Gina Dore had agreed to present the final Eighth Grade Promotion Ceremony speech. Was she insane? Why had she agreed to this–why?! She looked out and saw nine hundred thousand people—out of a crowd of three hundred and thirty-two—staring back at her, waiting…
OhGodOhGodOhGodOhGod! she prayed inside her head—desperate, incoherent, out of control praying. The only word she could think of, the only word she could not get out of her mind, was expectation.
All of Middleton was waiting…
OhGodOhGodOhGodOhGod! All of the alien scientists were waiting…
OhGodOhGodOhGodOhGod! Gina was fourteen, smart, and knew it, talented, and knew it. But for some reason everything had been slipping lately: her grades, her friendships. And now she herself was about to slip over the edge…
with an insane speech,
in an insane dress,
egged on by an insane English teacher.
And then somehow the words formed themselves in her mouth. Beautiful words. Perfect words. Even as she spoke, she watched the effect they had on her audience: “Fie, fie, unknit that threatening, unkind brow, and dart not scornful glances from those eyes.”
People listened in reverent silence as the wonderful words emanated from her. Many actually had their mouths open. “A woman moved is like a fountain troubled, muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty; and while it is so, none so dry or thirsty will deign to sip or touch a drop of it.”
“Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, thy head, thy sovereign…”
Something was wrong.
“Too little payment for so great a debt. Such duty as the subject owes the prince, even such a woman owes…”
It felt just like when she’d played Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew. And for good reason: it was Gina’s final speech from The Taming of the Shrew, and it was, in and of itself, quite impressive, but it was not a Wings of the Future Inspirational Closing Speech.
It wasn’t even close.
Eternity passed, and then…
“And so do we, um…so do we ‘owe the future,’” Gina muttered, “as we soar forth on it…I mean, on, um, you know, its wings…I mean, you know, the future’s…whatever…”
Her voice straggled off, and then—whether she was trying to say “thank ye” in Old English, or “thank you” and “hanky” at the same time—she said, “Thanky,” and wandered off toward the Seventh Grade Jazz Ensemble. Mr. Goldsmith, the band instructor, grabbed her just in time to keep her from stepping off the edge of the stage, and steered her toward the staircase.
As she stumbled down the steps, twelve-year-old tenor sax-man Jeff Simerlink said, “Truly weird, Dore, truly weird!” Which, coming from Jeff Simerlink, was high praise.
People were divided. Some thought Gina was trying to recreate her triumph as Katherina. Others thought she was trying to pass off Shakespeare’s words as her own; David Stigman called her a “plague-erizer.”
He English teacher Ms. Killian said that “by placing Shakespeare’s words in an entirely different context,” Gina had made it “brilliantly your own.”
Birdy Trujillo waved, as though completely unaware of the tragic melt-down that had just occurred. Roberta “Birdy” Trujillo, Gina’s closest friend and the most un-judgmental person in the universe might have provided some comfort, but after a quick air kiss and a “love ya, Jeener-weener!” she was whisked away by her relatives, en route to the airport and to California, where she would remain all summer.
Gina had never felt more alone in her life.
Thoughts: Have you ever, out of sheer embarrassment, longed to escape to another world?
To read the next episode, click here.