I remember back in high school when my classmates and I were sitting at our desk in English class just minding our own business when the teacher, Mr. Z we'll call him because it always seems like English teacher names begin with Z (Zemple, Zimmerman, Zorkman, Zoundsalot, any way....), dropped the ever annoying bomb of English bombs in our laps, "Five minute speech on anything. Due Friday of this week."
"AAAh maaan! Come on Mr. Z. That's four days from now. We'll never make it in time."
"If you'll all quit your whining, you have forty minutes to figure out what your topic is going to be."
"Can it be sports?"
"I suppose. As long as it's not a play- for- play on some game you enjoyed."
"Anything we like?"
So for the next forty minutes we spent doing what we did best. We hit the books. We researched. Most of us had our topic inside of ten minutes. Right?
Come on people! We're talking about a room full of high school kids. Sharon and Denise were passing notes back and forth. Roger, Wilt, and Lisa were staring out the window. Most teachers weren't aware of it, but Joey had a stealth method of sleeping while appearing to be busy. The rest of us stared at ceiling tiles and watched for traffic in the hallway and when we weren't doing that, we doodled in our notebooks. Only the Chosen (you know... the ones with high grade point averages) were working on what they had been assigned to do.
The rest of the week Mr. Z grilled us on our introductions, body, and endings of our speeches. We learned how we wood conduct ourselves at the podium. Eye contact with your audience was important. Finally, when we were done, ask if there were any questions. RESEARCH! PLANNING! REHEARSAL! The the last half of the lesson was spent researching and planning by ourselves for our speeches.
It was during this time I discovered many things. I discovered that Lisa would maybe be an excellent date for Prom. I planned on how I would go about asking her and rehearsed it in my mind over and over many times. Joey had improved on his stealth sleeping. He now can sleep with his eyes open. There are just as many Ford pickup trucks in the school parking lot across the street as there are Chevy's. Both out number the Dodge by three to one. And I have decided that Jason has a tumor somewhere in his nasal passage because he is constantly preforming surgery with his finger in an attempt to remove it.
Finally the fateful day came. Friday. Did I have a topic?..... I was working on it. I knew I had time. Mr. Z's tack of order would be alphabetically. I was positioned somewhere alphabetically in the middle of the class. George got to go first. His speech ended at exactly five minutes. Thank goodness for that. It was quite boring. There were no questions after. No one wanted to prolong the pain.
Deidre, one of the Chosen, was next. Her father was a dentist so I pretty well guessed what her topic was going to be. She was a little more long winded than George. There were no questions for her either. We were in high school for heaven's sake. We knew all we wanted to know about oral hygiene; however, I was surprised to learn that there were these neat little brushes available to clean the plaque off your teeth and tongue. I made a note of it and swore to myself that I would give it a try before approaching Lisa about the prom.
Time wore on. Speeches came and went one after the other. I was breaking out in a sweat. My topic? ... Nada. Soon somebody shook Joey awake. I began to panic. I knew I would be next. I hoped Joey would carry on until the end of class, but Joey's speech lasted for exactly five minutes. I had to stall for time somehow. I had no idea what it was about but I raised my hand anyway.
"Ah! Finally! Someone has courage to ask questions!" Mr. Z bellowed from the back of the room. "Joey?"
Joey was giving me the 'You're so dead after school' look when he pointed at me called my name.
That's when I realized..... I didn't have a dog gone thing to ask him. "Um. Ah. Let's see. I forgot what I was going to ask."
"No questions then Mr. Hughze?" Mr. Z asked.
"Um. Oh. I guess not."
"Well alright then.... You're next"
Though I tried to make it so, the trip from my desk to the front of the class was no eternity. My topic?.... Zilch! Or at least until half way to the front of the class. Thank goodness for Johnny Baxter and his constant errands during school hours. (Or as the teachers referred to his errands 'Just plain hooky'.) I heard his engine as he revved it up while he drove off down the street. That's when I had it. Engines! I would tell them everything I knew about engines. My stride quickened. I stepped before the class with confidence. Somewhere in my brain was five minutes worth of knowledge that I was going to share with them. I just had to extract it.
The introduction came easy. The topic?.... Automobile engines. The rest was a miracle. It just poured out of my brain and rolled off my tongue. One minute, two minutes, I unlocked vaults of knowledge in the darkest corners of my brain and emptied them . Three minutes, four, I reached into garbage cans and looked under the rugs of my mind for any useful, discarded knowledge and then: Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Five minutes! But.... I wasn't finished yet. I saw the expressions of my classmates change from indifference to awe as I educated them. Soon, seven minutes rolled by. The expressions of awe increased. Nine minutes. Brows raised higher. Ten minutes. Finished. Even Mr. Z was slack jawed as much my classmates as they all stared at me in disbelief. I felt above everyone else. Today I would become one of the Chosen. I would raise amongst their ranks. Heck! I will be their King. I was going to receive an A, no, an A+, an A++ for my efforts. Or even better yet, I was going to receive the highest grade of all, a 'G' for Genius.
Then Deidre slowly raised her hand. I felt honored. A Chosen one found my speech worthy of questioning. "Yes! Deidre!" I said as I pointed at her.
"Ummm....... Doesn't McDonald's make the Big Mac burger instead of Burger King?"
"Yes! You are correct! Sorry! Thank you for bringing that mistake to my attention." A small error but easily corrected.
"Aaaand..... what does that have to do with engines anyway?"
Blast! My ambitions are being undermined. I had to think quickly. "McDonald's has a drive through. It takes a automobile with an engine to use it. Next question please? Anyone else?"
Jack's hand shot up. Another Chosen one. "Yes, Jack!"
"Diesels don't have spark plugs do they?"
"Next question please?"
Then Lisa, my future Prom queen, my savior, raised her hand. Some how I just knew she raised her hand to save me from the critics of the Chosen. "Yes Lisa."
"I thought Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the moon and didn't they have the lunar rover to drive around up there instead of a Ford Bronco?"
The devastation was unbearable. Lisa, the girl of my dreams, reveals herself as a Chosen spy. The shame of it all. I could take no more. "No more questions", I said and hurried back to my desk.
I did not receive my 'A' or 'A+'. And as far as my 'G', I learned the hard way that day that the grading system unfortunately ends at 'F'. Mr. Z spoke with me briefly after class. He said it wasn't a total failure. He thought it was quite funny. He said, "Maybe you should try your hand at writing humor Mr. Hughze."