Me talk pretty one day by david sedaris

l> Me Talk Pretty One Day

Me Talk Pretty One Day By DAVID SEDARIS Little, Brown

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Go Carolina

ANYONE WHO WATCHES EVEN THE SLIGHTEST amount of TV is familiar with the scene: An agent knocks on the door of some seemingly ordinary trang chủ or office.

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The door opens, & the person holding the knob is asked to identify himself. The agent then says, "I'm going lớn ask you lớn come with me."

They're always remarkably calm, these agents. If asked "Why bởi I need lớn go anywhere with you?" they'll straighten their shirt cuffs or idly brush stray hairs from the sleeves of their sport coats and say, "Oh, I think we both know why."

The suspect then chooses between doing things the hard way & doing things the easy way, and the scene ends with either gunfire or the gentlemanly application of handcuffs. Occasionally it's a case of mistaken identity, but most often the suspect knows exactly why he's being taken. It seems he's been expecting this to happen. The anticipation has ruled his life, & now, finally, the wait is over. You're sometimes led lớn believe that this person is actually relieved, but I've never bought it. Though it probably has its moments, the average day spent in hiding is bound to lớn beat the average day spent in prison. When it comes time khổng lồ decide who gets the bottom bunk, I think anyone would agree that there's a lot khổng lồ be said for doing things the hard way.

The agent came for me during a geography lesson. She entered the room & nodded at my fifth-grade teacher, who stood frowning at a bản đồ of Europe. What would needle me later was the realization that this had all been prearranged. My capture had been scheduled lớn go down at exactly 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon. The agent would be wearing a dung-colored blazer over a red knit turtleneck, her heels sensibly low in case the suspect should attempt a quick getaway.

"David," the teacher said, "this is Miss Samson, & she'd like you to go with her now."

No one else had been called, so why me? I ran down a danh mục of recent crimes, looking for a conviction that might stick. Setting fire to lớn a reportedly flameproof Halloween costume, stealing a phối of barbecue tongs from an unguarded patio, altering the word on a menu of rules posted on the gymnasium door; never did it occur lớn me that I might be innocent.

"You might want khổng lồ take your books with you," the teacher said. "And your jacket. You probably won't be back before the bell rings."

Though she seemed old at the time, the agent was most likely fresh out of college. She walked beside me và asked what appeared lớn be an innocent and unrelated question: "So, which bởi you lượt thích better, State or Carolina?"

She was referring khổng lồ the athletic rivalry between the Triangle area's two largest universities. Those who cared about such things tended khổng lồ express their allegiance by wearing either Tar Heel powder blue, or Wolf Pack red, two colors that managed khổng lồ look good on no one. The question of team preference was common in our part of North Carolina, & the answer supposedly spoke volumes about the kind of person you either were or hoped lớn become. I had no interest in football or basketball but had learned it was best lớn pretend otherwise. If a boy didn't care for barbecued chicken or potato chips, people would accept it as a matter of personal taste, saying, "Oh well, I guess it takes all kinds." You could turn up your nose at the president or Coke or even God, but there were names for boys who didn't lượt thích sports. When the subject came up, I found it best to ask which team my questioner preferred. Then I'd say, "Really? Me, too!"

Asked by the agent which team I supported, I took my cue from her red turtleneck and told her that I was for State. "Definitely State. State all the way."

It was an answer I would regret for years to lớn come.

"State, did you say?" the agent asked.

"Yes, State. They're the greatest."

"I see." She led me through an unmarked door near the principal's office, into a small, windowless room furnished with two facing desks. It was the kind of room where you'd grill someone until they snapped, the kind frequently painted so as to cover the bloodstains. She gestured toward what was lớn become my regular seat, then continued her line of questioning.

"And what exactly are they, State và Carolina?"

"Colleges? Universities?"

She opened a tệp tin on her desk, saying, "Yes, you're right. Your answers are correct, but you're saying them incorrectly. You're telling me that they're colleg eth and univeritie th, when actually they're college s & univer s itie s. You're giving me a th sound instead of a nice clear s. "Can you hear the di s tinction between the two different s sound s?"

I nodded.

"May I plea s e have an actual an s wer?"


" 'Uh-huh' i s not a word."


"Okay what?"

"Okay," I said. "Sure, I can hear it."

"You can hear what, the di s tinction? The contra s t?"

"Yeah, that."

It was the first battle of my war against the letter s, and I was determined to lớn dig my foxhole before the sun went down. According to Agent Samson, a s tate c ertified s peech therapi s t," my s was sibilate, meaning that I lisped.

This was not news lớn me.

"Our goal i s to work together until eventually you can s peak correctly," Agent Samson said. She made a great show of enunciating her own sparkling s's, and the effect was profoundly irritating. "I'm trying khổng lồ help you, but the longer you play the s e little game s the longer thi s i s going to lớn take."

The woman spoke with a heavy western North Carolina accent, which I used lớn discredit her authority. Here was a person for whom the word pen had two syllables. Her people undoubtedly drank from clay jugs & hollered for Paw when the vittles were ready — so who was she to advise me on anything? Over the coming years I would find a crack in each of the therapists sent to train what Miss Samson now defined as my lazy tongue. "That 's it s problem," she said. "It's ju s t plain lazy."

My sisters Amy và Gretchen were, at the time, undergoing therapy for their lazy eyes, while my older sister, Lisa, had been born with a lazy leg that had refused to lớn grow at the same rate as its twin. She'd worn a corrective brace for the first two years of her life, and wherever she roamed she left a trail of scratch marks in the soft pine floor. I liked the idea that a part of one's body toàn thân might be thought of as lazy — not thoughtless or hostile, just unwilling lớn extend itself for the betterment of the team. My father often accused my mother of having a lazy mind, while she in turn accused him of having a lazy index finger, unable to dial the phone when he knew damn well he was going khổng lồ be late.

My therapy sessions were scheduled for every Thursday at 2: 30, và with the exception of my mother, I discussed them with no one. The word therapy suggested a profound failure on my part. Mental patients had therapy. Normal people did not. I didn't see my sessions as the sort of thing that one would want to advertise, but as my teacher liked lớn say, "I guess it takes all kinds." Whereas my goal was to lớn keep it a secret, hers was khổng lồ inform the entire class. If I got up from my seat at 2:30 , she'd say, "Sit back down, David. You've still got five minutes before your speech therapy session." If I remained seated until 2:30 , she'd say, "David, don't forget you have a speech therapy session at two-thirty." On the days I was absent, I imagined she addressed the room, saying, "David's not here today but if he were, he'd have a speech therapy session at two-thirty."

My sessions varied from week to week. Sometimes I'd spend the half hour parroting whatever Agent Samson had to lớn say. We'd occasionally pass the time examining charts on tongue position or reading childish s-laden texts recounting the adventures of seals or settlers named Sassy or Samuel. On the worst of days she'd haul out a tape recorder và show me just how much progress I was failing lớn make.

"My s peech therapi s "t's name i s ngươi ss Chri ss y S am s on." She'd hand me the microphone và lean back with her arms crossed. "Go ahead, s ay it. I want you lớn hear what you s ound like."

She was in love with the sound of her own name và seemed khổng lồ view my speech impediment as a personal assault. If I wanted to lớn spend the rest of my life as David Thedarith, then so be it. She, however, was going to lớn be called mày ss Chri ss y S am s on. Had her name included no s's, she probably would have bypassed a career in therapy and devoted herself to yanking out healthy molars or performing unwanted clitoridectomies on the schoolgirls of Africa. Such was her personality.

"Oh, come on," my mother would say. "I'm sure she's not that bad. Give her a break. The girl's just trying to vày her job."

I was a few minutes early one week và entered the office to lớn find Agent Samson doing her job on Garth Barclay, a slight, kittenish boy I'd met back in the fourth grade. "You may wait out s ide in the hallway until it i s your turn," she told me. A week or two later my session was interrupted by mincing Steve Bixler, who popped his head in the door and announced that his parents were taking him out of town for a long weekend, meaning that he would miss his regular Friday session. "Thorry about that," he said.

I started keeping watch over the speech therapy door, taking chú ý of who came and went. Had I seen one popular student leaving the office, I could have believed my mother & viewed my lisp as the sort of thing that might happen to lớn anyone.

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Unfortunately, I saw no popular students. Chuck Coggins, Sam Shelton, Louis Delucca: obviously, there was some connection between a sibilate s và a complete lack of interest in the State versus Carolina issue.

None of the therapy students were girls. They were all boys lượt thích me who kept movie star scrapbooks and made their own curtains. "You don't want lớn be doing that," the men in our families would say. "That's a girl thing." Baking scones and cupcakes for the school janitors, watching Guiding Light with our mothers, collecting rose petals for use in a fragrant potpourri: anything worth doing turned out to be a girl thing. In order khổng lồ enjoy ourselves, we learned to be duplicitous. Our stacks of Cosmopolitan were topped with an unread issue of Boy's Life or Sports Illustrated, & our decoupage projects were concealed beneath the sporting equipment we never asked for but always received. When asked what we wanted lớn be when we grew up, we hid the truth and listed who we wanted to lớn sleep with when we grew up. "A policeman or a fireman or one of those guys who works with high-tension wires." Symptoms were feigned, and our mothers wrote notes excusing our absences on the day of the intramural softball tournament. Brian had a stomach virus or Ted suffered from that twenty-four-hour bug that seemed to be going around.

One of the s e day s I'm going lớn have to lớn hang a s ign on that door," Agent Samson used to lớn say. She was probably thinking along the lines of SPEECH THERAPY LAB, though a more appropriate marker would have read FUTURE HOMOSEXUALS OF AMERICA. We knocked ourselves out trying to lớn fit in but were ultimately betrayed by our tongues. At the beginning of the school year, while we were congratulating ourselves on successfully passing for normal, Agent Samson was taking names as our assembled teachers raised their hands, saying, "I've got one in my homeroom," and "There are two in my fourth-period math class." Were they also able lớn spot the future drunks and depressives? Did they hope that by eliminating our lisps, they might mix us on a different path, or were they trying to lớn prepare us for future stage và choral careers?

Miss Samson instructed me, when forming an s, khổng lồ position the tip of my tongue against the rear of my đứng đầu teeth, right up against the gum line. The effect produced a sound not unlike that of a tire releasing air. It was awkward & strange-sounding, and elicited much more attention than the original lisp. I failed khổng lồ see the hissy s as a solution to the problem & continued lớn talk normally, at least at home, where my lazy tongue fell upon equally lazy ears. At school, where every teacher was a potential spy, I tried khổng lồ avoid an s ound whenever possible. "Yes," became "correct," or a military "affirmative." "Please," became "with your kind permission," & questions were pleaded rather than asked. After a few weeks of what she called "endless pestering" & what I called "repeated badgering," my mother bought me a pocket thesaurus, which provided me with s-free alternatives to just about everything. I consulted the book both at home in my room and at the daily learning academy other people called our school. Agent Samson was not amused when I began referring khổng lồ her as an articulation coach, but the majority of my teachers were delighted. "What a nice vocabulary," they said. "My goodness, such big words!"

Plurals presented a considerable problem, but I worked around them as best I could; "rivers," for example, became either "a river or two" or "many a river." Possessives were a similar headache, và it was easier khổng lồ say nothing than lớn announce that the left-hand & the right-hand glove of Janet had fallen khổng lồ the floor. After all the compliments I had received on my improved vocabulary, it seemed prudent to lớn lie low & keep my mouth shut. I didn't want anyone thinking I was trying to be a pet of the teacher.

When I first began my speech therapy, I worried that the Agent Samson plan might work for everyone but me, that the other boys might strengthen their lazy tongues, turn their lives around, and leave me stranded. Luckily my fears were never realized. Despite the woman's best efforts, no one seemed khổng lồ make any significant improvement. The only difference was that we were all a little quieter. Thanks to lớn Agent Samson's tape recorder, I, along with the others, now had a clear sense of what I actually sounded like. There was the lisp, of course, but more troubling was my voice itself, with its excitable tone và high, girlish pitch. I'd hear myself ordering lunch in the cafeteria, và the sound would turn my stomach. How could anyone stand to listen khổng lồ me? Whereas those around me might grow up khổng lồ be lawyers or movie stars, my only option was to take a vow of silence và become a monk. My former classmates would gọi the abbey, wondering how I was doing, & the priest would answer the phone. "You can't talk khổng lồ him!" he'd say. "Why, Brother David hasn't spoken to anyone in thirty-five years!"

"Oh, relax," my mother said. "Your voice will change eventually."

"And what if it doesn't?"

She shuddered. "Don't be so morbid."

It turned out that Agent Samson was something along the lines of a circuit-court speech therapist. She spent four months at our school and then moved on to another. Our last meeting was held the day before school let out for Christmas. My classrooms were all decorated, the halls — everything but her office, which remained as bare as ever. I was expecting a regular half hour of Sassy the seal and was delighted khổng lồ find her packing up her tape recorder.

"I thought that thi s afternoon we might let loo s e and have a party, you and I. How doe s that s ound?" She reached into her desk drawer và withdrew a festive tin of cookies. "Here, have one. I made them my s elf from s cratch and, boy, was it a me ss! vì chưng you ever make cookie s?"

I lied, saying that no, I never had.

"Well, it 's hard work," she said. "E s pecially if you don't have a mixer."

It was unlike Agent Samson khổng lồ speak so casually, và awkward to sit in the hot little room, pretending khổng lồ have a normal conversation. "S o," she said, "what are your plan s for the holiday s?"

"Well, I usually remain here and, you know, mở cửa a gift from my family."

"Only one?" she asked.

"Maybe eight or ten."

"Never s ix or s even?"

"Rarely," I said.

"And what vì you vày on De c ember thirty-fir s t, New Year' s Eve?"

"On the final day of the year we take down the pine tree in our living room và eat marine life."

"You're pretty good at avoiding those s's," she said. "I have to lớn hand it to you, you're tougher than most."

I thought she would continue trying lớn trip me up, but instead she talked about her own holiday plans. "It 's pretty hard with my fian c in Vietnam," she said. "La s t year we went up khổng lồ see hi s folk s in Roanoke, but thi s year I'll spend Chri s tma s with my grandmother out s ide of Asheville. My parent s>ITL will come, và we'll all try our be s t khổng lồ have a good time. I'll eat s ome turkey & go to lớn church, and then, the next day, a friend & I will drive down to lớn Jack s onville to watch Florida play Tenne ss ee in the Gator Bowl."

I couldn't imagine anything worse than driving down lớn Florida lớn watch afootball game, but I pretended khổng lồ be impressed. "Wow, that ought to lớn beeventful."

"I wa s in Memphi s la s t year when N C State whooped Georgia fourteen lớn s even in the Liberty Bowl," she said. "And next year, I don't care who's ITL playing, but I want lớn be s itting front-row c enter at the Tangerine Bowl. Have you ever been to lớn Orlando? It's a super fun pla c e. If my future hu s band can find a job in hi s field, we're hoping khổng lồ move down there within a year or two. Me living in Florida. I bet that would make you happy, wouldn't it?"

I didn't quite know how to respond. Who was this college bowl fanatic with nomixer & a fiancé in Vietnam, and why had she taken so long khổng lồ revealherself? Here I'd thought of her as a cold-blooded agent when she was reallynothing but a slightly dopey, inexperienced speech teacher. She wasn't a badperson, Miss Samson, but her timing was off. She should have acted friendly atthe beginning of the year instead of waiting until now, when all I could vì chưng wasfeel sorry for her.

"I tried my be s t lớn work with you and the other s, but s ometime s>TL a per s on's be s t ju s t i s n't good enough."

She took another cookie và turned it over in her hands. "I really wanted toprove my s elf & make a differen c in people's live s, but it's hard to vị your job when you're met with s o much re s i s chảy c e. My student s don't lượt thích me, & I gue ss that's ju s t the way it i s. What can I s ay? A s a s peech teacher, I'm a complete failure."

She moved her hands toward her face, và I worried that she might start to cry."Hey, look," I said. "I'm thorry."

"Ha-ha," she said. "I got you." She laughed much more than she needed to and wasstill at it when she signed the size recommending me for the following year'sspeech therapy program. "Thorry, indeed. You've got some work ahead of you, mis ter."

I related the story to lớn my mother, who got a huge kick out of it. "You've got toadmit that you really are a sucker," she said.

I agreed but, because none of my speech classes ever made a difference, I stillprefer to lớn use the word chump.

(C) 2000 David Sedaris All rights reserved. ISBN: 0-316-77772-2

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