The Finals

I stare at Peter incredulously. “You cannot be suggesting this. It’s cheating.”

“Where in the rules does it say we can’t, Johnny? I’ll give you a hint: nowhere. I know we don’t see eye to eye, but I’d rather one of us got that scholarship than some nobody.”

I can’t believe Peter is stooping this low. We’re both finalists in the Waite-Smith Spelling Bee. It’s not what you think; there are no lists of words here, just spells. Magic spells. At stake is a scholarship at Bolingbroke Academy, the most prestigious magic school in the USA. We both desperately want in.

The other finalist is a girl named Maggy, whom neither of us has seen before. Unlike us, she barely scraped her way into the finals and looks like she’s running more on luck than anything. Peter’s a much bigger challenge than she is.

But Peter wants to be absolutely certain she goes down. He’s suggesting we both cast Negation spells when she’s doing her tests; if she doesn’t cast everything correctly within the time limit, she’s out. With both of us working against her she’s doomed.

My problem is that I want to win by being the best, not by messing with others. I want to be a good wizard, not a self-serving manipulative bastard like Peter.

“Sorry Peter, you’re going to have to do this on your own.”

“If that’s what you want Johnny, that’s what you get. Just stay out of my way.” With that he stalks out, leaving me alone in my prep room.

What do I do now? The simple answer is to concentrate on my spells and do my best and ignore the whole thing. But that would be turning my back on an innocent, which would make me no better than Peter. Peter’s right, though; what he’s going to try isn’t against the rules. The only option left is to give Maggie an even chance.

Maggie is praying when I knock on her door. She has a warm smile; the kind I always thought was incompatible with the dark arts. I take her invite to come in, and after a few pleasantries get right to it.

“Maggie, Peter is going to try to sabotage you. He’s going to use Negation magic on you while you’re doing your demonstration.”

“Congratulations Johnny, you’ve been disqualified.” I whirl around bewildered to see Peter there with a Referee. The Referee nods.

“What are you talking about?”

“It’s a test of character. You have to be willing to stop at nothing to win. That’s what being a wizard is all about. Maggie is automatically disqualified for praying to the Christian God. I win!”

Peter is laughing triumphantly as he and the Referee leave. He walks out, taking my future with him.

Maggie puts a hand on my shoulder.

“You have the wrong kind of soul for wizardry, Johnathan. Would you like to hear about another way?”

I look at her cross and her earnest expression. It’s worth a try.