All Because of a Magic Purple Egg
I was 14 years old, sitting at a table in the HKMS media center, when the egg first appeared to me. I was working on a poster for a Science Project that would be presented at Joel Barlow High School. My partner Brady and I had toiled in this room for hours, skipping classes to make this poster presentable before the big event at Barlow, which would begin in a few hours. On the day when most of our fellow presenters had finished, we had not even begun. And so the work began, as we went through a rigorous routine of editing, printing, cutting, and gluing.
When the school day neared its end, we watched our poster slowly come alive, Brady printed the last picture we needed to make it complete. I set the picture on the table, grabbed my glue stick, and returned to stick it on. A chance gust of wind (created by someone passing by) knocked the paper out of my hands and under a small nearby filing cabinet. I crouched down to grab it.
But also under that cabinet was a small, purple, plastic egg. I reached down and grabbed both. Upon closer inspection, the egg appeared to be an instrument, which could be shaken to produce sound. I shook the egg multiple times, and a fanfare of noise came out, generated by the hundreds of small spheres bouncing around inside. After the egg had been both shaken and bounced off of Brady’s head, he finally snapped and said in a slightly irritated voice, “Stop playing with that and get back to work.” I decided that this was a good idea considering the time we had left. I set the egg aside for a few minutes and glued the last picture onto our poster. It was finally complete.
Brady and I each picked up one end of the elongated poster board and carried it into the conference room, setting it aside amongst the many other finished projects. BEEP. The dismissal bell loudly rang, and I rushed to the doors, almost forgetting to take the egg with me.
It was at that moment that I remembered that there was a Spelling Bee the next morning, and I was to take part in it. I shuddered at the thought. Competition was always scary, and this time even more so because SOMEONE felt like spreading the rumor that I was “back for revenge” after my humiliating defeat in 6th grade to the word fodder. Even worse, unlike last time, my competitors were actually studying!
That thought brought to mind today’s earlier scene at lunch when, as I was walking back to my lunch table with food, I observed one of my smarter opponents reviewing terms with a friend. When I returned, I started reviewing with my friends. I didn’t have the list on me, nor did I need to review those terms having gone over them last night. Unfortunately, the few words that came to mind were a bit unhelpful, particularly the numerous attempts by one person to get me to spell the word pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (I spelled it right the second time). The extra practice, however, did provide some small relief in terms of emotional support.
When I got home, I set the egg on my desk and began reading over the list. I set up a Quizlet reading off the words, and used its “Spell” feature to practice some of the words. I had to look up pronunciations for some of the words because the computer didn’t read them right. Looking up definitions also helped. When I finished, I found more challenging words online and also read over the list from 6th grade’s competition. Any remaining time was spent going over the original list once more. Despite my efforts, I feared it wouldn’t be enough.
For some reason, I chose to believe that the egg was the magical object that would lead me to victory. It was no coincidence that I would find a random object in the middle of a library under a filing cabinet and bring it home. Perhaps, given our effort on that last project, it would reward me with the luck I needed to win. I couldn’t bring it with me when spelling words on a stage, so I decided to give it to Brady, who had also worked so hard on putting our project together. Maybe he could shake it in support during the competition. My mom, however, was not a fan of the idea. “Don’t bring that egg to school,” she ordered, “It’s going to distract people.” But I didn’t feel like listening.
The next morning, when I was about to leave for school, I quietly took the egg from its resting place next to my computer and shoved it into my pocket. I was aware that I was disobeying my parents’ warning, but I knew that there was something special about that oval-shaped object. Besides, what harm could be done? It wasn’t like the cafeteria would be dead silent during the competition or that I would have it with me on the stage.
A few hours later, I found myself walking through the hallways of Helen Keller Middle School once more, heading to the Science room to deliver my surprise to Brady. When I arrived, I found the room quiet and nearly deserted, save for Brady and a few other classmates. “Remember this from yesterday? Take it,” I said as I placed the egg on Brady’s table. “I don’t want your egg. Keep it. It’s probably dirty from being under the cabinet,” replied Brady as he handed it back to me. “I’m not giving you a choice,” I commanded as I shoved it into Brady’s backpack. (For any concerned readers, this was a normal exchange between us, and he didn’t really care.) “Fine,” Brady conceded as his friend Colin took the egg and turned it around with his fingers. (I was later informed that Brian, another friend, had taken the egg and shoved it into Brady’s mouth, a claim Brady denies to this day. I did not ask further questions.)
The mood became less odd when Brady announced his intention to make signs for me when I mentioned how many people had done so during the 6th Grade Spelling Bee. After that, I realized it was probably time to get going, so I adjusted my backpack and walked back to homeroom. After checking in, I sat down at my desk and sent out the daily news email to my closer friends as I always did on school mornings. “At this time, can we have all Spelling Bee contestants come down to the cafeteria? Good luck!” blared the speaker. After some brief, encouraging conversation with my classmates, I walked out the door and into destiny.
The cafeteria was crowded, filled with hundreds of chairs and equipment along with a neatly arranged semicircle of around 20 chairs in the center of the stage. It was also empty, populated with only three teachers discussing the events of the last Bee (including my defeat) along with 3 other contestants that beat me there. Teachers, students, and everyone in the building began to file down and fill the cold, empty seats and form an audience. During this time, I fidgeted nervously with my name card (also labeled with a list of questions I could ask), drank several times from my water bottle, and talked to my 7th grade friend Xander, who had accidentally studied the 2021-2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee list because the one he had been given had been misplaced. I saw my parents in the crowd, who seemed somewhat disinterested as the competition had not begun.
Eventually, Mr. Jockers walked up to the podium by the side of the stage, made a brief speech, outlined the rules of the Bee, and introduced all the contestants. Continuing a trend I noticed in both the 6th Grade Geo Bee and 6th Grade Spelling Bee, the audience cheered the loudest upon hearing my name. I tried to stay humble and put this out of my mind for now. Then, the first contestant was called up to the microphone. The Spelling Bee had begun.
Being up on that stage was terrifying, but I got used to it after a while. The first few words were easy for me, but my competitors were also hanging in there. Each time I was called up, I found it helpful to concentrate on the judge who was reading and ask questions when I could to buy time or to be sure I was thinking of the right word. DING! Each time that buzzer went up, the crowd exploded in a symphony of cheering and screaming. I also saw dozens of people holding up signs with my name on them and silently thanked Brady for passing them out.
As the number of contestants dwindled, the words progressively became more challenging. Strangely, the audience’s enthusiasm was still going strong, and I swear that each time I spelled a word there were more signs held up than before. I was beginning to regret drinking so much water, but there was little I could do about it. If a contestant suddenly had to go pee in the middle of a spelling bee, they would probably be eliminated. And I wasn’t taking any chances.
One fateful round, the judges decided to switch over to the backup list when there were many challenging words remaining in the given list. I was terrified. The backup list, which we were not given, contained words that were nearly impossible to spell. The contestant unlucky enough to be caught in between the switch was swiftly eliminated. Next, Mr. Jockers called my name once more, and I walked with apprehension in front of the microphone. The judge, Mr. Rogers, read the word “vicarage”. I didn’t know how to spell it, and after exhausting all my resources I spelled it incorrectly (V I C K E R A G E). Looking back, I was close, and might have been thrown off by the pronunciation. The crowd murmured in disappointment.
My heart sank, but I did not cry like last time and kept up appearances. The 6th grader after me was given the word “astonishment”, which I and many others found ridiculously easy compared to the words that me and the other 8th grader still in the Bee had received. After we had both misspelled our words, Nathaniel, the 6th grader, having correctly spelled his word, was about to win. Given the special championship word “ricotta”, he fumbled, meaning that I had another chance to secure my victory. Humorously, the crowd cheered wildly at his failure. I felt a little bad that my fans were celebrating someone’s defeat, but I went up to the stage as usual to correctly spell the word “obsidian” (for any Minecraft players, spelling this would be easy). My opponents struck out on more challenging words, and I went up to the microphone for the last time.
My championship word was “pectoral”, a word I believed that I knew but wanted to make sure of. Once again, I asked every question I could, including multiple requests for the pronunciation to avoid a repeat of an earlier mistake. “Pectoral. P E C T O R A L. Pectoral.” I spelled, leading to another DING! of the bell and thunderous applause from the audience. 6th, 7th, and 8th graders alike stood up and screamed at the top of their lungs, jumping up and down while holding signs. I couldn’t help but smile looking at how many supporters I had (this did not come out well in the pictures). The Bee was finally over, and I had won.
My opponents came up to congratulate me, and Dr. Clapp gathered all of us, with top three finishers in front, for a group picture and to hand out our trophies. They were nearly identical, with marble pedestals, a plastic trophy, and a (hideous) humanoid bee pointing up on the top. Later, another friend would find out they were hollow after some unwanted breaking and reassembling of my prize. Coming down from the stage, I was greeted by hundreds of cheering fans, chanting my name as I walked through the center aisle of a row of chairs where Brady, Brian, and Connor were all waiting.
As I reunited with my friends, I took a moment to think about how this was possible. Perhaps it was because I had a water bottle. Perhaps it was because I studied. Perhaps it was because a magic purple egg had swayed the order of words and responses of competitors in my favor. But magic wasn’t real. It had to be one of the other two. Then I remembered how I found the egg: under a filing cabinet in the Media Center after hours of work making a poster for Barlowpalooza. And then I thought about my motivation: hours of self driven work, even studying at school just to finally win something. And then I thought about the rumors: I was “back for revenge” from 6th grade where I had failed in both the Geo Bee and Spelling Bee after getting lazy in studying.
No…. it was definitely the effort.
But how could everything align like how it did, with a smart contestant studying the wrong list, a likely winner misspelling the championship word, or me being able to spell both words thrown at me after?
Still the effort.
Or was it?
Word Count: 2265 (1765 words over the editorial limit)