Monthly Archives: December 2017

Tension High For Blacktip Island’s ‘Son Of A Bee’ Spell-Off

Adult spelling bee

An artist’s rendering of the 2016 Son of a Bee spelling contest, when crowd favorite Payne Hanover defeated Lee Helm in the final round. (illustration courtesy of Thomas Eakins)

Blacktip Island’s 17th annual ‘Son of a Bee’ spelling bee is slated for this weekend at the Last Ballyhoo bar. The two-day event, sponsored by the Blacktip Adult Literacy Learning Society, will feature the island’s premier competitive spellers going head-to-head in double elimination rounds.

“It started years ago as a dare at the Ballyhoo,” BALLS president Doris Blenny said. “Someone bet an inebriated Dermott Bottoms he couldn’t spell ‘cat.’ Then they spotted him the ‘c’ and the ‘a’ while the crowd cheered. Dermott was so drunk he lost the bet, but other patrons started challenging each other to spell words as a gauge of how sauced they were.

“It proved so popular, the Ballyhoo made the spell-off a standard event the first weekend in December,” Blenny said. “BALLS stepped in with sponsorship, gave it a snazzy name and it took off from there.

“The Ballyhoo requires all contestants to consume one drink per 30 minutes, so we instituted a double-elimination format to level the playing field,” Blenny added. “In the later rounds alcohol can become an impediment. Or, for some, a performance enhancer.”

Perennial favorites are Jerrod Ephesians, Finn Kiick and reigning Son of a Bee champion Payne Hanover.

“I’ve been practicing buzzed spelling for months to find that sweet spot where I’m toasted but can still spell,” Hanover said. “It’s easy to have that one drink too many and fall over the cliff.

“The strategy’s in knowing your opponent’s alcohol tolerance,” Hanover added. “Against a lightweight, sometimes if you hem and haw before spelling each word, the booze’ll win the round for you. But if you draw Antonio, you’re screwed. He gets better the more he drinks.”

The judges’ subjectivity often plays a key role in the competition.

“Last year Lee Helm may have spelled ‘perspicacity’ correctly in the final, but he slurred so badly two of the three judges scored him wrong,” judge Helen Maples said. “It cost him the match.”

Sponsors are hoping for a controversy-free Bee this year.

“Two years ago, Finn had to give up the title after we found out he bribed Peachy Bottoms for the vocabulary words beforehand,” Blenny said. “The year before that, there was no winner because all finalists had passed out before the final round.”

Bee officials say they’ve also beefed up security for this year’s event.

“It’s a two-day drinking event on a small island, Things can get physical,” Last Ballyhoo owner Marlin Bleu said. “Sometimes onlookers takes sides and quite the brouhaha breaks out.”

Proceeds from the event go to BALLS and the Last Ballyhoo repair fund.


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“Faux-Ever’ Lets Blacktip Island Churchgoers Sample The Afterlife


A member of the Blacktip Island Ecumenical Community Church, under the guidance of a church elder, gets a taste of the afterlife with the church’s new Faux-Ever headset. (photo courtesy of

The Blacktip Island Ecumenical Community Church Thursday unveiled ‘Faux-Ever,’ a virtual reality headset that allows churchgoers of any religious tradition to experience the afterlife of their particular faith.

“Users input information about their personal belief systems,” the former Reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “It’s like a Buzzfeed quiz, only with a religious focus, and draws on the teachings of classic theologians as well as popular novels and cinema.

“We tried to be as inclusive as possible,” Ephesians said. “The headset provides more than 128 different versions of the afterlife,” Ephesians said. “You can get anything from sitting on lotus pads to hunting buffalo on the Great Plains to being at one with an expanding universe. We even have a Cthulu option, but that didn’t end well for the congregant.”

Church officials hope the devices will strengthen users’ faith.

“We see it as sort of a trainer, like what pilots use before they get in an actual airplane,” church elder Harry ‘Scratcher’ Wrasse said. “There’s no telling what the afterlife will be like. You want to get a hint of what to expect, maybe even a nudge to change your ways.

“A lot of times people’re surprised what they see after programing the headset,” Wrasse said. “One person expected milk and honey and instead got a wasteland and his mouth stuffed with clay.”

The program is not without its critics.

“Jerrod and his cohorts are making a mockery of religious faith,” said the Reverend Pierre Grunt of the Our Lady of Blacktip cathedral. “There is no way that gizmo can provide a glimpse of anything like Heaven. They’re turning religion into a video game.”

Faux-Ever has proved popular with early testers

“I filled out the survey, slipped on the visor, and the next thing I knew I was floating around the reef,” said divemaster Marina DeLow. “The reef’s pretty much my church, so that made sense. And was kinda comforting.”

Others were underwhelmed.

“I expected something nice, the whole 100 virgins sort of thing,” Lee Helm said. “Instead, I wound up sitting on a cloud, playing a harp, surrounded by chubby little angels wearing diapers. I just felt . . . depressed.

“James Conlee, he got eternity at the Sand Spit bar with unlimited beer,” Helm said. “It’s not fair.”

Ephesians is encouraged by Faux-Ever’s successes.

“We’re working on adding more options,” he said. “Going forward, atheists will see a black, blank screen. And for a small donation to the widows and orphans’ fund, we can throw in a séance so you can talk to dead relatives.”


Ask Dermott:

Hey, Dermott,

First there was Jefferson Airplane. Then there was Jefferson Starship. Then there was just Starship. Then they were all gone. My question is, who was Jefferson? – Slick With Worry


Jefferson was Jefferson Beaumont. Beaumont, Texas’s named after him, too.

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