The Star-Mangled Anthem
It was only 81 words.
It would all be over in 90 seconds. Nothing to sweat. Nothing to lose.
I was screwed.
Altruistic auspices had lured me to Independence Center, but it was sheer terror that kept me frozen on the small food-court stage, strangling a microphone as I peered out at blank faces.
“How’s everyone doing in the food court tonight?” I offered nervously.
“I want you all to know that I listened to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ before coming here, so I’m pumped,” I continued.
“This next one is a little tune I wrote …”
Dignity, please meet your party at baggage carousel 3.
I deserved it. I had voluntarily thrown myself on this pyre of humiliation. Nobody forced me to belt out the national anthem at an open audition for the chance to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a Kansas City Outlaws hockey game.
But if I was going to spend my days arbitrarily dissecting the performances of other people, I figured the least I could do was throw myself into the emotional wringer of public scrutiny.
I was horrified. I hadn’t expected much of a turnout, but I arrived at the mall to find a KMXV 93.3 van, a camera crew and some 30 deathly serious people waiting to sing.
I don’t really like people. Or at least doing anything in front of a lot of them — such as singing the national anthem. And I don’t sing. Not in a plane. Not on a train.
My rendition would surely be the vocal equivalent of burning an American flag and urinating on the ashes. Roseanne would grab her crotch and scoff. William Hung would sneer, He blows … he blows.
Oooohhhhhhhh, say can you see, I moaned in a low, quivering voice.
It was probably too late to stage my own death. Nobody would buy it.
What so proudly we hailed, at the twilight’s last gleaming.
I paused. I blanked. I groped for the next line and came up empty. I hope you’re happy now, Francis Scott Key. Smarmy songwriting bastard. Then it hit me.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars …
I was on autopilot now. At least no mallrats were throwing cups of Orange Julius. Yet.
… through the perilous fight, o’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming …
I had a newfound respect for the other singers. And I, in turn, surely had their sympathy.
O’er the land of the FREEEEEE-EEEEEEE, I bellowed for the finale, and the home of the … Outlaws!
Yes, I was an unapologetic whore. But you gotta earn points where you can. And, as I walked off the stage, I saw the judges were laughing.
With me, of course.