K BOST (flickr.com/photos/bost)

Spelling Bee Commentator

Niyantha Shekar

Welcome back folks. We’re here at the Haverford Resort in Maryland tonight for the 2014 Annual Spelling Bee. It’s been a fantastic day of spelling, and after fifteen rounds we are now possibly one word away from declaring the winner. That’s right, just one word separates thirteen-year-old Divya O’Hara from the glory that all these contestants have been dreaming of.

Do you hear the buzz in the audience? It’s been a tough slog to get to this point, but they finally sense a champion in their midst. And why wouldn’t they? Divya’s fresh off the heels of spelling ‘Staphylococci’. She’s had a great run so far but what’s stood out the most to me is her demeanor. There is no extravagance in her stance. She acknowledges each word with a mere nod of the head. This is a welcome counter to those who believe that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. For example, her mom Lalitha—yes she’s the one wearing a ‘Bee-n there, done that’ t-shirt—led a “For she’s a Human Spellcheck” chant during the break.

My God that t-shirt. It drives me crazy. ‘Bee-n there, done that’. For fuck sake it was 33 years ago. Whoa. Sorry. Can’t believe I let the f-bomb slip. Nothing that can’t be bleeped out, right Jerry?

So, here we go. The judges have the word.


Are you fucking kidding me?

Shit. Sorry, Jerry.

I’ve never seen my producer this red. Haha, what’s up with me today? Take a deep breath. That’s it: inhale… exhale. I apologize for that outburst. It’s just that, well, the word SORITES and I go back a long way. 33 years in fact.

SORITES could have been my ticket to glory.

I have this recurring nightmare: a smug twelve-year-old Lalitha holds aloft the trophy while I clap softly from my seat behind her. A never-ending stream of confetti drops from the ceiling and soon envelopes me. I shout for help but no one notices the sinking runner-up. I wake up with the sweats.

It’s fine, Jerry. I got this. I’m a professional.

Divya’s not taking any chances here. She’s going by the playbook. Language of origin, alternate pronunciations, you know the drill.

Question. Have you ever been so close to glory that it scared the shit out of you? Have you ever been so close to glory that it made you doubt the very strategy that got you there in the first place? I knew how to spell the word. I knew SORITES didn’t start with a silent p. But that’s when that annoying little voice inside my head took over: “No it can’t be that easy.”

You’ve never seen someone shake in their chair before, Jerry? I’m a professional goddammit. Do not try to mute my mic.

Divya practices the word on her palm. There is zero emotion on her face. She is seconds away from winning this thing… as long as she doesn’t fall for the Silent P trap.

Lalitha’s snort when I uttered the P still haunts me. I remember the look on her face when she walked past me, like she was destined for greatness and I was just a tiny obstacle in her path.

Divya’s ready. Here we go. Do we really need to split-screen this Jerry? A reaction shot of the mom? C’mon man. That t-shirt she’s wearing… it really does drive me nuts. Brings back all those memories. All that confetti.

Bee-n there, done that.

Bee-n there, done that.


    Niyantha Shekar

    Written by

    Filmmaker & Writer

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