Spelling Bee Champ

by Sophia Nikas, age 9
Spelling Bee Champ Sophia is nine years old. She likes sewing, writing, and drawing. When she grows up she either wants to be an artist or a fashion designer.

“On Monday night, Taylor Chris was sitting on her couch next to her mother. They were watching Taylor’s favorite reality show: Spelling Bee Champ. It was the last round and it was a boy, Marc, vs. a boy, Harry. Marc had to spell nefarious. If he got it right, he’d win the challenge.”

On Monday night, Taylor Chris was sitting on her couch next to her mother. They were watching Taylor’s favorite reality show: Spelling Bee Champ. It was the last round and it was a boy, Marc, vs. a boy, Harry. Marc had to spell nefarious. If he got it right, he’d win the challenge.

Under her breath Taylor spelled, “N-e-f-a-r-i-o-u-s. Nefarious.”

Taylor’s mom chuckled. “Taylor, you should be on this show. Every word they’ve shown, you’ve spelled correctly.”

Taylor shook her head. “No way! Hundreds—no, thousands of people watch this show! Maybe even millions.” Taylor shuddered. 

But little did Taylor know her mom registered her anyway. Taylor loved talking and interacting with other people. The only kind of shy she is, is camera shy. She just doesn’t like being on camera. Marc answered nefarious incorrectly. Next was Harry. Harry had to spell claustrophobic – much harder than nefarious.

“C-l-a-u-s-t-r-o-p-h-o-b-i-c. Claustrophobic. Fear of being in small spaces,” Taylor muttered. Taylor high-fived her mom when she got it correct. Maria Spindle was just about to crown Harry the new Spelling Bee Champ when someone in a sweatshirt and headset came and whispered something in her ear.

Maria Spindle smiled. “Guess what? We’re starting a new promotion: The International Spelling Bee Championship! We’re not just in the US any more!”

Taylor’s mom looked nervous. “Taylor… I registered you for the next spelling bee.”

Taylor was laughing until she saw her mother’s face. “Mom, I know you meant well, but next time make sure that I won’t be going up against the best spellers from around the world before you register me for a contest.” Taylor thought for a minute. “Where are we going?”

“All over. But the first stop is Sydney, Australia, then London, England, then Paris, France, then more.”

Taylor was tired so she went to bed but before she did, she packed one carry-on suitcase. She packed two weeks worth of clothes, pajamas, and shoes for any and every condition. And in her book bag she packed her coloring book, colored pencils, encyclopedia, thesaurus, and dictionary. Finally she went to sleep. She supposed she was excited for the trip but she was too tired to tell.

The next morning, Taylor got up quickly. Their plane for Sydney left at 1:00 pm. They could not be late. Taylor choked down her toast and slurped her orange juice as quickly as she could before her mom stopped her.

“Taylor? Stop this nonsense.We have three hours to get to the airport! It’s only 9:00 am.” Taylor slowly calmed down, but she couldn’t stop thinking about the Spelling Bee. Were there going to be a lot of kids? Was everyone going to be much more sophisticated than her? What if she was the only one her age?! But her mom kept reminding her to calm down. It sort of worked. She supposed. S-u-p-p-o-s-e-d. Usually spelling calmed Taylor down. D-o-w-n. But now those questions just flooded through Taylors head like a storm. S-t-o-r-m. Ugh. Not even spelling could get these questions out of her head. H-e-a-d. Taylor didn’t understand. She’d been in spelling bees before. Why did this bother her? Maybe it was because this would be on international television. T-e-l-e-v-i-s-i-o-n. Taylor was starting to relax and let her guard down, until she thought of a new question. Q-u-e-s-t-i-o-n. Aye. She couldn’t stop thinking of words – but what if during the Spelling Bee she stopped completely? While Taylor’s mom drove them to the airport, Taylor flipped through her dictionary. She pointed her finger to the word wicked. W-i-c-k-e-d. Next cerebrum. C-e-r-e-b-r-u-m. Taylor played this game until they arrived at the airport.

“Mom, can you quiz me on some of the words in my thesaurus?” asked Taylor.

“Of course,” said her mom. The first word was crimson, c-r-i-m-s-o-n, the next catastrophe, c-a-t-a-s-t-r-o-p-h-e, the third private, p-r-i-v-a-t-e, and the last extreme, e-x-t-r-e-m-e. Soon they boarded their flight. Their tickets said first class! They were served hot fudge sundaes with peppermint syrup, and brownies for lunch. As it turned out, it was the captain’s birthday. There was a confetti cake with rainbow frosting and white sprinkles and the party favors were huge bags of toys and fancy chocolates.

At the bottom was a dictionary with a note that said, “Bring home the trophy for the good old US of A. Captain Lenora White.” This dictionary was huge, many more words than her beat up old one. Taylor loved it. Taylor flipped to the middle and pointed to the word crustaceans. C-r-u-s-t-a-c-e-a-n-s. Hyacinth. H-y-a-c-i-n-t-h. Taylor always thought everyone should know the beauty of words.

When they arrived in Sydney, Taylor and her mom took a cab to their hotel. Once there, Taylor’s mom quizzed her with words from the new dictionary.

“Disconcerting!”

Taylor thought for a moment before saying, “D-i-s-c-o-n-c-e-r-t-i-n-g.” Taylor clapped her hands.

“Triumphant!”

Taylor immediately answered, “T-r-i-u-m-p-h-a-n-t.”

Taylor’s mom thought for a moment before saying, “Nonchalant.”

Taylor quickly said, “N-o-n-c-h-a-l-a-n-t!”

Taylor’s mom paused for effect, “Last but not least… unforeseen!” Taylor memorized this word in the cab on the way to their hotel.

“U-n-f-o-r-e-s-e-e-n.”

The next day the Bee began. Taylor’s mom tugged her curly brown hair into pigtails with pink ribbons. Taylor pulled on the pink lace dress she brought, the white tights, and pink sneakers. Taylor took her dictionary and she practiced the word demonstrations. D-e-m-o-n-s-t-r-a-t-i-o-n-s. Then mystery. M-y-s-t-e-r-y. And so on. Right before they left for breakfast, Taylor did the word duplicate. D-u-p-l-i-c-a-t-e.

Taylor sat next to a girl with red hair and green eyes wearing a pink sweater and pink jeans.

“Hi I’m Joanna Kelley. Nice to meet you. This is my sister Amelia Kelley. We’re from England.” Amelia smiled.

“I’m Taylor Chris. Nice to meet you too.”

Amelia asked if the girls wanted to quiz each other. Joanna volunteered her dictionary. Taylor got quizzed on malicious, m-a-l-i-c-i-o-u-s, empty, e-m-p-t-y, and harmonious, h-a-r-m-o-n-i-o-u-s. Joanna got quizzed on trivial, t-r-i-v-i-a-l, classic, c-l-a-s-s-i-c, and charisma, c-h-a-r-i-s-m-a. Amelia got quizzed on marvelous, m-a-r-v-e-l-o-u-s, unruly, u-n-r-u-l-y, and admiration, a-d-m-i-r-a-t-i-o-n.

Soon the Bee started. Maria Spindle called a girl named Karen Lee up first.

“Karen Lee, your word is devotee. Please spell devotee.”

Karen said nervously. “D-e-v-o-t-e-y, devotee.” Taylor sucked in her breath and she knew that was the wrong spelling.

Maria Spindle grimaced. “I’m sorry Karen, but that is the incorrect answer. Devotee is spelled d-e-v-o-t-e-e. You may exit through the double doors.” Maria plastered a smile on her face and said, “Next up… Taylor Chris. Taylor, your word is triskaidekaphobia.”

Taylor sighed in relief. She knew this word. “T-r-i-s-k-a-i-d-e-k-a-p-h-o-b-i-a, triskaidekaphobia.”

Maria beamed. “That is correct Taylor! You’ll be moving onto the next round.” After she went, Taylor didn’t really pay a lot of attention to the other people. The last person to go was a girl named Justine Fleur from Paris. Justine got the word sapphire, s-a-p-p-h-i-r-e. She got it incorrect. She spelled it with only one p.

After the Bee, there was a banquet for lunch. There was roast chicken, steamed broccoli, vegetable quinoa, and boiled peppers. Taylor didn’t eat much. She was too nervous about the Bee tomorrow.

After the banquet, Taylor repacked her things. At 6:00 pm, Taylor and her mom left for London. When they arrived in London, Taylor and her mother were escorted to a fancy motel. The man at the front desk gave them the key to room 5 on floor 1. Taylor picked out a pair of faux leather leggings and a blue button down shirt for her outfit for the bee. As Taylor brushed her teeth, she mentally quizzed herself on: horrible, h-o-r-r-i-b-l-e; gangly, g-a-n-g-l-y; pneumatic, p-n-e-u-m-a-t-i-c; and conundrum, c-o-n-u-n-d-r-u-m. All done, she thought.

That night she had nightmares about words, shouting unpleasant things. She woke up quickly and tip-toed out of her bed. She went to the dresser and looked at the clock. It was only 2:00 am. Rats. She went back to her bed and eventually fell into a fitful sleep.

The next morning Taylor dressed into the outfit she picked out the night before, and just pulled back her hair with a headband. Taylor’s mom was still sleeping and Taylor didn’t want to wake her so she just went to breakfast quietly. At breakfast, Taylor got two chocolate glazed donuts and sat down next to a boy wearing jeans and a tee shirt.

“Hi,” Taylor simply said.

“Hi,” said the boy, taking another bite out of his scrambled eggs. The boy tried to comb his shaggy red hair, but it didn’t work. He just waited, and waited.

“So are you waiting for something?” asked Taylor.

“Yeah, my grandad.”

This is awkward, thought Taylor. “I’m Taylor,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Uh, hi, I’m Mason. Okay, so are you here for the spelling bee? I am.” Taylor just moved away from the boy whose name was Mason.

Mason shook his head. “I came on too strong again didn’t I? I do that a lot, sorry!”

Taylor grabbed her plate and moved to a different table.

At 4:00, the Bee started. First they called up the boy Mason.

“Mason Kall, your word is superstition,” announced Maria Spindle.

Mason said, “S-u-p-e-r-s-t-i-t-i-o-n, superstition.”

Maria Spindle did not look that impressed. “Alright, Mason, that is correct. You’ll be moving on.” Taylor had a feeling Maria Spindle found Mason as annoying as she did. 

“Next… Lisa Wu! Your word is desolate.” Lisa got desolate incorrect, then was Louie Martino who got sriracha incorrect, then Georgie Smith who got necessary correct, and Lila Jane Parks who got international correct. Then it was Taylor’s turn.

“Taylor Chris, come on down. Your word is astonished.”

Taylor thought for five seconds. “A-s-t-o-n-i-s-h-e-d, astonished.”

Maria Spindle put on a wide toothy grin and looked straight at the camera, “Correct Taylor! You may sit down at your seat.” Taylor walked back to her seat meekly, when she saw a beefy kid snarl at her.

“Karlo Yang, your word is finance.” The beefy kid walked up.

“F-y-n-a-n-s-e, finance,” the beefy kid said proudly.

Maria Spindle winced. “I’m sorry Karlo, that is incorrect.” 

Veins bulging, eyes bugging out, hands ready to smash some bones, Karlo screamed, “What!” He smashed the podium. Maria stood at his feet and pounded against the hardwood stage.

As even beefier security guards held him back, Karlo screeched, “Lemme at ‘er! Give me Maria Spindle!!! I know I got finance right! You just want me to lose my cool on international TV! Well it will not work!” 

Karlo took one look at the mess he made and fell to his knees sobbing about forgiveness. The beefy security guards hauled Karlo away.

“Well… that was interesting. Next is Mick Torrent. Mick, your word is silhouette.” About a dozen more kids went but Taylor just couldn’t stop thinking about Karlo, the way his eyes bugged and how he fell to his knees sobbing. It made Taylor think about reality, or whether they were all just pawns in somebody else’s imagination. The thought made Taylor shudder. S-h-u-d-d-e-r. When she was nervous she spelled. Ugh. U-g-h. It’s happening again. A-g-a-i-n. Taylor remembered her mom’s sweet voice, and how when it was time for bed, her mom would bring her a glass of milk and sing her a lullaby when she was younger. She thought about how they played double dutch, and checkers, and monopoly. She thought about snuggling together on the couch when Spelling Bee Champ was on and just spotting clouds that looked like bunnies, and lying together on the sun dried grass. These happy memories calmed Taylor down. When they exited the stage, Taylor’s knees wobbled, but this time not with nerves. Excitement.

At lunch, Taylor found out why Mason bugged Maria. Listen: “Maria Maria Maria Maria! Am I winning? AmIwinning? Am I? Am I? Am I? Am I?!”

Maria sighed. “Look! Mason I cannot tell you,” Maria said slowly.

Mason just frowned. “Not fair! Not fair! Not fair!” he screeched.

“Security!” Maria cried.

Taylor grabbed a red velvet cupcake, a confetti cupcake, and a chocolate fudge cupcake, with a side of Milky Ways, Kit Kats, and M&Ms for lunch. Taylor took the goodies to the room she shared with her mom. Tomorrow was the final challenge. Whoever got three words in a row won!

The next morning, Taylor went up last. Everyone else only got two words in a row correct. 

Taylor’s first word was skulduggery. S-k-u-l-d-u-g-g-e-r-y. She got it correct. Then burglar. B-u-r-g-l-a-r. Correct. Last, modicum. M-o-d-i-c-u-m. She got them all correct. 

“Jacklin, tell Taylor what she’s won!” Maria shouted to a woman in a red sequined leotard, with bright red lipstick, black tights, and red, six inch heels.

“Well Taylor, you’ve won ten free trips to Disney World, 250 million dollars, and a 40 million dollar gift card to every bookstore in the world!” Jacklin said. “Plus…” the crowd murmured about how much more Taylor’d win, “your own private plane, which includes a coupon for the next 10 repairs, 4 bedrooms that have their own bathrooms, 2 kitchens, 3 TVs, 2 dining rooms, and 2 TV rooms.”

Taylor’s jaw literally fell open.

A lady that looked like Mason climbed onto the stage and said, “My Mason should’ve won!”

Mason looked embarrassed. “Mother.” Security guards started pulling her back.

“He should’ve won!” she screamed.

“Well that was odd,” said Jacklin.

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