The day arrived, much like any other day. I awoke to the smells of coffee and bacon cooking. There was the familiar sound of Momma’s voice yelling down the hallway.
“Hey, you up in there?”
This was the day I had dreaded most. The day that I, a quivering, sweaty bowl of mush, will be standing in front of thirty of my piers and give a speech about…Oh no! I can’t remember my topic! I’m dead! After two weeks of research, four hundred rewrites. Then a week of looking like a fool, talking to myself in the mirror, I can’t remember what my speech is about!
I can’t go to school! I just can’t give that speech! Maybe if I had a little more time?
Momma’s voice from the doorway hastened my return to reality.
“Debra, you’re not ready for school yet?”
I can’t go to school. I don’t feel well. Maybe I’m getting sick.
Momma’s soft hand was placed against my forehead as she drew me to her.
You’re not sick child, just nervous.”
“ No excuses get dressed and come eat your oatmeal.”
I can’t believe this; my stomach is doing the twist. I can hardly swallow, and she wants me to eat oatmeal! I’m dead!
With a quick goodbye, I was off to catch the bus I was hoping to miss. No such luck. The bus arrived on schedule. It couldn’t even have a flat tire.
Stepping off the bus, the building’s front doors seemed to move, as though trying to grab me. Once inside, I found myself standing in front of the doorway to the end of my life.
A thought occurred to me at that moment. If I sit in the back of the room, Mr. Jorden won’t call me today. Then I won’t have to give my speech.
“Hello class,” said Mr. Jorden. “Today I will change things a little. Instead of going by rows, I will hear the speeches in alphabetical order.”
Oh no! Not that! That means I’m first!
Mr. Jorden, do I have to be first?
“Yes you do, so please come to the front and let’s get started.”
I proceeded numbly to the front, turned and faced the class. There before me were thirty faces of now unrecognizable people. The room was beginning to spin around me. The temperature in that room was suddenly stifling, and then it happened! From my trembling hands fell my note cards. I scrambled to pick them up. The sound of laughter in the classroom ringing in my ears, made me want to run!
Mr. Jorden cleared his throat, while tapping his pencil irritably on the edge of his desk, and said “ now please get on with your speech.”
Upon regaining my poise, I discovered I had picked the cards up in the wrong order. I knew from a glance at Mr. Jorden, that I had already taken too much time. I looked at the top card. It read, SLAVERY WAS BAD. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and began.
To this day I can’t remember the contents of that speech, or how I got through it. What I remember most were Mr. Jordan’s words to me after class. “Debra, that was a wonderful speech. You did a fine job.”
I wish I could go back now and thank Mr. Jorden for his compliments. His words have given me the courage to give other speeches.