Tuesday, May 07, 2013
New Beginning 1002
Tasting the acid burning my throat, I question the logic of honoring Uncle Sal’s bet. One pill would erase the pain of my knotted stomach, and the bottle’s just sitting in my purse.
Still, fifty bucks is pricey for one valium.
Grandpa’s gold cross digs into my palm. I open my fist and set it on the podium, then take a sip of water and swallow back what breakfast I didn’t lose down the girls’ room toilet last period. I glance at the crowd. Those kids who aren’t gaping open-mouthed aren’t bothering to pay attention at all. God, just, help me finish this. Please.
Mr. Garcia, my computer watchdog, scratches the jagged Iraq memento on his arm and nods as if granting me permission to continue. My sister Meghan smiles wide and warm, her blue eyes shining in the auditorium’s harsh light. Her eager thumbs-up encourages me.
I clear my throat. “Tallying the price of freedom takes a pretty complicated equation. First, add the number of flag-draped caskets returning from the frontline to the number of tears cried by children who have a shiny medal instead of a parent. Then, multiply that by the number of disabled vets and multiply again by those suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. Because the true price of freedom is counted in damaged lives, not dollars spent. See, without that ultimate price no freedom is bought, no peace is established.”
I end with a hoarse, “Thank you,” and take my seat beside Kyle Connors.
Kyle leans too close. “Why’d you even bother, Loony? I got this.”
I want to punch him (and collect off Aunt Madge), but I left my fist on the podium.
Kyle steps confidently to the podium. With one swift motion he pulls a pistol from his jacket and fires six shots into the ceiling. "America!" he yells. "Fuck YEAH!"
He brings the house down. When the applause lets up (and the last bit of ceiling finishes raining down), Mr. Garcia steps to the front and hands Kyle the debate tournament trophy.
Opening: Veronica Rundell