And what kind of man would react? He wanted to find out desperately.

So he picked up the phone and dialled the number. At the other end of the line a hoarse yet youthful voice replied.

“I’m calling about the sax ad.”

“You feel like jamming?”

“I do.”

“You have a sound instrument?”

He did. He’d been playing saxophone since he was eleven. If that was what she meant.

“Be here at nine. You got a pen?”

Averick scribbled the address down. It was in an upscale part of town.

“Will there be other … jammers?”

“Just you and me. You did get that from the ad, right?”

She hung up before Averick could answer. He was still none the wiser, though he had an inkling.

At half past eight he left the house.

His saxophone never left the patio cupboard, but Averick made some beautiful jazz that night.



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