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The Spelling Bee

This shouldn’t take long, Peter thought. We’re down to four: two idiots and the most beautiful girl ever born. And of course, me. That goes without thinking.

Her face is porcelain, he observed. P, o, r, c, e, l, a, i, n. She answers with confidence, but displays a nervous energy exhibited by rocking on the balls of her feet. Feet: from the Latin, “pedes”. Her dress. Her legs below the dress… perfection.

“Foucaultian,” a voice said to the next contestant.

Peter visualized the word in his head and read the letters to himself. F, o, u, c, a. u, l, t, i, a, n.

“Um, may I have the definition, please” the boy pleaded.

Idiot, Peter thought. You’re stalling. Just shrug and take your long-overdue exit. If the judge told you that the Foucaultian method pertains to critical theory, the social epistemology of counter-memory, and the relationship between knowledge and power, could you then magically spell it?

The boy admitted defeat by not even attempting to spell his word.

“I’m sorry. Please have a seat.”

Done, d, u, n. Thanks for playing. Can you spell ‘loser’? Down to three, Peter thought.

“Spell ‘Foucaultian’.”

The boy next to Peter heard the word as if hearing an alien speak for the first time. He stared at the floor. “May I have the language of origin, please?”

It’s French, you dimtwit! Peter almost spoke out loud. French, as in, French philosopher, Michel Foucault. French, as in the language of love! French! French! French!

Peter’s eyes rolled while his competitor was hopelessly lost in a panicked silence.

“I’m sorry. Please be seated.”

Imbecility! You poor pitiful creature! Good luck in the cold cruel world awaiting your arrival, assuming you ever find your way off stage without help.

Peter looked at Susie. Our world has converged, my dearest. It’s just the two of us, as it should be.

“Susie, spell Foucaultian.”

Before answering, Susie looked at Peter. When her eyes met his, she grinned then quickly looked away.

She’s mine, Peter thought. That girl is all mine.

“Foucaultian,” Susie repeated out loud, then paused, as if struggling. “F, o, u, c, a, u, l, t, i, a, n. Foucaultian.”

Well done, my sweet one! Well done, Peter thought, before the ruling was even announced.


“Peter, your word is, ‘Petulance’.”

Peter glared into the darkness beyond the spotlight. “You’re kidding!”


“That’s my word? That’s all I get?”

“Peter, please just spell — ”

“Sure! After I drop a few facts on this stage! Petulance: Adverb. Late 16th century in origin. Derivative of the French word, ‘pétulant’. Definition: What is, this thing that’s growing inside me at this moment? Sorry, wrong game. That’s Jeopardy. J, e, o, p, a, r, d, y…”


“Want to hear me spell ‘petulance’ backwards? E, c, n, a, l, u, t, e, p.”

“Peter, either you attempt to spell the word correctly forwards, or you may take your seat with the others.”

“Fine. P… e… t… u… l… a… n… c… (wait for it… waiiit for it…) … e! Petulance.”

A long frustrating sigh was audible through the speaker system. “Correct. Barely. Thank you, Peter, for showing us a living, breathing definition of that word.”

Peter stared at Susie. I love the way she scratches her perfectly round nose with anticipation of her word, he thought. And the manner by which she rocks back and forth on the balls of her stunning fee (or in French, ‘pieds’). And her legs (‘jambes’), and her lips (‘lèvres’), in fact, her entire female body (‘corps de la femme’).”

“Susie, spell — ”

“Stop,” Peter demanded. “There are only three words worthy of this miraculously crafted young lady! In proper order, those words are: desire, adore, and love.”

“Desire,” Peter said. “D… e… s… i… r… e. I desire you, Susie. More precisely, Je te desire.”

Susie stopped rocking.

“Adore,” Peter continued. “A… d… o… r… e. Je t’adore, I adore you.”

Susie blushed and began to grin from somewhere beyond her lips.

“And finally, love: A… m… o… u… r. Je t’aime. Susie, I love you.”

After catching her breath, Susie replied with the only thought in her overjoyed heart.

“Peter, you lose,” she said.

“What? I’m sorry?”

“Rule 17B, section C, sub-paragraph 3f,” Susie explained.”The rule states: ‘Any action of a contestant to deliberately interrupt the reading of another contestant’s word will be considered an act of cheating, and is punishable by automatic disqualification and elimination from the competition.’”

Peter stared at Susie but said nothing. For the first time tonight his brain was empty of thought.

“It’s like you weren’t even here,” Susie added.

“Correct,” said an authoritative voice from the darkness.

“And Peter?”

“Yes my dearest?”

Moi! I love you too.”

Be still my heart, Peter thought. “Susie, will you marry me?”

“Sure. At this time and on this stage in, say, fifteen years from today?”


Stupid boys, Susie thought, as she posed with her first place trophy.

S, t, u, p, i, d.

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