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~The Funeral Speech~


The rain beads on my shoulders, the shoulders of a mourner, wrapped black like raven’s feathers. Inward they slump, folded against my body like clipped wings. The water glues my lips like adhesive as I peer into the audience of mascara-singed faces and ridged jaw lines, and I know they will accuse me upon the words I’ve written to read. The pine box sits there like a time bomb, and I manage to tear my mouth open before it explodes, blasting away my composition and everything autumn.

“I know I should speak from the heart, b-but on behalf of Mr. Robert’s class, I’d like to read something off p-paper.”

A dry, flawless square slips from my pocket to my hand. It blossoms, and I read:

_____________________________________________________


“Suddenly, everyone began to sense it. Groggy, sleep deprived heads rose from yellow fiberboard desks like zombies from a shallow grave. Sullen fists rubbed daydreams from glossy eyes, and faces strained in an effort to accommodate the weight of their thousand-ton eyelids, which split open ever so reluctantly. To the teacher’s astonishment, the indolent students were alive! Basic motor function was re-kindled; girls (and one guy) brushed lazy drapes of hair from their faces.



Their arms stretched half-heartedly, each fueled by the same hope- with any luck, their torment would soon conclude. In darker times like these, the classrooms manila dry-walls, which had long since suffocated beneath the laminated Renaissance posters, topography maps, obscene pencil-marks and other common classroom paraphernalia, turned into the iron bars of a jail; worse still, a torture chamber. Fifteen cold desks chained fourteen students in place, forcing them to listen to yet another student presentation.”



“They had sensed the end of a presentation; all the sure signs of a conclusion; the summery, the systematic addressing of loose ends, the subtle, palpably recognizable shift in atmosphere. To think we were mistaken after years of practice!”



“Julia continued her essay presentation—her chosen subject was “the history of cancer, by Julia Pepier!” everyone zoned out once more, as though Julia’s voice sung a ballad of agony; heads withered back to the desks, each brimming with shattered hopes of mental salvation. As a squirming student in the audience, I had hated Julia enough as she was; I envied her success in school. Some kids had checked their pulses to see if they had yet died of boredom, and others berated Julia with caustic censure. The teacher, Mr. Roberts, did nothing of disciplinary action.”



“If there were ever a girl with such an irascible case of verbal-diarrhea, it was Julia. Often times she would present simply as the archetypical teenager, the run-up-your-parent’s-phone-bill type, that dumb-blonde girl who tends to be shallower than a kitty pool, yet whose mouth has uncharitable depths. In fact, Julia was recognized as the head cheerleader, though she hadn’t actually signed up for the cheerleading team! And now, in my year of graduation, Julia is dead.



“This bleak class presentation, painful as it was, has become the last memory of mine to radiate that juvenile comfort, the sort we all loose. This is also my last comforting memory of Julia Amanda Pepier; only days after her presentation on cancer, I would learn that Julia had been speaking mostly through her own experience; for the next three years, I would watch her waste away into nothing.”



“I was watching a diamond turn to coal.”



“Julia’s thunderous spirit blared strong until cancer rusted her lungs. By then I'd felt grown up, realizing that everyone has an experience that harshly divides childhood from adulthood, an her death had been mine. Come graduation day, the students of Mr. Robert’s class had held a moment of silence; I had yelled at the top of my lungs. Its what she would have wanted.”

____________________________________________________

“May she rest in peace.”





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