Hello readers. Below, you will find my entry to a weekly writing contest run by Munazza Bangash. It may win, it may lose, but it will certainly be an experience. The topic is: a bad habit to be broken. I have chosen poor oration. You’ll see why.
I started panicking at the end of Hayden’s speech, and I was done for. A classroom is a hospitable place for a lecture, but an introduction speech? Forget about it. I hardly knew the guy. He could’ve been the Messiah-incarnate and I’d have no clue. But I had prepared a two minute speech, nonetheless. And it was my turn.
As the room broke out in applause, I leaned back. The black girl behind me was, if anything, a natural. I balled up my fist and extended it slowly. She squinted and shook her head. No pre-speech fist-bump. Thanks lady.
I hobbled up to the podium, and looked out at my audience. A antique professor with an hourglass just as old, and nineteen twenty-somethings like myself. This wasn’t a bad crowd — quite the opposite. What was hardest for me was talking about some dude; somebody and not something. I could tell you everything there was to know about the game of poker, but my pokerface falls when it comes turn to talk about the players. Who gives a shit, right? Just play the game.
But school doesn’t work that way. I swallowed hard, and forgot about having forgotten my water bottle.
“Are you ready, Ben,” Mrs. Carol asked over her horned-rimmed specs. I could hardly hear her over the pounding which emanated from my chest. But she startled me into starting.
“Alright, yeah, so,” I said, “I’m introducing Hayden today.”
The crowd nodded. So good so far.
“I mean, gosh, what is there to say about him? He’s a big brother to his little sister, who turned twelve yesterday.”
Hayden nodded and grinned, along with the rest of the class. Good so far.
“He really cares about the environment, and he tries to teach her to do the same,” I said, looking down at the notes I had brought with me to the podium, “and he walks her daily in the park, throwing Frisbees and dog treats to keep her active.”
Dead silence. Oh. I had done it. My first screw up. My face drained pallid and the audience stared at me. I was afraid of it this whole time, and I mixed up my notes. The first day of class, Mrs. Carol had strongly recommended against cards. I didn’t listen, and now…
“Recover.” Mrs. Carol mouthed. My throat made a weird sound, and I tucked my cards into my pocket. They had done enough damage this time. I stepped away from the podium.
“Of course,” I started, “we all know how much little sisters dislike their collars,” I said with a smile while gesturing in Hayden’s direction, “so he spares her, and tells his parents he did, anyway.”
A few chuckles broke out. It was a lame joke. But I felt myself slow down and my pulse went with me. I looked at a young girl in the front, and started speaking directly to her.
“We can fight over who takes what role in a relationship, but there’s always someone who takes charge and responsibility.” I pointed to Hayden again. “There he is. He comes to class on time, does his homework right when he gets home, and finds time,” I stopped, looking for a better phrase, “makes time for an impressionable young woman.”
I walked to the board, which had all of our names on it. I pointed to Hayden’s name, and turned around.
“When I see this name, I don’t think of just a classmate. I think of a responsible, caring, and ethical intellect. Since speaking with him,” I said, stifling a laugh, “he has recanted his ways of feeding his sister dog treats.”
Everyone laughed. In their own ways, too. Some guffawed. Some chuckled hardily. Others smiled and shook their head. But I took it. I took too it all in stride.
“And, for that,” I continued, “I would call him a dynamic person. Actively changing, and adapting to — what should I call this,” I thought aloud and looked to the ceiling, “more modern and reasonable forms of sibling bonding.”
Again, laughter. Not as much as last time, but I was closing up anyway.
“And, in the short time that I’ve had to introduce him to you, I have learned something.” I pointed to him for the last time and said, “He’s as valuable a subject as he is a speaker and an audience member. Ladies and gentlemen, Hayden Ryals!”
The class gave me their applause, and I walked back to my seat with a smile. I left class with a smile.
And I got twenty fist-bumps in the hallway.