“Drastic,” a voice called.

“Drastic. D-R-A-S-T-I-C. Drastic.”

It was the last of the seven letter words by her count. Now the stakes were getting high. The next round would be eight letter words. It was the most excitement Mr. Collins’ class had seen since the great gecko escape in the second quarter. The next turn belonged to her nemesis, that silly girl, Karina. Then it would go back to her.

How many rounds does the end of the year spelling be have to be, she thought.

“Peculiar,” called Mr. Collins.

“Peculiar. May I have the definition, please,” asked Karina.

That’s just like her. Taking forever. She knows how to spell it. Uhg. Yay! My turn.


“Complete. C-O-M-P-L-E-T-E. Complete.” She gave a smirk, that was supposed to be a smile, as she finished the word. Mr. Collins smiled back and gave her a nod.

“Alright, we’re onto the final round. Nine letter words. If no one has won at the end of this round, we go into a tie breaker, lightening spell round. DUN DUN DUN!” Mr. Collins liked to excite the kids and today was no different. In just a few minutes, they would be walking away from the third grade to their summer break. But this was his sure fire way to keep them captivated until the bell rang.

All eighteenth of his third graders were all on the edge of their seats. Karina Grey, the popular girl, was up against Ripley Calvoh, the kid with good manners. He had seen the way Karina treated other students. She was nice, but only when she knew adults were watching. He knew he wasn’t supposed to be rooting for anyone, but he really didn’t want Karina to win.

Side by side, they stood almost the height. But Kanrina had an extra inch because of her My Princess glitter sneakers. They matched perfectly with her My Princess tee-shirt and her jeggings. Jeggings, he thought, who let’s their kid wear jeggings?

Then there was Ripley. Always on time to school. Wearing whatever she chose, today it was sun yellow shorts, an old ET tee shits and her signature red, rubber boots. Mr. Collins wondered how she had managed to keep the same pair all year long. When he finally asked, she said he had a lot of older cousins who had grown out of their boots. Her mom kept the boots for Ripley and her sister. And when they were done with them, there was a good chance that her mom, “would send the boots to Africa. Because She says these last way longer than Thom’s do.”

“Okay, Karina, quarterly.”

“Quarterly. May I have the definition?”

Ripley rolled her eyes and made no attempt to hide it. Another definition. How about, just spell the word! We’ll only be in the third grade for 18 more minutes. Jeez!

“That’s correct! And Ripley, your word is scandalous.”

“Scandalous. S-C-A-N-D-A-L-O-U-S. Scandalous.”

The entire class waited to see the affirming nod from Mr. Collins. It took less than a second for him to nod. Ripley knew there was only one way to win. SUDDEN DEATH round! She’d seen it on video games and on the geography and spelling bees on TV. If she could win it would mean a summer free of the teasing Karina gave her all year long; it would mean dinner at Miki’s tonight to celebrate; but most of all, it would mean an extra $5 tonight. She wouldn’t have to wait the two weeks for her allowance. She could get it tonight before anyone else even knew what it was. That $5 was waiting for her. She could taste it.

“Ripley. Ripley, are you ready?”

“Yes, Mr. Collins. Sorry. I’m ready.”

“Do you understand the rules? If a word is mis-spelled the other speller has a chance to spell it correctly for the win. If she can’t spell it, then we move on to the next word.”

For this round, Mr. Collins delved into his love of American history. First choosing words like manifest, colonial, and revolutionary. It was neck and neck. Each girl knew how to spell the words in  a flash. But Karina always asked for the definition first.

Great, thought Ripley, I’ve been saving for nothing. I’m going to leave the third grade tied for the spelling bee. I’ll have to wait two weeks for my allowance and by then everyone will have one. Jeez! No, wait. What just happened?

Karina mis-spelled diphtheria. A word Ripley knew by shear chance. Watching the Hawaii State Spelling Bee was going to get her that $5!

“I’m sorry, that’s incorrect, Karina.” Mr. Collins looked to Ripley. “Your word is diphtheria.”

With a determined look in her eye, Ripley asked in a firm voice, “May I have the definition, please?”


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