This we had a choice. We could either write a eulogy about someone the character disdained, or write a wedding toast where the toaster had been romantically involved with the bride or groom. I chose the latter.
She put a hand on my shoulder. “He’ll be okay with it,” whispered Erin. She smiled and handed me back my speech. Grabbing a fork, she clanged on her champagne glass.
“If I could have everybody’s attention!” Erin called out. “Jason’s best man would like to give a speech.” She winked at me. “And Jason is going to read it.”
Activating the joystick on my wheelchair, I positioned myself to face the audience. Jason tentatively plucked the speech out of my hand. He unfolded it and grabbed the microphone.
“You’ll do anything to get out of public speaking, won’t you?” Jason groaned. The crowd chuckled. “Here we go.”
Jay’s been my best friend since tenth grade. He was my partner in Biology. He wouldn’t have gotten an A without me, and to be frank, I’ve been saving his ass ever since.
I think everyone here knows that two years ago, I was diagnosed with ALS. Eight months ago, I began having trouble walking. Jay insisted he treat me to one final night out on the town. That was the night he met Erin.
What you all don’t know is that I’m way more of a ladies man. Even with ALS, this brother is the better dancer. And I’m way better looking. Fortunately for Jay, he’s the better boyfriend. I dated Erin for two weeks before we agreed that we weren’t compatible.
You’re all going to figure this out eventually. So rather than rumor and conjecture surrounding the beautiful couple going forward, you should know now that.
Jason cleared this throat and took a breath.
that I am the father of their child.
Erin smiled nervously, her hands on her abdomen. Jason waited for the crowd noise to subside.
And it is their child. Jay and Erin love each other like crazy and they’re going to be better parents than I could ever dream. Please give them your unconditional support.
My only regret is that in the short time I’ll be able to see their son, he won’t be able to hear my voice. He probably won’t remember me. But you can remember me for him. He’ll learn that family is more than your genes. More than the home you live at. More than the color of your skin. Family is everyone in your life, for better or worse, who care about you.
You’re all family.
K: Whoa. What can I even add to this? It’s a very different thing to get this story across in a plain voice for the audience without causing (much of) a stir. There’s a lot of emotion here in several different beats, but it doesn’t cross the line into schmaltz or manipulation, as it stays honest throughout. GOLD
DK: I thought this was a really creative, effective use of the underlying challenge. I’m trying to think of something else to say, but this story speaks for itself. Plus it’s gotten a little dusty in here somehow… GOLD
MG: Givin’ the author much props for the decisions he/she made here. It’s one thing to slip a dirty little family secret like paternity confusion into a story. But to have it be stated plainly…and for utterly understandable, realistic reasons…very canny, very bright direction to go in here. In the end, the story’s about something other than it might have been in another writer’s (my) hands. Excellent. GOLD
Well then, I was not expecting that. I had a client once with ALS. He admitted himself to the nursing home. Walked in under his own power. Two months later he couldn’t walk, and one month later he couldn’t speak and was eating pureed food. Very painful to watch.
Team Walrus finished 3rd place out of 4 teams and once again avoid having to vote someone off the island.