Spelling Bee

You’ve entered a national spelling bee competition only to find out that your neighbor—and arch rival—has also entered the competition. You’ve both made it to the final three, along with a person neither of you know. Your arch rival comes to you with a plot to sabotage the third person, but aside from the fact that you want to win fair and square, you suspect that your rival is also trying to sabotage you. Write this scene.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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503 thoughts on “Spelling Bee

  1. Augie

    Symbol language. (you can tell I’m bored!)

    / |
 He meets the girl of his dreams.

    ____ | |____
 They chat.

    /_____\
 Oop’s. He must have said the wrong thing!

    |_____ |
 Maybe not?

    |_____ |
 Maybe not?

    ________|____ / Ok, he said the wrong thing!

    Ohh wait! Another girl approaches!

    
| \
 Hmmm… seems nice.

    | _____|_____ Uhh, now what do I do?

    
/________\ Does she want me to follow her?

    
| ________|
 Ok, this is odd…

    | ________|
 Is there a word Odd’er?

    \ _______|_________ The hell with it! I’m tired of trying to figure them out!

  2. walterz

    “melancholy” I said “may i have the definition”? “A gloomy state of mind” said the national spelling bee reader Barbra Kane. “melancholy m e l a n c h o l y melancholy” I said. This was one of the easiest words but I was still nervous. I mean how many people do you know who have made to round 39 in the national spelling bee. “CORRECT” Mrs. Kane said. whew I went back to my seat on stage and sat down. “That’s the end of the round” Mrs. Kane said “I am proud to announce that we are down to the final three. Nick Emma and Isabella. Nick and Emma you guys are both from the same school in Atlanta Georgia. Your school must be so proud to send five kids to nations and have two get in the top three”. I started blushing Just knowing I was on TV made me nervous but then being singled out with Emma that ugly noisy know it all made me want to quit the spelling bee. See Emma and I both go to the same school. We are the best in everything academic wide in the school. Even though I am a genius I don’t get any praise because Emma is always a little better. I haven’t won a single school spelling bee or math bowl. I always come in second to Emma. Then what makes it worse is we are next door neighbors so when I go home after losing to Emma for the umpteenth time she always comes over and rubs it in my face. I try not to let her in. I let the doorbell just ring but my mom says I am being rude and I should answer the door so I always have to let here in. This time I am going to beat her though and prove to Emma that I am better then her at something. “you may all leave and come back in ten minutes” Mrs. Kane said “We are halving a small break for the spellers. I am sure the they are exhausted and would like to clear their mind so they can give this thing their best shot. As everyone in the audience start to leave Emma pokes me in the side. “ Oww what was that for”I say giving her the evil eye. “shh someone could over hear us”Emma says. “What are you talking about”. “I know a way to get rid of Isabella. All you have to do is step on her foot and I’ll do the rest”. “what why should I believe you” I ask? “she’s a great speller and I think she would beat both of us so I would rather you win than some random girl.” “okay” I say uneasy. I stand up and “accidentally” step on Isabelle’s foot. She leans forward as I watch Emma whisper something in her ear. I watch as Isabella’s face drains of color. “What did you tell Isabella” I ask while going back to my seat. “oh just that if she won I would find her and kill who she most loves”. “oh” I say not sure that I wanted to be part of Emma’s plan anymore. “Why did you need me to step on her foot though”. “To show that you were in on the plan to.” “Get back to your seats everybody the spelling bee is starting” said Mrs. Kane. “first up Isabella. spell monotonous.” Isabella got up and said “monotonous m n o n o y o n o o u s monotonous.” she looked as if she were about to cry that word was obviously an easy one for her and she spelled it wrong on purpose. “Wrong” said Mrs. Kane. The rest of the bee went disappointingly like every school bee. Me getting every word right Emma getting every word right making the bee last a long long time. The ending of the bee was disappointing too. Emma won and I came in second for the millionth time. “There’s always next year dear” my mom said. She can always tell when I am down and this time wasn’t an exception.

    1. ahmadsdgva

      There was only 3 people left and all there was me and my arch enemy Carlos and this guy named nobody.
      When nobody went up into the stage with the judges staring at him he choked and got the answer wrong.
      I was next.
      Whats your name
      Brandon
      TROIPICAL FRUIT
      I am sorry you are incorrect
      That means that your arch enemy wins and you go to jail for the rest of your life.
      You cant handle the truth.
      Now you must rot in prison.
      The End

      1. midorisdgva

        It’s the day a I enter the spelling Bee, I’ve been practicing every word in the dictionary not a day where I forget a word. I go to school telling my friend about how much I practiced, but they weren’t surprised. We walk down to our classroom, then I over hear Dayna and Stephanie talking about how the also entered in the spelling Bee. I can remember last year when we were the last three and I lost third place to Dayna who was in first place. We’re getting ready to get out of school and then Stephanie approaches me saying “hey there are you entering the spelling Bee or are you too scared to lose again”. I walk away thinking about how much I despise her. I wake up at four thirty in the morning and practice my words. I get ready and walk to school everybody shows up except for…..Dayna. We get on stage and then DAYNA shows up, my stomach starts twisting into knots. As I look as confident as I can she looks at me with this look like she’s better than me and she’s going to beat me again, but today I know i’m going win this. As I am waiting the judge calls me out of nowhere saying “diffusion”. I repeat it to myself then spell, “d-i-f-f-u-s-i-o-n”. I wait and he yells CORRECT! I wait for Dayna’s turn as she has to spell environment. She starts to spell and I quickly correct her in my head as she misses the letter n. The judge yells “that is incorrect” then runs off stage. I laugh to myself, then it’s Stephanie’s turn and she has to spell interpret. She missed the r in pret and I smile saying to myself that I won the spelling Bee. I walk off stage and Stephanie and Dayna are both staring at me with an ice cold look.

  3. pinkbamboo

    I wanted to skip this prompt but at the last minute, decided to jot some scribbles down for a try.

    ******************

    I bit my bottom lip and looked at him again.

    “Come on Lisa, what do you say?” Jim drummed his fingers impatiently on the table.

    “What if she dies?” I bit my fingernails nervously.

    Jim grinned. “She’s not going to die. She’ll just be in the hospital for the next few days with food poisoning. ”

    “Are you absolutely sure?” I frowned.

    He looked at me impatiently. “If Stacy is out of the way, it’s just going to be you and me. We can compete against each other just like old times”

    “Why can’t we just compete with her on a fair ground? Do we really need to poison her?”

    “She’s a genius, we won’t stand a chance against her. Come on Lisa, stop thinking too much. It’s such a simple plan. Tonight at dinner, ok? Stop being a chicken” he stood up and leave.

    I sighed. It would be easier to win competing against one person rather than two but do I have to resort to this? I imagined poor Stacy laying in the hospital with her face all pale and probably upset about missing the spelling bee.

    That night Jim was being charming and lovely during dinner. Poor Stacy was blushing as I rolled my eyes, knowing this was part of his act to get her to warm up to him.

    “May the best speller wins tomorrow” he raised his glass as we did the same.

    “I’m sure we will all do great” Stacy smiled at us.

    Poor Stacy.

    “Oh we will. Trust me” Jim looked at me when he said that.

    I cleared my throat and turned around to get my purse. My cue.

    “Stacy, would you want to come with me to the powder room?”

    She nodded and stood up as well. I walked behind her as I turned to glance at Jim. He looked up at me and gave a thumbs up. My hands started sweating as I turned away. In the bathroom, I pretended to fix my make up but I took the opportunity to sneak a peek at Jim. I saw him emptying some powder into Stacy’s glass. I closed my eyes and turned away before I glanced at him again. This time, I really felt sick and I took deep breaths to calm myself down.

    “Lisa, are you okay?”

    I nodded and returned to the table. I twirled the glass in my hand as I watched Stacy finished hers. Jim was smiling as he looked at me but I couldn’t look at him. How could we do this to her?

    “You’re not finishing your drink, Lisa?” Jim gestured at my glass

    “No, I’m not feeling that great” I put down my glass as I glared at Jim.

    “I bet it’s just the nerves. Don’t worry Lisa, you’ll be fine” Stacy smiled at me.

    I was blinking back tears. How could we do this to her? I looked up at Jim and he stared back at me with determination. How could he do this to me?

    The next day, I heard Stacy was admitted to the hospital for severe food poisoning. Jim came over with a triumphant smile. That snake, how could he be smiling about this.

    “Come on Lisa, stop sulking. What’s done is done”

    “We shouldn’t have done that. You know that”

    “Look on the bright side. There’s only you and me right now. We can compete fairly now”

    “Are you sure we’re competing on a fair ground?” I raised an eyebrow.

    “Fairest of them all” he grinned like he made a great joke

    I sighed. Well, I can’t rewind time. We needed to move forward. Me and Jim. That’s the unsettling feeling within me but I have to do it. I have to proceed on with the competition.

    “Fine, may the best wins then” I uncork a bottle of wine and poured into two glasses.

    Perhaps things might not be so bad after all. I have 50 percent chance of winning now. I’ll win for Stacy. Self comfort.

    “Just like old times eh Lisa?”he took a sip

    I shrugged. “You and I once again” I clinked glass with him and took a sip

    5 minutes later, Jim was falling down on my floor. He looked at me before he realized what was going on.

    “You bitch!”

    “Screw you Jim. I saw what you did yesterday. After poisoning Stacy, you put some in my drink too. You tried to screw me over” I kicked his stomach.

    Jim gasped. “What the..”before he passed out

    I kicked him once again before I picked up my car keys and walked out.

    Fair and square my ass.

    1. Critique

      Oh boy. What goes around comes around. I wondered if Lisa would retaliate. Your dialogue was excellent and I had pictures in my mind of the three characters. I enjoyed your scribbles – thanks for posting pinkbamboo :)

  4. SpiralSong

    From where I’m sitting now it’s hard to recall where this all began. A spelling bee seemed like a fun way to test myself and maybe earn a little bit of recognition for all my hard work. A bad decision here and a misstep there and everything I had dreamed my life would be came to an abrupt end.

    “So explain this to me again” said officer what’s his name. “I’m still not one hundred percent sure I understand how all of this happened”

    As I sat there in the small grey room going over my thoughts it all seemed so ridiculous.
    This contest started as most do. The beginning was a quick succession of the weaker links getting picked of by words that seemed to come effortlessly to others. Half way through I started to recognize where my competition actually stood and sized them up accordingly. The one person I underestimated in this line of unfortunate events was my neighbor Paul. He was such a quiet guy. I would have never guessed that he was interested in something like a spelling bee, but then again I guess I never really got to know him over the last four years we spent as neighbors.

    “It was supposed to be just a small inconviniece, you know something to throw him off of his game”. I said trying to sound like that was a reasonable excuse. “I had no idea this would happen”.

    “So you put shrimp in the water bottle of a boy that is extremely allergic just so you could win a spelling bee?” the officer looked obviously frustrated with the lack of motive that cost a young man his life.

    “Look, it wasn’t exactly my fault” I explained. “The idea was actually Amy’s. She’s the one that knew he had an allergy to sea food. She’s the one that brought it to the contest” I cried.

    “So your telling me that Amy Hollister, the victims own sister deliberately exposed her brother to something she knew that he was highly allergic to?” He said. “Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?” He asked while staring down my parents.

    My mother was crying now that I had exposed myself as actually having played a part in this tragedy. My father looked not angry with me, but with the officer that was accusing me of murdering a boy. I had one more statement to give to the officer before I was finished.

    “When Amy gave me the shrimp to put in his water bottle, she told me something” I said with my head down and tears dripping from my cheeks. “She said that she liked me” I said stupidly. “She told me she wanted to be my girlfriend, but I had to do this one thing first” I confessed. “She said that her brother had hurt her. She said she couldn’t live in the same house as him any more. She said that if I do this then we can be together” I cried.

    That was it. That was my first experience with women, deception, and death.

  5. Augie

    I promise my last post for this, I had a boring day!

    Time———-1630

    Location——Military holding prison…somewhere

    The Commander watches the prisoners through one-way glass.

    “You think it will work?”

    Chief shrugs his shoulders. “We can’t hold him without ‘just cause’.”

    Another prisoner is dragged into the room by military guards. “Here is the leader of your Pashtun resistance! Just incase you were wondering how the war is going!”

    Chief Looks through the glass, “time is ticking sir!”

    “Yea, I know”

    Awrand stood, fresh from interrogation. Afghan prisoners surround him tending to his wounds. “These white devils! How is the war efforts brother?”

    Amrand forces a smile, “ Little do they know!”

    Prisoners surround Amrand as he speaks of victory over the American campaign.

    One prisoner, Fahran, approach’s speaking Dari, “Tell me brother, why are you the only one they have physically interrogated? Are you truly the leader of the Pashtun? Tell us some history of our wonderful country!”

    Amrand glared at the challenge and traced his wonderful nations history down to the first stone of the Silk Road. The crowd listens to the historical harmony of their land flow through his bloody lips.

    The prisoners clap, “We will win this war brother!”

    Fahran hands Amrand a flyer, “The Americans want us to participate in a spelling bee! I think they are trying another method to get information out of us! What do you think Amrand?”

    Amrand looks at the flyer attempting to pronounce the English words, “What does it say?”

    Fahran reads the flyer out loud translating it in Pashto and Dari.

    “ How many of you would like to relax on the beach with minimal security? Participate in the spelling bee and the top three will bathe in the sun for three days. The final winner will live a life of solitude on the beach until released. I think they are going to ask questions specific to our cause!”

    Amrand agrees, “ Yes, they are very clever! How many of us can spell cities or states in America that our sources are in. We must protect our foreign cells!”

    Fahran paced, “But if there is a way we can use this to our advantage!” Establish communication with our cells! I’ve herd of native sympathizers on this island! They believe in our cause! You are a leader of the resistance, surely they will work with you.

    Amrand smiles, “Yes brother, I have contacts here. We must enter this American contest in order to win this war!”

    One week later…

    The spelling bee and promise of three days of lightly supervised freedom makes the prisoners vicious. Fahran has already eliminated many from the competition with his bare hands. Amrand fears for his safety, but the goal is to communicate with the underground terrorist cells. Fahran needs him.

    Whenever questions are asked specifically about American locations, the finalist misspell the words.
    After a week of brutal and mental strain, the three finalists relaxes in hammocks on the beach. As promised, the guards keep their distance.

    Amrand speaks softly, “Fahran, under that seat cushion is a cell phone. I will distract the guards.”

    Farhan smiles, “you do have influence brother! I need to call my source in California and tell them to activate!” Farhan looks at Atash relaxing in his hammock. “Amrand, you have seen the extremes I will go through to win right? First him, then….

    Amrand interrupted, “ Farhan, make your call then we will talk about the competition”

    One hour later……

    The SWAT commander shouts “clear”. The team storms through the last room of the cell stronghold in San Diego. The terrorist never saw it coming!

    At the same moment…..

    The Commander, and Sergeant Amrand Johnson look through the one-way glass.

    “ Sergeant you pulled it off! That is the last terrorist cell on American soil!”

    Sergeant Amtand Johnson saluted, “ Where is Fahran sir?”

    The Commander smirked, “As promised, locked up in solitary!”

    Yes, he won.

    1. jmcody

      Wow, this was fascinating, Augie. And acronym free! :)

      I loved this for so many reasons. It was a rare glimpse into a world I know little about, and it was incredibly creative in how you worked the meager prompt into a much larger, and much more interesting story. I am amazed at what you were able to do with this prompt. You also kept me guessing about who was really on which side. Kudos, Augie!

      1. Augie

        Thanks jmcody. Duty calls and I will miss the forum long distance family I have gained with this experience of posting and reading remarkable talented writers. Gotta go.. Thank you again.. its acronym time!

        1. jmcody

          Aw, Augie, we were just getting to know you! Well I hope wherever you are headed you will be safe, and that you’ll come back and post again soon. I have enjoyed your enthusiastic presence on this board and your unique viewpoint, as well as your always entertaining stories.

          Keep writing if you can. You’ve got talent, and you’ve got stories that need to be told!

    2. snuzcook

      Ironic and disturbing for us civilians (I don’t mean that as a negative comment–just an observation), but well constructed and well told story, Augie.
      Sorry that you will be out of reach of our group of storytellers for a while, but looking forward to your next post (no pun intended). Stay safe and cherish the power of your artistic heart.

  6. Jay

    “You have no idea what he’ll do to us if we cheat.” I said with absolute certainty I wouldn’t get through to him.

    Clay chewed his bottom lip for a moment, which was raw and pink, and then he said, “If we don’t take the other contestant out, then we’re absolutely screwed. You know it, and I know it. If we stick together, then we’ll have just a little bit longer to figure this shit out.”

    Three days prior, a man kidnapped me and four other people, two of them dead already. Jeff was a twenty-something ginger with so many freckles you’d think he had some kind of skin condition. He had a thin build, but was fierce. He was determined to win the game, even if it meant the death of another.

    The other victim was Nina, a young blonde with such vibrant green eyes that not even the beauty of an emerald could compare. She was gorgeous, too, with soft features and mannerisms that, even though I was in the worst predicament of my life, I couldn’t help but feel completely enamored by her. More than that, though, she had a kind of personality that made me feel confident and strong.

    As required by the faceless man who liked to hide behind a mask, we were to play a spelling game. The game included high definition web cameras and a website on which the public voted on the words to be given to us by the kidnapper. According to his rules, if any of us failed to spell a word correctly and then the next person spelled it correctly, the all the contestants who spelled it wrong would die. In the last forty-eight hours, two people failed, and it was only inevitable that one of us would fail, too.

    We already received our words, and he gave us time to think about it. I don’t think it was out of kindness, but instead he wanted us to squirm, make us realize that we had no other control over our destiny than to spell our words correctly.

    “Come on, man. It’s you and me… you and me.” Clay continued to argue his case.

    I don’t think Clay was aware of my attraction to Nina, but even if he was, I think he believed me to be the kind of man that would do whatever it took to save myself. While it was true that I couldn’t knowingly get someone killed, I couldn’t exactly let myself die, either. It was a no-win situation no matter how I played the game, which meant I had to decide which was the least worst of all of the choices.

    I envied Clay because he obviously had no problem making the difficult choice. The one only choice I could make was to ensure I didn’t screw anyone over. Everyone deserved a chance to survive, and I had no right to make it harder for either of them.

    He said, “Dude, seriously. We can do this, and then we’ll just keep spelling words right until we get out of here. If there are just two of us, it will be easier. All we gotta do is trip her up and we’ll win this thing.”

    I growled angrily and said, “You’re on your own. Clay.”

    “Fine, suit yourself. I ain’t gonna give you no mercy.”

    I looked at the small black camera sitting on a tripod in front of me. The small blue light burned brightly, letting me know that there was an entire audience of people out there choosing my words, choosing my destiny.

    The metal latch of a distant door screamed as it scraped against other metal parts. The door squealed open and then slammed shut. Heavy footsteps echoed through the warehouse, and our masked captor dragged Nina along the dust-covered floor. She whimpered as he threw her into her chair and bound her to it.

    I wished my words could kill him. My words actually hurt as they tried to claw their way out of the emotions I kept buried deep inside me. I wanted to scream as I twisted at the rope. The skin at my wrists burned no less intense than my wicked desire to break free and murder our captor.

    Nina moaned, probably a result of him manhandling her and doing whatever else he did when he took her to the other room. I wasn’t going to suspect anything, but I would only be fooling myself if I didn’t assume he’d harmed her in a way that, as a man, I could never fully understand.

    The man moved to stand in front of her and said in a deep and obviously forced voice, “Spell your word, woman.”

    She looked up at him, and tears streamed down her face. A beam of light poured through a window near the tall ceiling, and her eyes drank in the light. They turned harlequin, and sparkled with her fear.

    She said in a broken voice, “Recalcitrant. R-E-C-A-L-C-I-T-R-A-N-T. Recalcitrant.”

    The man laughed, likely amused by her ability to spell and pronounce the word so crisply. He said, “Good girl.”

    He moved to Clay. Now that he was much closer, I could see him a little more clearly. Deep inside that mask molded from the surface of the devil were eyes encircled with dark purple rings. A clear liquid dripped from the chin of the mask, and he breathed heavily.

    He said, “Spell your word, boy.”

    Clay smiled confidently and said, “Vicissitude. V-I-C-I-C-I-T-U-D-E. Vicissitude.”

    Shit, I thought and slammed my eyes shut. I knew someone was going to screw up eventually, but I didn’t know it was going to be so soon.

    It was up to me to spell his word correctly, but if I did, Clay would die. If I didn’t and Nina spelled it correctly, Clay and I would both die. I had no idea what he would do to her once there was no one left to play the game, but because I knew how to spell it there was only one thing for me to do.

    The masked man pointed at me, “You. Spell his word.”

    Clay said, “What? Wait, no. I spelled it… no wait, I can do it right. I swear I can do it right! Just give me another chance, man! I swear, I got this!”

    The man revealed a large sharp knife and pointed it at Clay. He said, “Shut up or I’ll slit your throat.”

    My heart slammed in my chest, bursting to break free. I twisted and pulled and twisted at the rope, wishing it would give way. Maybe it loosened, maybe it didn’t. I looked at Clay who had tears of his own now, and beyond him was Nina who couldn’t look away, though she probably should’ve.

    “Vicissitude.” I said, and hesitated. Clay had only two short words, fifteen seconds, left in his life, which was at the tip of my tongue. I had no choice, but my body trembled in defiance and fear as I said, “V-I-C-I-S-S-I-T-U-D-E. Vicissitude.”

    The man laughed, and said, “Well done.”

    Clay screamed, “Oh God, no! Help! Help! Someone, help me!”

    Our captor walked to Clay and quickly pushed the knife into his neck. Blood escaped the poor guy’s body and poured down his chest. He spit, sputtered, and choked on the crimson fluid until he finally let out his last cough.

    The masked man said, “As per the rules, you guys earned twenty-four hours.”

    He walked out of the large room, his footsteps slowly fading in the distance. The door slammed, and Nina looked at me probably wondering which one of us would be next or how long we could keep it up before he got bored and killed both of us.

    I kept my eyes locked on Nina’s as my courage for survival and to keep her from becoming the next victim pushed me to work harder on the rope. Finally, the bond broke and my heart fluttered.

    “Twenty-four hours, mother fucker.” I said as I reached down to release my feet. I went to Nina to release her and said, “A day is more than enough time to find you and make you pay.”

    Nina, threw her arms around me and cried. I held her tight, and didn’t want to let her go, but I knew she needed to get out of there.

    “Go, run. That door at the very end, all the way down there.” I said, and pointed. “It opens and locks from the inside. He brought us in that way, and you can get out that way.”

    She held me tighter and said, “Don’t leave me.”

    I pulled back and ran my hand through her hair to comfort her. I said, “I’ll be right behind you.”

    She kissed my cheek and immediately ran toward the exit. I waited until she was completely gone before finding a thick piece of rebar and heading toward the man. I knew I wanted to kill him, make him suffer for what he’d done to us, to Clay. I knew I could never make right the decision I made to spell that word correctly, but since my soul was already tainted with the murder of an innocent man, the justification to murder an evil one seemed so much easier.

        1. Augie

          wow Jay! You have the mind of a MIRV! Striking multiple targets at different ranges with devastating power. Awesome writing. (Im waiting for the SEALs to bust in and save them all!)

    1. jmcody

      So Jay, this is as intense and horrifying as usual, but with added emotional depth. Your MC was torn, determined to survive yet equally determined to do the right thing as much as possible in this impossible situation. I don’t really see that he had much of a choice. If he threw the round, it would have meant certain death for both him and Clay, right? But if Nina got it wrong too, would they all have lived? The complicated mind of a deranged killer…

      The reality TV/audience participation aspect was particularly chilling too. It felt like this was taking place in some future dystopia where people have basically lost all morality… although I could almost see this happening in some obscure corner of the internet today.

      I liked the description of the mask as being molded from the surface of the devil. Creatively terrifying, Jay.

      1. Jay

        Thanks JM! I will never underestimate the idea that people would participate in something like this if giving the opportunity. Many people will be outraged, but out of the billion-plus people on Earth, there are millions still who would log on and start picking the hardest words just to watch someone fail (and suffer the consequence).

        I’m particularly fond of the mask description, too. I wanted to go deeper on the mask, because after all the mask was chosen by the killer and thus a markedly apt representation of his personality. It could’ve revealed so much about him, but I was already breaking the 500 word law. ;/

        Thanks again for reading!

    2. carlyumz

      I think jmcody summed this up beautifully with ‘Creatively terrifying’. A truly inspired way to interpret the prompt, my best compliment is that I could visualise this as being from a film even after a few paragraphs – dark, twisted but again to echo jmcody with an added emotional depth from your conflicted MC.

      The only tiny note I’d give is aimed at Nina – you’ve just got your path to freedom, there’s no time for kisses woman! RUN! ESCAPE! But then I’m a cynic, ha :)

      Still, this was my favourite piece that I’ve read from you so far I think.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        This was heart-pounding and a vast trip into evil. The pace and tension was excellent. I disagree with Carly on one small thing. There’s always time for a kiss, regardless the dire circumstances. A piece of #4 rebar poked through the kidnapper’s eye would be a good ending but not as strong as the reader’s imagination how to do the deed.

        There’s nothing but great writing in your story.

        1. Jay

          Kerry, thank you so much for your kind words! I really really wanted to end with the killer getting what he deserved, but this story was more about the main character, his choices, and the emotions he had to deal with resulting from those emotions and I didn’t want to detract too much from his final thoughts in the last paragraph. If you ask me, thought, the killer deserves more than just a poke through the eye, and deserves it to be broadcast for all gore-hungry fiends watching his feed! :)

          Thanks for reading!

      2. Jay

        @Carly: Thanks! I had a film style vibe while writing it, so I totally get where you’re coming from.

        I was hesitant to put the kiss in there, but as Kerry suggested there is almost always time for at least a brief peck on the cheek, but also in moments where people are wrought with emotion, whether it’s terror or excitement or both or many, showing affection to someone is just as stress-relieving as perhaps the escape itself.

        I think I just read an article about how hugs release all kinds of feel-good chemicals, but that might’ve just been more internet lies. haha

        Thanks for reading!

    3. snuzcook

      I can’t really add to the prior comments, Jay. Heart-pounding tension, save-the-girl emotions, and a great ethical battle. Flawlessly executed over-all. Well done.

  7. carlyumz

    My sentiments are exactly the same as everyone else’s with this prompt, but still – how could I possibly resist? I’m using the British card for the fact that I don’t really know anything about spelling bees, it is about bees that spell, right?
    —–

    Gemma liked when she could easily file things into right or wrong, or ‘Things Gemma Does’ and ‘Things Gemma Doesn’t Do’. It was simple and as far as she was concerned the more boring or black and white, the better. Grey areas just made things more complicated, and Saul was definitely a grey area. Her neighbour was unpredictable and cocky, the type of boy her mother called a ‘wrong’un’.

    Definitely not the type who would care about something as lame as a spelling bee and yet she had watched him survive each round of the competition, not just going through the motions but actually succeeding. He breezed through with his usual indifference, as if spelling A-C-E-R-B-A-T-E in the semi-final was no big deal at all.

    Gemma was the one forced to care about E-X-E-M-P-L-I-F-Y-I-N-G her potential, not Saul. Until then she assumed he didn’t have any potential to speak of and that was just fine with her. He wasn’t even supposed to be her competition, let alone one of the two people standing in the way of her victory, but somewhere down the line the colours had been muddled.

    She found Saul backstage, surrounded by his usual cluster of hangers-on and looking every bit the archetypical snarky teenager. Gemma on the other hand was so invisible that she needed to cough just to get them to look in her direction. They did, with snarls on their faces. Saul rolled his eyes and muttered something to his followers. Obediently, they A-B-S-C-O-N-D-E-D.

    “You’re not supposed to be here Gem. What if they figure it out?”

    She shrugged her shoulders and reached out to grab his hand. “I couldn’t wait.”

    He shook his head as if he was still annoyed at her, but gave her hand a squeeze. She had assumed his hands would be rough but they were suspiciously soft, and though she didn’t want to admit it, they were gentle too. At each turn Saul surprised her and threatened to blur the distinct lines she had set out. It wouldn’t do.

    “So is everything all sorted?”

    She nodded. “I already put the word list in Daniel’s backpack, just like you said.”

    He smiled conspiratorially, “I’ve made a rebel out of you, haven’t I?”

    Saul liked the idea of corrupting a goody-two-shoes like Gemma, it was a very Saul thing to do. Just like his suggestion to sabotage the rest of the competition so that he could win with ease. He hadn’t sold it to her like that, in fact he said he wanted to give her a ‘helping hand’ in getting rid of the favourite, Daniel Dunmill, since he knew how much Gemma needed to win.

    “Almost Saul, almost. I better go, but are you sure you’re happy for us to go against each other? Won’t you be mad if I win?”

    He leant over to give her a quick kiss on the cheek and said coolly, “Nah, let the best one win right?”

    She was planning to. If by chance it came out that contestants were being D-U-P-L-I-C-I-T-O-U-S, nobody would ever believe that Gemma was involved. They would be horrified and sure to disqualify the culprits involved, but the blame wouldn’t be aimed in her direction.

    After all, cheating is simply something that Gemma Doesn’t Do.

    1. Jay

      Absolutely delicious, Carly! And my favorite line goes to: “After all, cheating is simply something that Gemma Doesn’t Do.” I’m glad you decided to bring a story to the table. :D

      1. carlyumz

        Thanks Jay, my favourite line too!

        I was very close not to working on this prompt as it felt quite restrictive as others have said, but after you asked so nicely when my prompt was arriving I decided it wasn’t very sporting of me not to try just because something didn’t immediately appear in my mind. So thanks for that too :)

        1. Jay

          I had a feeling you would figure something out with this prompt, and you definitely didn’t disappoint! I’ll have to remember to ask more often. ;)

          Also, I saw the ‘bees that spell’ joke! I swear I really was going to write that story, but it ran away from me before I could catch it. haha

    2. jmcody

      You know, this prompt has us inventing some pretty strange scenarios, as if bad boys or psychotic killers would care about a spelling bee. But you sold it well, and it was gratifying to see mousy little Gemma turn the tables on bad boy Saul, even if it was just because of her incredibly inflexible (some might say righteous) personality. Good job developing some nuanced characters.

      1. carlyumz

        Thanks for your feedback jmcody! I’m glad the characters didn’t seem overly cliched. I agree, but it’s been interesting to read scenes and see how with a restrictive prompt there’s still tales of killers, steampunks and wizards :)

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Great story Carly. You leave a chance that Gemma and Saul’s relationship might revolve into something neither had planned. You mention her thoughts about the touch of his hand in hers. Do I susoect a touch of romanticism in your story? Probably. Good show!

  8. snuzcook

    (so many things I could offer as preface apologies, but…what can I say?)

    CRAZY

    I hated working cold cases, but someone had to do it. I could tell this one was going to be a real pain.

    It was the 1980 case of the death of 48-year old Tom Dexter of Springfield, Michigan. He had died of electrocution in the middle of the regional semi-finals for the National Spelling Bee. The medical examiner had changed his original verdict of ‘death by misadventure’ to ‘murder by person or persons unknown.’ I started the investigation with his wife, now 70, living in a her daughter’s home outside of Springfield.

    “Did Tom have any enemies?”

    “Detective, they asked me all this 35 years ago. The only enemies Tom might have had would have been at that spelling bee. Those people are crazy. But no one’s going to kill over a stupid quarter final spelling contest.”

    That’s what the original investigating detective thought. He had checked into the competitors and the judges and found no connections that would provide a viable motive for murder.

    That’s what I thought, too, until I went back through other cold case files with similar elements. The Dexter case was just the first. Between 1980 and 1995 there had been six other cases of accidental deaths or disappearances occurring during regional quarter final competitions across the country leading up to the National Spelling Bee. But again, there didn’t seem to be any common threads.

    Then I looked at the photos of those competitions. What my predecessors had not recognized was that though the names were different, but the same two faces kept showing up, always among the top three competitors when a death or disappearance occurred. The names they were last registered under were Marcus Downey and Margie Sinclaire.

    I traced Downey to a little retirement community outside of Phoenix, Arizona. I was directed to a white-haired gent sitting by the pool. I introduced myself. He didn’t look at me.

    “I’m here about Tom Dexter.”

    “Sounds familiar.”

    “Detroit, 1980.”

    “Oh, yeah. Semi-finals. Pitcher of water spilled on some exposed wires and fried him in the middle of the competition.”

    “And you won.”

    “It was my turn.”

    “Come again?”

    “Margie and me worked it out. Detroit was my game. The competition in Virginia would be hers.”

    I couldn’t believe the guy was spilling his guts to me like that, right out of the gate. “You mean the competition in 1983 when one of the judges died of a heart attack?”

    “He didn’t like Margie.”

    “And Kansas City in 1987?”

    “That little blonde lady ran off the road into the river. Don’t think they ever found her car. She was good, too; woulda won.”

    “Evanston, 1990?”

    “Turner. Let me see…medication mix up. No, that was Dallas. Turner was the quarry. Evanston was the heart attack.”

    “And you know these details because?”

    “Margie and me had to win. She was obsessed. You don’t understand how it was. We only ever saw each other every few years at these competitions. We each had families, kids, jobs. Went to church. But there’s something about being on the road, being on the edge of winning made Margie hot. But she couldn’t, you know, be with me unless she won. Or unless I won.”

    “So you’re saying you killed people because, what, you wanted to have sex?”

    “Not just sex, Detective. The best sex I ever had or ever will have. Every time.”

    “Did your wife know?”

    “About Margie? She suspected. Left me when the kids graduated. Lives in Oregon now with some retired attorney.”

    “I meant about the murders.”

    “No. She never had any idea. No one did.”

    “So why are you telling me this now?”

    “Haven’t been to a spelling bee since 1995. That’s 20 years, Detective. I’m old. I’ve got what is commonly called dementia. And my body’s falling apart. On a bad day, I couldn’t spell ‘intercourse’ much less participate. If you arrest me, there’s a good chance I’ll never stand trial.”

    “And where’s Margie?”

    “Funny story, there, Detective. Turns out on the years when she wasn’t participating in the Spelling competitions, she was competing in regional cooking competitions. Apparently she was down in East Texas and she messed with the wrong people. Ended up gator food. Poor Margie. I tried to tell her.”

    “Tried to tell her what?”

    “To stay away from those cooking competitions. Now THOSE people are crazy.”

    1. lionetravail

      Brilliant. Twisted, funny, and what a great, novel take on the prompt. (As someone working on a new novel with an MC who is a private detective, I heartily approve!) Love the detective’s voice, and Marcus’ confessional denouement: “Now THOSE people are crazy.” (So true, too. Why do they keep calling it ‘reality TV’ when there’s nothing real about it? One has to wonder…)

      1. snuzcook

        So right, lionetravail, about those reality TV shows. Here I was imagining Margie more in one of those regional chili or gumbo cook-offs, where people get very, very, very animated about their craft, and their spouses–and they all work with sharp implements.

        Interested to know more about your novel!

      1. snuzcook

        One of the ‘advantages’ of dementia can be the loss of concern over both grudges and long held secrets. I like the way you phrased your comment!

    2. Jay

      I loved it, Snuz! Downey’s character and they way he tells his stories is so fluid and rich, I enjoyed every bit of it. Also, I guess you could say the cooking competitions *puts on Horatio glasses* are to die for. YEEEAAAAHHH!!!

      Thanks for sharing!

    3. margi33

      Ha! Funny and well written, snuz. I’m not a reader of mysteries or detective novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed this. Inventive imagination and lots of twists! Nice job.

      1. snuzcook

        Thanks, jhowe and margi! I was actually a little worried that the amoral behavior of the two perps and the open, unrepentant confessions of Downey might be offensive. I felt it was particularly revealing that when the Detective asked if his wife knew, the secret that Downey first thought of was the affair, not the murders.

    4. agnesjack

      Very entertaining, snuzcook. Enjoyed the read.

      There was just one problem… my mother’s maiden name was Sinclaire … spelled with the final “e” … which is not usual. Hmmmm.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Snuz. Brilliant story. Only one problem? We’re short of gaters here, even in East Texas. Your confusing us with those mackerel snappers in Louisiana. It’d have be a chile contest for Texans to get thst mean. Back to your story, sorry about side track. Dialogue is remarkable, laid back like old geezers do. Really enjoyed it!

        1. snuzcook

          Thanks, Kerry. I couldn’t decide between gator chili or armadillo gumbo, and I just took a wild stab to place her somewhere in between. Hah! I do appreciate the reality check–apparently I’ve been told some tall tales by friends of mine who had faulty geography.

    5. jmcody

      Soooo funny and clever, and well written as always. I loved the way you panned out a made the story about the spelling bee killer’s exploits over a lifetime instead of about one spelling bee. His explanation for why he did it was hilariously frank.

      Very inventive. I am so glad you decided to post it.

      1. snuzcook

        Thanks for the push, JM! I had hesitated not just because of length but also because of some of the subject matter. But I couldn’t resist Downey’s forlorn confession that he hadn’t been to a ‘spelling bee’ in twenty years.

        1. jmcody

          Ha ha! I will never think of spelling bees in the same way again. You completely turned this prompt inside out and upside down, which is a beautiful thing. (Did I mention I did not like the prompt? :) )

      1. rle

        For a prompt that nobody was overly thrilled with, you guys are hitting some of these out of the park. Great read snuz. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  9. Observer Tim

    I found this prompt difficult to turn on its head, but something finally clicked. Enjoy!
    _____

    I stare at Peter incredulously. “You cannot be suggesting this. It’s cheating.”

    “Where in the rules does it say we can’t, Johnny? I’ll give you a hint: nowhere. I know we don’t see eye to eye, but I’d rather one of us got that scholarship than somebody.”

    I can’t believe Peter is stooping this low. We’re both finalists in the Waite-Smith Spelling Bee. It’s not what you think; there are no lists of words here, just spells. Magic spells. At stake is a scholarship at Bolingbroke Academy, the most prestigious magic school in the USA. We both desperately want in.

    The other finalist is a girl named Maggy, whom neither of us has seen before. Unlike us, she barely scraped her way into the finals and looks like she’s running more on luck than anything. Peter’s a much bigger challenge than she is.

    But Peter wants to be absolutely sure she goes down. He’s suggesting we both cast Negation spells when she’s doing her tests; if she doesn’t cast everything correctly within the time limit, she’s out. With both of us working against her she’s doomed.

    My problem is that I want to win by being the best, not by messing with others. I want to be a good wizard, not a self-serving manipulative bastard like Peter.

    “Sorry Peter, you’re going to have to do this on your own.”

    “If that’s what you want Johnny, that’s what you get. Just stay out of my way.” With that he stalks out, leaving me alone in my prep room.

    What do I do now? The simple answer is to concentrate on my spells and do my best and ignore the whole thing. But that would be turning my back on an innocent, which would make me no better than Peter. Peter’s right, though; what he’s going to try isn’t against the rules. The only option left is to give Maggie an even chance.

    Maggie is praying when I knock on her door. She has a warm smile; the kind I always thought was incompatible with the dark arts. I take her invite to come in, and after a few pleasantries get right to it.

    “Maggie, Peter is going to try to sabotage you. He’s going to use Negation magic on you while you’re doing your demonstration.”

    “Congratulations Johnny, you’ve been disqualified.” I whirl around bewildered to see Peter there with a Referee. The Referee nods.

    “What are you talking about?”

    “It’s a test of character. You have to be willing to stop at nothing to win. That’s what being a wizard is all about. Maggie is automatically disqualified for praying to the Christian God. I win!”

    Peter is laughing triumphantly as he and the Referee leave. He walks out, taking my future with him.

    Maggie puts a hand on my shoulder.

    “You have the wrong kind of soul for wizardry, Johnathan. Would you like to hear about another way?”

    I look at her cross and her earnest expression. It’s worth a try.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      This may be the most powerful response I’ve ever read from you Tim. The stage is set in a beautiful way, your characters are entrenched, the proposition is set and the climatic twist at the end is just as it should be. The word perfect comes to mind. It’s also very spititual in the way it’s presented. I’m sure you meant the power as it is.

    2. agnesjack

      You most certainly did turn this prompt on its head, Tim. Using “It’s a test of character,” in that ironic way was excellent. The soft, hopeful twist of an ending was very nice.

    3. snuzcook

      O.Tim, I love the line and the sentiment expressed: ‘You have the wrong kind of soul for wizardry.’ It speaks to so many concepts of self-worth and conscience and honoring one’s own truth. Doesn’t have to be about wizardry–can apply to anything in our lives that just doesn’t fit and that we need to be willing to recognize that maybe, just maybe, there is another way.

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks very much, Snuz. I’m a firm believer in the personality of the soul, which is to say that we are predisposed to something. Figuring out what is the tricky bit. But regardless of that we all have the potential to embrace goodness.

    4. carlyumz

      A very clever take on the prompt Tim, I also enjoyed the way you started the story directly in the middle of the action as from the dialogue alone I was able to get a good image of each character.

      Maggie was my favourite, especially the image of her ‘warm smile’ and ‘earnest expression’. How nice that the twist ending could actually be a positive one too!

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks, Carly. Starting in the middle is a trick I developed to use when the story is running long and I need to save space. It’s also a mind-stretching exercise to see if 300 words can be summed up in a sentence or two of flashback.

        Mary was the first fully-formed character in this one; I named her after my favourite saint – Mary of Magdala. The story of why a seemingly incompetent witch is in the finals of the competition is another concept I developed but couldn’t find a way to fit into the 500.

    5. lionetravail

      Nicely written, Tim- no such thing as a good wizard, apparently… which Maggy/Maggie (spelling change :)) might point out from the Old Testament, in that (paraphrasing) “thou shalt not suffer a witch or practitioner of magic to live”. I also liked the diminutive “Johnny” that Peter uses, and the more respectful “Jonathan” of Maggie. Oh, and the present tense made the story nicely immediate, too.

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks, Lione. It always makes me smile when people catch the subtler themes I sneak into a story. I put allegorical weight on nearly everything in the story, though I made a few blunders and typos.

        Peter should have been named Simon (Magus). Sigh.

        1. lionetravail

          Or else Jonathan could have been named Paul- then you could’ve had Magdalene steal the scene from Peter to pay Paul.

          **Encourages the collective groan he expects, but still adheres to the principle that: “A good pun is its own reword”**

          1. Observer Tim

            Hear hear! Despite the jeers of the self-proclaimed intelligentsia, the pun is the form of wit that has the broadest appeal.

            I’m going to have to write something soon where the entire story is set-up for an awful pun. Hmmm….

          2. Kerry Charlton

            If you’re gonna have Peter and Paul in Tim’s story, David, can you to sneak Mary in? I have a thing for tall blondes, especially if they can sing. I met Mary Travers when she was in her middle twenties. WOW!

          3. lionetravail

            Kerry, that is so cool! Only celeb singer I’ve met in person was Kathy Sledge (of Sister Sledge)- met her in Jamaica once, and got to sing along with her when she performed “Under the Boardwalk” (along with about 15 or 20 other lucky folk). So I know where you’re coming from- she was such a great person to get to know a little, not to mention a great singer.

            And, with Tim giving the clue that he was writing in allegory, my guess is that Maggie is his codename for Mary… Magdalene :)

            Sneaky, multi-leveled Observer Tim that he is!

    6. Critique

      For a short story this was interesting on different levels. I liked the positive spin at the end :)
      The different spellings of names raised a few questions for me but it didn’t detract from the story.

    7. jmcody

      You definitely succeeded in your mission to turn the prompt on its head. I liked the message that failure is not really failure when it has the effect of putting you on the right path. This was a delightful surprise, Tim.

    8. Dennis

      Great job and echo the other comments. I like the line you use to describe Maggie, She has a warm smile; the kind I always thought was incompatible with the dark arts. That paints such a picture of saintliness. Well done.

  10. jmcody

    So I was going to sit this dance out… Maybe I should have. :)
    _________________________________________________________________________________

    “Pssst, Jeb… Over here!”

    Jeb heard the familiar hiss as he walked past the “crying room” where spelling bee rejects were consoled with cookies and juice. A pair of malevolent eyes gleamed in the dimness of a utility closet.

    “No, I am not coming in there. “

    “Oh yes you are.” A hand dragged Jeb into the closet.

    “Whatever you’re plotting, you can just forget it.”

    “Come on, Jeb. You know how it works. Let’s not waste time arguing.”

    “No, Caleb, you’re out of control. It was okay when it was us against that bully Evan. He deserved it. But the soccer thing was over the line. What you did to that other team’s goalie…” Jeb shuddered at the remembered horror. “And poor Mrs. Altmann when she caught us cheating on that quiz…”

    “One of us should win. Don’t you want to beat that smartass Kendall?”

    “If I win I want it to be on my own steam. And I couldn’t care less if you win.”

    “Oh, Jeb, you’re hurting my feelings,” Caleb snorted. “We’ve been looking out for each other since we were little. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

    Jeb’s stomach clenched at the sudden sight of a knife gleaming in Caleb’s hand.

    “Caleb, what the…?”

    “Don’t you worry about it, Jebbie. It’s already done. Soon there will be one less contestant.”

    “No, I won’t let you do this.” To his own shock, Jeb felt his knuckles connect with the bones in Caleb’s face. As Caleb careened into the supply shelf, Jeb spotted a roll of twine on the second shelf.

    A thin current of regret buzzed through him as he hogtied the dazed Caleb. “I’m sorry Caleb. I just can’t let you do this anymore. Stay here and don’t do anything crazy, okay?”

    * * *

    “It seems that one of our contestants has forfeited,” said the announcer, eyeing Caleb’s empty podium.

    “Kendall Fox, your word is ‘Victorious.’” Jeb suppressed an eyeroll. Why did Kendall get all the easy words?

    “Victorious. V-I-C-T-O-R-I-O-U-S.” Kendall smiled in smug satisfaction.

    “That is correct. Jeb Hargrave, your word is… Wait a minute, it appears that Caleb Cotton has rejoined the competition, and not a moment too soon.” Jeb turned to see Caleb take his place at the center podium, an angry purple bruise rising around his left eye.

    “Caleb, your word is ‘Retaliation’.”

    Caleb glared at Jeb as he growled his answer:

    “Retaliation. R-E-T-A-L-I-A-T-I-O-N.”

    “That is correct!”

    Caleb’s gaze travelled from Jeb’s face to his feet. Jeb looked down to see a puddle rapidly spreading toward him. Had someone wet their pants? Confused, he looked up only to find Caleb smiling.

    With the sudden clarity of the doomed, Jeb spotted the naked place on the microphone cord where the coating had been scraped away to reveal the wiring beneath.

    * * *

    The police investigation revealed that all three microphone wires had been stripped. Any one of the final three contestants might have been electrocuted. The culprit was never caught.

    The final round of the spelling bee was postponed until after the funeral. Caleb dedicated his victory, and all his subsequent victories throughout his life, to the tragic memory of his childhood friend, Jeb Hargrave.

    1. Reaper

      I think you slipped back into my comfort zone this week. Nicely done. You had me thinking one type of story, then another, and then finally I realized the kind of story you wrote. Good job amping up the tension and keeping me guessing.

      I get the considering not posting. This week wasn’t awful to me, it just didn’t trigger any emotional response or really deep thoughts for me. However I felt like this was a teenaged focused prompt. After so many teens posted last week saying they felt out of their element I felt it was only fair that I step into theirs. I’m glad you joined in because I always look forward to your stories.

    2. snuzcook

      Diabolical, JM. Well told. I love Jeb’s slow realization, tho I was rooting for him to persevere!

      BTW: You saved me. I have a story I have been struggling to cut down to size for this prompt and it includes an electrocution at the podium. Now I can let it breathe in its present 700+ words and stop torturing it. You’re contribution here is fantastic and fills that niche nicely! I will wait and post mine after our next prompt has been started so it is not taking up space here while this prompt is active. Check back later in the week if you want to see it.

      1. jmcody

        No Snuzcook! Please don’t hold back from posting your story. I’m sure that whatever you wrote is infinitely better than this. I am not proud of this — I just wanted to post something so as not to be defeated by this prompt. Also, I frequently post pieces that are over 700 words. (I’m a rebel like that. ;) ). You are a favorite of this community, and of mine. Don’t let my drivel stop you from posting!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Diabolical, jm. A chilling tale you’ve written. Sometimes when you lay back awhile on the prompt and see so many of us struggle, the imagination and the subtleness that you have the power in, produces one of your best. The latest prompts, with yours right with the rest, builds the power and bursts forth.

        I also agree snuzcook, put it out there, do it now or you’ll answer to the rest of us. Let it fly as it is.

    3. agnesjack

      Oh boy, jm, this was so, so, dark and disturbing, and so different for you. I had the feeling when reading that the story was a metaphor for you wanting to hogtie the prompt and leave IT in the utility closet. Glad you decided to post, because this was excellent.

      1. jmcody

        Thanks, AJ! Interesting theory. You might be right. Or maybe it’s that I felt hog tied by the prompt, so I fried it. Wow, that IS disturbing … ;)

        1. lionetravail

          Heh. Nicely put. And a great take on the prompt- what an easy read, and believable. And I would love to shove Caleb out of a plane, so you should know that you painted him very effectively in the short piece :)

          I’d like to suggest to the police that they check Caleb’s knife for forensic evidence of the wire insulation, since I can’t help believe that his showing the knife was not for the overt threat to Jeb, but that he was about to explain HOW he’d taken care of things. Very, very neatly tied together, I think. Dare I say it? Electrifying, even.

          1. jmcody

            You got my meaning exactly. Lionetrevail. Thank you for the kind words. I got a real charge out of them.

    4. margi33

      Jmcody, I actually really enjoyed this. The timing of your twists and turns were impeccable and certainly strung me along without a clue of the ending. The dialogue was realistic and well supported by action and setting. I’m glad you decided to post.

      1. jmcody

        I think the ending changed several times in my mind as I wrote it. The whole hing kind of surprised me too. (Not necessarily in a good way though…)

    5. Dennis

      Nicely done and well constructed. Fun to see another side of you. With all the others that do the dark thing well, I haven’t given it a try yet. Maybe the next prompt. :)

        1. rle

          I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist JMC. This was a little creepy for me but as usual, was very well written. Thanks for coming to the dance this week!

    6. Gina

      I haven’t been on this site long enough to get a feel for the types of stories everyone writes, but I liked this one. My favorite parts were the “crying room” – ha! And the way Caleb was peeking out of the janitor’s closet. I was rooting for Caleb, but, alas, so often the good guy doesn’t always win the day. – Bean :)

  11. Critique

    Nathan Crowder and his mother dashed through the rain and arrived dripping into the foyer of the hotel where they were staying. Before the elevator doors could close behind them, a large hand appeared pushing them open. Nathan’s heart sank when he looked up at Lydia Marvelle and her father.

    The ride up was uncomfortably silent.

    “It’s the three of us now.” Lydia sneered as she exited on the fourth floor with her father.

    Later that evening Mrs. Crowder put down the phone.

    Nathan’s pubescent voice cracked. “Mama, who are you talking too?”

    “Son, don’t give that Marvelle girl a second thought. Try to get some sleep.” She ruffled his hair. “Tomorrow will take care of itself.”

    ********************************

    Lydia lounged on the hotel room couch. “I can manage the Squirt. It’s that Washington girl.” Lydia glowered. “What if they find out?”

    “No one’s going to find out. Just do your stuff Liddie.” Mr. Marvelle spoke in a bored tone and took a swig from his beer can. “Nothing to worry about.”

    ********************************

    “Mom!” Shelby Philby shook her umbrella outside before closing the front door and racing into the kitchen. “I made it to the top three.”

    Her mother dropped the knife she was using to chop onions, spun her wheelchair around and reached to hug her 13 year old daughter.

    “I’m so proud of you dear.” Her eyes watering from the onions mingled with tears of joy. “I wish your Dad was still alive.”

    “Me too Mom. I wish you could have been there.” Shelby hugged her frail mother. “You should have seen all the losers crying. It was insane.”

    The National Love of Reading Spelling Bee was held annually in different cities in the States. This year Bellevue, Washington hosted the competition – within minutes of the Philby apartment. Shelby could take the bus.

    *********************************
    Nathan’s cellphone rang. Lydia Marvelle. It was three in the morning

    “Squirt, having trouble sleeping?”

    “Guess you aren’t sleeping either.” Nathan’s voice squeaked. He ground his teeth in exasperation.

    “I know how to eliminate the competition.” Lydia said.

    Nathan dreamed about winning the championship. Beating out his classmate – and of note, the Marvelles owned half their hometown – would make the win supremely perfect.

    “Here’s my plan. Shelby’s mama’s sick – in a wheelchair. I figure if we instill some fear about losing the Mama, she’ll cave under the pressure and the win’s a shoe-in. Are you there?”

    *********************************

    The hotel ballroom was abuzz with anticipation waiting for the competition to start.

    “We regret to announce that Lydia Marvelle has been disqualified. It has come to our attention she is fifteen.” The judge paused. “Our competition adheres to strict eligibility guidelines. No exceptions.”

    In the end Nathan spelled his way to the championship fair and square after breaking a tie with Shelby Philby.

    The tie breaker word was: definitely. Shelby misspelled it: definately.

        1. lionetravail

          I think that’s a military/navy pun, Critique- he was saying “Bravo”, but using a (I think) navy radio call sign which translates loosely to “well done”.

          Which I agree with- as others have mentioned, the split scenes perspective made this story easily visible as scenes in a TV episode of something. I may want to give the format a try sometime. Great story!

    1. snuzcook

      I like the snapshot-style style of your story, Critique. Told the interwoven pieces nicely and with economy of words. If I read the final line correctly, it reassures the reader that Shelby wasn’t sabotaged, that she missed winning by an honest mistake. Phew!

    2. Marc Ellis

      You quickly painted a picture of the personality and life of each character. You had one of the less violent endings. I wonder if this means you had less angst toward the prompt than others? Thanks for sharing your story.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I liked the split action scenes. The drama was there. The cause was there. Nice writing Critique. Two words come to mind. Bravo, Bravo.

    3. agnesjack

      Nice twist at the end, Critique. I liked the short scenes, which felt like a movie to me. I could see all your characters so clearly (and you did all of this in less than 500 words). Very nice.

      p.s. I often misspell “definitely” as “definately” so that made me laugh.

    4. margi33

      Critique, I thought this was great. I loved the different 3rd person perspective of each scene as well as how you made the reader most sympathetic to Lydia. I was actually glad that she didn’t succumb to a gruesome ending. Nice job with a tough prompt.

  12. Augie

    “October one, October one…. eagles ready to fly.”

    “Copy that, activating 40 second jam now! “

    The pilot blast ‘Second chance’ as our stealth helicopter approaches. This song we learned to love and hate. Not all pilots are ‘cool’ playing goodbye songs, most are just ‘Sir.’

    “Ok, eagles, I’m under radar, jump in 4-3-2-go-go-go!”

    The low altitude jump means a 65-mile an hour landing. I don’t recommend it.

    On ground, we gather… “Time to go.”

    Scorp takes the high ground with a silenced .223 sniper rifle. Reaper profiles the crowd. Ability earned through years of gut feelings.

    I tear off my jump suit revealing US Navy’s finest Men’s Warehouse suit.

    “Ok men, we are not to engage. Anything can spark a war with these fuk’s.”

    “Rodger that. Have you been here before?”

    “ Na, I’ve been south during the Olympics’ in SEOUL before. Never had a taste for the red side.”

    The ground contact grabs my arm speaking in broken English, “ Gliding Eagle”

    I smile. The nervous contact whispers, “Don’t go past the third level, they have metal detectors. I assume you’re armed?”

    I look at my contact wondering why the hell is the US interested in a spelling bee?

    I turn the volume down on my earpiece as Scorp and Reaper communicate:

    “You have acquisition?”

    “Roger that, two dots up, one dot left, I have center stage locked. This isn’t my first spelling bee Reaper.”

    I see the three final contestants on the stage. I can’t read the logograms printed on the straps across their chest. I assume that these are different countries competing. Two logograms look similar but one is printed in red. Hangual? Ok I get it; this is the North and South competing against China.

    Scorp whispers in my earpiece, “Trouble on stage.”

    “What cha’ got Scorp?”

    “ The girl wearing the red symbol is powdering the other girls face.”

    “So?”

    “Remember, I have a close up view! The powder has our girl flying high.”

    “Shit! What the hell are we supposed to do here! She’s cheating, so what!”

    Reaper calls in, “We don’t need an international incident.”

    I look into the audience. It is segregated like our football stadiums. Instead of cheering their team, they cheer for their nation. Tension is high.

    “Ok, I suggest we take a JG Snid approach to this.” Reaper called in, “Are you serious? “

    “Yes I’m serious! We would have never survived Kuwait if we didn’t set that butter bar up!”

    “Ok! Rodger that. JG Snid it is! “

    I tuck my BFG, ‘very large gun’, under a seat of a man cheering the girl in red logograms and approached a security guard. “ Hey, you might want to check that guy out!”

    As security officers swarm around the man and panic fills the stadium, I sneak behind the curtains and grab the delusional girl. “It’s going to be fine sweet heart” I attach my earpiece to her.

    After the crowd watches the angry man get hauled out, they relax and the competition continues.

    The judges asked: 토착의, 지역고유의, 지역에서 생성된

    Scorp types into his laptop, speaking to the girl, 토착의, 지역고유의, 지역에서 생성된

    She barely keeps her balance and repeats his words, “토착의, 지역고유의, 지역에서 생성된”

    This went on for hours! Eventually the girl from China won and we stopped an international incident over a spelling bee. I never asked Scorp how he learned Hangungmal!

    The pilot jammed our song all the way back to the Aircraft Carrier.

    (If you want to hear the armed forces tribute to ‘Second Chance’, here is the link. I hate battle field crosses) http://youtu.be/WQYkoCIOaec

    1. Reaper

      This is cool. Some really amazing lines throughout. My favorite being the reveal of the Navy’s finest Men’s Warehouse suit. I loved the mix of up beat and tension that you do so well.

    2. jmcody

      Augie, that video was both chilling and touching. Thank you for sharing it.

      I was wondering how you were going to work a spelling bee into this. Unbelievable! I can’t claim to understand everything you say in your stories, Augie, but I still enjoy them. Keep on doing what you do.

    3. snuzcook

      This prompt just proves what you have already shown us in spades–Augie is versatile! Pulling a spelling bee and exchanges in Hangungmal out of your creative reserve was quite a feat. Nicely done!

    4. lionetravail

      Augie, you are so hitting your stride with your stories! I love what you did with this prompt, taking it away from the insiders of the spelling bee and putting it in the mission profile of your wacky and heroic military crew. What an enjoyable piece to read- thanks!

  13. Dennis

    Nothing like a spelling bee to bring the worst out in people. And this year’s was as cutthroat as ever. Kids giving me nasty looks and empty threats. I couldn’t believe the childish behavior. “I wanted to scream out, “Hey morons, it’s just a spelling bee.” But then again, I wanted to win just a badly as they did. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl that they feel threatened.

    I’m excited I made it to the finals this year, but so did my neighbor, Brantley Bryant. We’ve been spelling bee rivals since the second grade and he has made it known on more than one occasion that he believes he is the superior. He wouldn’t know his Greek roots and derivatives if they jumped up and bit him in the dolmas. None the less he made it this far and would be a formidable opponent. The other finalist, Kevin Ryan, I don’t know and is a bit older at thirteen to my eleven. He definitely has the smarts, but is also quite the hunk.

    I pride myself on not lowering my standards to the antics of my fellow competitors, especially when Brantley is involved. He had the nerve to ask me to help sabotage Kevin’s chances. I didn’t trust him and confessed to Kevin this information. He said not to worry, that he would have a talk with Brantley and make sure he did nothing. I’m glad Kevin’s on my side, but know Brantley is all bark and no bite anyway. Speaking of bite, I almost sank my teeth into my bottom lip as Kevin gave me one of those dreamy smiles. He said maybe we could meet up after the finals were over. Spelling bee champ and I’m at a loss for words, but somehow managed a “sure”.

    Finals time and as we take our seats on stage, Brantley give me a devilish grin. Kevin gives me a little thumbs up and I smile back. A few rounds in and Brantley gets “Staphylococci.” An easy one I thought. The unthinkable happens and Brantley leaves off one of the double c’s and he’s gone. Just like that. I try to contain my excitement.

    Kevin and I duked it out like pros, exchanging spellings as if it were second nature. I wondered when this would end. And then it did. I mistakenly glanced at Kevin and before I knew what he was doing, I was melting from the look he gave me. My brain was mush and I don’t think I could have spelled cat in that moment. All I could do was sit back in my seat and watch Kevin receive the trophy.

    Backstage I wanted to ask Kevin if he meant to do that and received my answer. I saw him paying off Brantley and then walking away arm in arm with another girl. How could I have been so stupid to fall for that? Brantley better watch himself because next year, no more Ms. nice girl.

    (I almost didn’t post either but this came to me)

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Puppy love at eleven, kind of cute and warm all over. Really like it Dennis. You settled yourself realistically in the mind of a precocious eleven year old girl. No wonder they’re the super race.

        1. Dennis

          Thanks Kerry. It was fun writing from a girl’s perspective. I don’t do it very often. And yes, they do rule the world, even if it doesn’t seem like it.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Look around Dennis, it seems like it also. Lay back and enjoy it, son. They are smarter than us. It’s okay with me. My Mother was the first one.

          2. BigFluffyUnicorns

            Do gals rule the world? Maybe they do…… they keep everyone from running off the cliff. I’m not sure if that’s ruling the world though.

    1. Jay

      Nice Dennis! I really enjoyed this playful look of deception and teen crushes midst a spelling bee. Brantley apparently cares more about his wallet than his competition with the MC, but looking back, it seems that if the MC had taken Brantley up on the plan to take Kevin out, then he might not have switched sides and taken Brantley’s bribe. Downright dirty, and I love it.

      1. Jay

        In my experience it doesn’t take much of a look from someone you have the hots for. ;) To one person it may look like a normal smile to another it looks like an freight train carrying his or her heart to unknown emotional treasures.

        1. Marc Ellis

          Now I get “the look” when I’m in trouble for leaving the toilette roll with one sheet or forgetting to put my glass up higher to prevent my little ones from spilling it across the table and floor! So much power in “the look”!

    2. jmcody

      I think both Brantley and Kevin have a future in politics. Your MC will never trust men again and will probably become a criminal prosecutor. Just some thoughts… ;)

      Nice, beleivable tale of emotional manipulation, Dennis.

      1. Dennis

        Thanks JM. Yeah, I was concerned the MC might turn out to be a ball buster so to speak. Criminal lawyer or corporate CEO sounds about right.

    3. lionetravail

      Nicely done, Dennis. I’ll echo what some others have said- it was cute, and lovely with crushes and how they can destroy our focus. And not just in our teens :)… and of course, sometimes those crushes force us to grow up. Best to be careful not to be bit in the dolmas :)

      Couple of (hopefully) constructive comments:

      You slipped between past and present tenses: Most of it in past tense—– “Kevin and I duked it out like pros. I wondered when this would end, but you ended up in the present a bit as well a bunch —- “Spelling bee champ and I’m at a loss for words”, and “the unthinkable happens, and Brantley leaves off one of the double c’s, and he’s gone”… something to keep an eye on.

      “…exchanging spellings…” might be slightly awkward, since spelling isn’t usually pluralized. (I realize it could have been in character, as your MC’s brain ‘was mush’, but she didn’t do it elsewhere.) Maybe “trading turns at the podium” instead.

      Overall, I liked it a lot, and I think you really evoked the mindset of a teenage girl who is likable, especially with her “next year, no more Ms. nice girl” being a nice update of the “Mister or Miss” of years past. :)

      1. Dennis

        Thank you for the feedback. I edited it quickly and started in present tense but then deicide to switch to past tense. I had a feeling I wouldn’t catch them all.
        What, spellings isn’t a word? :)

        1. rle

          Dennis, I like how you wrote this as a female. This is something I too like to do from time to time. I did it recently on ‘When a Stranger Taps You on the Shoulder. I find it more difficult to do than it sounds, but you did a nice job here.

          1. jmcody

            Actually you do it pretty well because when you first came on this board I thought you were a woman, and a mother to boot! :)

  14. foodpoet

    Okay so normally I write poetry but read all of these short prompts. Then I thought but wait what if its spells not spelling? hmm so I tried my hand at non poetry for the first time in years – here goes.

    Abigail looked around the large empty room. Soon it would be filled with the second round spellers. As the contestants entered and warmed up she slide gracefully into the large settee. She paused to check her notes, sliding her spectacles down to watch the room. Spells flew out and over the contestants. She sighed, “Early rounds are so messy,” she muttered to Montefort.

    “and look there’s Franklin,” answered Montefort.

    “I thought he wasn’t going to be here.”

    Abagail and Montefort watched as Franklin spelled chrononaut and demonstrated time travel. “Wait for it, he will show how he always wins, Abbie, but I got a plan.” Abagail watched Montefort, more slinky than attractive in his top coat and goggles. “Now now Montefort,” slapping him with her iron fan. “Play nice.”

    Abigail stood up for her turn, spelling steampunkaneer. She demonstrated by imaging in blue and violet words scrolling across the page – a tri dee of Montefort and his last act of larceny aboard the London Air Bridge. He stomped out of the salon.

    “Well Franklin, ready for round four?”

    1. Xevirus

      I had considered this take (spelling of the casting variety), but haven’t had the time. You crafted a nice story with incredible brevity.

    2. jmcody

      First time I’ve heard steampunk mentioned on this forum. Loved it when she smacked him with her iron can. This was very different, breezy and fun. Thanks!

    3. Jay

      Have you thought about writing is prose poetry? That would totally fit in here, and probably be incredibly beautiful. I rarely do it, but whenever I do it’s always the most satisfying.

      Thanks for sharing your unique view at this prompt!

  15. margi33

    I have no affinity for spelling bees or writing about them, so here’s my ridiculous response… And I look forward to reading everyone else’s scenes as soon as I have time!

    ______________________________________________________

    Gloria’s large hat flopped as she sashayed across the hallway and grabbed me by the arm, pulling me into a corridor off the lobby.

    Oh boy, what’s it going to be this time? Gloria was always a busybody, but ever since this spelling bee the retirement home nicknamed The Nationals , for no other reason than to make old people feel important, she had become a psychopath bent on winning.

    “Hi, darlin’ neighbor,” she drawled as she cornered me, petting my arm. “I can’t believe we’ve made it to the finals – you and me.”

    I knew her better than I would have liked. She lived in the room next door, yet I did my best to avoid her. The only thing faker than her blue-tinted wig was her personality.

    “Yes,” I replied, “it’s exciting, isn’t it?” I could care less, I just figured the spelling bee would be better than the usual weekly bingo match.

    “Pity about that slant eyes being in the finals too,” Gloria huffed.

    I couldn’t believe she had said it — well actually I could. “Yes, the nice, Asian lady?” I replied.

    Gloria continued, “She doesn’t belong here… maybe Westminster across town, but not here.”

    I could see where this was going. Gloria had always thought her money and name made her “richer” than everyone else. Her insecurities ran deeper than her thoughts.

    Gloria continued, “Well, I have a plan. And I need your help…”

    Gloria told me her intentions: laxative powder in Kei’s water before the final round. Apparently, Kei’s superior intelligence was a threat to Gloria’s perfect image of herself.

    I knew I had better play this right. “Gloria, honey. You ARE crafty, doll.” I placed my hand on her arm and smiled warmly. “I’ll keep a look out for you.”

    “Thanks, sweetie.” Gloria slipped away to do the deed. She shuffled across the ballroom floor in her orthopedics and loud, flowery dress, about as sneakily as a flashing strobe light.

    Little did Gloria realize, I knew something important about Kei.

    The announcer returned minutes later and asked everyone to take their seats.

    “Pernicious,” the announcer called, his neck waddling as he enunciated.

    “Definition please, Mr. Langdon.” Gloria batted her eyelashes at him.

    Like flirting was going to help that old sow.

    “Pernicious: having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way.”

    Gloria, true to form, botched the word. If Kei got the next word correct, Gloria would be eliminated.

    “Verisimilitude,” said the announcer.

    Kei smiled politely and responded with the precision of an arrow to the heart.

    The announcer exclaimed, “Sorry, Gloria, but you must leave the table now.” Beads of sweat dripped down Gloria’s forehead and played chase-ass with one another.

    For a change, I thought I might die of hilarity instead of heart failure. I bet she was wondering why Kei hadn’t succumbed to the laxative. Little did she know, Kei hadn’t had a regular bowel movement since she’d arrived; she’d welcome the extra help.

    Gloria turned red as a baboon’s backside and collapsed to the floor.

    Serves her right, I thought as the nurses rushed to her aid.

    1. Marc Ellis

      I too struggled with how to respond to this prompt. I would say that you definitely succeeded. I think the retirement home made for great characters and a fantastic setting. Well done.

    2. jmcody

      Bravo for taking on this dead fish of a prompt and turning it into something lively and fun. I loved that you set it in a retirement home. I’ve heard the social order in those places can be a lot like high school — brutal. (No joke!). Your descriptions of floppy hats and florid dresses and orthopedic shoes were entertaining.

    3. agnesjack

      I did not see that ending coming. Ah, the joys of old age. Liked the location and the descriptions of Gloria were excellent. Especially liked the line, “She shuffled across the ballroom floor in her orthopedics and loud, flowery dress, about as sneakily as a flashing strobe light.”

    4. lionetravail

      Very cute story, and exploring the other age of the spectrum than would normally be suspected (I know I went young, not older)- nice work!

      1. rle

        Very nice margi. I particularly liked the lines, ‘like flirting was going to help that old sow’ and ‘beads of sweat dripped down Glorias forehead and played chase-ass with one another.’ After the day I’ve had, I needed a good chuckle. Thank you!

  16. rle

    First, I have to say, I really disliked this weeks prompt. I almost just took a break , but since I ‘m using these prompts and this forum as a way to push myself in my writing, I decided to give it a stab.

    SPELLING PEE

    Toby Wainwright hated competition, yet somehow miraculously here he was, one of the three finalists in the State Spelling Bee.

    From an early age, Toby wasn’t interested in contests and sports or anything else that pitted people against one another. It all seemed rather pointless to him. He felt his time was better spent studying or playing with his chemistry set.

    This whole Spelling Bee had been his mother’s idea. Toby would have much rather had bamboo splints shoved under his fingernails, but in an effort to appease her, he had reluctantly agreed. To make matters even worse, one of the other contestants was a boy named Stevie Mason. It just so happened that Stevie attended the same school and was in the same grade as Toby. What were the chances that two kids from the same school would end up as finalists in the State Spelling Bee?

    Toby and Stevie had never liked each other much. Stevie thought Toby was a nerd and Toby thought Stevie was an arrogant jock. However, for the last two days of the contest, they had been forced by circumstance to at least be cordial.

    After the semi-finals the previous evening, Stevie had come to Toby with a proposition. Although they knew that both of them could not win; one of them could if only they could come up with a scheme to eliminate the third contestant. Stevie begged Toby to help him with a plan to render the bat faced girl from Dayton unable to compete. Toby wasn’t interested. If he had to be in this contest, he wanted to go about it the right way, or, at least his way. Besides, Toby suspected there was a plan to derail his chances crawling around in Stevie’s mind as well.

    Finally the night had arrived. After a light dinner and reception, the three finalists were ushered onto the stage. Stevie had a look of astonishment on his face. Bat faced girl looked utterly confused. Toby on the other hand, strolled onto the stage with all the confidence of someone who already had this thing won.

    Toby reached in his pocket and clasped his fingers around the small vial containing his most precious chemistry invention of all. It was a concoction that when ingested, caused a person to temporarily loose control of their bladder. One drop in each of their glasses at dinner was all it took.

    Before the first word, Toby watched in amusement as his opponents wet themselves. Nothing like a little loss of bladder function to make you forget how to think. He felt a smug smile stretch across his face. Toby Wainwright hated competition.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      A novel approach, rle. It is a hard prompt for anybody to work through. I loved the last sentence, ‘Toby Wainwright hated competition.’ It sums the story up nicely.

    2. jmcody

      I am amazed at how you and a fair number of others were actually able to come up with something original and entertaining with this prompt. I am stumped so I decided to just take the week off, although obviously I can’t seem to stay away! Kudos on writing your way through the problem, rle, and great job!

    3. Jay

      Right there with you, rle. I didn’t want to write one this time around, but then I remembered the oil tanker of ideas floating around in my head and decided to just rolled with it.

      Poisoning seems to be the method of choice for this prompt, haha. I enjoyed your story and excellent full-circle approach, rle. Thanks for sharing!

    4. Critique

      I agree, the prompt didn’t create too much for me. But hey, it’s good to work those imaginative muscles and you did a wonderful job here rle. Toby ending up being the schmuck surprised me.

        1. rle

          Surley you two wern’t the only ones who got the title. I never title these things but this time I could, not, resist. Maybe everyone else was just being polite and thought it was a typo!

  17. PeterW

    Writing Prompt Spelling Bee

    Nationals… The Bartle Convention Center, downtown Kansas City, MO… the spirit of friendly competition in the July air… the Marriot at the evening with its light show flashing upon its windows… Friday before the final day of competition… the hotels and streets filled with spellers headed back to hotels thinking of words misspelled, of vowels guessed right, of silence ‘p’ and ‘t’s, of Latinate vs Germanic, of finality and glory.

    In the lobby of the Aladdin, defibrillators, wheelchairs, walkers everywhere; pill organizers in every-other hand; dentures popping, hand lotions being smacked onto wrinkle skin, nobody sitting upright (osteoporosis and muscle decay will do that), bodies abandon by natural selection. Bob Hardown observes it all from a sofa near the elevators. He is a six time champion out of Banner Retirement in Meadow Downs, Arizona. Banner Retirement has produced some of the top spellers, always placing, over 200 plaques line the fetid cafeteria.

    Bob is 99 years old, cringing at the thought of his upcoming birthday. Next year he will be moved into the “100 and up” division. The division which no one really takes seriously. The words are the easiest. Most spellers take over 15 minutes. There is no continuation in competition; the winner almost always dies before they can make it back the next year. Winning the “100 and up” has none of the prestige that comes from winning the “80-100” or even the other division “65-80” in the Scripts National Senior Spelling Bee.

    Bob Hardown sighs a deep and phlegmy sigh. He is behind this year. By two words. He is also being overshadowed. To a newcomer and his neighbor. Jamison Blackmon. This guy is a whizz. Started training as soon as he arrived at Meadow Downs. Basically stole Bob’s semi-girlfriend and training partner Marie Stanton. And Blackmon is only 81, plenty years of spelling ahead of him. Bob’s hard, tiny, oldman’s eyes follow Blackmon who is walking fluidly across the lobby talking to groups of women; women who used to crane elderly necks up to Bob. Bob innate racism, which was unfortunately ingrained at an early age by his tycoon-owning father, kicks in. He says, “All about the size of their organ.”

    His bumbling chaperon, Nurse Bigly, says, “Let’s get you to bed. You’ve got a BIG day ahead of you!” Bob is also innately sexist. He says, “No, woman.”

    Suddenly with the speed of a man ten years younger, Jamison is at Bob’s side. “Bobby,” he whispers, “we gotta talk. About Hernandez.”

    Yes Hernandez, Julia Hernandez… She is the reigning champion. Beat Bob last year in the final round with the word, “apogee.” Easy word in Bob’s opinion. His word was “lautenclavicymbel,” which is a lute harpsichord with gut strings. Bob had it right until he got to the final ‘e’. He spelled it with an “a,” thinking of cymbal. Imagine that… But the luck of the word is part of the competition. It’s one of the first things spellers at the national level accept.

    Jamison says, “I gotta be honest. Each round is more intense and I feel like I’m going to have another heart attack up there. And Hernandez got nerves of steel.”

    Bob grunts, moves a fake knee, feels a tinge in a replaced hip, nods. Julia had spelled, “kephalonomancy,” not an hour before without a blink. The competitor before her had asked for the definition (divination using a baked ass’s head) and the sentence (the witch used kephalonomancy to tell the young girl’s fortune, but the girl didn’t hear it, too transfixed by the glossy ass’s eyes) at least 10 times. Then had a stroke. So it goes it at the Senior Bee.

    Ok, that’s about 500 words.

    1. snuzcook

      Delightful, Peter! Great story-telling voice and pace. Nice attention to detail to grab snickers (without nuts) from the reader throughout. Well told, well conceived!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I agree with snuzcook. A delightful and breezy read. Colorful, descriptive, light-hearted and fun. I loved the ‘100 and up devision. The winner almost always dies before they can make it back the next year.’ A geezer parade of nerds.

  18. smallPencil

    It sounds like the announcer did it.

    Anyway, there seems to be a missing scene. Aex asks Byron for a ride, but Alex ends up driving in the end. Something happened for them to decide to switch drivers. I dunno.

  19. smallPencil

    Bill had a face that ached for an evil grin. When he wore one, as now, his face seemed to dance in its own shadows, like some fel creature. His bulbous forehead sloped up and to the side, as if growing a monstrous horn. His teeth, rotted and too far apart, resembling bars to a jail cell, shown as he spoke, “I can get rid of that other guy.”

    I frowned.

    He said, “I bought up a judge. He’s in for five hundred. He’ll knock that other fellow out. I got two-fifty, I just need the other two-fifty.”

    “Bill…” I shook my head. Bill’s front lawn was a neither land of waste. Just looking at it could give you tetanus. And I lived right across the street. As for Bill, he knew it was me who called in the complaints.

    But, for whatever reason, my curiosity was piqued. I said, “…how?”

    “How, what?”

    “How is the judge going to knock him out?”

    “Simple. He’s going to give a word that can be spelled two ways.”

    “Evil genius.”

    Bill nodded, evil grin encrusted on. I was not sure I meant it as a compliment. But then, I was not sure I didn’t.

    He knew it was me who called in the complaints. The space between our homes boiled with tension. He would make me his accomplice? Hatch a pan that helped me as much as it helped him? Fat chance.

    I took out my wallet, but not because I was complicate. I wanted to know something.

    Once I’d handed him the $250 he turned a little to his right. The move would obscure his wallet from my view as he tucked the cash away. It told me that I was on the right track, but I had to see for sure. I have about six inches on Bill, so I peeked over his shoulder as he slid the bills home.

    He had four dollars.

    I thought about it some more. Bill’s plan sounded easy enough. Just pay off a judge. Simple, right? Maybe, until I thought about what would actually happen. At first the judge would probably laugh it off. Bill would have to press the issue. At that point the judge would likely tell Bill to wait there a moment, then return with the other two judges and tell him he was disqualified. Something else was going on. Maybe Bill wanted to rob me of $250? No, that was stupid. First place was ten thousand dollars. This plot went deeper. Then it hit me. The judge. If he and Bill planned this from the beginning, that would make sense. They were going to sabotage both of us. And then probably split the prize money. Now I know why Bill approached me. He knew as well as anyone about my work as a P.I. and the reputation that went with it. Giving me the impression that I was in on it would both deflect me from

    1. snuzcook

      Aw, what happened to the rest? I am hoping you will repost with the complete story.
      Since I am working my way down from what is the top at this moment, and may not get a chance to revisit, I want to compliment you on your great lines, like:
      ‘I was not sure I meant it as a compliment. But then, I was not sure I didn’t.’

      If you get a chance before reposting, I’d suggest you do a good read through. There are some confusing and actually humorous typos where the wrong word has been inserted–not sure if it was auto-filled or just a quick draft. This story has some good stuff.

      1. smallPencil

        Thank you for the compliment. I pick only the most premium lines, sun-ripened and aged to perfection. haha Unfortunately there is no rest of it. I simply stopped writing at 500 words. It was pointed out to me that I used the wrong version of “nether”, but the other typos still elude me.

    2. jmcody

      I agree with Snuzcook. You have some great lines like “just looking at it could give you tetanus.” Nice descriptions and use of language — just needs a little editing.

  20. Kathy

    “Thump, thump. Problem solved.” No, I didn’t want to HURT Brianna. I wanted a fair competition.

    “Focus on doing your best,” counseled my Little Voice. “Your day will come… hard work will be rewarded….”

    I wanted assurance. Brianna wouldn’t win this time.! I had worked hard to get to the Spelling Bee’s Final Three. PLUS, I am a writer. A Spelling Bee Championship would MEAN something for my Life Plan. What would it mean to her – a new shelf in her Trophy Room? Her Life Plan was Massage Therapy! How could spelling add to that career path? Obviously, she just wanted another WIN. I mentally kicked myself for even telling her I had entered.

    Brianna’s plan to sabotage the Third Finalist could work, but I didn’t trust her and I wouldn’t target the other girl. I didn’t know anything about her. I did know Brianna, though…

    I confided in my nemesis. “Brianna, spelling has always been difficult for me. But, I’ve discovered a way to… sort of, bypass that little problem. I’m willing to share my secret to help us win.”

    “But, my plan will knock that Texas Gal out of the competition – if you help,” whined Brianna.

    “I won’t hurt her, Brianna. But, look how far my secret has gotten me! And you…you got just as far without it. Imagine your success if you use my secret!”

    “Oh, I know!” she gloated. “Tell me.”

    Ceremoniously, I dug deep into my backpack, pulled out a small green box, and set it on the table between us. When Brianna reached for it, I laid my hand protectively over the box. “Before I show you, you need to promise not to tell anyone. I am entrusting you with a powerful source of knowledge that some people would use for evil.”

    Brianna’s eyes widened as she became somber and conspiratorial. She was skilled at being what others wanted her to be. “I promise.”

    Gently, I lifted the lid, revealing blue tissue paper nesting a smooth oval-shaped rock. It was dark grey, with a white symbol – a backwards letter ‘F’ – sketched on the side.

    “What is it?”

    “A Rune Stone, called Ansuz. It provides insight.”

    Brianna scoffed. “A Good Luck Charm? Laaame.”

    “It’s more than that – it’s REAL magic! Invoking Ansuz summons the powers of Odin, the Norse God, to facilitate clairvoyance between humans. Mindreading, Brianna!”

    “Yeah, right,” sighed Brianna.

    “I didn’t believe it at first, either. But, it didn’t take long to learn it IS real. I knew what people were thinking! I could tell you a million stories, but the most obvious thing is that I am in the Final Three of this Spelling Bee – and, I CAN’T spell! Not without the Ansuz, anyway.”

    I leaned closer. “Just rub it, and say to yourself: “Everything, come to me.” You’ll know the thoughts of whoever you’re thinking about. In the spelling bees, I focused on the announcer, read his mind, and spelled the words! Trust me, it works! No studying – you just KNOW!”

    Brianna carefully took the precious stone and rubbed her thumb over the Ansuz symbol.

    1. snuzcook

      Fun set up, Kathy. Not sure I really like the MC all that well, but Brianna is easy to dislike so I find myself rooting for the MC anyway, and there is a delicious element of complicitness in that.
      Nice response to the prompt!

    2. agnesjack

      And…? Interesting set-up to a longer story. I have to agree with snuzcook that neither character was particularly likable, but the story flowed well and you piqued my interest about the stone. Nonsense or real?

    3. Dennis

      So I had to Google the Ansuz symbol to see if maybe the MC was pulling Brianna’s leg. I second JM if it was to be a distraction away from the plot.

  21. Kathy

    “Thump, thump. Problem solved.” No, I didn’t want to HURT Brianna. I wanted a fair competition.

    “Focus on doing your best,” counseled my Little Voice. “Your day will come… hard work will be rewarded….”

    I wanted assurance. Brianna wouldn’t win this time.! I had worked hard to get to the Spelling Bee’s Final Three. PLUS, I am a writer. A Spelling Bee Championship would MEAN something for my Life Plan. What would it mean to her – a new shelf in her Trophy Room? Her Life Plan was Massage Therapy! How could spelling add to that career path? Obviously, she just wanted another WIN. I mentally kicked myself for even telling her I had entered.

    Brianna’s plan to sabotage the Third Finalist could work, but I didn’t trust her and I wouldn’t target the other girl. I didn’t know anything about her. I did know Brianna, though…

    I confided in my nemesis. “Brianna, spelling has always been difficult for me. But, I’ve discovered a way to… sort of, bypass that little problem. I’m willing to share my secret to help us win.”

    “But, my plan will knock that Texas Gal out of the competition – if you help,” whined Brianna.

    “I won’t hurt her, Brianna. But, look how far my secret has gotten me! And you…you got just as far without it. Imagine your success if you use my secret!”

    “Oh, I know!” she gloated. “Tell me.”

    Ceremoniously, I dug deep into my backpack, pulled out a small green box, and set it on the table between us. When Brianna reached for it, I laid my hand protectively over the box. “Before I show you, you need to promise not to tell anyone. I am entrusting you with a powerful source of knowledge that some people would use for evil.”

    Brianna’s eyes widened as she became somber and conspiratorial. She was skilled at being what others wanted her to be. “I promise.”

    Gently, I lifted the lid, revealing blue tissue paper nesting a smooth oval-shaped rock. It was dark grey, with a white symbol – a backwards letter ‘F’ – sketched on the side.

    “What is it?”

    “A Rune Stone, called Ansuz. It provides insight.”

    Brianna scoffed. “A Good Luck Charm? Laaame.”

    “It’s more than that – it’s REAL magic! Invoking Ansuz summons the powers of Odin, the Norse God, to facilitate clairvoyance between humans. Mindreading, Brianna!”

    “Yeah, right,” sighed Brianna.

    “I didn’t believe it at first, either. But, it didn’t take long to learn it IS real. I knew what people were thinking! I could tell you a million stories, but the most obvious thing is that I am in the Final Three of this Spelling Bee – and, I CAN’T spell! Not without the Ansuz, anyway.”

    I leaned closer. “Just rub it, and say to yourself: “Everything, come to me.” You’ll know the thoughts of whoever you’re thinking about. In the spelling bees, I focused on the announcer, read his mind, and spelled the words! Trust me, it works! No studying – you just KNOW!”

    Brianna carefully took the precious stone and rubbed her thumb over the Ansuz symbol.

  22. lionetravail

    (Had to work at this to reach for something a little different- I, too, wasn’t that fond of this prompt, which seemed awfully specific and limiting on variations. Ah well- hope you all enjoy!)

    It wasn’t fair. I’d played by the rules to get here. I had wanted to impress the Professor, and entered the national contest, and I’d been doing well.

    The problem was that John O’Houlihan, A.K.A ‘Maestro’, had also made it to the final three.

    “Well, ‘Resonance’, you’re looking pretty hot in them librarian glasses,” he said in a low voice.

    “Damn it, O’Hooligan, I’m undercover, like you,” I said crossly.

    “Uh huh,” he smirked. “So Janey Jane, how do you like your chances against me?”

    I didn’t. We were both mutants, of course, but Maestro’s power was that he could force people to say what he wanted them to say. Mine had to do with sonics. Can you guess which one helped more in a spelling bee?

    “I gots me an idea, Janey,” O’Houlihan said.

    “Do I want to hear it?” I said.

    “Sure,” he said easily. “You do realize our competition over there is one of us, right?”

    I felt my jaw drop. “He’s a mutant too?”

    “Yup yup,” he said. “So I can’t just make him misspell things out loud.” He looked at me. “But you could, right?”

    Sure, I thought automatically. I’d been working with the Professor to fine-tune my sonic control recently, and it’d be child’s play to transform one sound to another.

    “No,” I said firmly.

    “Oh Janey Jane, ya big liar!” he said with a nasty leer. “Don’t help me, and he’ll win for sure- he’s telepathic, eye contact-based.”

    I fretted. I’d wanted to win as a ‘normal’ to make the Professor proud, but I knew winning by cheating would make him so unhappy.

    “No,” I repeated.

    At that moment the announcer called us all to the stage and we took our places. I glanced at the third contestant, an Indian boy whose name badge said ‘Rajiv’, just as I was called up.

    “Anemone,” the announcer said.

    Oof. “Um, can you please use it in a sentence?” I said, trying to stall the inevitable.

    “Certainly. Anemone. The enemy of my anemone is my frenemy.”

    Wait, what? A freaking tongue-twister? I glanced suspiciously over at O’Houlihan, who was smirking evilly. I glanced at Rajiv, nervously.

    And the word appeared in my head. “A-N-E-M-O-N-E,” I spelled. There was applause, and I sat down, enjoying Maestro’s scowl.

    Rajiv was called up next, and he caught my eye as he went to the microphone. He winked at me, and the crowd went silent around me. “Hi,” he said in my mind.

    “Hi,” I thought back. Then: “Wow, that is such a cool power!”

    I saw him grin as he took position, and he spelled his word perfectly. As he went to sit, we locked gazes again, just as O’Hooligan went to the microphone with a sour expression on his face.

    “I heard everything John said to you,” Rajiv thought. “I respect your sense of fair play, and I wanted to help you out.”

    “Thanks,” I thought again. “But don’t you want to win?”

    “If you’ll let me buy you a soda when this is all over, I’ll feel like I’ve won,” he thought.

    I grinned. Suddenly the spelling bee didn’t seem so important anymore.

    1. agnesjack

      Bravo for finding a unique way to respond to the prompt. The dialogue was great and I loved the anemone description. I’m left wondering, however, what they were undercover for?

    2. lionetravail

      Thanks guys! Since I borrowed the whole X-men theme, I figured I could choose when in the timeline. So, my mutants have not been ‘outed’ yet, hence the ‘undercover’ comment- they’re trying to pass as normals for the spelling bee, basically. At least, that’s what I had in mind :)

      1. Kerry Charlton

        One of your best, David. And on a hard prompt no less. My imagination ended at zero on this prompt and you’re ramped up for it. An enjoyable read.

        1. lionetravail

          Thank you Snuzcook and Kerry- I really appreciate your reading and comments, and thank you for the kind words :) I think, having read a lot of the responses, that people had to work to uncork the creativity this week, but everyone’s done such a fine job.

    3. jmcody

      Wow, this is so great, especially considering this prompt didn’t give us much to work with. You’re like the MacGuyver of words! love the characterization and dialogue, especially the sneering, leering O’Houlhan/Hooligan. The Janey-Jane was inspired — a disturbing tip off to his condescending and hostile attitude. I also loved the way it switched gears at the end and turned into something sweet and optimistic. Well done Lionetravail!

      1. lionetravail

        “The MacGuyver of words”? Wow- Thanks so much, JM! I’m not sure it’s true, but I did actually give some thoughts to naming for this one, and thought the O’Houlihan/’O’Hooligan’ dichotomy would be fun to explore. And, like most of the superhero genre stories, I wanted the good guys to win because they were essentially ‘good’. Glad you enjoyed, and again, thanks!

    4. Dennis

      As I have been reading from bottom to top, I reaching the stage where more creativity has been used with the prompt. Great job. Interesting take to have the mutants fit in.

    5. margi33

      Great, lionetravail! I liked the super power idea and how you wove the story together. You did a good job explaining all of the different “powers” without losing the reader or making it unclear. The ending was unexpected and fitting.

  23. snovy121

    I think the announcer tried to rig the actual bee, and that’s why he got nervous when Victor was turning on his mic, cuz he knew his plan was backfiring. But then again, I’m not so sure, because he may have stepped in to save his son and taken the fall. I’m not sure, but I like that I’m still thinking about it a day later :) I’m thinking Alex is responsible for the car.

    1. snovy121

      oops, this is supposed to be a reply to Jay’s story at the end! I have a kinda crappy laptop that scrolled up to the top without me realizing it.

  24. Hasslefoot

    I am Queen of Allum. Sitting next to me is an Eewt inside its robotic exoskeleton. Unlike the tasty annelids on my planet, these larger squirmy creatures are disgusting. I watch as a Dirk scans the mechanical war machine. It must be tough for the Dirks to know the robotic bodies they mass-produced for the Eewts, turned against them in war. Refusing to support the Dirk’s war efforts, they attacked our planet for resources.

    Our Inter-Galactic Council was formed after “Snetas Feru” (war of three worlds). The Council concluded that despite our differences, we three should form an alliance. Aliens from other galaxies were taking over. Survival relied on combined forces. Of course this was a hundred years ago. With Dirks who live on our neighboring planet, trust is thin.

    “Guay polet” (excuse me). As another Dirk searches for a seat, the entire row stands to allow his large hairy body to squeeze by. I respond, “Serfie” (no problem). Our stadium isn’t designed to seat these colossal beasts. Last year the contest was held on their planet and they laughed as we struggled to climb the tall steps in the arena.

    Friendly competition each year bonds the three worlds. Sports were considered at first, but the Eewt’s bionic-metal suits give them an advantage. Dirks are large creatures with hot blood and little sportsmanship. My kind is strictly amphibious.

    The council determined we should learn each other’s languages and host an annual spelling bee. This has kept morale between our very different worlds alive. If we need to defend, communication between species is crucial. This year’s competition is held on my precious planet, Allum.

    The leader of each planet competes honoring the council’s edict. I am embarrassed about the Eewt’s knowledge of my language. But their world is plentiful in resources giving them time to study. I respect the Dirks, as their planet is covered in a sea of sand and iron. They continue to build exoskeletons for the Eewts in exchange for goods.

    As we wait to get called, the Eewt crawls out of its armor. The creature’s asexual organs pump under the thin layer of segmented rippled skin.

    The Dirk, shakes nervously, sweat pouring off its heavy brow. His massive hand clinches tightly.

    He turns and whispers to me. “Fas en demus” (Eewt cannot win).

    I look at him with my protruding eyes, “Gune ard esth”? (What are you saying?)

    Dirk cracks a smile exposing yellowed canines, “Esh anish (Join me), gru fe rut en” (In my effort to win!) “

    What is he planning? Just to win? I get nervous releasing toxins from my defense glands.

    Dirk is called. He stands towering over the panel of judges, and they ask:

    “Leps aroush ‘dellliope’ arese Hewt” (Spell ‘Resources’ in the Eewt language)

    The Dirk turns and in an instant sinks his blade into the exposed coelom of the Eewt. The Eewt fades in a puddle of gelatinous goo.

    What do I do? Does he plan to kill me, too?

    Space ships with NATO markings fly over, bombing the Eewt’s ship’s docking bay.

    Dirk smiles, opening his palm exposing a tracking device.

    “A-T-I-B-E” (Mine).

    Hundreds of two-legged aliens flood the stadium as Dirks draw their weapons in coalition with the strange creatures.

    The Dirk leader stares into my eyes. “Esh anish?” (Join me?)

    1. Xevirus

      This was, probably, my favorite read since coming here in terms of enjoyment. That you took a prompt that so many felt lacking and reshaped it into this shows remarkable creativity. Thank you for the story.

      1. Hasslefoot

        Dennis, I am grateful that you liked my story. It is difficult cutting down my original 1000 word plot. This is such a challenge with the detailed prompt an limited words.

  25. Bilbo Baggins

    THE BLURRED LINE

    The Headmaster swept his arm around the sea of people and armed guards, leaning into the microphone. His purple robe slid along the floor.

    “Welcome, to the 251st Spelling Bee!”

    They cheered, the grey shields from the police barely holding them back from the stage. Shoved back into their seats, they peered up at us.

    I was one of the favored, from Rockiland. It was an intense honor, my father had stressed, his hands on my shoulders. I had to make us proud.

    To make matters tougher, Derrick Flanagae was behind me, watching. I could almost feel his rough, pushing arms. I never saw him hand in assignments before, but he managed to miraculously raise his grades overnight to be here.

    He was the “troubled child” in Sawtooth, usually regarded by the elders with a slight frown. Over the education season, his attacks had grown. First it was a shake of our tree, a cutting word, but quickly elevated to fistfights.

    “Dirty clone! Your mom probably hasn’t told you, has she?!” I’d run home with a trail of blood on my cheek and she’d clean me. Whenever I asked her about it, she’d look me in the eyes.

    “Michael, you still have a soul, just like the rest of us. Don’t let anyone convince you different.”

    I tried to remember her voice, its comfort. I struggled to hold onto it. By mid-day, the crowd was restless, and only three of us remained. Derrick was among them. I knew something was up when he sidled alongside me near the fountain.

    “So, Mikey, it’s just down to us and what’s-his-name.” He slid his arm around the fountain’s base like a snake’s tongue, regarding me with a grin.

    “You mean Riordo Bennet,” I replied motionlessly, gazing across the lobby to the 15-something from Tenassia. I’d never met him, but he zipped through words like a hovercraft.

    “What do you say we trip him up?”

    A gulp began the slow rise up my esophagus. “I’m not sure.”

    “Of course you’re not, Mikey.” He leaned in. “You’ve always been the cautious one.”

    I crossed my arms. “That’s not always true. I’ll help you. You’ll see.”

    He laughed slightly. “That’s what I wanted to hear. Just keep him distracted for me.”

    The crowd cheered as we resumed our seats, and I felt a chill inside. Derrick glanced at me wickedly when it was Riordo’s turn. I saw him plant the pill into his cup earlier. Riordo ambled up to the podium.

    “Spell ambrigosious,” the Elder mumbled under his glasses. Riordo struggled for a moment, looking at the back door.

    “N-O-W!” He shouted. The elders looked up from the desks in confusion, about to buzz him out.

    The back doors burst open like an inflatable raft, the guards thrown down. Side exits were suddenly filled with people. Something about unguarded arsenals, special holiday, registered, before I sensed movement behind me.

    I thrust my hand back just in time to block Derrick’s fist. His face was a mask of hatred.

    “Glad to see you could make it to the grand finale, Mikey.” He swung again.

    “I planned on it.” I wound up to charge him before my legs suddenly fell out beneath me. My breath knocked out, two peasants with pistols loomed foggily on the stage.

    “Please don’t hurt me!” I managed to croak out. Noise erupted all across the auditorium, screams from wounded citizens, discharge of rifles. Derrick crouched into my vision.

    “Somebody had to pay. It’s finally time we took matters into our own hands, started a revolution, instead of taking orders from a perfect race of test tubes,” he spat out.

    Mom’s advice seemed blown away by a cruel wind. Derrick disappeared behind the stage, more shots rang out, and in the corner of my eye I saw an elder fall onto the steps, blood covering his ripped robe. Surely there was nothing wrong with me, was there? I wasn’t just a machine, was I? I tried to hold my hands up in front of me, to prove my humanity. Instead, I blanked out all the commotion behind me, and fell into a deep, rolling, guilt-ridden unconsciousness.

    GH (I haven’t been as busy on here as I’d like. I’m deep into planning my book right now, so apologies in advance if I don’t reply to anyone.)

    1. Reaper

      Nice Mr. Baggins. The beginning put me in mind of the Long Walk and then it morphed into something completely different. Intense and very enjoyable. Been wondering where you were, good luck with the book.

  26. moscoboy

    Bee Honest

    I was a finalist in the national spelling bee contest that would represent Kansas. In a cruel turn of events for me, my neighbor and scholastic rival Tommy Perkins was in the final three. The third finalist was Tula Winston from a rural school district that was not known for turning out spelling bee finalists.

    I was finishing my lunch studying spelling words that had stumped the finalists in previous years and Tommy came and sat next to me and presented me with a winning proposition for both of us.

    “My uncle’s sister is a teacher at Watkins middle school, that’s where our nemesis is from. According to my mom, the girl is a walking dictionary and can’t be beat. Why don’t we join forces and derail our opponent so we can bring back the trophy to our school. Scarborough needs a lift. I’m sure the principle and our English teacher will get bonuses if one of us wins.”

    “What is my part in bringing down Tula Winston,” asked Ben?

    “Sooner or later we will be in the same room together while the organizers get the stage ready for the competition. All you have to do is mention that her older brother has been involved in a terrible auto accident and is close to death. You can look to me and I’ll confirm the story. That will rattle her brain and we’ll win,” said Tommy.

    “I don’t want to resort to tricks to win Tommy, I’m confident in my spelling skills. I’m weak at telling lies. I don’t think I could live with myself and smile as I held up the winning trophy. Can you say the same about yourself?”

    “All I’m trying to do Ben is to give you a fighting chance to beat me. If you can get rid of that walking dictionary one of us will be a shoo-in.”

    “How would you feel if I won and you lost Tommy?”

    “As long as we keep the trophy at Scarborough I’ll be happy.”

    “So you’ll promise not to tell on me if we go through with your plan?’

    “I guess losing would sting. My parents would think less of me, but I’ve got strong shoulders, I can take the pain of losing. What about you Ben, the grapevine says you’re having trouble with the XYZ words. I’m just trying to give you a helping hand,” said Tommy.

    “I think I’m going to pass on your idea,” said Ben. “In the mean time worry about your weaknesses on the I and H words.”

    “What are you talking about,” asked Tommy? “I’ve got those words down.”
    “I meant to say integrity and honesty Tommy. Don’t try messing with Tula’s head, we’re Facebook friends.”

    1. agnesjack

      Whew! I don’t know why I got a little nervous there for a while, because Ben was quite steadfast. The flow of the conversation was so realistic, and I loved how Ben gradually built his case for “honesty” and “integrity.” Perfect ending, moscoboy.

    2. jmcody

      I agree that you did a good job of building the suspense. Your MC could have gone either way, but it was good to see truth win out in the end.

  27. Kerry Charlton

    BRIGHTLY

    Mark Thompson was no stranger to Washington, having competed last year in the National Spelling Bee. His second cousin from Kansas City also arrived. Mark was not overjoyed to see Bill Buntly again. Last year at the same event, they both lasted through the fourth round, being eliminated from competition.

    Both boys at thirteen, were primed for the prize. The cousins moved quickly through level five. At the end of the sixth round only three were left, Mark, Bill and a petite girl from Enid, Oklahoma. She wore her raven hair in long braids and her name was Bright Leaf Thundecloud.

    Upon meeting her, Mark fell under a spell and for the first time in his life, his heart skipped two beats. He’d seen girls that interested him and those he could be friends with but when he looked on her regal face with high cheek bones, he felt a longing to be with her and to hold her tight.

    That night before the final competition, Mark had hit his cousin hard and watched him fall to the ground.

    “You’re rotten to the core Billy.”

    “Oh yeah moon eyes? I see the way you look at her.”

    “So what? You go near her, I’ll knock the daylights out of you.”

    “I only thought we could put something in her food tonight so she couldn’t concentrate. Big deal.”

    “I’m warning you, slime bucket, back off.”

    Okay, okay, get over it.”

    The final day arrived, the three were introduced on national television and Mark stuck his hand awkwardly toward his vision.

    “Good luck, Miss Thundercloud.”

    “Thank you, I wish you the same. Would you call me Brightly?”

    He stood there, all thoughts of words and letters spilled from his mind and impulsively he gave her a small hug. She lightly kissed his cheek as the audience stood and applauded both of them.

    Twenty three words later, only two stood, Mark and Brightly. Mark saw in her eyes what he didn;t dare believe in. He had fallen hard for her and he knew he had to compete against her. The twenty fourth word was thrown to him first, ‘Hydrocephalus’.
    He knew the word, a medical illness. His father was a doctor.

    “H y d r o c e p a l u s”, he stated.

    Incorrect, Mr. Thompson. Miss Thundercloud?”

    She stood by the mike, looking straight in Mark’s eyes, a puzzled look on her face.

    “H y d o c e p h a l u s.”

    “That is correct, Miss Thundercloud. You have won first place in the National Spelling Bee.”

    Mark looked directly in his father’s eyes, fearing what he might think of him. Hev walked over to Brightly and hugged her again. She returned his embrace, her large brown eyes filled with tears.

    “Why didn’t you know the word?” she asked.

    “I forgot to put the ‘h’ in it.”

    Mark’s father climbed the podium and shook Brightly’s hand offering his congratulations.

    He walked over to his son, his face reflecting the love he felt.

    “I’m proud of you Mark, for today you are a man. Let’s go home son.”

    “Next year Dad, when we go on vacation, can we……….”

    “Go to Oklahoma? Is that what you want?”

    “It’s just a thought, Dad.”

    “We’ll talk about it Mark.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Marc. Kind of auto-biographical. Seventh grade, I had a tremendous crush on my home room teacher. She was in her first year, sweet, beautiful and I went ape over it. School music teacher, I joined the choir, couldn’t sing a note from looking at her.

        1. Xevirus

          That, too, sounds like a story to hear. I like the way you essentially elided the prompt’s implied drama and replaced it with something altogether more uplifting. Overcoming nastiness with sweetness.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Thank you Xevirus. After last week’s depressing prompt, I’m on a suger run this week. I appreciate you time in reading it.

    1. agnesjack

      Oh my, those thirteen-year-old hormones. I remember them well. This was a sweet story, Kerry, and I especially liked the dad’s reaction. Losing gracefully was a much better lesson for his son.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Nancy. I’m on a ‘sweet-roll this week. But where did the hormones go? Maybe we should design a health program to bring them back.

      1. lionetravail

        I agree. You mentioned a sugar roll this week- this one was certainly on it, because there’s really only one good term for this: sweet.

    2. snuzcook

      Can’t help myself, Kerry: “H y d o c e p h a l u s.” “That is correct, Miss Thundercloud.’ She forgot the ‘r’ after the ‘d.’ I thought as I read it that she had purposely misspelled the word.
      That would have been a different story.
      I like the direction you took it, you old romantic, you.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you snuzcook. I can’t even spell when the word’s before my nose. I blame Dad, his IQ was over the top but he was a lousy speller just like his youngest son, [me.] A hard prompt for my old brain, decided to make a sugar cube instead. You nailed me, I am a romantic, always have been.

        I even like Rex Harrison singing, ‘I’ve Grown Accoustomed To Your Face.”

    3. Reaper

      It is funny that you call this fluff Kerry, because it is a beautiful thing. You broke the mold of the prompt and made me so happy that you did. This story has all of your usual intensity and intellect just directed differently. Writing something that feels good and touch emotions while remaining completely believable is difficult and you are a master of it. I would not have missed this for the world.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reaper, you are my rock on the forum, to lean on. Throwing myself out on these pages each week, is not easy for underneath the disguise I write under, is a small, introvertive boy that runs around in my brain as it always has.

        You help me through that each week that I write. I appreciate your comments and attention to detail and analysis that you give. But most of all, your kindness.

    4. Dennis

      Very nice and different take on the prompt. It’s great that you are able to put yourself out there with your emotions. Now get back to the Copper Scrolls (Hee Hee)

    5. jmcody

      As the mother of 13 year old who has been head over heels with a particular girl for at least a year now, I really appreciated this. (Don’t tell him I said so!). The innocence is so fleeting…

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you jm. The moments may have been fleeting in their innocence but the memories linger and bring smiles along with the early teen crushes during a time when life was magical through the eyes of a young boy.

  28. jhowe

    My day was sliding hopelessly toward mediocrity until I opened the certified letter from The World Cup Spelling Competition. Alisha was rocking on her rug, listening to the Danish addition of the Merriam-Webster on CD. The day before, she had finished the Portuguese addition, for the fifth time, with much rocking.

    The competition was to be held in London in three weeks, and there was a $50,000 cash prize to the winner. The other competitions we had entered usually offered trophies or college scholarships, which were worthless to Alisha. $50,000 would be a welcome windfall and would help keep the creditors at bay for quite some time.

    At five o’clock I told Alisha to turn off the player. She did and went outside to play. She was twenty seven years old and had a mental disorder called autism spectrum, more commonly known as savant syndrome. Our parents had long since given up on Alisha. She now lived with me and I devoted my time to her care as best I could.

    With a reluctant loan from our father, Alisha and I flew to London and found ourselves in the top ten on the final day of competition. As round one was about to start I unrolled Alisha’s rug on the stage and she sat. When her turn came, the commentator said, “The word is epidemiology.”

    “Epidemiology… I don’t know that word…. That’s not a real word… Epidemiology… Who cares?” And then she spelled it perfectly. And so her routine continued until only three remained on the stage.

    During a scheduled break I took Alisha outside to play. While I watched her roll in the grass, my ex-neighbor approached me. David had discovered Alisha’s talent years ago and helped me develop it. At first we read to her. Then we discovered books on cassette tape. At age six she was winning spelling bees all over the country. Her routine never faltered.

    “I have it figured out,” said David.

    “What?” I was dismayed that he was here and I was doubly dismayed that he was trying to interfere with the competition. He obviously had designs on part of the winnings.

    “The Chinese girl can’t spell shit if her mother isn’t right there egging her on.”

    “David, that’s ridiculous, you can’t abduct the mother.” I could see that Alisha was growing tired of the grassy island in the parking lot as she progressed from rolling to rocking. “And what are your devious plans for the kid from Iowa?” I said.

    “Don’t worry about him. He’s lucky to be here as it is. And don’t worry about the Chinese girl either.”

    “I won’t be a part of this David. Leave us alone and let the kids spell.” I took Alisha’s hand and led her back to the stage.

    As the final round started, Alisha became very agitated, walking in circles, wringing her hands furiously. “My rug is gone… My rug is gone… I want to go home… Who cares?”

    I looked over at David who was standing beside the Chinese girl’s mother. They both suppressed smiles. I apologized to the judges, walked on stage and took Alisha in my arms and held her. “Do you want to go home Binky… or do you want to see your new rug?”

    She stopped wringing her hands and looked up at me with big brown eyes. She twisted on her feet ten times. “New rug,” she said.

    I took off my sports jacket and spread it on the floor. Alisha looked at me suspiciously, twisted on her feet ten times and sat down. The Chinese girl and the kid from Iowa didn’t have a chance.

    1. Amyithist

      Nicely done, Jhowe. I felt so bad for Alisha. No one believed in her, except for her sibling. It has denotations of a truly touching story intricately woven into malevolence and seedy dealings from other contestants. Very well done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Loved it jhowe, her brother’s love transended and wrapped Alisha with happiness. A heart-felt love between brother and sister. I’ve seen similar in real life. It is amazing to watch siblings taking care of each other. Your story brought that to the fore front. Thank you.

    2. Marc Ellis

      This was great. You really painted the picture of the sisters’ relationship and showed insight regarding Alisha’s care. Your protagonist touched my heart and you make me hate the antagonisht–very artistic.

    3. jmcody

      This was beautifully done and very touching. It sounds like you’ve been around an autistic person. You nailed the OCD and the repetitive speech.

    4. margi33

      Nice job, jhowe. I loved the characters and the Alisha’s condition was very well detailed through her actions. A sentimental, touching read.

    5. snovy121

      I love your descriptions of Alisha’s behavior and interactions with her brother. You can tell he loves her and knows just what she’s thinking. Great human touch. I was rooting for her!

  29. agnesjack

    LIVING IN THE SPELLING BEE WORLD

    Maeve leaned against the rhytidome of her favorite river birch and put her bare feet into the lake. The warm squishy sensation of the cyanophyceae felt wonderful between her toes. This was the place to which she retreated when she needed to excogitate.

    Her neighbor, Lisa, who could be a bit logorrheic had approached Maeve in a phony state of schwarmerei, going on and on about how they should join forces and “take down” their only rival in the national spelling bee finals. Maeve didn’t trust Lisa, so she took on a pococurante manner and said she’d think about it. For all she knew the whole falderal could be a guetapens hatched up by Lisa with the other contestant to take Maeve down instead. It was hard to tell with Lisa. When it came to moral choices, Lisa had always been a little eudaemonic.

    A feeling of weltschmerz wafted over Maeve.

    “To cheat or not to cheat,” she said with a roscian sigh. “That is the interrogatory.”

    Of course, the fuss and bother became moot when Maeve woke up the day of the finals with the worst coryzal infection ever. Her mother gave her an antipyretic agent and made her stay in bed.

    Lisa lost quickly on the word “mussitation,” because she didn’t speak clearly into the microphone and the judges thought she left out the first ‘i’.

    “How propitious,” Maeve thought when she heard the news.

    THE END

      1. agnesjack

        To be honest, jhowe, I didn’t particularly like this prompt and almost didn’t bother. Then I started looking up spelling bee words and thought it would be interesting to try to find them a home.

    1. Amyithist

      My head hurts. LOL My vocabulary tapped out at weltschmerz. LOL Very clever take. Very well written, knowing you wove actual words from spelling bees previous. I’m kind of in awe right now.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          My fingers bleed from turning pages and my head hurts and my back aches, my eyes are crossed and my second toe on my left foot has chris- crossed over my big toe in a toe cramp. Outside of that, I loved it. I’m gonna need to lay down for a while ’till my vision corrects itself. Great story Nancy.

          1. agnesjack

            Kerry, your response is so funny. I’m laughing out loud right now.

            My humble apologies for the cramped toes and crossed vision. I think I may post a translation version below, just for fun.

          2. agnesjack

            For you, Kerry, a translated version so that you can uncross your eyes. All the words in italics are actual national spelling bee words used throughout the years.

            LIVING IN THE SPELLING BEE WORLD (Translated version)

            Maeve leaned against the rhytidome [bark] of her favorite river birch and put her bare feet into the lake. The warm squishy sensation of the cyanophyceae [blue/green algae] felt wonderful between her toes. This was the place to which she retreated when she needed to excogitate.

            Her neighbor, Lisa, who could be a bit logorrheic [a motor-mouth] had approached Maeve in a phony state of schwarmerei [excessive enthusiasm/sentiment], going on and on about how they should join forces and “take down” their only rival in the national spelling bee finals. Maeve didn’t trust Lisa, so she took on a pococurante [indifferent/nonchalant] manner and said she’d think about it. For all she knew the whole falderal could be a guetapens [trap] hatched up by Lisa with the other contestant to take Maeve down instead. It was hard to tell with Lisa. When it came to moral choices, Lisa had always been a little eudaemonic [driven by what made her happy].

            A feeling of weltschmerz [world-weariness] wafted over Maeve.

            “To cheat or not to cheat,” she said with a roscian [actor’s] sigh. “That is the interrogatory.”

            Of course, the fuss and bother became moot when Maeve woke up the day of the finals with the worst coryzal infection [head cold] ever. Her mother gave her an antipyretic [fever reducing] agent and made her stay in bed.

            Lisa lost quickly on the word “mussitation” [mumbling], because she didn’t speak clearly into the microphone and the judges thought she left out the first ‘i’.

            “How propitious,” Maeve thought when she heard the news.

        2. agnesjack

          Thanks, moscoboy. That’s why I made my story short (237 words). I didn’t think people could take wading through many more of them. It’s funny how a lot of the spelling bee words aren’t words that anyone would normally use.

    2. Gina

      I really enjoyed this! Of course, I’m grateful that I didn’t get around to reading it until the “translated version” was made available. I was able to avoid the bodily injury and ailments from which Kerry suffered ;). Creative, original, and refreshing – thanks for the read! – Bean

      1. agnesjack

        I’m glad you liked it and didn’t have to suffer Kerry’s fate. Thanks for your comments, Gina.

        By-the-way, is your nickname “Bean”? I see you sign that after your comments.

      1. agnesjack

        Thanks, snovy121. Actually, the word “logodaedaly” might work. It means playing with words. I know that word because a friend had a theater company by that name.

    3. smallPencil

      Cute. It would have been way better if it was in the first person. That way the narrator/spelling bee ace would think in humungous words, rather than the story merely being peppered with humongous words.

      1. agnesjack

        Thanks, smallPencil, for your thoughtful comments and ideas. I think, however, that my point was different. Mine was more satirical, whereas the words that I chose were from actual national spelling bees, and putting them into a narrative made them somewhat absurd and ridiculous. If I had written it in the first person, it would have just been a young girl sounding pretentious.

        I haven’t seen you here before, so welcome, and thanks again for your comment.

        1. smallPencil

          Oh, ok. And thanks for the welcome. I’ve actually responded to maybe ten of these. But it has been a really long time since the last one.

    4. snuzcook

      I am in awe of what is either your prodigious vocabulary, or the amount of work you put into this short story. Fabulous submission for this prompt.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I don’t think there’s any doubt about Nancy’s vocabulary, work or intellienge that shows up on her prompts each week. I for one am a believer.

      2. agnesjack

        Actually, snuzcook (and kind Kerry) I think my vocabulary could be much improved. All I did was Google “spelling bee words” and came up with two lists: one of all the winning words since 1925, and one of the top losing words. It was fun building a story around some of them, and I’m happy that people enjoyed the joke. I really love this forum.

    5. Dennis

      I think the beauty of this story is how you were able to use those words creatively within the story. Certainly a great way to build your vocabulary. And that you were able to tell the whole story so concisely while using all of those words. Great job.

    6. jmcody

      That was so clever and creative, and as Snuzzcook said, a ton of work! I can’t imagine more fun in 237 words!

      I am thinking of trying to plant Schwarmerai into conversations at work and seeing if it catches on…

      :)

    7. margi33

      Nice, agnesjack. Bravo for putting so much work/research into that piece. And though I am WAY to lazy to look up those words, the humor of you going to that extreme made me chuckle. Thanks too for the translation :) . Nice, creative work!

  30. Amyithist

    “Spell expeditious,” the voice droned into the microphone. I looked down at my palms as Richard approached the mic. I didn’t want him to do well. I closed my eyes, praying for him to mix up his vowels as most people often did whilst spelling such a vexatious word. Of course, he blasted through it with little exertion. I closed my eyes tighter as the crowd erupted into applause.
    At the mediator’s behest, the third finalist stood and made her way to the podium. Her shoes made an eerie click-click-clap as she took her position. I watched with placid disregard as Richard eased into the seat next to me. He slouched down, his yellow and blue pinstriped tie curving over his ample stomach. A feeling of disdain and agitation washed over me as I studied him. I hated Richard Waxton with every fiber of my being and sitting this close to him was an arduous task for me; it took everything I could muster not to do something drastic…like hit him. Hit him so hard that he thinks he’s back in the third grade, I thought, smiling.
    “Good to see the pressure isn’t getting to you,” he whispered toward me.
    I blinked at him and shrugged. “I find using my mind isn’t such a laborious thing to do, Dick.”
    “Don’t call me that,” he snapped. “You know I hate that.”
    I grinned and nodded at him. “I do.”
    He rolled his eyes at me. “You’re so immature, Bailey.” Before I could retort, he leaned in closer, motioning for me to close the gap. Reluctantly, I obliged. “I think we can do something to distract Melody over here.”
    My eyes shot up to the awkward woman standing behind the podium. She was asking the mediator to use repertoire in a sentence for the third time. I took her in for the first time and found myself grimacing at her lackadaisical appearance. “What are you talking about,” I asked, turning back to Richard.
    He grinned and shrugged. “You wanna win, don’t you?”
    It was my turn to shrug. “I don’t know,” I replied. “I want to win by own merit, Dick. Cheating…”
    His face turned red. “Nobody said anything about cheating,” he spat. “I’m not suggesting we cheat.”
    I frowned and turned back to Melody, watching her bony knees knock together behind the plywood and I felt a sense of compassion for her. I shook my head at Richard. “Whatever you have planned, count me out,” I said.
    I could feel his eyes burning a hole through me as I watched Melody struggling with the word. She was sounding it out, but I could tell the moment she got past R-E-P…she was stuck. After much deliberation, the mediator finally ceded and called for a five minute recess. Melody looked as though she was about to faint.
    She crawled back over to the chair and slumped into it, burying her face into her trembling hands. “I don’t know what’s wrong,” she said aloud. I was about to reply when I realized she wasn’t talking to anyone in particular. I felt another throng of compassion for her. My eyes flitted over to Richard. He was thoroughly enjoying her discomfort.
    “You’re sick, Dick,” I hissed as I stood up. I walked over to the little table sitting just off stage and poured myself a glass of water. I downed a cup, then two…then three. As I started back over to the rows of seats, I began to feel strange. My toes tingled. My arms felt heavy and detached all at the same time…My head began to spin…
    Before I knew it, I was looking up at the ceiling. The world around me was muffled. What the hell is going on, I thought frantically. Suddenly, Richard’s face filled my vision and he smirked. “You shouldda joined sides with me,” he whispered. He glanced off to the left, his face contorting with mock concern. “Looks as though Melody is down, too. Must be something in the water.” His smile deepened and he flicked a piece of hair from my eyes. “And the winner of this year’s spelling bee is,” he paused, his lips curling into a sneer, “Dick.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Skull-druggery in it’s best form. I really liked this. Someone needs to take Dicky for a long ride. Put cement shoes on him and dump in the South River. You really know how to get a reader to hate someone. Good show!

    1. Gina

      Loved your description of Melody – her “bony knees knock[ing] together behind the plywood” and the way she spoke out loud to herself in despair. You can definitely feel the way she’s in her own little anxious bubble. The last two paragraphs were my favorite, Richard hovering in mock concern over Bailey, playing the concerned comrade role to a tee. And “must be something in the water” – classic. – Bean

    2. agnesjack

      So many evil young people are cropping up in this prompt. This was quite a bit over the limit, Amyithist, but extremely well written. You have a wonderful ability at description and creating an environment that is clear and visible. I could feel Bailey’s discomfort when Dick plopped himself down next to her. Excellent.

      1. Amyithist

        I don’t know that I ever have (or ever will) meet the word limit. LOL Thanks for taking the time to read it, though, agnesjack. It’s appreciated. :)

        1. agnesjack

          Ah, a rebel, I see. Actually, the reason I try to nudge people toward the limit is because I like to try to read all the stories, which is harder to do when they are longer. ;-)

    3. Reaper

      Okay, now that I am finally doing some catching up I see what you mean about the wavelength recently. Kind of scary.

      I loved this. Your usual flair for description and sensory input seemed to be in overdrive. The characters were all amazingly in depth. Most importantly to me you seemed to bring out the big guns on vocabulary and wording. You always have that but you seemed to take it up a notch to match the spelling bee feel which was perfect.

    4. jmcody

      I echo what the others said about the tone, mood and sensory input that you imbued this story with. If it was over the word limit, I didn’t notice because I was thoroughly engaged in the story. (Plus I am a serial word limit offender too!)

    5. margi33

      Amithyst, this was a good story, well written. The descriptions were effective and the everything was well balanced: exposition, action, dialogue, etc. Flow was good and easily readable. Characterization was good. Nice job!

  31. peetaweet

    Of course Amelia Braxton entered the Spelling Bee. It was like her mission in life to best me at every little thing we did. When I took up the trumpet, she dazzled everyone with her flute. That summer when I built that to-scale Legos White House, she built the Statue of Liberty. When I got a growth spurt, oh wait, she got the growth spurt. See?

    So it was only fitting that I would end up in the finals with my bratty neighbor. And I seethed as I watched Little Miss Perfect between rounds, brushing her hair and applying sweet strawberry lip gloss in that annoying way that she does, smacking her lips three times and then rolling them together. The other nerds drooled, and perhaps that’s why she’d breezed through the early rounds.

    But both of us had to worry about Kalyan Dabbiru, a demur, quiet type who, while I had focused on Amelia, had rattled off every letter with hair raising accuracy.

    But during our three hour recess, when I saw Amelia having a hushed conversation with Kalyan in the corner of the lobby, I knew Amelia was up to something. And when she approached me an hour before we took the stage, I had my guard up. So I thought.

    “We need to talk,” she said, in a sweet smelling whisper.

    “About?”

    “Quitting.”

    “What?” I started to walk away when she took my arm.

    “Kyle, I’m serious.”

    “Me too, I think you should go right ahead and quit.”

    She stepped closer to me, her eyes falling to the ground. Then I saw an Amelia I’d never seen before.

    “I just talked to Kalyan.”

    “Yeah, I saw you two plotting.”

    She shook her head, the blue eyes wide and gleaming. “Kyle, I just found out that it’s been a year to the date that her grandfather died. She’s dedicated this completion to him.”

    “What?”

    “Yeah, if you want to win, go ahead, but I’m out.”

    The final round was pretty straight forward: miss a word and you’re out. I took my seat on the stage, offering Kalyan a sympathetic nod. She did likewise; the poor girl was near tears.

    Amelia and I decided that we’d correctly spell our first words for show. I did, nailing the word INCISOR and then Amelia followed with CROISSANT. Kalyan stepped up to the podium and Amelia let out a little gasp, but when she easily spelled out TORSION, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. Our plan was intact.
    Second round. I was up. Amelia’s stare pleaded with me to follow through. I closed my eyes and took the fall, misspelling CARAFE with two R’s. The crowd let out a collective moan, but I was comforted by with the knowledge that I was doing the right thing. Walking back to my seat I noticed Kalyan’s mouth hanging open with shock. I gave her a reassuring grimace. Amelia closed her eyes gracefully.

    Kalyan went next, and I noticed a rather large family section cheering her on. B then she flubbed the word ANTICIPATION, and that’s when the lights seemed to bend because the room was spinning. When Kalyan sat down, her eyes were consoling and kind, which was good because I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. I turned to Amelia, who slung her hair back and breezed to the podium, batting her eyes, and then correctly spelling out MACHIAVELLIAN.

    Kalyan turned to me, her confusion melting into horror. But she didn’t know Amelia Braxton. I did, and that’s what bothered me the most, that I’d been duped again. The crowd stood as Amelia was declared the 2014 Spelling Bee Champion, and then she peeked back to us with a devilish grin. She had everybody fooled. At least until Kalyan tackled her right on the stage.

    1. Amyithist

      Okay. You are a G-E-N-I-U-S. This was so well written… I felt the disdain for Amelia right from the start. And the build…only to be followed with a backstabbing blow…truly gifted, Peetaweet! LOVED it.

    2. jhowe

      This was really good. Good job with the descriptions of Amelia. I could picture her sitting there with her lip gloss and her bothersome antics. The writing was spot on.

    3. Gina

      Phenomenal job. Believability, good development of characters, unique plot, and a “tell me more” kind of ending. I agree with the others, the use of “Machiavellian” was very clever indeed. Great work :). – Bean

    4. jmcody

      Your MCs are always so good natured, and this one played right into the hands of the Machiavellian Amelia. There’s something I’m not understanding though. It’s probably just me and I am about to embarrass myself, but why would Kalyan throw the contest if he MC was already disqualified? Could be that I don’t understand the rules of spelling bees.

      But well written and engaging as always!

    5. margi33

      Nice characterizations, peetaweet. I loved the line “…applying sweet strawberry lip gloss in that annoying way that she does, smacking her lips three times and then rolling them together.” A nice visual and others as well. Nice job.

  32. RuthieShev

    The Spelling Bee

    Why didn’t I just tell her outright that I would not do what she is asking of me? I do not trust her. I do not trust her. I do not trust her. Saying that three times out loud should remind me of what I already know.

    Having been around Jezebel for seven years, I know better than to believe her. Her name fits her even though everyone calls her Jessie. I must never forget how devious she really is. On the outside she is smooth and sweet like honey but inside she is deceptive like a snake.

    The very first day we moved into “her” neighborhood, Jessie showed her true colors. We were both ten when she looked me in the eye and said, “You don’t belong here”. Then she took the hose she was using to water flowers and smiled as she deliberately turned it around and squirted me.

    Hearing me scream our parents simultaneously came running out of their houses. Jessie looked from one family to the other with her innocent face. Claiming the hose had gotten away from her, she told them all how she was so very sorry. Then she turned to me and said, “I hope we will be bestest friends because I always wanted a neighbor my age.” With her cutesy blonde curls, she kind of reminded me of Nellie from Little House on the Prairie.

    At school, it was more of the same. She was in the “click” and she made fun of me or pulled nasty pranks in the halls. I often found many of the kids laughing at me when they were with Jessie. Luckily everyone didn’t follow her lead and I soon had several friends of my own.

    It didn’t help that we both always seemed to be competing for the same things. She was really angry with me for getting the lead of Wendy in Peter Pan. Then there was the time our music teacher gave us both the first chair flutes in the band concert. He couldn’t choose which one was better. All through the years, it was the same in softball, essay contests, and later on even boyfriends.

    My intuition is usually very good and it is telling me to stay as far away from Jessie as I can get. I can almost bet she is scheming to find not only a way to get the other contestant barred from the contest but me too.

    I do really want to win though. I studied hard to get this far because I need the scholarship given to the winner to help with my college tuition in the fall. But if I win, I will win it fair and square. Going to tell Jessie right now that I am not interested in any sneaky plot she may have.

    I will even tell her good luck.

    By Ruth Crowell Shevock

    1. Amyithist

      Ruth, this was wonderful. I especially liked the reference to Little House on the Prairie; one of my personal favorite shows of all time. I can just see Nellie Olson looking down her upturned nose at poor little Laura… Such a great way of bringing your characters to life. GREAT job!

    2. agnesjack

      Not only was this a very nice story, Ruth, but the relationship between the two was wonderfully authentic. I think many of us have know a Jessie in school, yet your MC showed so much maturity at the end.

      (p.s. just a little side note: “click” is spelled “clique”.)

    3. snuzcook

      The MC you created here was wonderfully strong and forthright. Jezebel was the perfect antagonist. The ending was just what I would want to see happen. Note as I read the final line–she will TELL her good luck, not pretend to truly wish her well.

    4. Reaper

      This is beautiful Ruthie, just perfect for a heartfelt story focused on being good. This is everything I have come to expect from you and more.

    5. Dennis

      Great read and heartfelt. The tip off was that she looked like Nellie, another nasty girl. I always wondered why kids like Jessie need to be so nasty. And how are they as adults.

  33. Marc Ellis

    A spelling bee? Really? My sincerest apologies…

    Yes, I realize I have Russians speaking and spelling in English.

    —-

    In the small, clandestine village of Orthographolis in northern Siberia, Russia operates a training camp for their top spelling champions. Here, separated from the rest of society, Russia’s premier spellers live and train for national and Olympic glory.

    Orthographolis is also the home of Russia’s Thoroughbred Speller Program. Top spellers from around the world are recruited to participate in a breeding program with the hope of producing the best spellers mankind can generate.

    Vlad Smirnoff and Leo Chekhov, next-door neighbors from birth, were the progeny of four of Russia’s best spellers coupled 14 years ago. Chekhov was a superior speller. Smirnoff was good at sounding things out. Each had recently qualified for two of the top three positions to face each other at the Nationals in Moscow in three weeks.

    The third entry was held for Kim Nguyen, North Korea’s national champion, recently recruited by the Russian government. North Korea no longer had the means to support Nguyen, at least not at the level Russia was willing to pay.

    Kim Nguyen and his family were provided a home across the street from the Smirnoff and Chekhov families. Vlad was indifferent to the new competitor; however, Chekhov was vehemently opposed to the idea of an outsider representing mother Russia. Two-a-day spelling practices had commenced in preparation for the nearing competition. One day Vlad and Chekhov were walking home for lunch after the morning session when Chekhov said, “We need to get rid of the Korean.”

    “What? Why?” said Vlad.

    “I’ve worked too long and too hard to risk losing,” said Leo. “I come from a long line of the old-KGB. With this win, I’m guaranteed to be brought into their ranks.”

    “You’re the Russian favorite,” said Vlad. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about if you stick to good, honest spelling…anything other than me of course.”

    “Don’t fool yourself Smirnoff. I have this in the bag. Your best bet is to help me remove Nguyen from the competition.”

    “How to you plan to do that?”

    Leo pulled an envelope from under his jacket. “Go over to the Korean’s house. Welcome him to Russia and give him this.”

    “What’s in it?”

    “It’s the spelling list for Moscow.”

    Vlad and Leo stopped in front of their homes. Leo said, “Take this to him now. I’ll call the police after lunch.” Leo turned and entered his house leaving Vlad on the sidewalk, envelope in hand.

    Somewhat confused, yet compliant, Vlad walked to the Nguyen home. He almost rang the doorbell when he thought, Leo’s going to frame both of us.

    Black SUVs with sirens screaming, men in black suits with pistols pointed in his direction, and Leo sitting on his front porch smirking while he watch the action confirmed his suspicion.

    Two of the men tackled Vlad to the ground knocking the envelope from his hand. Another man picked up the package and asked, “What’s this?”

    Vlad said, “Sir, I can explain. Leo Chekov…he wanted to frame Kim Nguyen and me. He gave me that package…it’s the master list for Moscow.”

    “Kim Nguyen…,” said the officer. He was looking at the package closely. “How do you spell that?”

    “W-I-N,” said Vlad.

    “No! You fool!” yelled Leo was he ran across the street. “It’s N-G-U…”

    A barrage of gunfire dropped Leo to the ground. The officer helped Vlad to his feet and showed him the name on the envelope.

    Vlad said, “Thank God for phonics…that’s F-O-N-I-K-S…phonics.”

    1. Jay

      What an entertaining read with a nice back-stab and twist ending. I love the Los Angeles take on the police, too. Shoot first, and ask questions later. haha

      Thanks for sharing!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A fun romp it was. Loved the F-O-N-I-K-S last line. Shoot first, ask questions later would eliminate a lot of spelling geeks. God didn’t give me a ‘honky tonk angel’ or the ability to spell. Sigh!

    2. agnesjack

      Yikes, Marc. Loved the name of the place (now we’re even, because I did have to look up orthographic). And you somehow made the horrible ending somehow humorous.

    3. Gina

      I like that you took the spelling bee overseas! Also interesting was the “breeding program” – very creepy (not you, the program) and creative (you, not the program) ;). I also had to look up “orthography.” Thanks for creating another wrinkle in my brain! – Bean

      1. Marc Ellis

        Thanks for reading and the comment Gina. I’ve always had a conspiracy theory about Olympic breeding programs, so I thought I’d fit it in here. Glad people liked the “Orthographolis.” I thought I’d get more comments on the phonetics of Nguyen and “Win”.

      1. Marc Ellis

        Dennis–thanks for the note and the read. Thanks for sharing on the name. I personally know people of Chinese and Korean heritage that share that name as well. I think they may have similar origins and slightly different spellings/characters in the original languages. It’s hard telling how things were modified when they were Anglicized from the original. I’m by no means an expert.

    4. jmcody

      This was some very funny satire. I really enjoyed it. Very clever with the pronunciation of Nguyen and the Fonix. Offbeat and creative — loved it!

  34. Reaper

    Canned Honorarium

    Hillary knew the tribulations of being a thirteen year old girl locked in competition better than most because that was the age she went to nationals in the spelling bee. Spelling bees were a cutthroat world without additional expectations. She was under enough pressure to carry passengers across the Atlantic.

    Her father had informed her the family honor rode on her shoulders. Her principal reminded her that only she and William were representing their school, and he wanted that trophy in the case at school. Her mother spent long hours placing the fate of the feminist cause on her shoulders. The battle still wasn’t won so Hillary had to prove how smart young women could be.

    Speaking of her mother, Hillary could see the woman’s face, filled with pride and joy, in the front row of the audience from where she sat on stage. William was still in the competition which grated on Hillary constantly. He moved closer to her with every elimination and it made her skin crawl.

    Only the teachers called him William. To the children he was, and always would be, Billy the Bully. Three years older than Hillary he was also her next door neighbor. Their eternal enmity had been cemented when she was only six. Upon her refusal to play doctor with him the Bully had pulled her hair hard enough to make her cry for half an hour. It had been a cold war ever since.

    So when he approached her during the break invisible bugs climbed over her. The competition was down to the enemies and a young man that Billy insisted on calling Chang. Despite that not being the other boy’s name. Billy had a proposition.

    Hillary looked for her ever present mother only to spot the woman just too far away for there to be any hope of a rescue. Billy the Bully presented a plan to eliminate the competition. Billy had obtained some sleeping pills. Hillary would distract Chang while Billy slipped them into the boy’s water. Chang would be unable to complete the competition.

    When Hillary expressed her outrage Billy had informed her he would do it without her if needed, then plant the bottle on her and turn her in to win by default. Realizing that Billy would likely do that anyway Hillary went to her mother and explained the situation. Mother assured Hillary she would take care of everything.

    After the recess the third competitor was unable to spell his first word, he was slurring too badly. Hillary saw her mother moving forward with her video camera at the same time Billy was whispering to the judge. They found the bottle on Hillary but shortly after she was declared the winner. It seemed Billy was disqualified for attempting to eliminate both of his opponents.

    Hillary’s sense of accomplishment was dampened at seeing a brown prescription bottle so like the one mother kept on her nightstand just before her eyes slid to witness her mom’s beatific smile.

    1. Jay

      Scandalous! haha Excellent read, Reaper. As a side note, it was pleasant to read about Billy the Bully. He’s actually a reoccurring character in my ever expanding universe of stories and books, and though entirely coincidence, it brought the story to life even more because I already had an extensive background on a Billy and all of his past ruthless antics. :)

    2. Amyithist

      I make a point not to read prompts before I write my own so that I am uninfluenced and completely original… but for some reason, Reaper, you and I are on some cosmic wavelength with the past few prompts. Drugged water…All I can say is, I hope no one ever crosses us! LOL
      In all seriousness, though, this was great! Very nicely done. I’m glad Billy the Bully was disqualified. And mother sounds absolutely…creepy. LOL GREAT JOB!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Great response Reaper. Your characters are as real as you are. Nice twist, two bad guys, Billy the Bully and Momma make two. This was a hard prompt for me. Had to the words from my nose like spaghetti. It helps having a Roman nose. Your story flow seems so easy and relaxed in your writing. I struggle a lot with mine.

        1. Reaper

          Thank you Kerry. This was actually a very difficult prompt for me. This is my version of fluff. I kind of wanted something a little more upbeat to match the prompt but fell back on a toned down version of what is natural for me. To be honest I always worry about the flow because I mostly let it happen and sometimes find it messed up because of that. I would never know that you struggle with yours if you had not mentioned it.

      2. Reaper

        Thank you Amyithist. I can happily be on the cosmic wavelength with you. I’m glad the mother came across creepy. That was where most of my focus was on this one.

    3. agnesjack

      What struck me as the heart of this story, Reaper, was your second paragraph. All that pressure put on a thirteen-year-old by the adults in her life, and for what? A spelling bee. Then to find that the “win at all costs” attitude extended to cheating by her mother just made it so sad. Hillary had gone to her for help because she wanted to do the right thing.

      Your descriptions were really wonderful. Billy the Bully was so clearly drawn, and when you described his approach as causing the sensation of “invisible bugs” climbing all over her,” I felt those bugs, too.

      1. Reaper

        Thank you agnesjack. I am glad you mentioned the pressure point, pun intended. That was mostly what was at the heart of it for me. Billy was a clear character to me, so I’m glad he came through because I actually found myself wanting to explore what made him so creepy to me and to the MC.

    4. snovy121

      well thought out and executed twist. You’ve already mentioned how much pressure Hillary’s parents put on her, and then you make her mother responsible for drugging her opponent. Making the drugs actually belong to her just subtly and brilliantly drives the point home as to how far her parents are pushing her. What’s a 13 year old doing on sleeping pills or benzos? Really well done.

      1. Reaper

        Thank you snovy121. I didn’t think of that but since you mentioned it that would have been an even better way to go. Thank you for pointing to it.

    5. snuzcook

      Well told, Reaper. A tragic tale of gifted, honorable child as pawn of ambitious adults. Well conceived response to this challenging prompt.

      1. Reaper

        Thank you snuzcook. Your words are as always a treasure. Normally I don’t find the ones that everyone else sees as challenging as difficult. This is one of the few where I am with everyone on the assessment.

    6. Dennis

      The pressures and expectations people can lay on us, especially family. I have heard so many stories such as this with the poor child stuck in a battle of egos. Poor Hillary will probably being in therapy for awhile.

      1. jmcody

        Either that or she’ll end up being first lady. Bill and Hillary, Reaper? Nope, not gonna go there…

        Anyway… as usual, this was a tense, subtle and multilayered piece, but I expect no less from you. Your stories are always a treat.

        1. Reaper

          Thank you jmcody. I am laughing right now. I did not realize I had done that with the names but now I want to go back and rename the last character Al. Wow you just made this story funny to me. Thank you as always for those kind words.

          1. jmcody

            No political commentary intended. It’s just difficult to hear the name Hillary without thinking Clinton. Throw in a Bill and it’s a no-brainer. Plus I’m sure she was an uber-achiever as a child.

            I’m curious as to what you meant by the title. Usually your titles are meaningful, so I feel like I am missing something. Any comments would be appreciated.

          2. Reaper

            Understandable, I just didn’t think of it.

            Well honorarium was a complete misuse of the word, but a reference to the prize or reward. Canned was a double meaning. When you do canning it requires either boiling or pressurizing with pressure being the method for delicate things that are not really supposed to be canned. That was the primary reference. The secondary being to canned not being as good as fresh much like the MCs victory.

          3. jmcody

            Ah, I see. Yeah, I probably should have been able to figure that one out. Thanks for patiently leading me to it! :)

      2. Reaper

        True Dennis, she probably will. I’m glad you mention the pressures because I did not intend to relate this to another story but I see now I may have drawn a correlation between competition moms and other things. Specifically reading your response made me think of the bit in Angela’s Ashes where he says my dad says I’m old enough to die for Ireland, the priest says I’m old enough to die for the church, doesn’t anyone want us to live? This is no where near as good as that but thinking of that and what I was commenting on makes me realize those pressures aren’t new, we just notice them more because of mass media and putting them in places that are so unimportant.

    7. lionetravail

      What really sells this whole story for me, Reaper, is the cynically sinister nature of the last line. Maybe no one died or sold their soul in an overt way, but the subtext of those last lines certainly seems to point to mom as the opportunist/villain who did, apparently, value Hillary’s winning more than idealized behavior. And, implicit in the sentence, is that a part of Hillary has already processed this information and found it disturbing. Elegantly done throughout, but I’m very impressed with the last sentence especially.

    8. margi33

      Enjoyable as always, Reaper. I do say that this was different from the several prompts of yours I have had the pleasure of reading but it is always good to see someone stretch out of their usual or comfort zone or whatever the heck you want to call it. Nice depiction of the needless pressure parents can put on their children. Loved the twist at the end… interesting where the real roots of evil lay.

  35. Gina

    “Hey, Rog, watcha doin’?” Kate said as she bounced up to Roger, her designer sneakers seeming to give her an extra two inches of spring with each step.

    Roger looked up distractedly from behind his thick-rimmed coke-bottle glasses. “Hi, Kate,” was his only reply, and he turned his attention back to the thick stack of papers held together by an industrial size staple.

    Well, thought Kate, this boy’s gonna be one tough nut to crack. Okay, next plan. She put her dainty hands on her hips and proceeded to produce the most splendid pouty face in the history of all tenth graders. Roger, still mesmerized by the bold type in from of him, reached down into his pocket, pulled out a rapidly disintegrating tissue, and proceeded to produce the most splendid amount of mucous in the history of all tenth graders. Kate’s pout quickly morphed into in a gag slash grimace. Ugh, she thought, pasting on a flirty smile and plopping down on the concrete bench next to him.

    “Is that the list for the Spelling Bee today?” Kate asked as if she hadn’t been poring over the list herself for the past four weeks.

    With a resigned sigh, Roger looked up at Kate and removed his telescope-like glasses. “What do you want, Kate?” he said, giving his glasses a good polishing with the corner of his tattered E = mc2 t-shirt.

    Kate dropped her pageant princess smile – he probably couldn’t even see it anyway. “Fine,” she said, “this is the deal – have you talked to whiz number three?”

    “Who?”

    “Seriously, Rog, it’s like you’re in outer space. Chunky Chuck has been staying in the room right next to yours for the past two days and he’s our biggest competition in the Spelling Bee today. How could you not notice?”

    Roger replaced his glasses and gave Kate a flat look. “I think he goes by Charles.”

    “Whatever. I don’t care if he goes by The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man – what I do care about is making sure he gets knocked out of the competition today.”

    Roger, finally giving her his full attention, set the mammoth word list down next to him and gave her a good long stare. “Look, Kate, there’s no way I’m gonna cheat to win today. For starters, I don’t need to cheat to win. And even if in some alternate universe I thought either of you could beat me, what makes you think I’d go along with whatever you’ve conjured up in your little witch’s pot of a brain? I mean, I’m pretty sure the last time you talked to me in public was in the first grade.”

    “Point taken,” Kate said, flicking her long auburn hair back, “but I’ve been doing a little, well, let’s just call it reconnaissance work, and happen to know that Chunks is going to give us both a run for our money, literally,” she said drawing out the last word slowly as she examined her manicured fingertips.

    Roger let out a derisive snort. “Since when do you care about the scholarship money?”

    “What I care about is winning. You on the other hand, well,” and she let her gaze drop to Roger’s ratty no-name tennis shoes, “I think we both know mommy spent this month’s grocery money just to put you up in that cheap-ass La Quinta Inn. It’d be an awful waste if it was all for nothing.”

    Roger felt the heat start to grow in his face and neck. He glared down at his embarrassingly worn-out sneakers. Kate grew quiet, letting the doubt and worry sink into him until he felt the full weight of his mother’s expectations. What if she’s right? What if this guy really is better than me? Mom worked so hard to give me this chance. I…can’t…lose. And what about Kate? She admitted that she planned to win, by whatever means necessary from the sounds of it. Roger couldn’t worry about her now. He’d deal with that later. Setting his jaw, he looked back up at Kate. “So what’s the plan?”

    Kate smiled back. “Welcome to the Dark Side, Skywalker.”

    ***

        1. Gina

          Thanks for the feedback, Jay. I’m new to writing and am really trying to work on the “show not tell” aspect of character development.

          1. Jay

            That’s why I love these prompts. The 500-word answers force you to learn to balance between showing and telling. I’ve always passionately disagreed that you should always show and not tell. Sometimes, you just have to tell to get something over with so you can continue with the showing. You have a fantastic balance, so you’re on the right track!

      1. Gina

        Thank you, Marc. So, you’re saying I might have a gift for writing in the Pre-K Easy Reader market?! Kidding! Thanks again for taking the time to read :). – Bean

    1. Amyithist

      Gina, well done! Magnificently written, fantastic prose, and terrific dialogue. You are truly a force to be reckoned with. Thank you for the GREAT read!

      1. Gina

        Thanks so much for the positive feedback. It feels good to have others read my writing (I’m kind of a closet-writer). I truly appreciate the encouragement. :) – Bean

    2. agnesjack

      Oooo Kate is such a familiar type. I wanted to smack her. Well done characterizations. Of course, Kate wants to win, so any nefarious plan she’s hatched to sabotage the other contestant with probably work to sabotage Roger as well. He’s a fool to think helping her will result in a win and a scholarship for him.

      p.s. This is quite a bit over the word limit, but a very good read. Just a note about the limit. I’ve found that working to get a story down to 500 or less (I haven’t always been successful either) has helped me be more concise and specific in my writing. It’s like taking a snapshot, rather than making a movie. Just my thoughts.

      1. Gina

        Thanks for reading, agnesjack. And double-thanks for the advice. I did go way over the 500 on this one. Any tips on ways I could tighten up my writing?

        1. agnesjack

          I find in my writing that sometimes I put in a descriptive paragraph that I like because of the descriptions, but it doesn’t actually move the story forward. It’s hard sometimes to let go of those paragraphs (which work beautifully in a longer piece), but that’s one way to tighten in a very short story.

          Also, there are some repetitions (two references to his thick glasses, several descriptions of her self-centered narcissism), which could be eliminated. Sometimes one killer character description is all that is needed, and then the character’s actions tell the rest.

          I really liked this story, though, so these are just suggestions to whittle it down to its shiny bones.

    3. snuzcook

      And that’s how it’s done. Kate has a great future ahead of her, unfortunately. Roger is in serious trouble. Harkens back to the ‘Decisions’ prompt.
      Nicely done, Gina.

    4. Dennis

      Nicely written with well developed characters. I like the tension that builds throughout. It made for nice pacing throughout. One little thing(although a big thing in the writing world) is you changed POV from Kate to Roger in the same scene (when you reveal their inner dialogue). Although rules can always be broken, it is generally the case to keep the POV to the same character throughout the scene. Keep up the great writing!

      1. Gina

        Dennis, thanks so much for reading and for your insight. Good call on the POV change. I knew something seemed off, but couldn’t quite nail it down. I love reading fiction, but most everything I’ve ever written has been narratives and informational pieces. Fiction is a whole other dimension of writing. It’s challenging, but I’m enjoying it. I’m going to continue to gobble up every bit of advice I can get! :) Thanks again! – Bean

    5. jmcody

      Gina, this was terrific! I can’t believe you are new to fiction. Your style is bouncy and engaging. I liked the repetition of “splendid” and “in the history of all tenth graders” which had a certain verve. Your characters came through loud and clear.

      I am new to fiction too, and still learning things like POV, and I find these little writing exercises and this community to be extremely helpful in that regard.

      1. Gina

        Thanks for the props, jmcody :). I’m looking forward reading and writing much more! There are so many good posts on here – it’s a bit intimidating, but a great way learn.

  36. snovy121

    It wasn’t fair. Finalists in the national spelling bee were supposed to be socially awkward or otherwise undesirable. But here was Jordan who fit neither bill…dashingly charismatic and attractive with those big brown eyes. And worse yet, he was approaching me in the hotel lobby.

    Just be cool and don’t freak out, I told myself.

    “Hey,” Jordan said as he approached me, flashing that blinding smile.

    “Hey,” I responded. “Good job today.” Jordan had survived the semi-finals earlier that day after correctly spelling “dextrogyratory,” a feat I surely thought such a handsome fellow could not overcome.

    “Thanks. You were quite impressive yourself,” he said raising his eyebrows. I could feel my cheeks turning red. “So are you nervous for the finals tomorrow?” he asked.

    Was I nervous? I was petrified. A week ago, I was obscenely confident I could defend my national title. But Jordan’s hypnotic eyes stared into me every day of the competition, quelling that competitive drive raging in me. I was surprised I had lasted until the finals with my brain internally stumbling over letters.

    “No,” I said. “No, you know, it’s just a stupid spelling contest. No one even uses these words. It’s all pretty lame.”

    Jordan laughed, “Yeah, I guess it is. You wanna take a walk with me?”

    “Um, sure,” I replied. I was far too plain-looking actually catch his fancy, but it wasn’t every day I’d meet competition this attractive.

    “So, what do you think of the other finalist, Lisa?” Jordan asked me on the sidewalk, a safe distance from the hotel. All week I had been trying to stay so focused on one hand and fighting off Jordan’s distractions on the other that I could hardly even picture the finalist in my head let alone get a feel for her skills or character. All I remembered was that she was wearing a yellow dress earlier today and had a bruised black and blue ring around one of her arms.

    “This is kind of embarrassing, but I barely can picture her,” I answered. “ I guess I’m not paying much attention to the other competition. I’m just trying to stay focused on me if that makes sense.”

    “An intense one, are we?” he playfully smirked as put his right hand on my face. I couldn’t help but to grin back.

    “Hey, what if I told you a secret?” he asked grabbing my waist and drawing me toward him.

    “What’s that?” I shyly inquired.

    “If I told you that all of the words tomorrow are coming from an obscure word list that you can find online, would you kiss me?” and with that, he passionately pressed his lips against mine, as his hand tightly squeezed around my left arm.

    After about ten seconds, he withdrew his grip. I looked down at my throbbing arm, noticing blood rushing to the skin where Jordan had squeezed my arm, forming a ring around my bicep.

    “I’ll give you the website,” he continued, “but you can’t tell Lisa.”

    1. Jay

      Icky, haha. He’s a cheater, which given the MC’s personality, she would probably find incredibly distasteful. So, after he forced her to kiss him, did she decide to cheat or do the right thing!?

      That was a fun read, Snovy!

      1. snovy121

        I guess my narrator is smart. While she’s somewhat manipulated by Jordan, she is comfortable in her own skin and never fully loses sight of things. Jordan has revealed to her that he knows where words are coming from and to hide it from Lisa, but the narrator has just realized she is getting the exact same bruise from Jordan that she already noticed on Lisa’s arm. The narrator’s no fool and realized that Jordan has no list and has likely pulled some mind game and sex appeal tricks on Lisa, and maybe even other competitors.

        1. Jay

          Oh, balls. I completely missed that Lisa had a bruise. Okay, now I get the feeling he’s full of BS. Perhaps he does have a list, but the list on the website contains the words spelled incorrectly. Or, maybe he has no list. lol *shrug* I don’t know.

          Either way, I enjoyed it. :D

    2. agnesjack

      Very nice, snovy121. Good story because of the added emotional element. I have the feeling that Lisa may be over her crush on Jordan, however, after realizing that he’d played her the way he played the third contestant. Obviously, the internet word list he directed them to has nothing to do with the contest and I suspect Lisa is too smart to waste her time with it.

        1. snovy121

          haha! Yup, both my ladies are too smart for Jordan. They’re not national finalists for nothing :D Thank you so much reading and giving feedback

    3. Dennis

      Nicely written, and good portrayal of a slimeball. I didn’t read yours before posting mine and there is bit of similarity. You kept me guessing as to if Jordan was for real or not in his motives.

    4. Reaper

      Beautifully written. Such a slimey bad guy you have there. My heart broke a little for your MC. Your writing style and flow kept me engaged through this all. Very well done.

  37. LiveOakLea

    This trophy? Well, it makes good sense you asked about this one, I guess. Your mom says you’re doing real well in your spelling in school. What grade are you in now? Fourth? Well, I was one year older than you are now.

    It was my first school district finals competition spelling bee, back on May, the 12th I think it was, 1965. Yes, it says right here. May 12, 1965. Fifth grade. Miss Collie’s class. She was a looker. Sutterville Middle School. Sutterville, Oklahoma. Population: 398. You didn’t know your grandpa grew up in the boonies, now did you?

    Hmm? Oh, no, it wasn’t my last spelling bee, and over the years after that I eventually acquired enough trophies to become a nuisance to my mom on cleaning day. She’d fuss and fume about having to dust those statues every Thursday, but she would sure be right in the front row rooting for me when the next competition came around. They’re all packed up now, in one of those boxes up in the attic.

    But that was my first.

    There was six of us. Me, and Johnnie – you remember Johnnie “One Paw” McGraw, honey? Yeah, the funny guy with just one arm. You met him when he came to Grandma’s funeral. He lives down in Houston now, in a nursing home, but he’s near his daughter so he’s happy – and then there was three girls, Jennie Johnson, Pam Dickens, and, oh, I can never remember that new girl’s name, Sally or something like that, her family moved away before sixth grade started, and Roy Scoggins. That was the six of us in the competition.

    Now, there was something that happened that year, when Roy and I went onto the national spelling bee, that I’ll never forget. That’s where I witnessed Roy Scoggins show his first signs of conniving mean character that got him sent to the federal penitentiary nearly forty years later. They caught him for cheating old people out of a lot of money, but that doesn’t mean that was all he was guilty of. I never really cared for Roy, ever since we were in kindergarten. His family lived right next door to us on Lily Street, and I could always hear a dog or a cat or one of his sisters hollering in pain from his mischief. But he really exposed hisself that day at the spelling bee.

    Sure, I can tell you what happened, but it’s three o’clock. I thought you were wanting to watch that cartoon on TV, what’s it called? Square Bob Spongepants? Okay, well, let me sit and prop my feet up. There, now, let me think. Yes, I remember it like it was yesterday.

    It was down to me and Roy and Shelly Turner. Now, Shelly Turner was from New York City, but Roy and me being from the same wide spot in the road in Oklahoma caused quite a stir. Nobody expected two bumpkins to make it to the national finals, and there were lots of newspaper reporters trying to get a story.

    Roy was a good speller, but he must have been worried that he wasn’t the best, because he came up to me in the bathroom while I was combing my hair – now, what are you laughing at? I used to have plenty of hair, but I had a cowlick that wouldn’t stay down, and I was worried about having my picture in the newspaper with that cowlick sticking straight up – and he said he had a plan on how we could get Shelly Turner to miss her turn. He said, “Little Boy,” cause that’s what folks called your grandpa back then before I started using my real name. He said, “Little Boy, let’s do a trick on Shelly Turner. She thinks she’s so smart and fancy coming from New York City. We ought to teach her a lesson, and then one of us can win the spelling bee and take the trophy back home to Sutterville, and make Miss Collie right proud.”

    He must have spent a good while figuring out this plan, and he seemed real excited about it, too. He would slip a dead mouse into Shelly’s sock. He was sure she would faint straight away and be carried off the stage. He’d tie a string to that mouse first, so that when people started running over to her when she hit the ground, he’d just give that string a tug and no one would ever guess the real reason why Shelly Turner got a case of stage fright.

    Those were his exact words, “stage fright”, and then he laughed kind of crazy like.

    Well, I acted like I agreed with his cruel ideas, and then told Shelly Turner I thought girls who didn’t wear socks looked like movie stars. She must have wanted to look like a movie star, because when she took her seat on the stage, there was no place for Roy to hide that dead mouse.

    That’s one trophy I didn’t bring home. It went home with Shelly Turner.

    When the newspaper reporters were crowding around the three of us, I made a loud noise about something smelling like a dead rat, and one of those photographers got a great shot of Roy digging that poor critter out of his jacket pocket.

    What’s that? Oh, Roy Scoggins got sent away for a very long time, honey. He’s going to be in there for quite a spell.

    1. Xevirus

      I know that I am taking this out of context here, but I really like: “and [I] then told Shelly Turner I thought girls who didn’t wear socks looked like movie stars.” It works in context, too, of course, as a way of getting her to avoid the trick (which both communicates that the main character has an understanding of Shelly and communicates to me, at least, a sense of time and place), but it has a sort of generalized nostalgia about it that works really well for me. I like your framing of the story as an anecdote from one generation to another, but that line struck me especially.

    2. Dennis

      I liked that the story was revealed as a tale from grandfather to grandchild, like the way someone from a small town would do. Nicely done.

  38. Ahsuniv

    Despite the icy cool breeze from the stand fan across from her, Sarah felt a strange heat bubbling up inside her and a bead of sweat roll down the back of her neck. She clutched her fingers tight as they turned icy cold like they usually did before a spelling bee.

    ‘You made it to the finals, Sarah the slug. How did you do it, huh? Huh?’ asked Pauline, sticking her plump face in front of her. ‘It doesn’t matter. It’s not like you can beat me in the finals. No one ever does,’ she said airily and ran away, her over-sized glasses bouncing on her upturned nose.

    She clenched her teeth. She thought about what her fellow finalist Jack had said to her earlier.

    ‘How about we give Pauline a surprise?’ he had asked her, right after they both got selected to go to the final round.

    His words echoed in her head, ‘slip this into Pauline’s pant when she isn’t looking. Do it right and our line will be clear.’ Jack was notorious for scheming. However, he never left any evidence and hence never got caught. She fiddled with the sachet in her pocket. It had never been her intention to win the spelling bee, but her hatred of Pauline made her think otherwise. It had been Sarah’s goal to beat her for the past one year.

    Sarah edged through the hordes of people carefully, clutching the sachet in her hands. She could hear the audience murmuring as she neared the stage. She spotted her destination and headed straight to it without turning her head.

    ‘Find me someone who is as good as me and I will give you my whole life’s worth of pocket money which I have intact, mind you…’ she heard Pauline say.

    Sarah stood hidden in a large group of people and carefully pulled at the waistband of the person standing next to her. She looked around to make sure that no one was looking and tipped the sachet into the pant and walked away from the spot hurriedly.

    Sarah paced around restlessly waiting to be called onto the stage. When the announcer finally called her name after Pauline’s, she clenched her fists and walked onto the stage.

    ‘I am sorry to say that the third finalist, Jack won’t be join us as he had to be rushed to the emergency room.’

    Sarah felt herself beaming. It was now just Pauline and her, one on one. Just like she wanted.

    1. Gina

      I really enjoyed this. I’ve noticed that when wording seems unnatural, or forced, it distracts from the story. I didn’t get a bit of that from your writing – I was totally immersed in the story. And the plot twist at the end was fantastic.

  39. Xevirus

    Now or never. She rose, sweat dripping down her lower back into the crease between her buttocks. Now or never. Each step toward the microphone was a year stripped from her life as the bright lights scattered across the dark auditorium blinded her, and the shuffling muffled murmur of the parents and press and etymology aficionados became a white noise that filled her head, crowding out the ability to cogitate on the moment.

    From his chair, third from the end in the second row—he should have been an end seat, but the cullions who organize this “competition” failed to recognize genius in their midst and, so, here he sat, next to the same corpulent Asian dell he’d sat next to the year before—Shannon Grief extended his neck and watched Calamine Lingua walk toward the microphone, wondering whether she had executed her part in the plan to stymie the efforts of the second-rate flimflammer inexplicably predicted by the statisticians in Vegas to walk away with the title. Her reliability was suspect, but as neighbors since birth, and arch nemeses since she’d grifted their second grade teacher into recognizing her as head of the class, she was the closest person to a trusted associate he had. And she had the means to undermine the frontrunner: Nihonno Tango. His eyes swept from Calamine to the bulbous clock in the corner, and to Nihonno in his smug seat at the end of the first row. Shannon’s heart slowed to match the tictac of the second hand clock and he counted down with each mushy galumph.

    The lights sizzled across her temple, evaporating the trails of sweat before they could pool in her ears, but not before they could assault her eyes with their saline sting. Before she even knew, the cold microphone was in her hand, at her lips. She inhaled the old pickle smell of the hands and mouths of the contestants come before and she held back the vomit rising in her throat. Trying to make out the silhouetted panel before her, she turned back to look at Nihonno—perhaps for the last time—and to sneak a glance at Shannon, the boy she’d secretly loved since he’d helped her get named head of the class in second grade. “Elucubrate,” she repeated, surprised by the confidence in her own voice. “E-L-U . . . ”

    As expected, as known all along, it had come down to the three of them. The palm trees outside rustled against the stark blue sky reflected in the sharply angular black glass structure containing these wordsharps and their futures of glory or ignominy. The air outside was hot, but he was cool. “Vicissitude.” Calamine had done her job swimmingly; Nihonno’s fate was all but assured. “V-I . . . ” He stopped. “I’m sorry. I cannot continue.” “Would you like a sentence?” “No.” He pointed to the monitor as it played the video of Shannon and Calamine arranging his downfall with the head Judge. Scandal.

    1. agnesjack

      This was a fascinating, descriptive read and I loved the names. I also liked the twists, but I was a little confused at the end. Had Nihonno somehow arranged to have the video played at that time? Was he in cahoots with Shannon? But then, why would Shannon sabotage himself? Forgive me if I’m being dense.

      1. Xevirus

        The ending here is terribly rushed, I know, and understand the confusion. Nihonno knew of the plot, and yes, revealed it via video. There was no collaboration between him and the others.

        Over the top violence had already been done entertainingly and well by Jay (for the first entry!), and I’m not good with serious scheming and I’m not good with twists, so I hoped that the characters would substitute for a plan of attack (by revealing their motivations rather than their plan), and that the back-and-forth switching of perspective between the two schemers would substitute for a stronger twist ending (by making the last paragraph switch to Nihonno’s perspective something of a surprise).

        Thanks for the kind words.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Loved your descriptive prose, some of the best I’ve read in a long time. It’s difficult to get a solid plot in 500. I concentrate on one scene after setting the back story. The format works easier for me in 500. Many times I’m tempted to write 600 but then I remember the extra words are only diamonds in my eyes, more like over cooked peas in the eye of the reader.

          1. Xevirus

            Thank you for the advice. I have, thus far, submitted only bits which are exactly 500 words according to the word processor. That is the challenge, currently, as far as that goes. I greatly appreciate the kind words, also.

        2. agnesjack

          Yes. What Kerry said. Actually, I thought your characters where successful and I liked that Calamine was secretly in love with her nemesis.

          1. Xevirus

            Thanks again. Yes, the characters were really all that I had here, even if Nihonno, due to being only at the end, was sort of bare.

    2. Reaper

      Very nice writing on this one. I loved that you managed to convey the different feelings and perceptions between characters so succinctly during your POV switch. Nemesis to one, secret crush to the other. What was a scandal in his mind was an act that caused adoration for her. Not knowing who is right but because it is all a matter of emotion they both are. Just amazingly done.

      1. Xevirus

        I found that pretty amusing, myself, and it allowed for Calamine to go along with the plot even as she knew it was wrong while also allowing Shannon to conceive of and enact the plot while feeling justified and right (even if he would have turned it around on her at some point, too). Thank you for the comments. Your stories are always good reads.

    3. Dennis

      Really nice writing style and I loved the character names. Each had their own personality.

      I still wonder what we are supposed to produce with the prompt. It always ends with write the scene. A scene doesn’t convey the whole story, but I think a lot of us try and do that.

  40. Augie

    The announcer shouts in his microphone, “I’m proud to present our finalist in the military acronym contest!”
    The crowd goes wild as camera crews shoot close ups of the contestants.

    “From the Marine Corp, please welcome Gunnery Sergeant Stafford! Weighing 280 of pure lean mass, he states that if he played Schwarzenegger’s role in Predator, it would have been a five-minute movie!”

    The crowd applauds as ‘Gunny’ waves his sequoia arms.

    “Next, Navy SEAL Reaper! Claims that he can shoot the rim out of a gnat’s ass at 2000 yards during a typhoon!

    Applause……

    Finally, proud that his branch ‘saves people’, welcome Coast Guard Billy!

    Silence…..

    “I ask a question, you must spell the acronym correctly then state what it means! The first to depress the buzzer has ten seconds to answer.

    Ready? First question…. When insurgents hide in a building and an airstrike is called to burry them.”

    Gunny slams his buzzer, illuminating his podium. “A-W-R Allah’s Waiting Room”

    “Correct! Next question… Determines authorization to engage.”

    Reapers lit up first. “R-O-E, Rules Of Engagement”

    “Correct! Next Question…. What is Blue Canoe?”

    All contestants slam the buzzer, Billy’s lit first. “A camouflaged drug boat?”

    “No!… Gunny, your chance to steal!”

    “C-P-S Chemical Portable Shitter!”

    “That’s right!”

    Later that day….

    The three contestants chat. “Puddle Pirates! Not even Department of Defense!” Billy responds, “ At least we have one! Isn’t Marines Department of the Navy?” “Yea, The men’s department!”

    Reaper stood, “not funny! What makes you guys different from the Army anyway?” Gunny laughed, “ARMY stands for Aren’t Ready to be a Marine Yet!” Gunny whispers in Reapers ear. “We can’t let a Coast’e win! I’m going to super glue his buzzer tonight!” Reaper thought, ‘I need a P-O-A.’ (Plan Of Attack)

    Final day….

    “Welcome to the final challenge! Our judges determined because of Coast’e, it’s not fair to ask strictly combat questions. Today’s questions are branch specific.

    What is, a ship that has limited range?”

    Reaper and Gunner look at each and shrug their shoulders as Billy continuously slams his buzzer, but his podium won’t illuminate!

    “Times up! The answer S-R-V, Short Range Vessel!”

    Gunner mumbles, “aren’t all coast’es!”

    “Next question… a solider that relaxes at the forward operating base.”

    Gunny pounded his buzzer and Reapers podium illuminated.

    “Reaper, ten seconds.”

    “F-O-B-B-I-T hanging at the F-O-B!”

    “That’s right!”

    Gunny shouts, “He didn’t hit his buzzer! His hands are behind his head!” Reaper laughed, “SEAL speed baby!”

    20 questions later…

    Billy and Gunny suspect fowl play. Gunny interrupts the announcer,” Sir, do you think we can swap podiums?”

    “Why sure!” Gunny takes Reapers and Billy takes Gunny’s. Now that Reaper has the glued buzzer, Gunny smiles!

    “Final question, a person that doesn’t ground pound”

    Gunny slams his buzzer, only to find, it is also glued!

    Reaper shouts to Billy, “Take a guess!” Billy hits his buzzer, illuminating Reapers console.

    “Reaper, ten seconds!”

    “P-O-G Personnel Other than a Grunt!”

    “That’s right! We have a winner!”

    Reaper hopes no one notices the small wireless switch in his pocket as he receives his award.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          It also had me rolling in the aisle. Great story Augie. You don’t need a weapon over there. You can get the bad guys only using your brain for a demo tool. .

    1. Dennis

      Very clever. I was wondering how you would intermix your military expertise into the story. Maybe this is want you do when you retire, write down the crazy antics of the military. Fun read.

      1. Augie

        Thank You Dennis. Im waiting for a prompt to tell a true story about my ‘sensitivity’ training I attended. I still shake my head and laugh.

      1. Augie

        Thanks Critique! I never know if my style of writing can send the message home that ‘even where we are at’ its fun here. I never jump the gun, I have read your past post and am honored that you have complimented mine. “fair winds” Critique.

  41. tz2328

    Peter, NO!

    Time for a nice long rest, little Jilly.

    Peter, please, let me handle this. I know you; what you’re capable of. You’ll get us all in trouble, I know it.

    Dear Jilly, don’t fight me. You wouldn’t let me help when she cut down your rose bushes. I’ve listened to you complain incessantly about her for 7 long years. I almost prevailed when she poisoned little Froofy, but that damn Dr. Rosenthal and his meds turned you into a zombie. She’s plans on sabotaging Keiko, does she? Do you honestly believe she doesn’t have plans for you, too? We both know that you’re not capable of doing what needs done, so off you go, Jillian. Sweet dreams…

    *******

    I have roughly an hour before the final stage of the bee begins. These old schools are too expansive; opposing stairwells on each floor and so many rooms and cubbies make finding her a worthy challenge. Where to start? Think, Peter.

    Genius, I thought as I headed for the basement. Much better than trying to make a karate chop to the larynx look like an accident.

    It’s good to be back. Jilly and the others are stifling. Morals, ethics – blech. Peter. The world needs more Peters.

    Of course the janitor’s supply room is unlocked. Would fate have it any other way? Peggy. The image of her smug face distorting in agony made we wet. The delicious irony that she’ll be outed with lye…

    *******

    I found Peggy in the waiting area cordoned off for the contestants. Keiko was summoned away for a telephone call from a secret admirer.

    “Congratulations to us,” I said as I popped the cork on the bottle of sparkling apple cider. “I’ll never forget this day. To the spoils!”

    “To the spoils,” Peggy almost shouted, as she raised the plastic champagne glass to your lips.

    “Wait!,” I exclaimed suddenly. I wanted something to cherish of this moment, so I hurriedly pulled out my camera.

    “To you, Peggy,” I chortled. “Long live the queen bee!”

    I swear she was enjoying her own orgasm as she once again rose the congratulatory drink to her mouth. I waited for her to finish, knowing that she only had a few more seconds of consciousness before her agonizing death throws began.

    “I’m so sorry Jillian couldn’t be here. Allow me to introduce myself,” I gloated peevishly.

    “My name is Peter. P-E-T-E-R. Peter.”

    1. lionetravail

      Nice, tight writing, entertaining, and what a horribly insane Peter you’ve introduced me to.

      Woof. That’s insane. W-A-C-K-A-D-O-O-D-L-E. Insane.

      :) Nice job!

    2. Amyithist

      This was awesome. Kind of hit me like a James Patterson novel. The insanity is palpable; you can feel that the MC is becoming unhinged right from the start. I’m guessing Multiple Personality Disorder here? Very well done.

  42. Jay

    Whodunit: Killer Bee

    8:13

    “What? No, I’m not going to cheat.” Alex said, “If we get caught, we’re both screwed out of this competition.”

    “We don’t have to get caught as long as you keep your mouth shut. Besides, he’s cheating, too. I know it.”

    “Really? I’m pretty sure that almost every criminal in history used those exact words. It’s not exactly slim pickings at the prisons, you know.”

    “Look, I don’t care what you do. I’m gonna do something, though. Bitch has got like a dictionary in his head or something. Besides, isn’t he the announcer’s son?”

    “Yeah, I guess so.” Alex sighed, “Seriously, dude, if I get screwed out of winning this—”

    “Oh, please.” Byron said as he walked away. “Like you had a chance to win against me anyway.”

    “Hey!” I called. “I thought we were gonna go get water from the corner store?”

    “Nah, we’ll do it later.”

    8:45

    The announcer took a few careful steps away from the contestants and said, “Your word is, cantaloupe.”

    Alex placed his hand around the microphone and pressed the button to activate it. “Cantaloupe, C-A-N-T-A-L-O-U-P-E, cantaloupe.”

    The announcer’s eyes widened and he hesitantly said, “Okay, that’s correct. Victor, your word is pauciloquent.”

    Victor reached down and put his hand around the microphone. He slid his thumb over the red button as it glistened in the spotlight’s searing beam. He placed his lips near the microphone, and when he pressed the button, the head of the mic exploded. The blast obliterated Victor’s head, leaving bits and pieces of him to take residence on Alex and Bryon’s clothes.

    9:37

    When the detective finished asking Alex questions, she walked away to confer with her partner. Alex walked across the parking lot and sat next to Byron, who looked pale. His best guess was that seeing someone explode into paste didn’t exactly sit well with him, but he appeared to be taking it better than many of the people in the audience.

    Alex said, “I told you not to screw up my win.”

    “I didn’t do it, man.” He said, and retched. He wiped the cold sweat from his forehead and trembled, “I thought you did it.”

    Alex shrugged, “Nope.”

    9:55

    Alex and Byron sat quietly, still trying to figure out what had happened. Near them, two administrators of the spelling competition talked about what happened.

    The one wearing a blue blouse said, “I heard the police have a suspect in mind, but they didn’t say anything about his name.”

    Alex grew cold, wondering if they knew anything about their plan.

    The other with an obvious toupee said, “Do they? Yeah, I found out that they moved the podiums around just before the match started. So I think that Victor kid wasn’t even supposed to get hurt.”

    “Do they know who was supposed to have that one?”

    “Nope, only that it backfired.”

    Alex took a deep painful breath and let it out. If the police suspected anything, he knew he would be in deep shit. As long as Byron kept his mouth shut, he figured, they certainly wouldn’t think to ask them about it or dig deeper than they needed to. After all, they were just contestants.

    10:07

    “I guess the cops said we could go home.” Alex said. “Give me a ride? I don’t feel like walking.”

    “How are we supposed to just go home after all this?”

    “What else are we gonna do?”

    “I dunno, man.” Byron sighed.

    “Well, let’s get going. I don’t want to be here anymore, and I gotta get cleaned up.”

    Byron pulled his keys from his pocket. They hung from a lanyard he won for being second place in the last competition. Alex beat him then, but he knew Byron would’ve won this time around. Not because he’d studied, though. Byron was actually pretty shitty with spelling, and Alex knew Byron would cheat to win, which he couldn’t let that happen. Not now or ever.

    When they neared the car, the lights flashed and it chirped. When they stepped in, Alex turned engine over and the car exploded. It killed them instantly, Byron a loser and Alex forever a champion.

      1. Jay

        Thanks, Lionetravail! Well, people are vicious when it comes to competition, even if the award seems worthless. Even though the killer isn’t who you think it is, I shows who is willing to go to what lengths for someone to win, even if by default.

        Next? Full contact Marco Polo. haha ;)

    1. carlyumz

      I never would have imagined such a dark and entertaining piece could evolve from that prompt! I had sweet, bashful kids in my head, only to be greeted with exploding microphones and a corrupt competition. Brilliantly dark – I loved it :)

      1. Jay

        Thanks, Carly! I’m really glad you enjoyed it. I initially wasn’t going to go dark since the two I posted last week were so dark their shadow still cast over this week. It was to be about animated bees that could spell and their Disney-style competition between each other, but I failed miserably when this version took off without even asking me! ;)

        When will I get the pleasure to read your take?

      1. Jay

        Thanks, Marc. Whether it’s spelling bees or something that doesn’t even start as a competition at all, people have a way of getting out of control to come out on top.

    2. Amyithist

      Wow… so… no one survived? And we don’t know who did any of it? Or maybe Victor planned to kill Alex and Byron the same that they killed them… Not sure. Shrouds of mystery all over! LOL Very well done. Thanks for the great read. I enjoyed it.

    3. Jay

      For anyone who is curious, there are clues to the person that committed the crime. So there is an answer! Maybe I could make a game out of it? :)

      Here’s a clue: It’s wasn’t Professor Plum with the candlestick… haha

    4. Reaper

      You had mentioned two criminals here, which makes me think Alex rigged the mic and it was supposed to be Byron that got the face full of explosion so no cheating could occur and Victor rigged the car. Your wording in the last paragraph leads me to a more insidious conclusion however. That Alex did it all. Taking out an innocent bystander by accident and then himself and Byron on purpose. So he could be forever a winner and the other an eternal loser. Placing himself in history in a very small way.

      A well told story no matter whodunit.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I came to the same conclusion Reaper did, Suicide to be a winner forever. Dark and powerful story with a lot of inner action and intrigue. High level of writing, Jay.

        1. Jay

          Reaper / Kerry, thanks for your comments! I always appreciate your feedback. :D I added the solution comment below where Dennis commented if you would like to know about the real killer(s).

    5. smallPencil

      It sounds like the announcer did it.

      Anyway, there seems to be a missing scene. Aex asks Byron for a ride, but Alex ends up driving in the end. Something happened for them to decide to switch drivers. I dunno

      1. Jay

        smallPencil, you are the winner! See the explanation below. Thanks for reading, and you are correct, Alex driving the car was a typo, though thankfully that doesn’t play too much in to the solution.

    6. Dennis

      Just starting to read these. As I was thinking about the prompt, I was thinking, how will Jay handle this prompt. And you didn’t disappoint. My guess was that Alex was behind all of it. What a way to preserve your history.

      1. Jay

        smallPencil is technically correct. The only thing we know for sure is that Byron was supposed to die in the car. That leaves two other potential victims. Since between them there is a 50% chance one or the other will die and the fact that the podiums were moved at least once, then it’s safe to suspect that Alex was the intended target but Victor got the face full of explosion instead. If Alex was the killer (or if he was and intended to commit suicide by car), he wouldn’t make a point of setting either Byron or his microphone to explode, but instead ensure that Victor got the exploding mic. And, if Victor was supposed to get the mic and the podiums were moved, then he wouldn’t have died, it would’ve been either Alex or Byron.

        Another thing to consider is that the actions leading up to the explosion can be planned, but everything after that, the decisions people make, are left up to pure chance because the explosion itself causes chaos. The one thing that is certain is that people with knowledge of the bombs wouldn’t knowing put themselves in harm’s way, except if Alex wanted to commit suicide, but his reactions during the course of the story, while non-feeling and cold, weren’t suicidal. I’ve also heard that he wanted to die because he wanted to go get water at the beginning of the story, but the purpose of that was to show that he wasn’t the killer and that he wasn’t out to commit suicide. The reason for that is that had the car bomb gone off before the competition, then the competition would have been halted, and the mic would never have gone off. No one who planned that meticulously would just ruin a plan he or she set in motion like that, or at least I’d hope not! haha

        If Alex had died when he was supposed to, then Byron would still get in his car and die. Since it was Victor who was killed, the consequences of the chaos caused Alex to ask for a ride instead of just walking as he did to get there (inferred). So, Byron was supposed to die, Alex was supposed to die, and Victor was supposed to live. The answer can be just the announcer, but I prefer the announcer and his son because there’s nothing better than father /son killer collusion.

        As a side note, it was supposed to be Byron that turned the key that killed them. It was an honest typo. Also, the last paragraph was a look at the perceived truth as a result of their deaths (Byron a loser and Alex forever a champion, which persists no matter the outcome of the murders), and only meant to throw you off. ;)

        1. Jay

          Also, Dennis, I’m really glad I didn’t disappoint. :o I tried to write something different, but this plot line drew me in instead! ;) I appreciate your comment and thanks for reading!

    7. Critique

      I’m going with Victor as the killer. The stress of the competition messed with his brain and he picked the wrong mike :)
      This was quite a stretch – although entertaining – from the school competitions I visualized.

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