Kendall Webster had been dreading this day for weeks.
His Grade Five teacher, the evil Mrs. Baxter, had informed her students upon their return from Christmas break that it was class speech time. They could pick any suitable topic and then, in three weeks’ time, they would be expected to speak on it for five minutes. Kendall had chosen to give a talk on every hockey fan’s hero, Wayne Gretzky.
The Great One’s career provided many interesting facts and statistics for Kendall; too many, in fact. He whittled them down and compiled them into a speech that was so beautifully written it would have made even Shakespeare weep. There was just one problem with it, though: Kendall would going to have to deliver every word of it aloud.
Public speaking is fine for extroverts and narcissists, but completely terrifying for the Kendalls of this world. He was sure he would make a fool of himself, as he had done on past occasions. He had visions of breaking into an icy sweat, shaking more than a San Francisco building during an earthquake, and tripping over his words the way a drunk trips over his feet.
Kendall had made deals with both God and the universe in the days leading up to what was surely to be the worst day of his life. He had prayed to wake up with laryngitis, offered up his video game collection in exchange for a blizzard, or best case scenario: for the zombie apocalypse to come to fruition so he’d never have to go to school again. Yet there he was, sitting in Mrs. Baxter’s class, dreading the moment when he would be called upon.
“Please let Mrs. Baxter turn into a zombie right this very minute,” Kendall silently wished. “Please let Mrs. Baxter turn into a zombie.”
“Kendall,” Mrs. Baxter said in what was clearly the voice of someone still very much alive, “it’s your turn.”
Fueled by fear, Kendall rose to his feet and walked to the front of the room. Staring into the eyes of his classmates…eyes that said “I hope he pukes like he did the last time he had to speak in front of us!” Kendall began his speech; a speech that was over with in five seconds.
“Wayne Gretzky was born in Brantford, Ontario on January 26, 1961,” was all he said.
No one got to hear about Wayne’s records, his championship years, or his hot wife because Kendall fainted after his opening sentence. He still passed the assignment, however, because as evil as Mrs. Baxter was for giving him the assignment, she was sensitive enough to recognize a severe case of Social Anxiety Disorder when she saw it.
Kendall’s classmates teased him about what came to be known as The Wayne Gretzky Incident until the day they all graduated high school. He was okay with that because once the other teachers in the school board heard about what happened, Kendall was never called upon to give another speech.