I think it’s the Bible that says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
No, no. That was Uncle Ben in Spider-Man.
It doesn’t matter. That’s not the point. The point is that I didn’t ask for this gift. I was born with it. My parents took me aside to explain that it wasn’t my fault. They told me that they loved me but sometimes mommies and daddies stop loving each other. They no longer loved each other and Daddy would be moving out of the house and in with some floozy named Janet. “F-L-O-O-Z-Y,” I said. I was 23 months old.
My parents were aghast. “A-G-H-A-S-T,” I said.
My parents patched things up quickly and devoted their time and energy to testing the bounds of my newly discovered ability. It seemed that there was no end to my super-spelling. They tested me rigorously, day in and day out. I was put through drills by watching “This Week with David Brinkley.” On the very few occasions that I managed to stay awake, there was no word that escaped the grasp of my lexicographical brawn.
At the age of six, my parents were killed in a freak downing at the vineyard at which my father worked. My mother went over to kill my father by pushing him into a large cask of wine, but my father got a hold of her sleeve on the way down and they both went in. They died the way they lived, drunk off Pinot Noir.
The funeral was a lovely affair. Flowers came in from all parts of the country, as did relatives who showered me with all kinds of impressive gifts. Nothing says “I haven’t seen you in years but you are a kid, right?” like the gift of Ker-Plunk. The minister that presided over the funeral gave a lovely sermon, remarking that my parents were “two people whose love for each other would continue to grow in the eternal hellfire of Hades.” “H-A-D-E-S,” I said.
From that point on, I was shuffled from relative to relative, city to city, spending just enough time in one place to be shunned by the neighborhood’s children for my gift, but not quite enough time to demonstrate to teachers that I was an instantaneous speller of superior skill. My relatives didn’t really take note of my gift either, especially Cousins Jack and Ruthie, who simply remarked to each other that I was a smart-ass who’d be smart to keep his pugnacious little trap shut.
“A-S-S-H-O-L-E-S,” I said.
Finally, at the age of 13, I ran from my Aunt Gladys’s house. She lived in a double-wide outside of Decatur. Aunt Gladys had taken to using me as a party trick in the local watering hole to maintain her status as the local barfly. I filed for legal emancipation, which was granted by a kindly old judge in Toledo who was impressed with my ability to file the brief without the aid of a lawyer. He called the court to recess several times during the trial. “I-N-C-O-N-T-I-N-E-N-T,” I said.
I spent some time in a few seedy motels, paying by the week, sometimes by the month if I could afford it. Due to the child labor laws in the country, I had to commute over the Texas border in to Mexico for work. The Mexican factory workers took a shine to me, eventually nicknaming me “El Deletreandido,” (“The Little Speller”). I managed to stay off the hooch, unlike most of the other workers there. One of them, Rodrigo, used to throw up on my shoes all the time.
“C-A-B-R-O-N,” I said.
Eventually, the people of Texas caught on to my skills. I was appointed to a special council on education and granted a high school diploma based on my achievements in the field of spelling. The governor cautioned me to use my power for good and not for evil. I told him that he didn’t have to worry about me. I knew the evils of the world. I had seen people starving in the streets. I had seen people kill each other. I had worked on the set of a Mel Gibson movie.
”T-R-I-P-E,” I said.
I don’t know about any of that. All I know is that I have the power to instantly identify the correct way to spell a word. It is up to me to guard this power with the kind of ferocious intensity that a retarded lion would reserve for his tamer. If I somehow were captured or fell into the wrong hands, the future of the National Spelling Bee would be inexorably altered. After seeing the kid with the braces in Spellbound, I don’t know if I want to be around to live in such a dystopia.
ONWARD, TOWARD MORE STORY
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