Word(s) of the day

dipstick

a long, thin stick for measuring the amount of liquid in a container, especially the oil in a car engine

sallow

(of a person’s face or complexion) of an unhealthy yellow or pale brown colour.
“he was still a bit sallow after a week spent in bed with the flu”

scraggly

irregular in form or growth
scraggly hills”, “a scraggly beard”

also UNKEMPT

scraggy

(of a person or animal) thin and bony.

an old hand

a person with a lot of experience in something.

“the examiner is an old hand at the game”

stickup / holdup : a robbery at gunpoint

the act of threatening someone with a gun in order to steal from them.

Two men ran into the bank, shouting “This is a stick-up!”

scowl

an angry or bad-tempered expression.

“she stamped into the room with a scowl on her face”

intent

determined to do (something); giving all your attention to something.

jab

to push or hit something forcefully and quickly, often with a thin or sharp object.

“The doctor jabbed the needle into the dog’s leg.”
“Watch out! You nearly jabbed me in the eye with your umbrella!”
“He was jabbing a finger at them and shouting angrily.”

pickup

a small van or truck with low sides.

haul

(n.) a usually large amount of something that has been stolen or is illegal.

mugshot

a photograph taken by the police of a person who has been charged with a crime.

“A poster with mugshots of wanted men was on the wall.”

disgruntled

unhappy, annoyed, and disappointed about something.

“A disgruntled former employee is being blamed for the explosion.”
“The players were disgruntled with the umpire.”

Now read the following article which is a selection from a book, How to Read Better & Faster by Norman Lewis.

The Bandit Had Brown Hair – I Think

by Jeff Bunzel

I wish that guy had not chosen me to rob. It would have spared me a difficult dilemma. 

I had been working part-time at a service station here since it opened earlier this winter. This particular day I had the late afternoon and early evening shift all to myself. At 7:30 I began to close up by dropping most of the receipts into a safe, then locking the pumps.

Next, I went into the garage to get the long dipstick that measures exactly how many inches of gasoline are left in each tank. As I came out of the garage, I looked back toward the small office and saw a man standing inside, his back to the large windows. 

I put down the stick, walked over to the office and pushed the door open. “What do you need?” I said, or something like it.

He turned slowly around. His sallow face was clean-shaven, and he wore a small knitted cap on the back of his head. Scraggly brown hair curled from under the cap, barely hitting the collar of his well-worn leather jacket. The man limply handed me a dollar bill and asked for change.

Giving him the coins, I noticed his face never changed expression: a complete blank.

“You don’t have a payphone, huh?” he said. “Where’s the nearest one?”

I turned around toward the open door and pointed down the street where, several blocks away, a payphone was located. When I glanced back at the man, he had his right hand inside his jacket.

“All right, get back in here,” he ordered. “Let’s go. Put all the money in a bag.”

Curiously, I was not all that startled or afraid. The man was so very calm. He acted like an old hand at stickups, so I decided not to test whether he was actually packing a gun. 

A money box – not the hidden safe – was visible on the other side of the office, and I shuffled across to it. In doing so, I studied the bulge in his jacket and could not tell if it was his finger, an empty bottle or the real thing. But there was something I could tell about his face, and I did not like what I saw: His vacant expression had turned into a mean scowl

I put my key in the lock and opened the box. The money bag was underneath a top drawer, and as I reached for it, the man said: “Don’t move your hand another inch or I’ll blow your goddamn brains out!”

I jumped back and threw my hands in the air. “Hey, man,” I pleaded, “I was only going for the bag. Just leave me alone, okay?”

He pushed me aside and grabbed the bills out of the box. In those few seconds, I studied him carefully. He reminded me of a little kid selfishly snatching candy on Halloween – his eyes were that intent

“All right,” he said. “Now give me the money you got on you.” He emphasized his demand by poking and jabbing from within his zipped-up jacket, as a speaker might use a stunted hand to help make his point. I had a wad of bills in my shirt pocket and threw it onto a desk. The man used his other hand to stuff the bills inside his jacket. 

“The truck,” he said, “-let’s get you in the truck.”

He meant my 1963 Datsun pickup, which was parked in the garage. As I started walking there, twinges of fright ran down my back, like pinpricks

“Now get on the floor of that thing,” the robber said, all business. 

“Hey, just don’t hurt me, man! All right! Just leave me alone!”

“Don’t get excited,” he said, “No one’s getting hurt. Get in the truck.”

I climbed onto the front seat and lay on my back, watching. I half expected a bullet to come blasting through the window. 

Suddenly he jerked the door all the way open. “I said get on the floor. Now move!”

I rolled over and landed face down. “Okay,” he said, “give me five minutes.”

That was it. He was gone – but my dilemma had just begun. 

His total haul was around $160. The police arrived in five minutes. They took fingerprints, showed me mugshots and wanted to know everything I could remember. That made me rehash the whole incident in my mind for several days, over and over again but hard though I tried, the bandit never came into sharp focus. 

I began to wonder if I would ever see him clearly. A friend said: “Don’t worry – if you see him again, you’ll know.”

I am not a detached observer who believes that society bears the sole blame for the nation’s proliferating crime rate. It seems clear the only long-term solution is social reform. This is neither a rebellious thought nor a cry to throw open the jail doors. It is, rather, a realization of what has to be done in the years ahead.

Still, we must somehow deal today with crime as it affects us individually. In the process of becoming a victim, I came to want short-term action to prevent this particular perpetrator from further harming society.

That, at least, is how I felt after the holdup, and so I was more than willing to cooperate when the Berkeley police showed me mugshots.

One of them looked like the guy, so I marked him as a likely suspect on the back of the photo. It was then the police told me he had a record of two previous armed robberies. Once they picked him up, they hoped I could make a positive identification. 

I hoped so, too. Surely society has the right to protect itself from criminals, even if it played a role in shaping them. Should the search fail for this bandit, others might suffer far worse than I did. 

Later that week a detective took me to the county jail. They had a suspect in custody, and I agreed to try picking him out of a lineup. A public defender was present to make sure the procedure was conducted fairly. Of the six men facing me, I indicated the one they were holding as the suspect, then had second thoughts.

He looked very much like the man who robbed me – same build, same face. But somehow his hair looked different, not so scraggly now. I could not make a positive identification, but the detective was not disgruntled. He almost surprised me by agreeing it was imperative to be absolutely certain.

The police say they have found additional evidence, and the case will hinge on whether the trial judge will admit it. They will not tell me what the evidence is, for that might prejudice my own testimony. 

How much easier it would have been if I had been 100% sure. But to convict an innocent man in the name of protecting society – that would be the worst crime of all. 

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Recall the words, use them in your own sentences and write them in comments.

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