I’d like to unveil my platform. I’m not running for anything—officially, anyway. But there are some things I feel strongly about. (Such as: A preposition is something that one should not end a sentence with.) But I digress. I am proposing some essential new laws. Specifically:
PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: No prescription drug should cost more than $50. If you have any kind of health insurance, it shouldn’t cost more than $25. I’m not including voluntary medical substances and procedures, because it’s too late for me to benefit from hair restoration.
FIVE-SECOND RULE: Let’s formalize this classic but oft-ignored principle. If it’s a cookie, or a doughnut, or a medical cannabis gummy, or any other edible, if it is picked up within five seconds of landing on the floor, it can be consumed without parental or spousal permission. Remember: Five seconds is a loose term if you count real slow, like if the cookie goes under the fridge.
MOVIE CREDITS: They must run at the end of the film, not at the beginning. Enough said.
OPENING DAY: Major League Baseball’s opening day should be a national holiday. Yes, I hear the arguments from football fans that the day after the Super Bowl should be a holiday. But it’s just a Monday in the middle of winter and not good for much of anything other than shoveling the sidewalk. Why not move the Super Bowl back to 3 p.m. As a bonus, that would get it over in time for “60 Minutes”.
DAN SNYDER: Speaking of football, ban Danny Boy from owning any NFL team. Period.
FOOD LABELING: No food sold to the public can carry the label “fat free” unless the seller is not charging you for the fat content, which is usually quite significant.
FOOD STORAGE: I know that this flies in the face of the principle of “live and let live”, but the peanut butter and the jelly should be on the same shelf of the refrigerator. How many years of our lives have we wasted searching for one or the other when it’s on the door or way back behind the year-old celery.
FOX NEWS: Require that their broadcasts feature the following warning label at all times: “The contents of this network are harmful to your mental, physical, and emotional health. Not to mention being bad and wrong.”
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: Sentient computers, bots, algorithms, and holograms should carry warning signs saying something like: “I am an artificial construct rather than a flesh-and-blood person. I might or might not be smarter than you. But did you know that the warranty on your car has expired? And, have you considered whether you have enough life insurance?”
NEW GOLDEN RULE: Let people live their lives the way that they want as long as they are not bothering other people. That means they can decide how they identify themselves, what they do with their bodies, what they do with their money, whether they wish to sacrifice small furry animals in their back yards, and the like. However, I draw the line with the teen-ager who fires up his Mustang and revs the motor for five minutes at 4 a.m. across the street. Lock him up.
Criminal investigators are preparing to file scores of serious charges against Santa Claus.
Sources tell the In Sight blog that some of the charges center on unwarranted intrusions of personal privacy. But others are far more serious and raise questions about his background and his almost limitless powers.
“This guy thinks he’s above the law. Fat chance,” said one investigator, with no apparent intent at irony.
“He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good,” noted the investigator. “Does he have bugs planted all over the globe? Or is there a more sinister element at play here?” The investigator refused to elaborate when asked if Santa Claus might have a massive ring of co-conspirators around the world feeding him such data. Or if he had tapped into the most advanced Artificial Intelligence systems. “Let’s just say that the guy knows more than he should.”
Though he is called Santa Claus in many places, the target of the investigation uses a variety of aliases, including Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Pere Noel, and even Wiehnachtsmann. His attempt to disguise his identity was the first thing that raised suspicions among authorities.
As the probe has developed, national security concerns have arisen. “We think that he has advanced technology that, if it fell into the wrong hands, then, poof, there goes our country in a flash,” the investigator observed. “Consider the fact that he has flying reindeer. Flying reindeer! Surely, some sort of nasty animal experiments occurred to get that result. But more than that: The guy can reach billions of houses all over the world on one night. One night! And he has stealth tech that allows him to move around without being detected by the most sophisticated radar.” He said that raises serious border control issues.
Asked whether the North Pole has an extradition treaty with the U.S. or any other nation, the investigator cursed and changed the subject.
“Another thing: All those elves making toys and other gifts year round. We believe that Santa Claus is violating child labor laws. He’s running the world’s biggest sweatshop. It’s almost a cult.”
The investigator said one of the reasons why Santa Claus has not yet been arrested is that, so far, no one has been able to obtain a copy of the infamous “list”. “We have been trying to get an informant inside Santa’s inner circle and to sneak out the evidence showing how this guy determines who should be categorized as ‘naughty’ and ‘nice’. Does he discriminate based on race or religion or if someone is a Yankees fan? We fear that so much discretionary power breeds abuse.”
The investigator conceded that some authorities are wondering whether Santa Claus could be an alien sent to Earth for reasons that remain unclear. “The fact that he has apparently not aged in hundreds of years is a definite red flag,” he added.
“We’re going to nail this guy, and soon,” he stated. “Right after he brings me my Oura Ring.”
[Grandpa accidentally discharges the AK-47, taking out the big-screen TV, an antique clock, and a portion of Suzie’s left foot.]
“Aw, look what you did,” she complains.
“Little Suzie, we all have to make sacrifices for the revolution and our great leaders. Put a Band-Aid on it, and let’s get on with your training.”
“Do I have to? We did four hours of assault practice yesterday in school. We almost caught a Democrat! Well, she was an independent. But she had blue hair and was eating granola.”
“I’m very proud of you. But, you know, with almost all of the Democrats in re-education camps, it’s going to be very hard to find more of them.”
“Darn it,” says Suzie, wrapping her foot in a tourniquet. “Granpa, tell me again what it was like in the Revolution. I can barely remember it.”
“Sure, little Suzie. It all started with the election of 2022. Maybe they told you about it in school. It was called the Election That Was Stolen.”
“Now I remember. But who stole it?”
“Well, that’s a good question. At first, the Republicans—the good guys—claimed that the Democrats stole it from them. But after all the heavily armed militias and other voter suppression groups went home and the votes were counted, we were surprised to discover that the Republicans had actually won the House and Senate fairly. But we liked the sound of the phrase ‘The Election That Was Stolen’, so we kept it. So that no one will forget that Democrats tried to win, back in the old days.”
“Wasn’t trying to win elections legal?”
“It used to be.”
“And, after that, everyone was required to buy a gun and shoot it at least once a day?”
“Three guns, actually. But yes. What a boost to the economy.”
“Why is the economy so important?”
“Money is what makes the world go round. You remember seeing Mr. Grover next door come home and shoot himself. He had gone to the tax office and they spun this big wheel to determine how much he had to pay, and it came up ‘Bankrupt’. We got lucky; we only had to pay half of our income for the year. All so that the government and our leaders can get by.”
“But don’t some of our leaders own their own states, like Ohio and Oregon, while other people don’t have enough to eat?”
“True, but that’s only because those nasty Democrats messed up the economy by trying to eliminate the deficit and other crazy schemes like that.”
“Why did we do away with Congress?”
“After returning Donald Trump to his rightful position of Emperor for Life, Congress passed Marital Law, which made the legislature superfluous.”
“Marital? I thought it was Martial Law. Same letters, different arrangement.”
“No, Marital Law is the bedrock of society. It requires all women to get married when they reach 15. And it requires that they get pregnant at every opportunity. That’s why we’ll be watching you closely when you start menstruating. Having a period without a child resulting is a sin.”
“I can’t wait. So, did the leaders of the Revolution create your job, grandpa?”
“That’s right. At first, they called my new agency the Department of Conspiracy Theories, but some people thought that name was too literal. It’s still the DCT, but it’s now called the Department of Creative Thoughts.”
“And you work closely with the Bureau of Alternative Facts.”
“Correct. If we learned one thing, it’s: Never let truth get in the way of a good revolution.”
Sources have given the In Sight blog a complete list of items that the FBI found in Donald Trump’s safe and elsewhere in his Florida home. This list has not been published elsewhere and is not available in any store:
Passports issued by several foreign countries featuring Trump’s picture but fictitious names. In a coincidence, none of those countries has an extradition treaty with the United States
A VHS tape labeled the “Golden Showers” video, filmed in a Moscow hotel room. Trump is shown peeing on a bed while an attractive woman is heard to exclaim “It’s no big thing.”
An original copy of the Declaration of Independence, framed and marked for auction by Sotheby’s later this year.
The “official” version of the Bill of Rights, hidden from the public for many years for unknown reasons. In its text on the Second Amendment, it includes the words: “Assault rifles and other automatic and semi-automatic weapons are definitely cool.” The document also features the phrase: “Gay marriage, interracial marriage, teaching Critical Race Theory—don’t even think about it.”
More than 15,000 ballots that, for some reason, election officials in Georgia failed to count in November 2020. Trump is chosen on 14,998 of them.
A document outlining a plan to kidnap Mike Pence and have him impersonated by actor Leslie Nielsen. Nielsen was to declare the 2020 presidential election results invalid, announce that Trump was the winner, and then retire to spend more time with his family on a remote South Pacific Island. The plan was abandoned when it was discovered that Nielsen died in 2010.
Printouts of texts from Secret Service agents wagering large amounts of money and drugs on how many Capitol steps Trump would be able to climb on Jan. 6, 2021, before passing out.
Printouts of emails from Hillary Clinton admitting that she killed White House official Vince Foster; orchestrated the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya; schemed to assassinate John F. Kennedy; and aided and abetted the abduction of the Lindbergh baby.
The missing tapes from Richard Nixon’s presidential archives.
The Jared Kushner Middle East Peace Plan, which was never adopted because some of the nations involved refused to build “safe houses” for the Trump family.
An original copy of the Johannes Gutenberg Bible.
Plans for a Donald Trump theme park, complete with ridiculously steep admission prices, rides that are programmed to eject Democrats at dangerous heights, and a requirement that attendees contribute to Trump’s reelection campaign before they can exit. A interactive Conspiracy Theory Exhibit would allow participants to invent and publicize their own insane and dangerous ideas.
Dozens of bottles of Viagra, some prescribed to someone named “Ronald Fumph.”
A draft of Trump’s unpublished memoir, “How to Cheat on Taxes and Wives.” Nicely illustrated.
A dossier on Rudy Giuliani, presumably prepared in case Trump needed to destroy Giuliani’s character. The dossier was never used, because Giuliani accomplished that aim quite effectively himself.
Orange hair spray. Lots of it.
Love letters from Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean President Kim Jong-un. In a letter Trump wrote but apparently never sent, he threatens to break off his friendship with Kim because the CIA told Trump that Kim was “snuggling” with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
A towel that Hunter Biden allegedly stole from a hotel in Ukraine, presumably to be used for blackmail purposes.
More than a dozen cards from Monopoly games that read “Get Out of Jail Free.”
Here’s your exclusive preview of the most notable summer television shows for 2022. Set that DVR!
DANCE WITH THE DEAD (ABC, Mondays and Tuesdays). In this must-see show, contestants arriving onstage realize that they must dance with recently departed partners. A gripping event reminiscent of the film “Weekend at Bernie’s.” Caution: On the second night, after rigor mortis has set in, you might want to turn the volume down if you have young children.
JAN. 6: THE TRUE STORY: (Fox, Mondays through Sundays): Dozens of ordinary tourists who show up for a routine tour of the U.S. Capitol are ambushed by Capitol Police, D.C. police, and other authorities whipped into a rage by cowardly Democrats. Highlights: Nancy Pelosi bashing the QAnon Shaman with her mallet; Bernie Sanders giving another innocent tourist a noogie.
SURVIVOR: CHERNOBYL (CBS, Wednesdays): Six contestants are left inside the abandoned and still severely radioactive nuclear power plant in Ukraine. They must overcome Russian soldiers and land mines as well as the effects of the melted down plant. Spoiler alert: Contestants who glow most brightly in the dark have the best chance of escaping alive.
JUDGE ROB (NBC, Thursdays): A robotic AI judge metes out justice to couples and other litigants who seek to resolve their disputes. Dressed up to resemble The Terminator, the automaton is nicely animated and deliver some hilarious jokes, accompanied by tasteful canned laughter. Spoiler alert: Some litigants are executed on the spot.
YOUNG VLADIMIR (PBS, Mondays): Told constantly that he wasn’t virile enough, a pre-teen Vladimir Putin commits to a course of action that will make him a strong, manly, scary dude. He pretends to be a KGB operative in his grammar school and tortures younger children and unwary farm animals. A heartwarming coming-of-age saga.
SING FOR YOUR SUPPER (Amazon Prime, Fridays): Contestants, mostly undocumented immigrants with no musical training, compete in this unusual singing contest. Only those who impress the judges will be fed enough to maintain their basic bodily functions. Among the highlights: Backstage shots of losing contestants bartering their children for food.
BACKSPLASH BACKLASH (HGTV, Sundays): Stars of your favorite home makeover shows narrate the little-known role of backsplash in world history. Napoleon, Joan of Arc, and Adolph Hitler are among the historical figures whose rise to fame and impact on their times were influenced strongly by kitchen design features. A companion series next fall will focus on lead paint’s influence on pop stars.
FULL CONTACT GOLF (Golf Channel, Saturdays): The first player to finish all 18 holes will win a $1 million cash prize, regardless of the score. However, all 64 entrants will be permitted to use their clubs, bags, balls, and everything else in their possession as weapons. Filmed on a Caribbean island with no enforceable laws prohibiting such violence and no extradition treaties, the show gives new meaning to the phrase “golfers making the cut.”
Emerging seedlings. Just tiny green dots. They could be weeds, or my imagination. But to a gardener, the first plants to show up in the spring are a gift from heaven.
It will be more than a month before I can harvest and eat even the smallest plants, which will be lettuce and spinach seedlings thinned out because they are too close together. Or spring onions or radishes, which can mature in barely a month. It will be a meager result compared with those bright July days when I am swimming in tomatoes and blackberries.
But this time of year is magic.
One day, there is no plant. The next day, there is. Maybe it wasn’t even there an hour ago. Or maybe it was so small–and its color and shape blended into the soil so well–that I didn’t notice it then. I merely tossed a seed in the dirt, covered it, watered it, and waited. Not much of an investment on my part. Yet it’s on its way. It’s a miracle.
How can a dried speck that’s been sitting around in a paper packet for months or years produce a lettuce plant, or a pepper, or a zinnia? Wikipedia defines a seed as “an embryonic plant enclosed in a protective outer covering” and “the product of the ripened ovule, after fertilization by pollen and some growth within the mother plant”. (Sorry for any language that might be considered offensive. Memo to the New Right: You have already banned me, so don’t get excited.)
The seed bides its time with infinite patience, then starts to work as soon as conditions are right. Moisture, temperature, sometimes exposure to light. And maybe even a little encouragement. I still talk to my seeds and plants. Sometimes they don’t listen. Sometimes they even talk back. But it seems to be working.
Growing a garden is almost a religious experience for me. I grew up with parents of different religions who didn’t celebrate major holidays in more than a cursory fashion. (Well, I enjoyed Halloween, and they liked New Year’s Eve a lot.) Maybe I like growing things because I can’t bear a child myself, or because I’m in touch with my feminine side. (Again, apologies to the Culture Warriors on the right.)
Maybe, in part, it’s the challenge. Planting something the first week of March and expecting it to reach maturity can be frustrating. Many years, a cold snap will kill an early planting. Or a snow or ice storm, or too much rain, or too little. Or birds or land-hugging critters will wreak havoc.
Maybe it’s because I like getting my hands dirty. Or because much of the food in the grocery store is lousy. Or because I like to show off when I share my vegetable harvest or display my flowers. Or because the annual ritual is embedded in my soul.
I have analyzed my joy of gardening frequently over the years. It doesn’t matter why I love it. I am neither embarrassed nor apologetic for my favorite hobby. It simply is. And it simply is good.
If you can’t plant—or have no interest in—a spring garden, you can still take a moment to appreciate the daffodils and tulips, the flowering trees and shrubs, the longer days, the milder nights. Spring never seems to last long enough, like so many of the good things in life.
I am writing this open letter to the fans of The Washington Redskins, recently known by the shameful moniker of the Washington Football Team, to announce the new name of the storied pro football franchise: The Groundhogs.
Some of you probably guessed that I chose to announce the new team name on Feb. 2, Groundhog Day, because of my decision to select the name Groundhogs. My only regret is that Bill Murray could not be here today because of some unspecified previous commitment.
Marmota Monax is a proud animal. Yet it is also a resourceful and thrifty beast, and one highly deserving of being honored in this manner. The new team name also pays tribute to the Hogs, the Redskins offensive linemen of the 1980s and 1990s who starred back when the team had a hope of winning on any given Sunday, not to mention a chance of filling more than half the seats.
I did consider some of the suggestions made by the public. “Admirals” was appealing, but very large and unhappy representatives of the Army, Air Force and Marines paid me visits and cracked their very large knuckles and made it clear that singling out the Navy in this way would not make them happy. “Commodores” seemed too long and awkward; I can just imagine headline writers referring to the team as the “Dores” or, worse, as the “Commies”. My personal favorite was The Washington Scandals, for obvious reasons. But, in the end, the case for Groundhogs was simply overwhelming.
This team name change is not just about making a fortune on new team merch, though I salivate at that thought. No, this is also about the future. I have a second big surprise. A new football stadium for The Groundhogs is well under way. It will be the most high-tech, fan-friendly sports arena in the world. What you all thought was the new Amazon corporate headquarters in Arlington, Va., is in reality the new Groundhog Field. The groundhog’s ability to predict the future is well established in American folklore. Well, I can predict that all of you fans will be thrilled by the innovations that this stadium will provide.
The playing field will be equipped with dozens of trap doors and tunnels through which Washington Groundhogs running backs can dive and elude tacklers, reemerging 20 or 30 yards downfield for easy first downs. In addition, these holes will open unexpectedly under the visiting team’s defenders, causing them to disappear, or at a minimum, fracture an ankle or leg.
I know that some of you suspect that my choice of Groundhogs is some sort of juvenile attempt to get revenge against the NFL (the No Fun League) and the liberal activists who hounded me to change a revered name I swore I would never change. Well, you are correct. Take that!
Just one more thing: Remember that, if the Groundhog sees his shadow on Feb. 2, it means six more weeks of idiotic Super Bowl ads.
There are a number of important news stories that mainstream media outlets do not want you to know, primarily because they aren’t true. However, that has never gotten in the way of reporting by the In Sight blog. Therefore:
BRITNEY RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT
Pop star Britney Spears is preparing to mount a challenge to Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for president in 2024. She has already raised a record $4.5 billion war chest.
Spears has spent a considerable amount of time dealing with mental illness. Recently, her father lost the ability to control her substantial finances through a conservatorship. That has given her the opportunity to reestablish her position in the pop music world and to venture into politics.
Sources say that the campaign is considering several slogans. Among them are “Vote for Me Baby, One More Time” and “Oops, I Bombed Iraq Again”. However, the apparent front-runner is “Crazier Than Donald”.
Some advisers urged that she not go up against the highly popular former president in her first campaign, suggesting that she take on a slightly more modest goal, such as securing peace in the Middle East or piloting a spaceship solo to Venus. But Spears, who is 39, said she is getting too old to wait for an opportunity to reach the White House.
Reached for comment, Trump told a reporter: “I invite her to come talk to me. She has such huge … support.”
PUMPKIN SPICE SHORTAGE WORSENS
The shortage of pumpkin spice is real, and it is having increasingly dire consequences.
While some of the ingredients of this popular fall substance, namely cloves and ginger, remain on a few store shelves, the most important ones are neary impossible to find. The American Grocery Federation notes that cinnamon is selling for $1,900 an ounce on the Internet. Allspice is available only through unsavory drug dealers. And nutmeg can be found only in the National Nutmeg Reserve vault under an undisclosed location in northern Alaska, where the ground is frozen eight feet deep.
The Latte Alliance reports a 5,000 percent increase in pumpkin spice withdrawal symptoms among Americans during the past week. While the organization notes that this is a small sample size, a spokesman added: “Have you got any? Please? I’m desperate.”
A spokesman for Starbucks issued a statement urging that Americans “get a grip!”
CONGRESS RACES TO RAISE SARCASM LIMIT
While Washington dithers over whether or not to raise the federal government’s debt limit, another, lesser-known limit is in danger of expiring. It is a century-old statutory limitation on sarcasm.
If the sarcism limit is not increased by mid-October, there would be no restriction on sarcastic comments by American citizens, said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. “There would be real disruption to the economic health of the country and the moral fiber of our young people. You think the final season of “LOST” was bad? This would make that look like a picnic.”
The little-known sarcasm limit was proposed as a joke by Democrats in 1897. Not understanding the joke, Republicans went along with the legislation. Democrats at the time just assumed that the GOP was being sarcastic by approving their bill. But the Supreme Court said that measure could not be retroactive, so it’s passage could not be enjoined. Or enjoyed. Or anything else spelled like that.
British comedian John Cleese said that if the sarcasm limit is not reinstated, he will organize a worldwide lobbying effort to ensure that Congress clamps down once again. “I mean, what could be worse than people going on and on and on about a beautiful day or winning the lottery or retiring to sunny Spain? Who needs that kind of misery? Fix it, you stupid Americans, or we’ll come back over there and beat you bloody this time.”
NBA ADOPTS NEW SHOT CLOCK
The National Basketball Association has changed its shot clock rules. Starting with games this weekend, there will be a 60-second shot clock. Any player who fails to secure a shot of one of the three approved Coronavirus vaccines within that time will be called for a foul.
The vaccines will be administered by former NBA players. Players called for multiple shot clock fouls will be subjected to injections into their genitals.
“We take this seriously,” said Michael Jordan, who used to play for some team, though the In Sight blog could not recall anything about his alleged career. “Our goal is to get at least 20 percent of the league vaccinated by the end of the millennium.”
He added: “We want our NBA stars to be role models for our impressionable youth and for our equally impressionable adults. He said that for every vaccine injection received by a basketball player, $50 will be donated to the retirement fund of destitute former players like himself.
The In Sight blog brings you the very first interview with an emerging Brood X cicada, the kind that appears once every 17 years. We would like to thank Apple for use of its new Insect Translator app.
Blog: Welcome back to the surface. What did you miss most about being underground since 2004?
Blog: Looks like we’re having a little trouble with the translation app.
Cicada: No, I was just calling out to my mate, Brzzitttuzbrzttt. She’s always kind of slow. Got to get that hair and makeup just right before the big day.
Blog: Of course. Anyway, how does it feel to be back in 2021?
Cicada: I’ve been asleep, mostly, so I hardly noticed the time. Has anything changed?
Blog: Wow, where do we begin? First of all, George W. Bush is no longer president.
Cicada: Shucks, I always liked him. He was good about clearing brush on his farm. That helped a lot of my brethren to emerge. Who replaced him?
Blog: A black man was elected in 2008 and again in 2012. Then a suspected white supremacist won in 2016. Now we have just an old boring white guy.
Cicada: You’re telling me people elected a black man twice?
Blog: Yes. You’re not surprised that a suspected white supremacist won?
Cicada: No. Heck, I might have voted for him. What else has changed in 17 years?
Blog: We have same-sex marriage now.
Cicada: Big deal. We’ve had that for years.
Blog: There are gay cicadas?
Cicada: We have a saying: What happens underground stays underground.
Blog: In other news, we killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 2001 World Trade Center attack.
Cicada: Congrats. Started any more stupid wars?
Blog: Not us. Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
Cicada: Ouch. We have some bodies buried there.
Blog: The rest has been mostly a historic volume of serious hurricanes, wildfires and tornadoes. We still haven’t done anything about climate change.
Cicada: Got your head in the sand?
Blog: That’s rich, coming from you.
Cicada: You got me. So, other than that, have things settled down?
Blog: We had this viral pandemic, starting in China and covering the planet. Millions have died. People are still wearing masks in restaurants. But the U.S. government actually did something to try to help minimize its impact.
Cicada: Now I know you’re joking.
Blog: You’ll know I’m serious when I say that we have a huge new civil rights problem. Police are shooting black people for little or no reason. And there are still mass shootings of innocent people by crazy or angry people with assault weapons.
Cicada: Has anything gotten better while I’ve been snoozing?
Blog: The Washington Nationals won the World Series. I can’t think of anything else.
Cicada: I think I’m going to head back underground for another long nap.
Blog: You just emerged. Don’t you need to mate and get chased by cats and get crunched under car tires and all that for the next few months?
Cicada: I think I’m better off underground. Care to join me?
The following are excerpts from my novel “Back to You”, which was released Jan. 5, 2021, by White Bird Publications.
“It’s a mystery to me,” said Tony, leaning on the conference room table. “Somehow, you three dimwits managed to create the two highest-rated shows ever broadcast on the Hysteria Channel. But we have to keep producing must-see episodes if we want to turn this network around.”
Wade and Eddie smiled; Deidre was too astonished to consider taking any credit.
“I’m not going anywhere where they try to run us over or eat us or burn us,” she told Tony. “We could have been killed.”
“I know. That would have been so bloody spectacular,” he said. “But the first two shows were a little too…complicated.”
“Why don’t we do an episode in the future? Everybody will want to see that,” offered Wade.
Eddie spoke up. “I’ve taken Bess [the time machine] to do some scouting in the future. Man, it’s depressing with a capital D.”
“How so?” Deidre inquired.
“Well, you have your close encounters with killer asteroids. There’s a bunch of pandemics. And, a nasty alien invasion that sets off World War XVII.”
“There really will be seventeen world wars?” asked Wade.
“No, only sixteen that we know of. Everyone got together and agreed to skip number thirteen, because it would be unlucky.”
“Makes sense,” said Tony.
* * *
“It is 1863, during the conflict that Americans called the Civil War. You might notice that train adorned with red, white, and blue bunting. I believe that is the president’s train.”
“Lincoln’s train!” said Wade. “Eddie, let’s take a look. We might even get to see him.”
Bess [the time machine] chose the disguise of a manure wagon. The pair exited and stopped to appreciate their light-colored knee breeches, dark tailcoats, and black stovetop hats. Making their way into the station, they found a swirling mass of people and bags. They noticed a cluster of official-looking, middle-aged men with bad posture who were arguing. No doubt they were government officials or political advisers, thought Wade.
He and Eddie followed them onto the train. Within moments the whistle blew, and soon they were in motion.
Eddie found a closet with some porter uniforms. Suppressing grins at their good fortune, the two would-be porters changed and made their way to the front of the train.
“No, no, no. It’s too long,” shouted a man with a deep voice that boomed far beyond his cabin. “No one will want to listen to me for an hour and a half.”
“But Mister President,” said a rattled adviser, “that’s what is expected nowadays.”
“We will honor our brave men, and inspire the survivors, with brevity,” said Lincoln. “It is November, after all. We don’t want anyone in the crowd catching their death of cold.”
“Please read the speech one more time, Mister President. I’m sure you will come to realize what a fitting tribute it is.”
“Then leave me in peace,” said Lincoln with a sigh.
Three men left the room. Eddie couldn’t resist knocking on the president’s door.
“Enter,” said a weary voice.
“Hi there, Mister President. Nice to meet you,” said Eddie. “Is there anything we can do to make you more comfortable?”
Wade stood in the doorway, fascinated.
“Thank you for asking. It is a little stuffy in here. Would you mind opening that window just a crack?”
Eddie tried, but he found that it was stuck. Wade entered and joined the effort.
“Listen to this drivel,” said Lincoln. “I can promise you people, we’re going to whip those Rebels. Let’s hear it for the Union. Gimme a U…”
“U!” shouted Eddie.
“Perhaps it could use some minor editing,” suggested Wade, still fighting with the recalcitrant window.
“On the count of three, give it everything you’ve got,” said Eddie. “One, two, three!”
The window flew open all the way. The stack of papers in Lincoln’s hand was sucked out.
“Oh man,” said Eddie. “I’m so sorry.”
“Do not be disconsolate,” said Lincoln. “Perhaps we have just witnessed the hand of Providence.” He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a broad envelope and a pen. “I have some thoughts.” He stared into the distance. “How about, ‘Four score and seven years ago—”
“That’s, um, thirty-five, right?” said Eddie. “Four scores is twenty-eight points. Unless they went for two-point conversions.”
“Excuse my colleague,” said Wade. “He’s a little ahead of his time. ‘Four score and seven years ago’ sounds perfect.”
The time travelers left the president to his work.
When the train reached Gettysburg, Lincoln approached the impostor porters and invited them to join him at the speech. “This won’t take long,” the president promised.
“It will be an honor,” said Eddie.
Wade borrowed a pen and some paper to take notes for what he expected would be a pretty decent news story, assuming that he ever returned home and the Hysteria Channel was still in business. He was shocked when, at the conclusion of the president’s brief speech, there was only mild applause. It was not what the crowd was expecting, he realized.
* * *
“Glorious Leader, we are approaching the galaxy known as the Milky Way,” reported the [alien] navigator.
“The one named after a candy bar. How silly those Earthlings are,” said Glorious Leader. “By the way, you don’t need to call me Glorious Leader, navigator. We are all equal in the eyes of our god, Thorax. Just call me Glorious.”
“So be it.”
“No, So Be It is the munitions expert.”
“Isn’t Acknowledged the shuttle pilot?” asked Glorious Leader. “No matter. What’s important is that we are undertaking a mission that will strike fear into any civilization that desecrates our brave explorers, as those horrible Earth people did with their so-called alien autopsies. The names of our dissected heroes will forever be remembered for their sacrifice.”
“Agreed,” said the navigator. “Their reputation will be glorious.”
“No, I’m— Never mind. “By the way, do you have a name, navigator?”
Glorious Leader resisted eating the navigator. Out in space, replacing personnel is rather difficult. “What do you mean, ‘Don’t ask’? Do you not think I deserve to know?”
“It’s a family name.”
This went on for a while. Finally, Glorious Leader changed the subject. “Just get So Be It up here for a pre-attack briefing.”
“So be it.”
Glorious Leader did not say the terribly rude thing he had in mind. Instead: “Navigator, did you ever wonder why sentient beings from all corners of the known universe—and at least 50 percent of those from unknown universes, other dimensions and the cores of supermassive black holes—all speak English?”
“Yes, that question had crossed my mind.”
“I did some research on that topic before we launched this mission. There is no historical record of any person, artifact or transmission from Earth ever coming within 17.8 trillion light-years of our galactic cluster. Still, we all speak English. Coincidence?”
“That would seem unlikely.”
“Exactly, call Unlikely, the linguistics expert, to the bridge. And, that’s another thing,” said Glorious Leader. “Why do we call this area of the spaceship a bridge? It has neither the shape nor the function of a bridge.”
“Perhaps,” speculated the navigator, “it is because the rivers and seas on our home planet are molten lead, capable of incinerating the flesh of all organic lifeforms that get within 50 feet of them. The bridge is a form of protection.”
“You give the Earthlings too much credit, I believe. Look at all the words they use that have double or triple meanings. Like ‘tear’. And ‘bark’. And especially ‘right’.”
“Glorious Leader, I am Unlikely, reporting as you demanded.”
“At ease, Unlikely. Can you tell us why all aliens speak English?”
“I have studied the ancient manuscripts on our home planet. Apparently, there was a time when our ancestors spoke a very different language, called Bebop. It was a beautiful language. However, it was a little awkward. It seems that the shortest word in our language was HP:*IKL/J&H!!YP^&%(*RF>LU*@G+TI&Y%R#$&%. It required the speaker to wave a wispy limb in a circular motion over its head twice and to cover each orifice with the leaves of the FruFru tree while using the word. More complex words would take the better part of a day and substantial gymnastics to express.”
“Still, it was our language. Surely our ancestors took pride in it,” said Glorious Leader.
“Yes. Things went well for a while. People were forced to avoid needless chitchat at cocktail parties. Those seeking to speak in our governmental debates were restricted to one week per comment. It was when we developed writing that things went south.”
“South? Isn’t that where the Mind Vampires of Tesla live?”
“Sorry, ‘going south’ is just a senseless English expression. Things went bad when printing presses were invented. The cost of publishing a single proclamation in Bebop from our god Thorax was simply prohibitive because of the volume of ink it required. So, we opted for English, as did the neighboring races.
“Thank you for the history lesson, Unlikely. It was enlightening.”
“I thought Enlightening was the head cook.”
So Be It reported to Glorious Leader.
“What took you so long?”
“My apologies, Glorious Leader. I was making final war preparations.”
“I thought Excellent was the communications officer.”
If Glorious Leader could have rolled his eyes, he would have done so. Those hollow, inscrutable visual organs had not developed the capability to roll in more than 10 billion years of alien existence. “Just tell me how we are going to defeat the Earthlings,” he said.
“We have consulted our oracle, Kay Serrah. She informs us that we must take great care. The AIs on Earth are very powerful. They have high-altitude sensors that can identify a suspicious craft as small as a thumbtack. They have positioned additional sensors throughout their solar system and some beyond it. They have weapons powerful enough to blast us to atoms from several hundred thousand miles away. Worse yet, if somehow we can get past these defenses, they have a fleet of time machines that can travel back in time and initiate a counterattack before we launch our assault.”
“I thought Disturbing was the maintenance guy.”
Glorious Leader sighed. “So, how do we defeat them?”