The Confluence Part 7

July 15th, 2011 by Wordsman

His friends had all given up on the project, saying that it couldn’t be done, or that it was a waste of time, because even if you did come up with the perfect speech, what the heck would you use it for, anyway?

“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

But Peter kept the dream alive. Every now and then, he would open his desk and pull out the stack of loose-leaf sheets he had been using to record the Speech since he was in high school. He would read it, cutting out a line here or adding one in there. Often he ended up undoing—and sometimes later redoing—changes he had made years earlier. Since he never gave the Speech in public, it was hard to tell what was an improvement and what wasn’t.

“Hear me for my cause; and be silent, that you may hear: believe me for mine honour, and have respect to mine honor, that you may believe: censure me in your wisdom; and awake your senses, that you may the better judge . . . no, that’s too wordy. Needs more punch . . . how about: The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones . . .”

Even Peter didn’t exactly “believe” in the Speech. He did it because it was good practice. As any good orator knows, it’s all in the delivery. The problem with the Shakespeare-Monkey-Typewriter Theory is that yes, given the random nature of the universe and an unlimited amount of time (and a plentiful supply of replacement monkeys), those thousand primates would eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare. But they would never be able to perform them. For the same reason, you could have the greatest speech in history in your hands, but if you didn’t know how to say it, you might as well be reading out of the phone book.

“I guess this is just another lost cause . . . All you people don’t know about lost causes . . . He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for, and he fought for them once, for the only reason any man ever fights for them: Because of one plain simple rule: Love thy neighbor.”

As a matter of fact, this was the first time Peter had ever practiced the Speech before sunrise, and he read it at the same volume he always did, or maybe even louder, in his desperation to keep himself awake. Either way, his neighbors couldn’t have been too happy about it.

But that was only because they couldn’t make out the words through the wall. Though it may not have been the greatest in all of history, the Speech that Peter had cobbled together over the years was a damn fine one, and nobody knew how to read it like he did. If his neighbors had been able to hear it properly, they would have been mad, they would have been riled up, they would have been screaming for blood—but not his blood. They would have gone after whoever he pointed at.

“So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now, and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’”

It was so moving, in fact, that even Peter himself tended to get rather carried away when he was practicing it, especially near the end. He forgot himself, forgot what was going on around him, forgot everything except the task of delivering those words to his imaginary audience. He imagined he was up against the wall, trapped, surrounded by enemies on one side and the abyss on the other. But he would never give up.

“We shall go on to the end . . . we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!”

If the Speech had a weakness, however, it was length. He typically added more than he subtracted, and as a result it had grown to be more than three hours long. And once he had gotten a third of the way through, there was no stopping him until he reached the end. Even then he could not be reached by reality for at least of couple of minutes, as the awe of the Speech continued to wash over him.

When Peter regained his senses, he noticed two things. The first was that his neighbors—to the left, to the right, above and below—were pounding on the walls, floor, and ceiling. The second was that the microwave clock, which he just happened to be staring at, read 7:48.


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