This wasn’t the first time that he had been left speechless, his voice buried under a mass of anxiety. As he fidgeted with his fingers at the podium, he tried to bury the unwanted voices; murmurs of concern from the faculty, confusion from his more compassionate classmates and jeers from his peers. He swallowed heavily and leaned into the microphone. He opened his mouth, but the little voice he had wasn’t able to crawl its way through the desert that had become his throat. He closed his mouth again and gripped the sides of the podium to keep the tremors in his lithe arms less noticeable.
The stage lights bared down him, scorching his body as his borrowed suit clung heavily against him. The thick navy blue material that his father had worn during his tenure as an undergraduate soaked in the heat from the lights. He was sure if he even brushed up against the cuff links that had been far beyond his and his parents’ budget, it would seer into his skin. He looked to his side to see that the other contestants in the speech tournament standing idly by; their expressions a mixture of vague disinterest and taunts.
He looked back at the sea of faces, many from the same public speaking class. None of their face were distinct enough for him to distinguish as anxiety grappled at the edges of his sensibilities.
“Eric,” a voice whispered. He looked up, unsure if any of the crowd had been able to hear it. He looked down at the front row. The majority of the faces were unfocused, like a camera unable or unwilling to capture the scene in front of it. Only two faces stood out to him. There was a man and a woman. Neither of them looked concerned. Rather, prided practically oozed from them as their eyes bore down on their son. Eric felt his heart flutter when his father nodded at him, that wide grin never to obscured by his thick mustache.
Eric nodded as well and closed his eyes. When he had informed his professor that he wanted to partake in the speech competition, the man had given him a gentle smile. There had been no malice when the man said that it wasn’t in his best interest; if anything, all Eric could hear was sympathy. But his parents had simply said that they would take the two hour drive to his university and couldn’t wait to see him on stage.
“There’s a strong voice in you,” his father had said. “And it’s not buried quite as deep as you think.
With those words on his mind, Eric took a deep breath. He could see the words in his head, ignoring the “failure” and words of the like that were smeared in angry red ink.
“Hello, everyone. My name is Eric Tully…” he started. His voice tumbled from the section of his head that had been buried with anxiety. It tripped over a few thoughts and was barely able to stagger toward the finish line, the end of the speech. But he finished, and he finished with the brightest smile that he could muster.
He didn’t win the competition; in fact, only coming in fifth. But he held his head up as his father slung his arm around his shoulders, as his mother cooed over how proud she was, as his professor proudly proclaimed that the extra credit point brought his grade up to a ninety seven and even as his therapist pat his head. He had found his buried voice, and he had no intention of letting it go.
I haven’t written a short story in a while and I wanted to work on conveying a particular tone in writing. I hope this was an interesting and/ or entertaining piece for any readers!