"Barbican." Kevin nails it. "Psoriasis." Nice one, Sasha. Easy peasy. The next word is "obeah." Both flub it. It goes on until Sasha leaves off the second "e" in "disagreeability." Kevin gets it right. He wins on "glasnost."

Kevin is a 27-year-old theater student at Rhode Island College. He has always had an aptitude for spelling. He won both times a spelling bee was held at his middle school. But the school never participated in state finals. He has never had the chance to blossom to his full potential. Until now.

Graciously, Kevin says he got lucky a few times. There were some words other contestants tackled that might have felled him. But Kevin spelled "deuterotonic" without flinching. An improvement over last year, when he was knocked out in the third round by "rococo." I ask him if he knows how to spell it now. He does.

The day after the bee, Matthew Lawrence sends me the spelling list. I scroll to the end, desperate to know the name of the boat he described with the silent "gh." A part of me wonders if I might have been able to spell it, had I even advanced past "camphor" and "hamartia." The word is "dghaisa." It's a small boat, similar to a gondola — the only word Lawrence could find in the dictionary with a Maltese root.

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