Wednesday, there was a motivational speaker. Zach mused that sleep would motivate him more, since his literature project was stealing his sleeping hours. Sitting on the bleachers listening to this idiot blathering away was stealing time that could be spent sleeping, and all Zach really cared about at this point was sleep. Besides, a motivational speaker was a joke when it was the school’s environment that caused the depression. Why fix the student when the depressive school environment caused the problems? Wouldn’t it make more sense, Zach mused, to fix the environment so students wouldn’t be depressed in the first place?
“Give it up for Phil White!”
The school had only agreed to host a motivational speaker after hearing that it could result in higher test scores. From his high seat on the bleachers, Zach regarded the short, chubby man at the center of the arena with evident disdain. He pulled in his legs and tried to fall asleep on his knees.
Beside him, Gentry sat wordlessly. They ignored each other. It was too late to move, and no amount of fighting would change that. Gentry didn’t mind the arrangement as much as Zach did, since Zach was the most amusing person he was forced to sit next to.
They both kept their heated vow of silence until Gentry whispered into his ear,“Why aren’t you sitting with your friends?”
“No room.” Came the sleepy reply, too tired to be adequately fuming.
“Hm.” Gentry was afraid to ask if they had gotten sick of his constant talking.
“You’re not sitting with the swim team.” Zach pointed out.
“Yeah. No room.”
Thousands of students were crowded into the blue-walled gym, crowding onto blue bleachers or sitting on the polished hardwood basketball floor. The blue doors were bolted, in case any students thought to make a run for freedom.
A tap on the mic drew the thousands of bored, restless eyes to the speaker, who was grinning madly as he spoke.
“Today I will tell you a very important thing. Questions are more important than answers.”
Zach, whose peaceful half-sleep had been disturbed, leaned to Gentry and asked in annoyance,”Why are we here?”
White’s bulging, baby blue eyes glazed, and his voice rose a pitch,“I remember when I was a little kid. And I wanted to build a snow tunnel. And I dug all the way to the ice, and I couldn’t get through. So…” his voice sped up as if he were auctioning off a cow,”I took a fire place poker. Now, you know you are grown up when you LISTEN, that’s right, LISTEN to that little voice in your head. But I was only seven, so I POKED the ice…!”
The entire room leaned in, save for those who were sleeping.
White’s voice dropped two pitches and slowed down “… And… then… I saw it. Crimson drops, dripping, no pouring, onto the snow like scarlet-colored rain. Crimson drops of BLOOD. I had just stabbed my little brother in the face.”
The room was silent, as Gentry forced himself to change his expression from a smile to a FROWN. Suddenly the howl of uproarious laughter rang through the gym, and all eyes fell on Zach, who was laughing so hard he nearly fell off the bleachers.
Soon enough there were a few chuckles, and White gave a cough of disapproval.
“Luckily he wasn’t dead. Anyway, I would like all of you to practice asking each other meaningful questions…”
It didn’t take long for every conversation to be sucked into a loud, growing buzz.
“If they really wanted to motivate us,” Gentry spoke up,”they would give us less homework and they would have teachers be forced to give each student one compliment a day.”
“And free milk and cookies.”
“Milk and cookies?” Gentry’s pensive stare encouraged Zach to continue.
“In Kindergarten,” Zach started in a voice deepened and softened by weariness,”everyone was happy. That’s why you never hear about kindergarten shootings. Teachers always gave you compliments; they could never tell you that you were lazy or inappropriate. People wanted to work because they knew they would get recognition. They would get a sticker, and everyone got a sticker at some point. If you think about it, awards are still just gold stickers on fancy paper, only now only a few “smarter” people get them. In kindergarten, even if you got into a fight, there was always naptime to think it over. And when you woke up, whether you were rich, poor, ugly, wrong, right, or stupid, you would have milk and cookies waiting for you.”