It was so cold, Sarah Seymour, you calling my house to ask Ms. Patel if her student Raj could step out of class for a moment.
That’s Raj Patel, R-A-J P-A-T-E-L, and I’m the home school kid. Last year my mom convinced Fairmont to let me on the third grade spelling team, and thanks to me we won Regional and State Championships. The picture in the yearbook said, “Spelling Club Gains National Fame” and showed ten third graders sitting in a row on those metal chairs from the lunchroom. The tenth third grader, me, was half cut out of the picture and where my name should have been it said (No Info).
I was mad about that and Sarah knew it, but it hasn’t stopped her from inviting me to guest spell at all the important bees. My mom calls me the pinch-speller, the one who comes in and bails everyone out. But I’m fed up and tired of being their trophy puppet! Their marionette! Sarah made it clear on the phone how she could and would have called Zoe Ratliff except her house had been swallowed by a sinkhole and she wouldn’t be coming to school anymore.
I wished a similar fate upon Sarah as she stood up, her bottom tethered momentarily to the chair by a thick piece of pink bubble gum Dave Riester had stuck there. As she said C-R-Y-S-T-A-L I thought maybe the ground would get hungry tonight and swallow her house up, whole. She’d be buried peacefully in the earth where there were no telephone wires and no way to call me for State.
We were tied now with Ridgefield Elementary. One mistake of theirs would send us to state for the second time. Their top speller, Eddy Maxfield, stood up and clunked toward the mic. He was big and had this gross neck like a pelican who had something stuck in there. He spelled CHARIOT correctly. Sarah whispered fiercely at me, “Pssst! Patel! If you screw up, your teacher’s gonna put you in timeout!”
I stood and walked to the microphone, my shoes illuminating each footstep.
“All right Mr. Patel. Your word is: ROUSTABOUT.”
Hmm. Two “ows.” I wonder if it’s an “ow” or an “ou.” W, used in the words Weathervane, Writhe, Owl. U, used in the words Under, Uniform, and Ouch.
“May I hear the definition please?”
“ROUSTABOUT: A laborer who typically performs temporary, unskilled, or underappreciated work.”
I thought for a moment. I looked at Sarah Seymour.
“ROUSTABOUT. R-A-J P-A-T-E-L. ROUSTABOUT.” I walked back to my seat in slow motion and said “in your face” with my eyes.
It was cold what I did, huh Sarah Seymour? It was so cold.