A Reluctant Revelation

by Jim Abbott

Rising up from your chair
Ever so slowly
Most reluctantly
You begin your long journey
With shoulders slouched in passive resignation
And your eyes fixed firmly on the floor
With a deliberate gait
Knowing full well the fate
That for you
Soon awaits
Hesitantly, very hesitantly you proceed
When something flashes in your head
A picture of yourself as you're being lead
To the gallows
Climbing those steep steps, walking that last mile
It's all right, you try to convince yourself
It's not all THAT bad
But honestly, you're not so sure
At least then your pain would be over quickly
Instead of the cruel, unusual punishment that you will soon be forced to endure
Eventually, you reach your destination
And on unsteady legs, you step to the podium
Stealing a glance at your audience
You see a sea of eyes staring straight back at you
Staring, staring, watching your every move
My GOD, how many people are out there
Quickly you look away
You keep telling yourself, it's gonna be okay
Desperately, you try to wipe clean from your mind
The image of all those eyes
Those beady, probing, staring eyes
But it's just no use
For they are burned into your brain
You try to smile, at least you think that you did
Right now you're not to sure of anything
Relax, you tell yourself
Take a deep breath
Just speak nice and slow
That is what everyone tells you to do
Isn't it?
Jusst sspeeak ssllowly
What the hell is so damn hard about that?
And why is it
That you can't?
A million times that question you've asked
And still, for the answer
You wait
Everything that you had wanted to say
Every word, every syllable, every single phrase
Is written down right there in front of you
But in the end you're well aware of what it is that you'll do
You'll change and rearrange and substitute words
For fear of allowing you're stuttered voice to be heard
So, after breathing a sigh and closing your eyes
And saying a silent short prayer
Finally, you begin

Much to your surprise the first few lines
Do go over quite well
A hesitation here, and a slight pause there
Heck, they probably couldn't even tell
And surely no one notice's the fact
That when like a bantering Barishnikov you so assuredly dance
Around those most difficult of words
Slickly and smoothly
Substituting so superbly
One would swear that the things that you say
You had planned on all along
And of course, only you would know
That they would have been so wrong
You exhibit no stumbling, no struggling
No stammering, and no stuttering
With a here before unknown feeling of confidence
Perhaps bordering a bit to closely on cockiness
You continue
Now, you're more than halfway through
Word after word
And line after line
Whole paragraphs seem to be flying by
Forgetting entirely about slowing your rate
Faster and faster you hear yourself speak
You show no concern, for what does it matter
Nothing's too tough for you
The word substitution master
It happens
"In the next 8 ye....."
"In the next 8 ye...."
"8 ye........"
Oh no, it can't be, the thing that you most fear
Quick now think, what's another word for year
Millions of words bombarding your brain
Desperately searching for something to say
But alas
Ultimately, your search ends in vain
How about "twelve month's time"
In the next 8 twelve month's time?
What's wrong with me
Have I completely lost my mind
Hell no, I can't say that
They'll think I'm some kind of an idiot
A deathly silence falls over the room
As you stand there naked and exposed
You feel your heart pounding, pounding, pounding
Like your chest is about to explode
Your palms are drenched wet with sweat
Your face a bright crimson red
And so many horrific thoughts are racing round and round in your head
Staring straight down
Too ashamed and embarrassed to even look around
Suddenly you notice this very faint sound
Growing louder and louder as the seconds drag on
It's the ticking of a clock
Please GOD
Suddenly you think to yourself
Just how long have I been silently standing here
And why the hell isn't there
Some word, any word, I can substitute for year
Oh well, it looks like I have no other choice
Finally, to them I must reveal
My stuttered voice
"In the next 8 ye....., 8 ye.....,
8 y-y- years we pr...., pr......, prrroject that"

You continue on but what is the use
Surely now, they'll think of you
As nothing but a fool
And you know that never will be the day
When anyone will listen
To what a fool has to say
Though you're filled with an overwhelming dread
Slowly, very slowly, you raise up your head
But you bear witness to a most stunning surprise
The look that you see in everyone's eyes
Is not one of contempt or confusion
Not of sympathy nor of shock
Everyone in the room is simply sitting there
Just listening to you talk
Listening to WHAT it is that you have to say
Yes, you're stammering
And your stuttering
Just keeps on happening and happening
Again and again and again
But no one seems to be noticing
And even more than that
Nobody even seems to care
It's like some beautiful dream
So unbelievable does it seem
But it's not
For there you are
Standing there

You finally finish with your words
When a thunderous roar is suddenly heard
As everyone stands and claps and cheers
And in the corner of your eye
A single, solitary tear
For, after all these years
It finally has dawned on you
At last you realize that what you've heard is true
That what you say IS far more important
Then how it is that you happen to say it

As you step from the podium and return to your seat
You are struck by this very strange sensation
For you've realized that what you have just now experienced
Was truly a most reluctant revelation

added with permission January 29, 2001