I’ll begin by saying that I’m glad to see so many of you here today. I may not have been as kind or as loyal or as sexually exclusive as I could have been to all of you, and still you’ve come in my time of need. Many of you must have been quite shocked to learn that someone like me has cancer, someone who still looks as muscular and vital as on the day you last gave him birthday money or a loan or a bed to sleep in. Afterward you probably contemplated on how old you’ve become since then, how flabby and gray you look in the reflection of the 8×10″ glossy photo I enclosed with the letters.
It may shock you more still to learn that I don’t have cancer, which was a printing error, and I am perfectly healthy, almost certainly healthier than any of you. I apologize for not correcting it sooner, but I sprang for Papyrus Elite, a card stock too fine for any correcting fluid available on the consumer market. And perhaps it isn’t the right time now, with all of you reflecting on your own inevitable mortality, but as long as you are all here, I have some things I’d like to tell you.
To my family: I want you to know that I care for all of you deeply, and despite how the memoir was titled, I’ve never thought that [You] Should All Be Sent Into Space and Remotely Detonated. I chose that title at the insistence of my editor, who assured me it was a line from Yeats. This, I suppose, is what I get for wanting to sound literary. I’ve always thought you’d be more at home at the bottom of the sea than in the heavens anyway, and if I had a second chance, I’d have the title reflect that.
I’d particularly like to apologize to my aunts, uncles, and cousins for referring to you as “ants,” “uggos” and “turds” in the book. This was, again, the fault of my editor, a man so unwise as to trust my manuscript, margin notes, and emails more than his own judgment. I’ve been informed that a revision is not possible for the paperback or translated editions, but I’m told that “turd” sounds quite beautiful in Urdu. If any of my immediate family was here, I’d have some words for them too, but lacking that I will instead give you this gesture — to reproduce, at your leisure, should you see them.
To my friends: I’d like to thank you for all the support you’ve given me over the years, some of you more than others. I’m talking to you, Clark; you and your family, especially your sister, have done so much for me, especially your sister. Not just in my public life, but in my home, and at your home, and at your family’s lake house, and even at school and behind the school. And I’m talking to you Steve, who was always there for me, even when people found your adoration of me “fawning” or “pathetic” and finally began to question your sexual orientation. I never questioned, Steve; I always knew exactly what you were.
And to my exes in the audience: I have loved all of you and could still love any of you, preferably simultaneously. You are the ones who always believed in me and not in each other, even when the evidence was conclusive. I have never called myself a clever man, leaving that task to many admirers, but I never needed to be one around any of you. I only lament the distance that has grown between us, though I can see many of you are doing your best to bridge it, inch by waist inch.
In closing, I’d like to thank you all again for coming, though I see many of you have already left, no doubt having to attend to the important business of beating your children or finding new applications for ranch dressing. You have all been as kind to me as I have to you, which reminds of a song I learned as a child about a magic penny. I can’t quite remember how the song goes but let me assure you now: the magic penny is mine and none of you can have it. None of you.