I was in a Spelling Bee when I was a kid.
I made it to the final two.
My competitor, Lori, and me.
In order to get to the Spelling Bee competition I had to out spell all the kids in my school. Then I had to out spell all the kids in the county. Then I had to out spell all the kids in the city, on my block, at church, in the store, waiting for a bus, and so on...
I did that.
It was a piece of cake.
The day of the Spelling Bee arrived. I woke up early and read the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Webster's Dictionary before breakfast. I wanted to make sure I knew how to spell every word there possibly was in the English language. I had no idea that I should have been reading romance novels too. It would have helped me ace the competition with my final word.
I went toe-to-toe with Billy DeLunamore on such words as, spoliator, elegiacal, pococurante, and ratoon. Easy-peasy...until....Billy was knocked out of the competition and I was left with Lori. Lori spelled every word correctly just like me, but with added flair. Lori would spell the word and use it in a sentence. I tried this. And was almost disqualified. Spelling Bee judges do not have a sense of humor. They do not enjoy hearing every word turned into a rhyming joke. I quit...right after ratoon.
Lori's last word was something like, fergalicious. My word was something straight out of a romance novel title. I was a kid. I didn't read romance novels. I also didn't know how to spell the word. I must have skipped over the letter "r" in the dictionary, and the encyclopedia and everywhere else. I did glance over a few pages of "r" words. I stopped after ratoon. I never ventured further. I should have. I lost on a really easy word. I will never forget that word. In fact I am writing a romance novel just so I can use the word in the title and write it many times over so I never, ever forget. Believe me when I say I haven't forgotten. To this day it haunts me.
I remember standing up on the stage with the hot lights shining in my eyes and the foul smelling microphone perched on the stand in front of me. I remember the whine of feedback from the speaker as I asked the judges to use the word in a sentence while I stalled for time. The judge said something like, "R----is the last word you need to spell in order to win this competition." I asked for the meaning. "R---- is a word not fit for children's ears." What? Then why give it to me?
I pointed out that I was a child and maybe they should reconsider and give me a more age appropriate word to spell. The judges conferred with one another for about a second and said, "No," and "Spell R---- please." Then someone hit the timer and I began to sweat. Time was ticking by at warp speed. I was searching my brain for the correct way to spell the word. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Lori pull out her Spelling Bee acceptance speech and study it. I was a goner. I spelled the word. I spelled it wrong. A trap door in the stage opened up and I fell through and joined all the other losers in the orchestra pit. Lori was the last man standing. She spelled the word. Correctly. Used it in a sentence. Correctly. She won the Knights of Columbus Spelling Bee.
I crawled out of the pit and asked someone to check her I.D. Maybe she wasn't really 10. Maybe she was older. How did she know that word?
Lori said that her uncle was one. Her father was one and, in fact, every man in her family was one. Her confession did not make me feel any better. Lori's mother did not feel any better either now that the secret was out about her family.
My mother was not too happy either. I told her she should be grateful that I didn't know how to spell that word. I was pure. Innocent. And as far as I knew - didn't have any male relatives who were one.
The word you ask?
It was . . . "R-O-G-U-E", ROGUE.