Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Get Them Laughing

My submission for Three Word Wednesday. This week's words: fear, ignore, weightless.

A card fluttered to the stage floor as he rifled through his notes again. He bent to pick it up and saw through a space in the curtains the crowd chattering as they waited.

It was a small school, and really, the room was sparsely filled: small clumps of students sprinkled throughout the auditorium. But it was crowd enough for him.

A drop of sweat trickled from his forehead off the tip of his nose, splattering on the renegade card. He wiped his face.

Three weeks later, he still hadn’t gotten used to the idea. He was president of the National Honor Society. You can’t nominate yourself for an office, and the small group of hyper-competitive honor students couldn’t stand to see an adversary get an advantage on his or her resume. The advisor had pleaded for a name until someone lazily said, “Jeremy Melcher.”

After years of anonymity, he now faced his greatest fear: being noticed.

He stared at the card he had picked up. It was his entrance. It set the tone for the entire speech. The ink had smudged, but he didn’t need the card anyway. This part, he had down cold.

“Start with a joke,” his dad had told him. “If you get them laughing, they don’t care what you say after that.” So he spent a week working on it: in the shower, in bed, during supper, during calculus.

He’d take out a word, add a word, flip an expression. He emphasized different phrases. He said it slowly; he sped it up. It never sounded perfect, but after all that tinkering, he had decided it was good enough.

Now, moments before taking the stage, he was certain it would bomb.

The principal was at the podium. His time had arrived.

“And now, I’d like to introduce for you the president of the Taft High School National Honor Society: Jeremy Melcher!”

Jeremy walked onstage to a smattering of claps. It seemed every student he looked at was smirking or quietly ripping on him to a neighbor.

“Ignore it. Ignore it,” he muttered as he fixed his eyes on the podium.

He adjusted the microphone and breathed deep.

“Thank you very much.

“I was very surprised when I found out that I was elected president of the National Honor Society. ‘They must be crazy!’ I thought.

“So I spent some time looking into the history of the organization, and I realized that my first reaction was right. They are crazy!”

He paused, just as he’d rehearsed. He heard some giggles.

“It turns out, the only reason they created the National Honor Society was because it was too expensive to institutionalize us all!”

From a far corner came one loud laugh. It set off a chain reaction, rolling from the back of the auditorium forward, teachers and students alike.

It was chaos. A girl in the front row actually had tears running down her face. People were doubled over.

It took a full five minutes to restore order, and Jeremy, beaming, bathed in the glory.

Emboldened, he tore through the rest of his speech. He was honored to be part of an organization that reflected the high ideals of Taft High. He saw these values and principles each day in the halls and classrooms. He appreciated the teachers and people who helped him so much along the way. And thank you God!

It was total B.S., and it was exhilarating.

Jeremy strode offstage, almost weightless.

For the first time in his life, Jeremy Melcher had confidence. He had strength. He had power. He had … a black smudge of ink running down the bridge of his nose to the very tip.

He stared at the mirror on the dressing room wall just offstage.


  1. MM, welcome to 3WW. This had some airiness to it, a lightness. But a great message about being anonymous and letting yourself out there.

    Glad you're here.

  2. You go Matt! I started to blog to put some of my photography out there to get feedback on. It's been great! Have fun!

  3. Love the ending. Very well written.


  4. you have mad writing skills. I wanted to read more, and I am not a "reader"

  5. Thanks for taking the time to read my first foray into this! Really encouraging stuff, and I appreciate it.

    I know I write like a journalist, and I hope I can break out of the mold a little without the internal editor sucking the fun out of it. I'm sure I can learn from all your work in the future.

  6. Merritt, what's wrong with writing like a journalist? I think that makes you get to the point faster. Nice work.

  7. I'm by no means dissing journalism. It's the best foundation you could want for writing because of that exact reason (of course, I'm biased). There's nothing I love more than deleting an entire sentence and replacing it with one word. I just get so hung up on rules sometimes that it breaks me. I think I'm going to be a rebel and start using the Oxford comma. I might as well get a motorcycle while I'm at it.

  8. You think writing like a journalist is bad? Try a lifetime in PR. I've been so trained in soundbites that I have trouble filling the 140 characters in a tweet. Nice writing.

  9. welcome to 3ww and what a debut! Hope you stick around. I kept waiting, as my mother would say, for the other shoe to drop. You didn't disappoint!

  10. Yeah, welcome to 3ww, I enjoyed reading this, I used to tell myself little stories to get myself to sleep at night.

  11. heck i thought it was a very funny poignant story... just a little bit of effort and we'd all be comedians... sorta like grace in disguise....