Friday, February 02, 2007

Loosely Based On A True Story

The following story is a fictional account of what might have happened at Samantha's Spelling Bee recently if she and I were both stark raving jerkwads. I was going to post a "sweet" and "sour" version, but I've done sweet before and this just seemed like more fun. So, enjoy and remember that while based on a true story, this did not actually happen...

"Dad, I'm going to be in the school Spelling Bee tomorrow. It's at 1:30 if you think you can pull yourself away from the office."

"Thanks for the late notice. I'll be sure to ask my boss if it's acceptable for me to leave for two hours in the middle of the day. Do you think you have any shot at winning?"

"If you mean 'Do I think I can win and go on to surpass the crowning achievement of your pathetic grade school career?", then the answer is 'Yes.'"

"Listen, finishing sixth in the District spelling bee is not pathetic. Of course, I should have finished first if it wasn't for that idiotic word 'goad'. I knew every word that came after I was eliminated. I should have won. 'Goad', my ass."

"Well, if you've finished reminiscing about your past failures, then I think I'll go study now. You know, kids are a lot smarter these days than they were in 1985. I'm guessing 'goad' doesn't even qualify as a spelling bee word anymore."



The day of the Spelling Bee arrives. Samantha sits in her Bit-O-Honey-colored metal folding chair along with the rest of the Spelling Bee contestants. She sits in a leisurely slump, legs crossed and arms folded with a disinterested yet smug look on her face. She knows she's going to win this two-bit snooze-fest. And she'll show her dad just how much smarter she is than he ever was. "How do you get eliminated on 'goad'?" she thinks to herself as she gazes out upon the entire population of her school; teachers, support staff and parents are dotted among the kids who are just happy to be out of class.

The practice round comes and goes without incident. Samantha gets in front of the school and spells her word with ease, all the while looking like a kid you'd like to punt. Dad disguises his feelings of irritation, envy and a little pride with a stare that could pierce a bullet-proof vest.

Round One begins and Samantha is given the word "vacant".

"Pretty tough word to begin with. We'll see if her over-confidence betrays her," Dad thinks to himself.

"Vacant. V-A-C-A-N-T, vacant."

"Very good!" comments the emcee, eminently proud that she gets to preside over such an illustrious educational endeavor.

As she heads to her seat, Samantha shoots a glance at her dad that is one part "Duh!" and two parts "Top that, old man!"

The first round ends with a dumpy little girl stumbling over a 3rd grade-level word; she's the first of the herd to be culled. Samantha cruises nonchalantly through the next two rounds.



As each round passes, a couple more kids are banished to the loser seats. In the fourth round, the pressure begins to mount.

The emcee announces, "Your word is 'jealous'," through permanently smiling teeth.
The first crack in Samantha's demeanor appears. The cockiness melts away. Dad's right eyebrow raises.

"Jealous. J...E...A...L......"

She stops and looks nervously at the judges and then into the crowd. She briefly catches her dad's eye and just as quickly looks away.




"That's correct!" beams the Botox-enhanced emcee. A sigh of relief washes over the crowd. Samantha smiles and reclaims her seat. Dad's icy gaze refuses to melt.

There are only five kids left. Dad is starting to think that she might be able to pull this off and relegate his grade school legend to the scrap heap. But just as he started plotting a way to sabotage her challenge to his spelling throne, fate intervened.

After the other four contestants managed to weave their way through "cabbage", "merchant", "height" and "kernel", Samantha stepped up to the podium and was greeted with the word "tantrum."

"T-R..." and she stopped. She knew that once you spit out a letter, you couldn't take it back. She stood there fuming, trying to decide whether it was worth her breath to even try spelling the word correctly. She knew the word; she had just gotten careless and jumped ahead of herself. She decided that if the stupid rules wouldn't allow you to take a letter back, then she wasn't going to bother with spewing out any more letters.

She spun toward her seat and inadvertently knocked the microphone to the ground. Still furious from her lapse in concentration, she left it and gave a swift kick to her seat in "Loser's Row". The clanging of the metal chair interrupted the murmuring of the school children and startled the now-bewildered emcee who had just finished meekly declaring that it was, in fact, in incorrect answer. One of the teachers who was helping facilitate the Bee tried to put her arm arround Samantha and comfort her, but Samantha wasn't having any of it. She just pursed her lips and stared into the eyes of her father who was staring intently back at her, with just the smallest trace of a smirk on his lips.

The competition finished with Whitney Taylor successfully spelling "molecular". The eliminated contestants each shook the victor's hand out of sportsmanship, all but Samantha. She slowly made her way to her dad who was still stationed at the back of the gymnasium.

"Nice job, kiddo," Dad said as he reached out to put a hand on Samantha's shoulder.

"Oh, shut it," she snapped as she slapped his hand away. "I hope you're satisfied that your 'legacy' is still intact."

"Well, truthfully? Yes, I am. But you'll be back next year and I have a feeling that fifth place won't be good enough for you."

Samantha didn't respond. She slipped on her coat and walked out of the school with her dad. The whole way home, the only phrase that ran through her head was "Just you wait, old man. Just. You. Wait."