I’m a trained actor with a Bachelor’s in Speech-Theatre (U.W.-Oshkosh) and I’ve spoken off and on over the years. I spent days preparing my reading selection and speech, rehearsing them once, twice, three times a day, timing them against the kitchen clock. On the last day, I sensed my presentation lacked comical music and edited it some more.
Still, every time I get up in front of a crowd is, in a sense, like the first time. My mind sank into its obsessive rut as butterflies stacked up in my belly, their wings lightly brushing my stomach lining like devil's fingers.
Still, I'd say things went all right.
My lips did not freeze. My tongue did not swell and flop from my mouth. I did not forget to zip my fly and did not trip on my way to the podium. I did not forget to thank anyone immediately important, especially Elizabeth. I did not stand too close to the microphone. I did not stand too far away from the microphone. Nor I did I knock the microphone over with a grand, sweeping gesture.
My hat did not fly off to expose my bald scalp. No one demanded I take it off, either. Nor did it catch fire, as straw hats are known to do.
I did not read from one of the more violent, grotesque sections of my book to this comparatively conservative--in the old, non-debased sense--crowd. Nor did I read one of the more boring parts.
I did not mumble and I did not drool. Nor did I vomit, shake, cough, sneeze, or otherwise faint. I suffered no sudden muscle cramps.
I did not stumble over or gulp my words. I neither read too fast, nor read too slow. I did not lose my place. My reading did not go over time and neither did my follow-up speech. My explanation for why I wrote a Dracula novel--adapted from here—did not cause apparent offense, draw visible sneers and did not fail to bring at least some laughter where I hoped it would.
My mild Bela Lugosi impersonation did not sound like Sarah Palin’s.
I do not think I came off as liking Dracula too much. Or too little.
I did not lose my way or stare numbly into space or anytime experience the falling sense of having nothing to say. At no time did either of my feet approach the vicinity of my mouth.
I was not at a loss for words. I did not pick up too many and throw them about either.
No word was more than ten letters long.
The audience did not snort, they did not boo, they did not throw food or sharp objects. No one attacked the stage. I, in turn, attacked no one.
Most importantly, no one slept.
Not many questions were asked. I did not have to answer whether or not I was a vampire, though I answered anyway for the ten-cent chuckle. I did not have to answer whether I thought Gary Oldman made a better Dracula than Christopher Lee (Answer not given: Are you kidding!?); nor whether Gilbert Gottfried should be cast as the lead in the movie version of my book.
When they applauded, I did not hit my head on the podium as I bowed. I did not say “Fuck you very much” instead of “Thank you very much.”
Nor did I refer to that day's main speaker, Matt Stewart, as "a hack." I did not trip as I left the podium or rush straight to the men’s room.
Afterward, I did not sell ten books. I did not sell seven. Of the two checks made out to me, I altered none of them to enable me to pay for a chalet in Switzerland, a dacha in Russia, or a cottage in Somerset. I did not autograph my books with graceful flair, nor did I inscribe them with my initials instead of my long name.
(As Richard Nixon once said to Bruce Springsteen while Springsteen was signing autographs: “You know Bruce, it must be tough to have such a long name! I bet it makes it hard to sign autographs. President Eisenhower had a long name, too, and you know what he said to me once while signing autographs? He said, ‘Dick, you’re lucky you’ve got a short name!’”)
In short, unlike the Nixon Presidency and so much human history, nothing went wrong.
I wonder: Should I do it again?
Copyright 2011 by Thomas Burchfield
Thomas Burchfield's contemporary Dracula novel Dragon's Ark is available right NOW, published by Ambler House Publishing and can be ordered through your local independent bookstore, through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and will be available as an e-book by the end of April. Other essays and postings can also be read at The Red Room website for writers. He can also be friended on Facebook, tweeted at on Twitter and e-mailed at tbdeluxe [at] sbcglobal [dot] net.
Causes Thomas Burchfield Supports
The Nature Conservancy; Africare; Capitol Public Radio