It was open mic night at the local independent bookstore. Kendra had come to every event for over a year trying to build up enough confidence to get up there and read her poetry. Everyone seemed so much better, more artistic, more creative, more everything than her. Tonight, was going to be her night though. She bought a new outfit and even had her hair done by Jenny down at the salon just so people wouldn’t think she was just some homeless person who wandered in. She was homeless, but that didn’t really matter at open mic, did it? Her poems didn’t seem to mind being written at a table in the library or at the soup kitchen. They didn’t seem to mind when the words floated down from the sky while she was fixing her cardboard box house for the night in the alley behind the Chinese restaurant. No, tonight was going to be her night.
A man was at the mic when she walked into the bookstore. He spoke with such fervor that everyone was hanging on every syllable. His poem was amazing. He was amazing. She started to leave but then stopped, reminding herself that she deserved to be there as much as anyone else. She took a cup of water that the shop handed out free and sat on a bean bag chair near the horror section. The bookstore erupted into a roar of clapping when the man finished.
As a lady took the mic next and told a short story with such candor that Kendra began to cry. The crowd grew and as it did, so did the critics. As a young boy was trying his hand at limericks, a pugnacious spectator began heckling. His heckling grew louder the more nervous the person at the mic was. You know the kind. People who are mean just to be mean. She runs into people like this all the time while sitting at the shelter or waiting at job service. Kendra often wonders if people like this are just too scared to admit they are scared, so it comes out as rudeness and cruelty.
After a while no one wanted to walk up to the mic knowing the heckler was still in the house. Kendra took a deep breath and walked up to the mic. Everyone’s face lit up and they clapped as she introduced herself. As soon as she said the name of her poem, the heckler began booing. Kendra started to grin and chuckled. She began changing her poem to heckle the heckler. She had him. There wasn’t anything he could say that she didn’t have a come back for. Their banter went on for a few rounds, then the heckler got up and left. It was no longer fun.
“And that, lady’s and gentlemen, is how you handle pugnacious little critics,” she said. The crowed gave a standing ovation.