Fanfiction for the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Inspired by a theatre RP, 'cuz my friend's brother was in the show.
It was the day of the 24th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and the parking lot outside of the Auditorium was a zoo, as contestants and their families were arriving. Most dropped their children off and then went off to hunt for the elusive parking spaces.
Most schools had made banners cheering on their contestants, and volunteers had decorated the hall.
The MC for six years running, Ms. Rona Lisa Peretti had seen to it that everything was perfect. She lived for this. Some of the other coordinators couldn't really believe that her enthusiasm was this genuine. It wasn't required of her to work with checking in the contestants, but no one dared stop her from doing whatever she wanted. Most of the students adored her. After all, she was one of them.
She gave a young man in front of her his number and marked him off.
"You can go take a seat wherever you like," she told him with a smile. She knew that most students had their rituals that they liked to do to prepare for the Bee.
The young man pushed his glasses up and sniffed, "Thank you, Ms. Peretti," he said in a nasally voice.
He made his way over to a corner and sat down, taking off his right shoe and massaging his foot.
Another young man swaggered into the room, edging aside another girl as he made his way up to the desk. "Chip Tolentino," he introduced himself.
"I remember," she said with a smile, "Welcome back."
He grinned, indicating the two medals that he was wearing, "I'm aiming for a third one."
Rona gave him his number, "Well good luck Chip."
The other young man had been watching this exchange. He had heard of Chip Tolentino, the boy was legendary. He had been to every County Spelling Bee since he was eligible in sixth grade, he had been a finalist in all of them, and won the last two. He hadn't won the National Spelling Bee in Washington yet, but it was just a matter of time.
Chip felt eyes on him and he turned to see the other young man. He smirked slightly and made his way over to him, making sure that the medals he wore caught the light just so. "Hello."
He refrained from laughing at how nerdy this new challenger looked and sounded. There was no way he was nearly cool enough to be much of a threat. "What's your name?"
"I'm William Barfeé," he said.
"Name's Chip Tolentino," Chip replied.
"You won last year," William stated.
"So you have heard of me," Chip smirked, "I'm sort of a legend around here." He patted the medals on his chest, "Twenty-second and twenty-third Bee champ. And I'm going for the third."
"You sure about that?" William asked, "This year might be different than last year."
"Oh?" Chip looked bemused, "What's different about it?"
"I'm competing," William pushed his glasses up, "And I am planning on winning."
"Look Barfee," Chip's eyes narrowed, "You may have been hot stuff in whatever little school you came from, but this is the big leagues. The Championship. That means the only the best of the best."
"That is what championship means," William said, "I think I can handle it."
"Well good luck," Chip said, "You're going to need it."
The contestants made their way out onto the stage. Some of them, William included, blinked against the lights. A few shrank away a bit from the crowds. But Chip marched out fearlessly, almost working the spotlight. He spotted his parents in the crowd and gave them a wave. He was such a good son. The crowd ate this stuff up.
William took his seat in the front row (alphabetical order of course) and fumbled for his inhaler. After a puff, he felt better. Calm down, William, he told himself. It's just like any other spelling Bee, there just happened to be more people. That was all. He relaxed and leaned back. The stage was bigger, which meant he had more room to work with. This was going to be perfect.
Round one passed and everyone spelled their words perfectly. Round two passed, and then round three and the words started getting harder. The comfort councilor this year was a grandmother, who handed out the apple juice boxes and homemade cookies.
William was given his fourth word.
He hesitated, "Can I have the definition please?"
"Clandestine: Kept secret or done secretively."
Chip leaned forward a bit, grinning inwardly. He knew how to spell that word.
"Excuse me please," William said into the microphone, and then stepped back. He half closed his eyes for a moment, and then started to… shuffle… across the stage. Chip blinked and couldn't hide his smile. Barfeé was losing his nerve, and his mind. But then William smiled and stepped back to the microphone. "Clandestine. C. L. A. N. D. E. S. T. I. N. E. Clandestine."
Chip leaned forward, "Hey… Barfeé," he whispered, "What was that?"
William shrugged, "That's how I spell."
Before Chip had a chance to respond, he was called forward. "Spell Interruption."
They were down to the final five, and three hours in. Ms. Peretti stepped forward and congratulated the spellers. "We're going to take a half hour break to let our spellers relax a bit and have a snack," she told the crowd, "There is also a bake sale going on out in the lobby, for those of you who want something to eat. All proceeds support the Bee."
Backstage, Chip approached William. "You're doing well."
"So are you," William said cautiously.
"You're a great competitor," Chip had to admit grudgingly, "So, no matter what happens, no hard feelings?" As much as Chip loved to win, and to gloat over his prize, he also liked having real competition. It made things so much more fun.
William pushed his glasses back and sniffed. "As long as you agree to that."
Chip held out a hand to him, "May the best man win."
William hesitated and then shook Chip's hand.
"Oh I love this!" Rona gushed, setting a hand on each of their shoulders, "Such gentlemanly competition!"
Chip grinned. He had her eating out of the palm of his hand, and he knew it. The only thing better than being the champion, was being a beloved champion, and the easiest way to do that was to be nice to his competition.
"Now, you two go help yourself to some juice and some snacks," she continued, "You need to keep your strength up."
"Yes Ms. Peretti," Chip said, heading over to the table. His mom had spent all of yesterday baking, cookies and brownies.
One of the other female finalists grinned shyly at Chip and greeted him. "The cookies are really good," she said, "Peanut butter is my favorite."
"Yeah, mine too," he replied, "That's why my mom made them."
Barfeé had regarded the snacks a bit doubtfully, and then just got himself some juice. He needed to focus, and he wanted to keep away from the others.
"Hey Barfie!" Chip called out.
He turned and his eyes narrowed, "it's Barfeé. There's an accent."
"Sorry," he said dismissively, "Did you want a cookie?"
William regarded the cookie suspiciously, "what kind is it?"
"Peanut butter," Chip said happily, "My favorite."
"No thank you," William said, "I can't have nuts."
"Oh this doesn't have any nuts in it," Chip said, "It's just peanut butter."
"Yes," William replied, "Pea-nut butter. Has peanuts in it."
"Oh," Chip blinked, "I hadn't thought of it that way. Sorry." He downed the cookie quickly, "Well… how about a brownie? That doesn't have any nuts in it." He held out a cellophane wrapped brownie to William, "It's just chocolate. I watched my mom make them."
"Well… alright, thanks," he took the package and unwrapped it, taking a bite. He took the brownie back over to the corner and sat down in a chair. He took a deep breath and flexed his toes inside his shoes.
Chip shrugged and returned his attention to the girl who was trying to get his attention.
Suddenly, William started to feel funny. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall. The other competitors were talking, but Rona sensed a disturbance in the force, and zeroed in on William.
"Hey, William?" she approached him, "Are you alright?"
He opened his eyes, his face bright red. He shook his head, "Need… bag…" he gasped out, "… peanuts…"
Rona rushed over to the pile of things and fished out the backpack with William's name on it. She dug through the bag as she rushed over, pulling out the item she half expected to find: An epi-pen.
When he saw it, William reached out for it. She handed him the pen and he injected himself.
"Someone call an ambulance!" Rona shouted, getting the attention of everyone.
The comfort councilor broke into an impressive sprint and made a beeline for the phone in the office next door.
"What's going on?" one of the girls asked.
Rona took William's hand, telling him not to worry, to keep calm, help was coming. He tried to assure her that he was alright, the medicine was doing its work, but he was having a difficult time breathing, much less speaking. He decided it was best to just close his eyes.
The next thing he knew, his mother was there, as well as an EMT. The man shone a light in William's eyes and asked him some questions.
"I'm fine," he mumbled.
"Ms. Peretti?" one of the girls tugged on her sleeve, "What's going on? What's wrong with him?"
Rona turned to the girl, "William is allergic to peanuts. There must have been peanuts or peanut butter in whatever he ate."
She frowned, "But I had one of those brownies, and it didn't taste like peanut butter."
"Yeah," Chip agreed, "My mom made them when she made the cookies, and I know she didn't put peanut butter in them."
"Sometimes, if the mixing bowl or measuring cups aren't washed thoroughly, it can transfer the peanut oil," Rona said gently.
"Is he gonna be okay?" the girl asked.
"I'm fine," William said, "I'll be fine."
"I think we should get you to the doctor just to be safe," his mother said gently.
"But… the competition!"
"This is more important, sweetie," his mother said firmly.
William stared at her. He felt his eyes grow hot. "This isn't fair! I'm fine!"
"Come on honey," she said.
"But I was winning!"
"I'm sorry," she said firmly, "But your health is more important. Now, come on."
He closed his eyes and hung his head, and the nodded.
"There's always next year," his mother said, guiding him out of the room.
"Yeah…" he raised his head and leveled a glare at Chip, "Next year."