The Letter Countdown

Submitted into Contest #50 in response to: Write a story about a person experiencing pre-performance jitters.... view prompt

22 comments

General

The light shines down on all our faces and I can feel mine start to turn red. It was a big night for us. We all had our own goals. For some, it was to prove their smartness. For others, it was to impress their parents, but for me, it was to make a name for myself. Being a nerd was better than being invisible. I scan the crowd of teachers, parents, and the cool kids with my scared beady eyes. It's not like I'm afraid of people I'm just afraid to talk to them. 

One by one they get up to stand in front of the microphone. Taking turns either making a fool of themselves or inching closer to their goal. I wiggle nervously around in my chair. My face feels wet not from tears, but instead from sweat. They each get called depending on their last name. I smile as my last name pops into my head. It’s Velden. V is much closer to Z than A. 

“Nick Colden! You're next!”  

There are 18 letters between C and V. That’s enough time to prepare myself. Why does the alphabet only have 26 letters? 

Everyone in the crowd goes wild. At first, I think there’s some things wrong, but then realize Nick is the class clown. Everyone knows him. I wonder what his goal is tonight. 

“That is correct! Please head back to your seat” 

He wobbles back to his seat. He flashes a smile at everyone on stage and some return it back. Most like me are even nervous to smile. 

“Macy Goodwin! Please come up to the front.”  

I take a couple of deep breaths and see a girl with ginger hair speed walk to the top of the stage. She looks as nervous as I am. Goodwin? G isn't that far from V. My fingers start to tingle, and I watch her as she stumbles nervously on her words. I start to wrap my fingers around the bottom of my shirt something my mom always told me not to do. I can just imagine her face right now. The face she makes before she scowls at me. 

“I’m sorry. That is not correct.”  

I watch as Goodwin’s face turns into a tomato and she hurries off the stage. She looks like she's on the edge of tears. Poor girl. I hope my night doesn’t end like that.  

This is my only chance to prove myself. I close my eyes a picture myself winning first place. I can almost imagine the cool kids smiling at me. Not the making-fun-of-me kind of smile, but the hey-how-are-you kind of smile. As more names get called the more anxious, I get.  

“Charlie Manzil! Your next!”  

I match the name with a face in my mind. Charlie is one of the quiet kids. We’ve only talked once. It was in the morning while we walked to class. He had asked me if we had any homework due. I answered by shaking my head. If only the words I had stacked in my mind would magic flow out, then I might have made a friend. There're only eight letters between M and V.  

“That’s correct! You may take your seat.” 

Charlie walks back to his seat with a big grin on his face. I glance at him and he mouths something I can't quite understand, but from the thumbs up, he gives me I can assume it’s something nice. If I don’t win this, I would like him to.  

I get so caught up in worrying about what's going to happen during my turn I'm caught off guard when they call up Luna Turner.  

She struts up to the microphone and swings her brown ponytail from side to side. She’s never really liked me, and I've never really liked the death stares I get from her.  

“Your word is volunteer Ms. Turner.”  

“Can you please give me the definition?” 

I cover my smile with my hands. Who doesn’t know what a volunteer is? I use the wasted time by making a mental note that there's only one more letter left, and it’s the letter U. 

“V-o-l-e-n-t-e-e-r. Volunteer.”  

“I’m sorry. That is not correct.” 

She walks off the stage with a smirk on her face and joins the group of cool kids. I'm starting to think her goal tonight was to make the kids who are trying to win look like losers. Anger rushes through my body and I swear I can hear her snicker from the crowd.  

“Jaden Ubence! Please come up to the microphone!” 

I hear a loud cheer from the audience and guess that it’s Jaden’s family. He’s one of the smart kids. The one who raises his hand during every question asked. He confidently walks to the front. The bright smile on his face looks brighter with the stage light glowing oh his face. 

“That is correct. You may go back to your seat!” 

I start to panic. Sweat starts to fill up everywhere, and my mouth feels dry. My fingers start to tingle once again. After U comes V. 

“Anna Upton! You’re up!” 

I start to get up but realize that’s not my name. Embarrassment floods through my cheeks. I look around to see if anyone noticed. Nobody's eyes are on me so I assume they didn’t. Someone in the audience might have seen and are laughing at me right now. My mouth starts to become dry and I stay incredibly still. 

While Upton spells out her word, I wonder what word I'll get. I hope it’s the ones I studied extra hard. All the words they have asked so far have been easy, so mine will probably be too. 

“That is correct! You can head on back! 

I can feel all the goosebumps appear on my arm. In no way can I make a fool of myself tonight. My stomach starts to wrinkle together into a ball. I can already feel everyone's eyes glued onto me.  

“Maria Velden! You’re next!”  

July 17, 2020 16:30

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22 comments

02:21 Sep 10, 2020

That was an awesome story! You captured her nervousness just right! The countdown of the letters was super cool, awesome job.

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Lata B
03:04 Sep 10, 2020

Thank you so much! You literally made my day:)

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03:06 Sep 10, 2020

Your welcome! Aww! Thank you!!

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P. Jean
20:44 Jul 26, 2020

You nailed the tense atmosphere, the apprehension and the way we all talk to ourselves in crisis situations. It flowed nicely!

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Lata B
20:54 Jul 26, 2020

Thank you!!

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P. Jean
20:57 Jul 26, 2020

Always welcome!

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Nic Siemer
15:36 Jul 21, 2020

I really like your voice! You did a good job; I found the whole using the alphabet thing to help show the nerves was really interesting. The emotions were very clear to me. :)

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Lata B
16:05 Jul 21, 2020

Thank you so much! :)

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Jen Park
00:26 Jul 18, 2020

Wow! The idea of the order of the alphabet was simply genius, considering that it was the spelling test! You conveyed her emotion so well that I actually walked in her shoes-I used to have terrible stage fright too!

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Lata B
00:51 Jul 18, 2020

Omg! Thank you so much! :)

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Charles Stucker
21:12 Jul 17, 2020

The dreaded spelling bee. I never gave them much thought, just went through the motions and let somebody else win. I was the math guy. I also never got jitters about performing, which is why I avoided this prompt. You made it seem quite real, so I'll probably revisit if I ever try to do first person about somebody who is nervous. Well done.

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Lata B
22:52 Jul 17, 2020

Thank you so much!!

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A. S.
17:17 Jul 28, 2020

I really enjoyed reading this. I was able to feel the main character’s anxiety through the writing. The alphabet countdown was a really clever way to show her nerves. Great job! Would you be willing to read my story “Gone”?

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Lata B
17:48 Jul 28, 2020

Thank you so much! I would love to!:)

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Conan Helsley
00:01 Jul 27, 2020

Most of the writing was good in this one. Even though there was no more going on here than a spelling bee, it kept me reading. I think the best way to judge a writer's talent and ability is whether they can tell a compelling story about something ordinarily boring and mundane. Great job.

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Lata B
00:09 Jul 27, 2020

Thank you!! :)

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D. Jaymz
17:03 Jul 24, 2020

Lata, This was a sweet story. The thoughts going through the main character were very realistic and made her likable. ~~~~~~ Suggestion(s): In the sentence, "If only the words I had stacked in my mind would magic flow out, then I might have made a friend." I believe that 'magic' should be 'magically'. As in, "If only the words I had stacked in my mind would magically flow out, then I might have made a friend." When Luna Turner goes up for her word. She is asked for the definition but gets stumped by the spelling. If this is a ...

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Lata B
17:09 Jul 24, 2020

Thank you so much! Oops yes, it should be magically instead of magic! I like that better! Yes, I agree with you! Thank you again! :)

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This was awesome! You really conveyed how nervous she was, and it’s cool how you didn’t reveal WHAT she was nervous about until later on. Great job! -Aerin

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Lata B
14:13 Jul 22, 2020

Thank you so much! :)

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Mry M
07:40 Jul 22, 2020

Wonderful story. Mind checking out my story that l posted

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Lata B
14:13 Jul 22, 2020

Thank you! Will do!

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