At the risk of sounding like “Rain Man”, I would like to say, “I’m an EXCELLENT speller.” I don’t know why, but it’s something that has always come very easy to me. I can spell almost anything including, “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. Maybe it’s because my Mother taught me to read when I was three, maybe it’s because I’m practically a registered logophile, maybe it’s because I’m just a word nerd; but whatever the reason is, there it is. I can spell.
When we had only a few days left of school, I thought it would be fun to play a little game in my High School English class. I had just introduced the words for our Spelling final, twenty-eight Spelling words and fourteen Vocabulary words from the lessons we’d covered. Of course, I’d chosen the words they had misspelled the most; of course, my students were less than thrilled with my selection; of course, I should have realized they might seek out revenge; and, of course, I didn’t think about that.
It was just a game to me. It was a conquest for them.
If they could stump me with one of the spelling words from their book, they would be excused from the Vocabulary portion of the final. There was only one catch, they had to be able to correctly pronounce the word they were asking me to spell. I gave them time to find the perfect word.
Looking around the room, I could tell they were taking this seriously; they turned each page like they were trying to solve the world’s great mysteries. But, I could also tell they were having fun and taking it all in stride, all but one.
Normally, he was a cute, quiet kid with a pleasant smile. He did his work and got good grades. One of the youngest in my class, there were times I barely noticed him. But today, right in this moment, he had morphed into something else. He wore his hoodie perched on his head without the benefit of his arms inserted, making him look like a Harry Potter Dementor. His once pleasant smile became something like that of the Grinch, curling at the ends and evil. This quiet, unassuming young man was out for blood…
And so it began, “extemporaneous…denouement…raconteur,” I could feel his eyes on me, watching, waiting, “salubrious…metier…phlegmatic,” his lips pulled back to reveal his sinister gleaming braces.
“You’re being freaked out by a thirteen year old! Pull it together, Woman! You’ve got this. He’s just a kid.” That’s what my mind said, but my eyes saw something different. Something sinister and anticipating…something villainous.
I was stumped by no one when his turn came. He was next to last.
He was looking down, searching for the perfect weapon. He slowly lifted his head with a smile that made him look like Norman Bates in the final scene of Psycho. You know, the one at the very end when he’s in the police station in a room by himself with a blanket wrapped around him. A fly lands on his hand, he looks down and then slowly raises his head, menacingly revealing that macabre smile. Tortuously creepy…
I heard the word…”mausoleum”. I heard it and I knew that I could spell it, but that smile…that haunting, sinister smile. I felt like the little kid with the trembling voice in a spelling bee. I took a deep breath…”m-a-‘o’-s-‘u’-l-e-u-m”. Wait! What!
As soon as I finished, I knew he had me. I’d been beaten at my own game…the quiet, unassuming young man with the pleasant smile returned instantaneously. The only one who will not be taking the Vocabulary portion of his Spelling Final, but then I guess it’s really not that big a deal.