After two weeks of serious posts, I decided it was time for a lighthearted one. This is a sample autobiographical essay I wrote for my middle school students.
“Are there any spellers at this table?” A man in a suit peered over wire-rimmed glasses and spoke with an academic tone that showed he was in character, though The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee had not begun.
My dad grinned and pointed at me. “She is.”
The man’s face grew serious. “What is your name?”
I swallowed a bite of salad to keep from choking. “Marissa Shrock.”
He scribbled on his clipboard. “Very good. And your profession?”
“I’m a teacher.”
“She’s a spell bowl coach, too,” my mom said.
“So it would be embarrassing if you misspell a word?”
“Yes.” I twisted my napkin.
“Um-hm.” He appraised me and took more notes. “You are speller number twelve. After the opening song, Rona Lisa will ask the late spellers to join the others onstage. Please walk up the yellow stairs where you will find a table with your number. When I give your word, you may ask two questions only….”
He continued, and I was officially an audience participant in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre. My fear of risk caused me to set one goal.
“And finally… do not try to be funny. That. Is my job.” He scurried to another table.
Twenty minutes later, three audience members and I stepped onstage and joined the actors who were portraying nerdy kids. Olive, a girl in hot pink overalls, invited me to sit next to her on the bleachers. To my left, William Barfee wore a rumpled shirt and found solace in his bag of medical supplies.
Vice Principal Panch, the man who recruited me, read the rules and the bee started. The cast members spelled between songs, and I wondered when it would be my turn.
A few minutes later Vice-Principal Panch consulted his clipboard. “Marissa Shrock.”
I took my place at the microphone.
“Marissa was kicked out of the Girl Scouts for letting the boys eat her cookies.” The audience roared, and Vice-Principal Panch savored the attention. “Your word is… apoop.”
I pushed back the giggle that bubbled. “May I have the definition?”
“On the poop. Astern.”
I frowned. “May I have a sentence?”
“As we sailed, the wind was… apoop.”
“What is the language of origin?”
Vice Principal Panch’s eyes flashed. “You’ve asked your two questions. Now spell the word!”
“A-P-O-O-P.” I held my breath, waiting for the bell to ding.
“That. Is correct.”
I returned to my seat, and the kids gave me high fives. It was William’s turn, but before he spelled, the cast began singing “Pandemonium.” Olive grabbed my arm and tapped my leg, so I kicked and waved to the music before she hauled me to center stage.
William clutched my arm. “Step on your left foot,” he whispered, and he guided me to the other guest cast members. “Grab hands and move in a circle.” We obeyed, and the actors danced around us. Olive shepherded us to the bleachers while the cast finished the song.
A few more spellers took their turns, and one audience member was eliminated. I was disappointed to realize my time on stage would soon end.
The kids wished me luck as I walked to the microphone.
“Marissa is growing her hair out because she was cast as Lady Godiva in her school play,” Vice Principal Panch said.
I flipped my hair, and the audience laughed.
Vice Principal Panch looked annoyed. “Your word is… kinnikinnick.”
“What is the definition?”
“A mixture of dried bark and leaves smoked by Ohio Valley Indians and pioneers.”
“May I have a sentence?”
“I smoked the kinnikinnick.”
I squinted, blocking out the stage lights. “K-I-N-I-K-I-N-I-C?”
“Well, you got half of the consonants right.”
The bouncer Mitch escorted me as the cast sang “Goodbye,” and I high-fived and hugged them. While the audience applauded, Mitch awarded me a juice box. I returned to my table, thankful for the opportunity and glad I took the risk.