The Best Years of Our Lives

Submitted into Contest #138 in response to: End your story with someone saying: “What a day.”... view prompt

54 comments

High School Funny Contemporary

Friends, faculty, alumni, and fellow classmates, good afternoon and thank you all for coming to my TED talk. Only kidding. Just a little valedictorian's joke to kick things off before we all disperse into the world to work at high-paying prestigious institutions like McDonald's, or, if we're lucky, Starbucks. That's also a joke, mostly. Peter Springer, if you're listening, I'll have two Big Macs and a venti cold brew.


But seriously, thanks for coming out today. It means a lot to me. You all, of course, had no choice in the matter if you want to receive your diplomas, those little scraps of paper that say you survived thirteen years of institutionalized, government-funded prison. But I love all my fans and appreciate your support and attendance nonetheless.


Wow.


Can you believe we made it this far?


We've all been through a lot together these past four years. Like, remember that time Courtney Adams had her Red Wedding in precalculus because she wasn't allowed to go to the bathroom? Remember when Mike Newman and Tanner Yates got caught selling weed in the bathroom and we lost our hall pass privileges for the rest of the year, which resulted in Courtney's accident? Remember when we found out Joey Mariano was actually an undercover cop?


Man, what a fun six months that all was. Here's hoping Mike and Tanner get out of juvie soon.


Still, the rest of us made it through those things, because we're what? That's right—the class of 2022!


And we wouldn't have come this far without the help of our wonderful teachers. Facts. Like Mr. Larson, the most-dope social studies teacher a guy could ask for, who would always leave halfway through class every Film Friday and come back with bloodshot eyes five minutes before the bell rang.


Let's also thank Ms. Jackson, the GOAT band instructor, for teaching us ingenuity by hiding her hip flasks inside her trombone case.


And how could we forget to commend gym teacher Mr. Anderson for showing us what not to do when he snuck into the girl's locker room during shower time and ended up getting arrested? Boy, was Joey Mariano helpful or what?


Yes, we've changed a lot in four years, as have those around us. Who would've guessed we'd see shy, quiet Joshua Pierce doing what he did on that Zoom call last year, though maybe the industrial-sized bottle of Jergens lotion should've been an indicator?


How could we have known that it'd be Natalie Cooper, with her freckles and braces and pigtails, who'd be the first one in our class to get pregnant, and not head cheerleader, mini skirt queen, and tanning bed enthusiast Mariah Young? Well, a lot of bets were lost that day, I can tell you that much.


But let that be a reminder to us all going forward not to judge a book by its cover. Or at least skim through chapter one first.


Change has been a journey, though. Facts. Ask anybody and they'll tell you the same: it hasn't been easy.


You think Veronica O'Donnell enjoyed going over to Mr. Stewart's house for a candlelight dinner while his wife was away at a conference? You think she wanted to sit in his cat-piss-reeking home nibbling at dry casserole and slurping cheap Zinfandel? No. But she wanted to read Othello even less. 


What I'm saying is: we all had to make sacrifices to get here today.


Heck, I've had my fair share of difficulties too. Like the time I asked Jenna Matthews to the prom and she ran a poll over Instagram to see if she should go with me or Chuck Oakley. Shoutout to the fourteen percent of you who had my back.


Or the time I went over to Mr. Stewart's cat-piss house for a candlelight dinner. Hey, I high-key didn't wanna read Othello either.


But what's important to remember is that those changes in life, difficult though they may be, are necessary for growth. Writer, producer, and religious visionary L. Ron Hubbard once said: "You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion." So I encourage you all to follow his advice and be the change you wish to see in the world. What's the worst that could happen?


Now, as we get ready to leave Saint Patrick Catholic School and embark on our separate paths in life, I also urge you all to remember the years you've devoted to this place and what they've taught you. Reminisce on the years you spent stuffing your body with energy drinks and ramen noodles and Big Macs with venti cold brews. The years of begrudgingly choosing homework over meeting "hot singles in your area." The years of working up the courage to ask your crush to the prom.


And remember the months. Recall those months committed to learning the difference between "daddy" and "zaddy." The months of constantly wondering if your lab partner is also an undercover cop. The months of writing down exactly what to say when you ask your crush to the prom.


And remember the good days. Think of the day you didn't get called up to the front of the class when you were having an emergency "downstairs." The day you thought you were straight but then discovered the wonders of bisexuality through a game of spin the bottle. The day you decided to turn the other cheek and not set fire to someone's pink Porsche because she rejected your proposal to go to the prom.


Because I'm sure you've all had a lot of moments you're fond of too.


Going forward, I ask you all to take these moments with you as you embrace change. Be intrepid, dauntless, resolute, as I'm no doubt sure Jenna Matthews was in the back seat of Chuck Oakley's filthy Honda Civic on prom night. And she didn't even need a poll to decide that for her or anything! If that's not change, I don't know what is.


A wise man—probably L. Ron Hubbard—once said, "These are the best years of our lives." And maybe that's true. Maybe high school is the peak of life. Maybe what we leave behind today will be better than what lies ahead in the future.


But we'll never know unless we go forward, unless we grow and change. And we will change. Starting now. Because this is the last time we can call ourselves high-schoolers.


Oops. Sorry, Brendan Baker, and good luck on getting that GED, fam.


Still, for the rest of us, the class of—say it with me—2022, no matter how much you do change, always remember these days. Especially today, because what a day it has been, and what a glorious day it will be. What a day.

March 25, 2022 01:57

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54 comments

Clyde Laffan
03:00 Mar 26, 2022

I laughed out loud several times. I love your narrator, he's a mess (again!) IWhat was she doing with that Jergen's (which I had to Google!) Great, funny writing. Enough said. (Kids actually poll their friends on social media about potential dates? ) Too funny.

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Zack Powell
03:51 Mar 26, 2022

Thanks, Clyde! You know I love my hot mess narrators, especially with comedy pieces. And it's shocking what kids do on social media these days. Polling for dating options is probably the least wild thing of them all, haha!

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Patrick Samuel
20:46 Jun 22, 2022

When I read Donald Barthelme's "The School" I thought: this is what the Monty Python would have done with an M.R. James story. When I read yours, I thought; this is what Greg Araki would have done with Barthelme's "The School". Or John Waters to John Hugues. I giggled several times reading this, not knowing if I should laugh or just be glad I never went to school in the US. Or in the 21st century for that matter.

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Zack Powell
00:53 Jun 23, 2022

You're a wellspring of literary knowledge, Patrick! Donald Barthelme is on my TBR, and your comment has just advanced him to the top of the VIP list. Very interested now. (And don't even get me started on the US public school system. That's an entirely different behemoth altogether.)

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Patrick Samuel
20:31 Jun 23, 2022

Obviously you and I have similar tastes in reading - probably one of the reasons we connect with each other's writing. If we were in the same city it would be a pleasure to browse bookstores with you (I know this is your idea of a fun day out, don't even try to deny it.)

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Lavonne H.
05:03 Mar 31, 2022

Zack, this went over my head (it's definitely an age thing). But it did remind me of my son's high school grad a couple of decades ago so I did laugh ...just probably not at what was supposed to be funny (groan). What is so valuable is that in posting your story, I am learning from all the writers who shared comments with you. I would never have thought of YouTube as a research resource for speeches! Clever and so talented! Can't wait to read (and learn more) from you. Yours in writing, Lavonne

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Zack Powell
05:30 Mar 31, 2022

Haha, thanks, Lavonne! This story is definitely has a specific voice and brand of humor that skews more towards the millennial/generation Z audience (my age group), but I'm glad you still got some laughs out of it (even if inadvertently, LOL). And yeah, YouTube is a huge help, especially with pieces in this monologue format. I wrote one last month that was stylized as a baking tutorial, and nothing prepares you for writing one of those like watching a few videos and listening to how the bakers actually talk to their viewers/audience. Same wi...

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Natalie Giffi
22:37 Mar 30, 2022

Wow. Just wow. I see an aspiring author in this story! Love how you narrated this story- cracked up like 8 times! This is fantastic. Great job!

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Zack Powell
23:08 Mar 30, 2022

Thank you very much, Natalie! 8 times is a pretty high number for me, so that's lovely praise. Thanks for reading.

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Frank Lester
19:13 Mar 29, 2022

Wow! My graduation wasn't like that, and I spent 12 years in the Catholic system (neither of my kids did--progress). Well done; well written--and funny as hell!

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Zack Powell
03:17 Mar 30, 2022

Thank you, Frank! I spent 0 years in the Catholic system, so it's good to hear from someone who actually put in the time.

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M. Mehdiyev
11:57 Mar 29, 2022

very engaging narrator. Loved the idea and the attraction of the story

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Zack Powell
16:32 Mar 29, 2022

Thank you very much!

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Kelsey H
07:02 Mar 29, 2022

Love an actual honest speech instead of the generic "you are all so amazing" spiel of most! You really captured the feel of high school gossip and scandal so perfectly it took me right back to those days (a long way back haha!) and made me remember some incidents from my own school. I really liked how you gave it the feel of an actual story by linking the characters to each other and repeating the themes. Also really worked well how he speaks directly to people in the audience and refers to really specific things ie the pink Porsche, it he...

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Zack Powell
16:42 Mar 29, 2022

Thanks, Kelsey! I can't even begin to tell you how many graduation speeches I had to watch on YouTube to get a feel for how to write this. So I'm glad the linking and the theming and the addressing of the audience came through. And I visualized it the same way you did. I love hearing your thoughts on things. Thanks as always for sharing them!

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00:33 Mar 29, 2022

Where was this guy during MY high school graduation?? I love monologues like this where you can feel the audience that never speaks. Valedictorian speeches, closing statements to the jury, when they’re done well, like this one, they are so great. And the way that you grounded us immediately with the TED talk / valedictorian joke, seamless. Really great the way you introduced us to a cast of characters, just the right number for us to keep significant in our heads, and created the feeling of a long history and narrative with them by the end...

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Zack Powell
03:10 Mar 29, 2022

Janet, you just went above and beyond! That is so generous of you to take the time to write such a thorough, comprehensive comment. I adore your writing, so this is amazing to read. Totally agree with your criticism, too. This is exactly what I needed to hear for the second draft! I seriously cannot thank you enough for writing this. (P.S. I wish you luck explaining the "zaddy" search.)

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20:49 Mar 29, 2022

You are very welcome, it's the least I could do for the very encouraging comments you've given me. Feel free to also criticize if you ever feel like it, I'd leave to hear the entire spectrum of your honest reactions! ;)

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Ann Hoang
18:18 Mar 28, 2022

Witty, humorous, and emotional all in one. Excellent work!

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Zack Powell
19:40 Mar 28, 2022

Thank you very much, Ann! Very kind of you to say.

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Okashi Kashi
03:15 Mar 28, 2022

This was really good! I enjoyed the humour, and I think you did a good job paying off some funny set-ups (the undercover cop, for example). If I had to have one criticism, it’s that I’m not exactly sure this is appropriate for a valedictorian speech (no school would allow it) . Of course, that’s fine, as it could simply be the narrators first draft or an unedited piece. Solid stuff. Hope to read more comedic pieces from you.

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Zack Powell
19:46 Mar 28, 2022

Thanks, Okashi! That's a totally fair and valid criticism (I also think this speech would get cancelled with the quickness if someone were to try it). In my mind, I imagined it being either a first draft, like you said, or someone going completely off-script at the last minute. Totally up to reader interpretation here, though. Thanks for reading!

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Isabela Maher
01:44 Mar 28, 2022

Your narrator's distinct voice and wit kept me engaged all the way through! I also loved the running gags - especially the one regarding Joey Mariano. They really made for a cohesive piece of writing that was scarily relatable. Great work!

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Zack Powell
02:51 Mar 28, 2022

Thanks, Isabela! What a lovely comment. "Cohesive" is the biggest compliment for me, because it's the one thing I try for the most. Thank you, thank you! (Joey Mariano thanks you, too, haha.)

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Sharon Hancock
01:42 Mar 28, 2022

Omg you had me rolling laughing the whole time. Hilarious as usual! And makes me wonder if you were a part of my high school class😂. Love the LRon quote and “religious visionary” , which I’ve never heard before but is perfect. And all the nods toward stuff relevant to the time is genius (zoom, social media poll). Great writing you have the gift of comedy, my friend. Love it!

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Zack Powell
02:50 Mar 28, 2022

I'm glad to hear it's not just me who graduated with some wild people.😂 Thanks as always, Sharon. I love your comedy so reading this comment gives me life.

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L.M. Lydon
23:37 Mar 27, 2022

Very funny with some great turns of phrase ("your diplomas, those little scraps of paper that say you survived thirteen years of institutionalized, government-funded prison")!

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Zack Powell
01:33 Mar 28, 2022

Thank you, L.M.! Glad to hear that line worked.

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Bradon L
23:15 Mar 27, 2022

What a perfect, hilarious and unfortunately accurate depiction of high school! 😂😂. I love the use of his prompt. I never would have thought to go his route.

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Zack Powell
01:35 Mar 28, 2022

Thanks, Bradon! What bigger day than graduation for a prompt like this, right? Good luck with your writing course (if you haven't already finished)! Looking forward to seeing some new stories from you in the future.

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Bradon L
14:09 Mar 28, 2022

Thank you! I’m not quite finished with it but I’m taking a break to write a story.

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Layla Robinson
22:30 Mar 27, 2022

I wish my high school speech was this awesome, I feel gutless now and like I want a do-over. Cool story man.

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Zack Powell
01:32 Mar 28, 2022

You're not the only one who wants a do-over. Oh, the things I'd say now. Thanks for reading, Layla!

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Thom Brodkin
22:19 Mar 26, 2022

Zach, time to return the favor and tell you how much I enjoyed this story. It’s been more years than I want to admit since I was in high school but it all came flooding back in one big belly laugh. That being said the most impressive thing about this story was how different it was from your winning entry a few weeks back. You have a versatility I envy. Great job. Great writing. Keep up the good work. PS A probably bad suggestion, change years to days in the title. It may fit with the prompt a little better. (Ignore this if it’s dumb)

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Zack Powell
22:41 Mar 26, 2022

Thank you, Lee! Very nice of you to return the favor, and your comment is lovely. I'm trying to push my creative limits with these prompts, so I'm glad the versatility hasn't gone unnoticed! And coming from you, I'll take every bit of title advice you've got. And now that I think about it, I do prefer "days." Thanks for the suggestion!

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Michał Przywara
21:46 Mar 26, 2022

Haha! Very funny piece. There's a lot of nice one-liners, but I like the self-referential humour too, like the Red Wedding saga and what led to it. Something about using L. Ron Hubbard's quote as advice was also spot on. Thanks for sharing!

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Zack Powell
22:36 Mar 26, 2022

Glad the Red Wedding stuff pulled through - it was the joke I was most skeptical about. And it wouldn't be a graduation without some sagely wisdom from L. Ron Hubbard, right? Thanks for reading! I really enjoyed your story for this week too.

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Wafflez Wasfound
14:16 Mar 26, 2022

By far one of my favorites, and as nomal, amazing story!!

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Zack Powell
14:56 Mar 26, 2022

Thanks as always, Awexis! You're awesome.

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Wafflez Wasfound
13:42 Mar 29, 2022

Hey! I just came out with a new story called 4gotten. Please read it, as I’ve run out of ideas for continuing it. Thanks!

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J.C. Lovero
22:40 Mar 25, 2022

Hi there penpal prompt partner (try saying that three times as fast) for week #178! Valedictorian monologues are always so great. I don't know why high school brings back such fond and awful memories mixed all together into one, but it does, and you captured it well with this. So many funny moments to name here. All I can say is that I wish I had your humor. It's so fun to read. You will have to tell me what GOAT means... I Googled but am not sure I figured it out lol. I might be too old??? Also, appreciate the subtle hint to tell us we ...

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Zack Powell
22:56 Mar 25, 2022

I probably can't even say it one time fast, so you got me there! You definitely could write a humor piece, I'm positive. You had a Thin Mints Cookies line a few weeks ago that I'm still laughing at. Chances are, if you think something's funny, we probably will too. GOAT is what the kids these days are using to mean "Greatest Of All Time." (Don't feel bad, I literally had to Google "teenager slang" when writing this story.) That's funny, isn't it? Today's contemporary fiction is tomorrow's historical fiction. Now there's a wild thought. Th...

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J.C. Lovero
22:53 Mar 30, 2022

Well, the RNG gods matched us together this week for the critique circle. Since I’ve already given you my glowing review, I figured I would take the opportunity to say how much I LOVE your stories! I admire your work and hope to achieve your level of skill someday :) I suppose the only other thing I can mention here… don’t forget about us little folk when you and Riel achieve world domination! xoxo

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Riel Rosehill
19:08 Mar 25, 2022

Hey Zack! Oh my god, I love it! I was grinning and laughing to myself all the way! (But damn, we didn't pick the same prompts - so much for my world dmination plans!) Anyways, I'm not sad about that, because I got to read this and wow. If this isn't the best speach ever, I don't now what is. You nailed a really strong and thoroughly fun character voice here, and there were so many parts that were just true, relatable, or insanely entertaining. Like this line here: "before we all disperse into the world to work at high-paying prestigious inst...

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Zack Powell
19:48 Mar 25, 2022

Thanks, Riel! I was hoping we were gonna choose the same prompts again, but I'm happy your mind went elsewhere because your story was exceptional! I'm glad the humor worked on this one. I couldn't tell if the voice/comedy fit or if I was just being too immature (nothing new, LOL), so it's good to hear. I had a lot of fun writing all the lines you quoted, especially the lotion and spin the bottle ones. I couldn't stop laughing. You're so right, too. High school was the best of times and the worst of times, and yet I constantly think back thos...

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Riel Rosehill
13:03 Mar 26, 2022

Zack I forgot to ask something!! I remembered because I came back for a second read today I liked this so much and I realised still don't know this... What is a "zaddy"? PS: Can you believe it took me a second read to realise what you meant by "red wedding"? Hahaha

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Zack Powell
15:03 Mar 26, 2022

Haha, I had to look up the meaning of it too just to write it in here. Apparently (according to the teenager slang website I got it from) it means: "a well-dressed, attractive man of any age." So, that's a thing. LOL at the "red wedding" comment, considering your story for the week. I was THIS close to writing "girl flu" instead, too.

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Riel Rosehill
15:18 Mar 26, 2022

Oh you had to look it up too? Here I was thinking I am just too foreign but it is much worse, we are actually too old for teenage slang..! LOL "Girl flu" startled me too in J.C.'s story, but this time it's funnier in the light of my own story... In any case, looks like I'm helplessly slow with these specific euphemisms... gotta laugh! Until next week, Zaddy

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J.C. Lovero
15:42 Mar 26, 2022

Funny fact - red wedding was my first choice but I changed it to girl flu LOL

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