This is called foreshadowing.
Last week I got an e-mail announcing a spelling bee on campus for which all students were eligible. The grand prize was one hundred dollars. I’m a decent speller and a dictionary dilettante.
I signed up right away.
Twenty or 30 spellers showed up in a gold-painted amphitheatre classroom tonight, appropriate since the event was sponsored by Golden Key Honour Society. Several contestants told me the last time they entered a spelling bee was in middle school. Everyone was in high spirits and seemed as good humored as college students ought to be at an event generally reserved for ten-year-olds. We all wore numbers around our necks and the announcer called them out at random. We stood and spelled from our seats.
Towed? Tode? Tohd?
The first round was the easy level. Six or seven people were called before me.
TOAD! “An amphibian; a close relative of the frog,” the announcer defined it.
Some contestants were hesitating under the pressure. Oh, I’ve got this, I thought.
“Number four?” the announcer called. I stood up, and my friend Jingxia got excited and readied the camera. There was a long silence and the other contestants watched and waited.
Finally the announcer chose a word from the list. “Consommé.”
Now I can remember some fifth grade spelling tests, writing words like cellist and height.
Gold stars all around! But foreign culinary words definitely were not on the same menu.
People raised their eyebrows. I paused.
“I’m sorry, that’s incorrect,” he said. The students murmured and shook their heads
If you can spell "Toad," you can spell anything!
Jingxia hugged me. “I’ve never heard that word,” she said dismissively.
I wasn’t going to take it too seriously. This wasn’t Scripps, and it wasn’t like I’d been sleeping next to Webster’s or anything. But then we stayed to watch while other contestants spelled and misspelled honest and invincible and ghoul.
Twenty minutes after my premature demise, the girl beside me got rumor and the guy beside her got cymbal.
“By the way,” the announcer said. “Sometimes we see a word on here that neither of us know well, and we want you to know we’re skipping those words for you.”
I made a noise in my nose and throat that no one in the room could have spelled.
But the final straw was when the announcer gave one girl the word larynx.
“Larynx: L-A-R-N-Y-X. Larynx,” she said.
He conferred with his student associate and then said, “You know, I think I mispronounced that, so I’m going to give you another word.” I think he gave her the word mature next.
Smiling and sighing, I took off my number sign and put my jacket on. The Golden Key girls behind me were empathetic.
“I’m very angry on your behalf,” one of them said. “But I think your outfit is really cute.”
I walked to the parking lot with Jingxia and Sheldon, who tried to brush it off by telling me spelling bees were nonexistent in China.
“Nobody does that!” Sheldon said.
“You’ll do better next year,” Jingxia said.
I agreed; I would be back with a vengeance.
“V-E-N-G-E-A-N-C-E!” I cried out as we parted ways in the night.
Listen to "Miss Teen Word Power" by The New Pornographers