After spending the previous six months living in a room with soft walls, Matthias Smotherman was finally given the floor. Matthias had thought long and hard about what he might say if given such an opportunity and feared squandering it more anything in the world – though his apprehensions about zombie clowns who kept dog-sized spiders as pets and whose MO was burying people alive was a close second.
Smotherman cleared his throat and thought about everything Professor Stacy M. Cradlesting had taught him in Intro to Public Speaking, which he’d taken at the community college with the racially insensitive mascot and the janitor who wrote the prize-winning poetry but couldn’t mop a floor if his continued virility had depended on it.
First on Smotherman’s agenda was Blonde Girls Who Get Under Your Skin, Like a Cyst or a Really Bad Ingrown Hair, and Reside There Indefinitely, No Matter The Strength With Which You Scrub. Smotherman had become convinced, after long and careful thought effected in a solitude so deep it made your bones sing, that blonde-haired women possessed some kind of psychosexual superhuman ability that, when wielded in its most merciless form, had the power to control minds. Smotherman liked to compare it to the trick used by Jedis to convince Storm Troopers to look the other way, only this force left a man sucking his own thumb in dirty underwear.
Smotherman had, and was more than willing to divulge, field research to support his theoretical claims about blonde women. To wit, the third grade. Smotherman’s about to win the class spelling bee when Melanie Hughes blows him a kiss from behind Mrs. Eaton’s back and he ends up spelling ‘accuse’ with two k’s and a z and losing the bee to Brian Gaspetti, a decent speller and all, but also a boy who never saw a booger he didn’t eat. Melanie’s hair was gold like the sun, and its shine made your stomach feel like a washing machine with sneakers in it.
Because he knew passive aggressiveness was frowned upon in this place, Smotherman went ahead and identified the subject of his opening gambit. It was Sarah J. Sapperstein, Smotherman’s ex-girlfriend and unofficial arch nemesis. Smotherman then admitted, mostly for effect, that, despite hating Sarah’s “rotten stinking guts” (for reasons that would be inappropriate and logistically impossible to elaborate on in a public forum), if he were to discover Sarah in his bed, fleshy tush in the air, he’d be physically incapable of rebuffing such lascivious (and borderline illegal) advances from a girl with such bright blonde hair. Smotherman used to tell prospective employers when they asked him his weaknesses, “Blondes. Beautiful bosomy blondes.”
Smotherman believed that, though anecdotal, this admission said much about what slaves we all were to our own subconscious desires and how much of what we do seems to be driven by some unseen and possibly cosmic force that (potentially) derived its powers from the very fiber of spacetime (and also how Sarah Sapperstein, nay Smotherman, would most likely be his bride someday).
This last contention made Mr. Salmon T. Reed laugh and laugh and laugh — laugh so hard that he fell right out of his wheelchair and required the assistance of three beefy black men to get him back situated — which wouldn’t have mattered all that much but for the fact that Mr. S. T. Reed hadn’t emitted so much as a yawn in 17 years 4 months 23 days and 11 hours. Looking out, Smotherman saw a smorgasbord of stunned faces ogling back at him. It was becoming clear that by simply speaking his mind Smotherman was making the world a better place.
Smotherman next wanted to address, if no one minded too terribly, the topic of standing in line in America. Though seemingly inconsequential — Smotherman was, for example, fully aware of global jihad — it was nonetheless a large part of American society and thus merited discussion. Smotherman’s chief contention on the matter was that there existed a fundamental flaw in the commonly accepted attitude toward standing in line; namely that everyone needed to be so damn close to each other. Do people really think that if they hump your leg and breathe down your neck it’ll expedite their effort to imbibe Chipotle guac? It’s total madness, Smotherman said with a swinging fist, and then surveyed the audience anxiously because he knew that ‘madness’ was a technical term that carried with it heavy psychological implications and thus its nonchalant employment was in very poor taste. Professor Cradlesting had always stressed the utility of knowing one’s audience and how the true greats — Lincoln and Churchill and Cicero — could adapt to their audience in real time. But the books never talked about if there’s nothing much to react to — no chapter on slobbery chins and spacey eyes that stared a million miles past you, no advice on titillating the chemically comatose, no section on how best to captivate men who’d met their demons and now couldn’t stop fretting about how gnarly they were.
Smotherman wanted to live in a world where people stood exactly six feet apart while in line, and was enthusiastically amenable to some sort of legal (or perhaps even corporal) punishment for eager-beavers who failed to adhere to the Six Foot Protocol (known otherwise as the SFP). However, Smotherman knew — and acknowledged as much to his audience — that there was a better chance of ISIS establishing its own clown college.
Then, despite beginning to feel an itch at the back of his throat that he’d be unable to eradicate due to the unfortunate absence of something cold and wet, Smotherman transitioned, like a regular Charismatic Dictator, into what he called his Friends Dilemma. Smotherman was kind enough to preface this portion of his speech with a warning that “shit was about to get real, ya’ll” (in case any prudes in the audience wanted to excuse themselves to a campfire sing-along or a Bible-study group). The question was this: If given the chance, Smotherman asked rhetorically (because he was now on a roll and would rather pass a pumpkin through his pee-hole than relinquish his spot at the proverbial podium), who would you rather sleep with — Rachel, Monica, or Phoebe? It was Smotherman’s contention that although Rachel was the most traditionally attractive of the group, Phoebe was very likely the most sexually enlightened and thus carried with her the prospect of “some pretty wild romping indeed.” As for Monica, she was, in Smotherman’s words, “a bit too clean” for his taste.
At this point, several women in the audience began to blush (or grow angry, Smotherman couldn’t exactly tell and didn’t have time to determine) and a fat man in the back (Cody Q. Hitchfield as a point of fact) shared a loud and very wet-sounding fart that seemed to rattled the building’s very foundation.
(Hitchfield often bragged about being the only human to ever live who never held in a bodily function. He could often be heard regaling anyone who would listen with his most daring exploits, including the day he burped so loud the judge held him in contempt of court.)
This brought Smotherman to his views on Haircut Places Allowing People To Check-In Online Rather Than Adhering to the Time-Honored System of First Come-First Serve. Once again, Smotherman posed a series of rhetorical questions. Was the world not already a terrible and ugly place? Did we really need to create a situation in which a young American man could walk into the barbershop and find, to his great but ultimately false satisfaction, an empty waiting area, only to be forced to wait 45 minutes for his turn because six different people arrived at the shop after him but were given first dibs because they had, before getting their big dumb asses to the shop, typed their name and phone number into an Internet portal that probably didn’t even apprise them of the possibility that they’d technically be ditching folks who did not take similar precautions prior to arriving at the actual location where the actual scissors were?
Well, did we?
After a long and audibly displeasing series of throat-clearing in which Smotherman regurgitated and then swallowed at least two golf-ball-sized phlegm wads, he moved to the admittedly esoteric topic of Selfish and Solipsistic Teammates Stealing – And Proceeding to Use Far Too Much Of – Your Irish Spring Body-Wash While You Were in the Gym Icing Your Achy Knees After Practice. Smotherman couldn’t be sure how well anyone could relate to this particular point of contention, but he knew it had the unfortunate potential of ruining possibly fruitful relationships and, more importantly, overall team chemistry. A man’s Hygienic Implementations, Smotherman believed, should be immune to thieving acts of inconsideration, or else the very balance and order of society could be obliterated. Having said as much, Smotherman felt a weight drop from his chest and was excited that he’d once again be able to see his nipples (which until that moment had been entirely concealed by said weight and had begun to chaff something awful).
Noticing that he was starting to lose some attention of his audience, Smotherman moved to the much more universal topic of Being Unable, For the Life of You, To Think of a Retaliatory Prank After Your Friend Sends You a Fake Email Wherein He Pretends To Be Head Cheerleader and Local Hottie Samantha Weston Asking You On a Date, Which Results in You Making a Total Ass of Yourself In Front of No Less Than a Dozen Classmates When You Confidently Saunter Up To Samantha At Her Locker and Tell Her That You Are Looking Forward to Saturday Night And Would She Like to Pick the Movie? Smotherman then asked each member of the audience to write their best prank ideas on the notecard provided beneath their chairs so that he, Smotherman, would be able to formulate a timely response the next time someone decided to eff with his emotions.
The ideas received ranged from delusional to homicidal and were of almost no help at all. Miss Rebecca D. Chambers, who could often be heard mumbling about her late husband the rubberband tycoon, apparently thought “Smotherman’s funny friend deserved an AIDS-coated cock in the ass.”
Throughout his speech, Smotherman made proper, but conservative use of various hand gestures he’d been enthusiastically taught by Professor Cradlesting, who Smotherman had recently heard contracted a rare form of leukemia that would almost certainly render the man entirely speechless. However, Smotherman took comfort in the idea that Stacy M. Cradlesting, Community College Professor Extraordinaire, would always be able to articulate his grief and frustration with the world through that great and universal hand gesture Middle Finger Up, Other Fingers Down.
Feeling confident and well-respected for the first time in his adult life, Smotherman launched fervently into his views on Being Unable to Ever Muster The Motivation To Learn How To Change a Tire, and the related topic of Not Feeling Exactly Like a Man When You Take Your Car To The Shop and Can’t Even Tell the Guy If Your Jeep is a V6 or a V8. Smotherman was of the opinion that they should make shop classes mandatory in high school because knowing a thing or two about your own vehicle was far more valuable in today’s society than knowing, for example, that the circumference of a circle could be found by multiplying the radius of said circle by pie and then multiplying the product by two. Some knowledge is power, and some knowledge is just powder, Smotherman tossed out his new very clever saying and invited his audience to help it go viral.
Smotherman then thought it prudent to address the uniquely American situation of Stupid Credit Card Chip Readers Causing Unbearable Moments of Awkward Silence As You Can Do Nothing But Stare At The Odd Girl Working Behind The Counter At CVS And Hope That Society Would See The Error of Its Ways And Go Back To Letting People Swipe. At this particular juncture in his speech, Smotherman noticed a bevy of head-nods and shakes that he interpreted to mean that the folks in his audience could not possibly have agreed more. These were, as they say, his people. They had exactly the kind of ears and hearts and minds (and prescriptive regiments) Smotherman needed to make his voice properly and adequately heard. Smotherman had, for much his life, felt like a man whispering at a rock concert. But now — now he felt like a yelping barbarian at the head of a mad horde.
*A SECTION OF THIS STORY HAS BEEN REDACTED BECAUSE IT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO INVOKE DISCOMFORT IN THE READER WHO MAY THEN DIRECT THAT DISCOMFORT AT THE AUTHOR. HAVE A NICE DAY, SNOWFLAKES.*
At this, two men and a woman in gleaming coats of white began flailing their limbs and repeating the word OK as if they’d gone momentarily illiterate and could only articulate one letter at a time.
“Let’s hear it for Smotherman, can we?” said Dr. Wayne G. Modgloff, whose orange hair and freckles Smotherman had always found to be extremely unsettling. “Very good, Mr. Smotherman. Very good,” said Dr. Vanessa K. Schwartz, who Smotherman suspected of being lonely, spoiled and possibly bulimic. “Truly thought-provoking stuff,” said Dr. Arasmis O. Knotweiler, a man Smotherman had no respect for at all due to his constant and possibly pathological need to slurp his coffee like a brain-damaged donkey.
While he still could, Smotherman made sure to thank his audience for their somewhat undivided time and attention (and also any peculiar glances, eye-rolls, exasperated sighs, and farts they might have provided) and then thoroughly enjoyed — perhaps more than any man had ever enjoyed anything — every last clap within the seated ovation with which they rewarded him. Smotherman was then ushered from the front of the room, thinking already about what he might say if they ever gave him a floor again.