By Wendy C. Ortiz


I won so many spelling bees in elementary school. Certificates with my name on them, little prizes of ice-cream scented erasers.

I loved spelling. It was ordered and rote and made sense to me even when it did not. Bough, ought, caught.

I was indignant when anyone else won. I felt spelling bees were my calling. I took the used workbooks home, the ones I’d completed week after week during the school year.

On the first day of 2006, I left my bad luck tied to a tree outside a famous shrine in Tokyo.  I wasn’t sure exactly what I was getting rid of, only that when my new friend, Ema, unrolled the tiny fortune and read it, she giggled nervously and said in accented English, “You unlucky this year,” then she pinched the corner of the paper between her thumb and index finger, waved it back and forth and said, “Is very bad, you leave it here.”