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[15] C hicag o S pelling B ee C hampi o nship Only a handful of finalists remained. My turn to stand alone behind the microphone, pronounce, then spell, pronounce again my word. “Persuasion.” After “autocracy,” which I’d never heard before, after “mayonnaise,” whose double “n” must have registered unwittingly from the Hellmann’s jar, this was easy. “P-E-R” I said, confident, smug hare napping. “S-V...” and caught myself in the turtle’s dust, the irretrievable “v” flying out over the footlights into the darkened assembly hall to sympathetic gasps from the audience. No second chances. I stumbled out the rest and stepped down. If Ma reproached, mercifully I’ve forgotten. To the rock and sway of Cicero Avenue’s dirty red streetcar, I could hear my mistake [16] land again and again in the same circle of hell reserved for the misspelled, the misbegotten. Scant comfort now to read the OED says “u” is a differentiated form of “v.” That Latin manuscripts written in capitals used only the V, as in JVLIVS CAESAR. Was I Calpurnia in a previous life? Dyslexic? For years I berated myself for that slip of the tongue. Unable to forgive, too ashamed to admit it ever happened, I kept turning one mistake round and round in my head as if it were my life. ...


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MARC Record
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