The Weather

A Commencement-Related Interview with Silas

On March 19, in order to lend a hand to potential entrants in Trop’s short fake commencement address contest, which is open for submissions for just barely one week more and promises prestige, cash, and publication in Trop to its winners, I got on Gchat and interviewed actual high school student, Vermont resident, and cousin of mine, Silas Farwell Mead.

Silas:

tom here i am

me:

yes!!!

so nice to see you here

in this incredible venue

Silas:

haha likewise

me:

ok

should we start the interview?

Silas:

sure

me:

let’s see

so Trop

is having a commencement address writing contest

and we thought that

being that you are an actual high school student

maybe you could tell our contestants what you would like to hear from a commencement address?

maybe you could provide some guidance?

Silas:

possibly. thing is our high school is so small that every graduate talks, so theres no commencement speech

me:

oh jesus

silas this is what’s called a curveball

in the lit mag industry

so you’re telling me there’s no master of wisdom who gets up before everyone?

every graduating senior talks and that’s the whole deal?

Silas:

pretty much. head of school talks at the beginning and such but no VIP speaker like at other high schools and colleges

me:

so your expertise is limited

that’s ok

can we interview anyway?

Silas:

yeah for sure

me:

you can just pretend you have all the answers

nobody will ever know

we’re not reputable

Silas:

ok im okay with that. so what are some questions?

me:

good question

the first question is

what are some of the main life concerns you have right now that you’d like to have answered by the wisest person you’ve ever heard of?

Silas:

oh fun… i dunno… maybe how can i become as successful and wise as you are

me:

oh god

yeah that’s a good answer

i’d say that you have to work hard and press your luck

when handed an inch, take a mile

and

talk fast and don’t listen

that’s my strategy

does that help you?

Silas:

solid answer. i like talk fast and don’t listen. so are you supposed to be the wise person then?

me:

i am a wise person

but i’m not the only one

there are lots of us

giving speeches is a cottage industry

Silas:

of course

me:

hilary clinton is a good example

should we move on to a new question?

Silas:

all right

me:

imagine that

for your whole life

you’ve had parents and teachers and scheduled lunch hours

and all that kind of stuff

and then one day you wake up

and the whole world is like a massive stretch of desert

like the Sahara

just sand

or like an ice sheet or something

you get the idea

wide open, yes

promising, yes

but also utterly bleak and terrible

and then

a wise man appears

like an apparition

with

either water or a really warm jacket

as the case may be

and you are allowed to ask this man three questions silas

what are they?

Silas:

odd question there

lets see…

1. Can you help me?

2. How can i get out of here?

3. What’s the purpose of my life?

me:

good questions

here are your answers

1. Yes

2. To where would you like to go?

3. The purpose of your life is to persist

can you answer the second one?

Silas:

somewhere exciting but where i am able to leave

but hold on

so you’re going to answer all my questions yourself?

me:

if i find one i can’t answer, i’ll deflect it

that’s another good strategy to remember

but

back to the ice sheets

the problem is that it has no door?

to anywhere else?

like, the whole damn thing’s a trap?

Silas:

yeah i guess thats the problem

i would want to see that world for a while, but i want a way back to the familiar

me:

those are what’re called ‘the lost years’

i guess now we know why

ok new question

do you think that, at least sometimes, fantasy is accurate?

Silas:

im sorry what?

me:

if a fantasy of a world without doors

is just like the world we live in

for example i’m in a computer lab with a door right now

i’ve been going through doors all day

and if i were to find myself on an ice sheet

i wouldn’t look for a door

i’d look for a boat

Silas:

i’d look for skates

me:

that’s a really good answer but it kind of breaks the metaphor

which is just fine

actually

we’ve been on the ice sheet for too long

new question

do you have any advice for potential commencement speakers?

Silas:

use stories. the best and most interesting speeches aren’t just full of inspirational words; they have stories that relate to our lives

not just boring words

me:

ok good advice

thank you

hey also

can my friend peter ask you a question or two? he’s here

Silas:

sure

me:

silas, peter nichols here, could you share an example of a “story”

it sounds like something our constituents ought to be more familiar with…

Silas:

haha okay sure… this is more hypothetical. for example, if a speaker is talking about how he became the ceo of a company, instead of saying something silly like hard work pays off, he tells a story about how he started as a lowly worker and worked his way up to the top

me:

yes!

the guy from Costco did that

he started at a mattress company

down in San Diego

this is Tom again by the way

ok Silas that was some excellent advice

i think our contestants have the power now

eh

can we just ask for your bio?

name?

school?

grade?

favorite subject?

favorite sport?

grandest life ambition?

Silas:

Silas Farwell Mead

The Sharon Academy

Sophomore

Algebra II

Soccer

To be happy

me:

Silas you are a wise man

Silas:

thank you sir, you as well

me:

thank you for participating in our commencement survey!!!

Silas:

All right tell me if i make it on the website

me:

absolutely

you will

we need you

Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.