May 25, 2018
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It helps a marriage if at least one spouse is a good speller

Erin Donovan
By Erin Donovan

I’m a good speller. I will probably misspell something in this essay as karmic punishment for beginning a tale by lauding myself an expert speller. It’s just something I’m good at. It’s a byproduct of a childhood whiled away with books containing subject matters way beyond my emotional maturity. I was also one of those sad children who loved diaries and stationery sets. Had Santa Claus himself presented me with the choice between a flashy bicycle or some paper with sharpened pencils, I would have chosen the latter and been writing my thank-you note to him on that very paper a few moments later.

Despite my love of words, I’m no rocket scientist when it comes to solving some of life’s more complex issues, such as climate change. Or geometry. Or how to follow a GPS system. To the delight of many an opponent, I’ve also proven tragically average at crossword puzzles and Scrabble.

My husband, on the other hand, is my foil. Greg solves mathematical puzzles for fun. He reads dense law and tax code that causes me to start tying a noose and looking for a stool. He excels at Scrabble and crossword puzzles, though his strategy usually involves two-letter words that defy logic by amassing 40,000 Scrabble points. He is also one of those survivalist types who can remember whether you’re supposed to run in a diagonal, play dead or climb a tree when being chased by a lion, a bear or an alligator. I would be doing all three, and with no impressive speed, until I received the jaws of death in my back.

Despite all these virtues, he is a terrible speller. He simply cannot visualize words before they need to be typed or written. I hear things like, “How do you spell ‘Sincerely’?” three times a week. Because I do not typically wield my power to spell for evil, I cooperatively call back the letters.

Until recently.

We had been moving bulky waste, as it’s affectionately called by the Township, to the curb for collection. We had far more articles of waste than a 12-pack and a $20 bill were going to compel two trash men to take, so we had begun putting items out in advance of the collection day in hopes that scavengers would haul them away. I actually watched a man drive 100 yards past our curb, then reverse the entire distance, to take a plastic bucket.

Then Greg moved to the curb a metal filing cabinet that had been in our basement since the year someone first fabricated metal filing cabinets. It looked exactly like the sort of filing cabinet you would see in a detective’s office in old movies. It was ugly, but more to the point, it was a leaden weight. Not to my surprise, it sat there. Lonely and dejected on the side of the road, it sat there. And it sat there some more.

Greg began to pester me to place a “FREE” sign atop it so that passersby would recognize that this relic of organization could be theirs at no cost. He must have wanted to weed out those people who had busily begun saving up so that they could knock on the door and offer us a fair price. Because I suspected that adding a sign to the item was not going to improve its odds of taking flight, I ignored his pleas.

Until one day I noticed him disappear to the yard clutching a permanent marker and a piece of cardboard. Before I could skulk to the window to observe this arts and crafts project, he peeked his head inside.

“Is this how you spell ‘FREE’?” He asked as he held up his sign.

He held it at an arm’s length to appraise it from a distant vantage point. He narrowed his eyes and muttered the thing that people challenged by spelling always say, “Something looks weird.”

It was spelled correctly, but there was a devilish current running through me that day. I just couldn’t help myself.

“Actually, that first ‘E’ should be an ‘I.’”

At least we gave the neighbors a frie laugh.

Erin Donovan moved with her family to the midcoast, where she constantly is told she says the word “scallops” incorrectly. She performs live and produces Web sketches derived from her popular humor blog “I’m Gonna Kill Him.” Follow her misadventures at and on Twitter @gonnakillhim.

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