One Night

(A Flash Fiction piece by Bruce Baker)

The man perched on the sheer cliff overlooking a steel blue sea and stared into a reddening sky. He seemed to be lost in his thoughts, although why one so young should have such deep thoughts was a mystery.  He was barely twenty-one, yet his eyes gazed outward with a much older, much wiser sight. A barely discernable sound on the hill behind him roused him from his reverie. Oh no, he thought, I had hoped to escape the madness here.

From around the bend in the path, a young woman cautiously approached him, nervous of the height of the cliff and the pounding of the surf below. The man recognized her as a first-year student in his theology class. Puzzled as to why she was here, he murmured, “Why didn’t you go join the others? I’m certain they’d be better company than I will.”

She stood behind him quietly, pondering her response. “I didn’t feel like doing anything they were doing. I saw you go this way, and thought I’d see where you went.”

He laughed, “As you can plainly see, I’m just sitting here, lost in my own mind. Pretty boring stuff. What were the others going to do?”

She sat beside him on the cold stone. “Some went to the church. Others decided to have an orgy in the common room. Of course, there were more than a few that jumped from rooftops. The rest started burning everything in sight. The campus was quite pretty when I left.”

“Everyone has to deal with their own mortality in their own way, I guess,” he quipped.

She added, “Before the television went off the air, they reported chaos all over.”

“Except here,” he added.

“Except here,” she agreed.

“So, you’re telling me that the ideas of wanton destruction or group sex didn’t interest you at all?”

She giggled. The sound seemed so out of place. “I guess, I figured there must be something more than that, you know?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Do you mind if I stay? Sit with you a while?”

“Be my guest. I’m afraid that I will not be nearly as interesting as your other options, but you are welcome to stay.”

She focused back on the growing redness in the sky. “How soon will it happen?”

“Well, technically it happened about two weeks ago. The explosion destroyed our orbiting solar observatory in the first minute. That was our tip-off. Of course, no one told us until it became obvious that something was wrong. I guess they wanted to minimize the nonsense people do.”

“The sun has been looking ‘funny’ more and more every day. I just accepted the scientists word that it was a normal solar function. Even now, it’s hard to believe the sun isn’t there anymore.”

He shuddered, “We can see the result of the nova. The speed of light means that what we visualize only happened a minute ago, but the blast wave is moving much slower, about eight miles per second. That would take more like two weeks to get here. Should be any time now.”

“The news said that the rich and famous were moving into underground bunkers to escape – the ones that they built for the war that never happened.”

That made him laugh. “There isn’t a way to escape this. Even if they managed to beat the shock wave, the expanding plasma would incinerate them.”

“So why sit here? Why stare it in the face?”

“Is that what you think I am doing? No, I’m not bravely looking into oblivion. I’m staring at the demons within me – coming to some sort of peace with them.”

“Any success?”


“Will it hurt – at the end?”

“No. It’ll just be too quick, like a train, only this train will be moving at 28,000 miles per hour. Your nervous system won’t even have time to record that it happened before it’s over.”

She gazed upward into the stars just popping into existence. “I wonder. Do you think there are others out there – people like us?”

“Probability says there are, but the odds are they would be nothing like us.”

“I wonder what they call their world?”

“I would imagine that they called it Earth – I believe that all intelligent creatures would refer to their world as Earth, in their language of course.”

“Will they notice what happened to us?”

“If their instruments are pointed the right way, they should though it might take hundreds of years. If not, then we die alone.”

She huddled closer to him. “I’m cold,” she whispered.

He held her close, welcoming the intimacy of the moment. Their tentacles intertwined until the two of them resembled more of a fuzzy ball than living beings. No more words. They huddled together on the cliff as the night crept in until…


The Box

(A quick piece of flash fiction)

Ed Jenkins raised his head when the door opened. He was the proprietor of the Russell General Store and Post Office and, as such, immediately recognized the young man in the doorway, but not the strange parcel he carried. “Hey Tom,” he called, “Whatcha got there!”

Tom’s replied as sarcastically as possible, “You old fool. What’s it look like?”

“Well – it looks like a box.”

“Ain’t that amazing! That’s what I thought too.”

The parcel in question was indeed a battered box wrapped in plain brown paper torn in enough places that the brown cardboard showed through. On the front were a large number of stamps, hastily applied, for the postage. Tom continued, “I reckoned that, since it had postage and all, I should bring it here first.”

Ed looked closer at the box and saw the name of the addressee. “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! Why didn’t you tell me it was for ol’ Mrs. Pritchard?” He looked over his shoulder at the boys playing checkers at the back table. “Boys, I need you to go fetch Mrs. Pritchard on Maple Street. You know who I mean?”

The boys nodded their agreement. Everyone in town knew the old woman who lived at the end of Maple. Off they ran to get her.

Ed and Tom turned their attention back to the box. Tom was first to speak. “What do you think’s in it?”

“Danged if I know. Been a long time since anyone sent a package here.”  Ed’s reply carried both a sense of shock and wonder to it. He continued, “Can’t remember the last time we received something like this.” He and Tom stood in silence gazing at the package for a few minutes when Ed added, “What’s taking those boys so long? Maple is just one street over.”

Just then, Mrs. Smith entered the shop. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the box. “Where in the world did THAT come from?” she exclaimed.

Ed matter-of-factly said, “Part of the return address was torn off, but looks like a Kansas City zip code.”

Mrs. Smith exhaled in wonder. “Kansas City!” Just then, the door burst open, followed by the two boys at full gallop. Some distance behind them tottered old Molly Pritchard muttering something under her breath. One could feel the excitement rise to a fever pitch as the four people in the room impatiently waited on her to enter.

“Well, Ed, what’s the big rush here,” she said.

Ed tried to appear calm, “You got a package, Molly – all the way from Kansas City.”

Her hands trembled as she approached the box and began fumbling with the tape that held it together. “Don’t recall ever knowing anybody in Kansas City.”

More people had entered the store. The boys had spread the news around a bit while going about their errand. It now appeared that the entire town was on the way to the store. Everyone’s head turned every which way to get a better view of the box and hopefully see what was about to be found inside. Excited voices whispered back and forth about what it could contain. The unveiling had turned into quite an event.

At last, Mrs. Pritchard removed the last of the wrapping paper, and because her mother had brought her up right, she carefully folded it for further examination later.

An exasperated voice called from the back, “Come on! Get on with it!”

Her response was equally curt, “My box. My time. Just shut up!”

At long last, the box revealed its contents. There, sitting in the box, was a beautifully embroidered nightdress that someone had wrapped around a bottle of perfume – presumably to keep it from breaking. At the bottom of the box was an envelope. On the front was the single word, Molly.

By now, her hands were shaking so severely that Ed asked if he could help her open the letter. She nodded her approval. He deftly used an old opener in his drawer and deftly removed the contents of the envelope. He carefully handed it back to her.

The room was hushed as she read the message quietly to herself.  When she had finished, tears running down her wrinkled face, she fainted.

Fortunately, the crowd had been pressed close enough to her that they cushioned her fall. Quickly, they laid her on the floor and tried to revive her while someone went to fetch a doctor. Mrs. Smith had been standing next to her and had picked up the letter as it fell from Molly’s fingers. Curious as to what would have caused the older woman to react that way, she read it and gasped at the significance of the contents.

Her voice quivered as she addressed the rest of the assemblage. “The letter – the package is from her husband.” The crowd became still, so quiet that it was like they weren’t even there. “He says. ‘I made a quick trip to KC to make some deliveries and found these in one of the shops you like. With any luck, they’ll get to you by Christmas. I will be finished with business by the end of the year and will make my way back to you. Love, Henry.’ The letter is dated December 20, 2025.” Mrs. Smith was sobbing as she put the note on the counter. “All this time, she’s prayed that he was still alive somewhere, surviving in one of the smaller towns.”

Tom’s voice rose out of the group. “I found the package in an old postal truck that had rolled off the highway up by Salina. Looters had pretty well trashed the inside, but this one was small enough that it slid under the driver’s seat in the crash. Recognized Mrs. Pritchard’s name right off and brought it here to Russell for her.”

The doctor had long since arrived and was attending to Molly. After a bit, saddened, the doctor got up. The people watched expectantly and sighed in unison when she silently shook her head back and forth. Molly was gone.

“Christmas? Christmas of 2025?” one of the men asked, suddenly remembering the day’s significance. “Wasn’t that the day the bombs went off?” Not many were alive who remembered that day, and those who rarely talked about it.

Ed nodded in agreement. He remembered it like it was yesterday. Silence welcomed him as he spoke. “The country had been at war with itself for years. Didn’t appear there was anything ‘united’ about the United States anymore. The Ruskies and the Chinese took advantage of our civil problems, snuck some nukes in through the borders, and took out our major cities in one blow. KC was one of them. Millions of people died in only a few seconds. Millions more from the radiation that followed. Golly, that must have been thirty years ago now. We counter-attacked, of course, but after our missiles flew, it got real quiet around here. Best we could tell, everyone lost – we knew that we had. There were a lot of bad times between then and now. We were spared the worst because the north wind blew the fallout mostly to the south.”

He looked out over the hushed crowd. There was no way to explain how bad it had been. He knew that they couldn’t possibly understand. Hell, over half of them hadn’t been born yet. He silently went back behind the counter as the crowd began to disperse.

The next day, they buried Molly Pritchard. The entire town had assembled to honor her.  They put her in the pretty nightdress her husband had sent and sprinkled the perfume on her grave. Clutched in her hands was a note – his note. There wasn’t a lot of wailing and crying. The people of Russell were good folks, people of faith. They knew in their hearts that when she left this world, her husband was waiting there with an outstretched hand.

The Christmas Bicycle

The Christmas Bicycle by Bruce Baker

Christmas Eve was special in our house. We would all gather around the tree after Mass to open our gifts from each other. It was a tradition of sorts. My parents had celebrated this way, as had my wife’s family. After the gifts were opened and the assorted snacks devoured, my wife and I sent the kids packing off to bed, where they anticipated the arrival of Santa Claus. I sat alone in my chair, cradling an 18-year-old bottle of Glenlivet that was begging to be opened.

Once the children were all in bed, my wife and I assembled and staged the “big” Santa gifts. She took care of the younger two while I retreated to the garage, where a large box awaited me. My eldest had requested a bicycle, and I was not going to disappoint him.

Before starting my labors, I felt the need to christen the evening with a wee dollop of the scotch I had been given. I sipped it gently, savoring every drop as it coursed down my throat. That mission accomplished; I opened the box.

I glanced at the manual. Most of the time, I found manuals to be confusing at best and useless at worst. I stopped reading at the point where it said: “Assembling your brand-new bicycle will take approximately thirty minutes.” Thirty minutes! No one should need a manual for a thirty-minute project. I had promised my wife that I would follow instructions, so I continued reading to see what tools were required. I know I should have done this before Christmas Eve, but, in my defense, what special tools would be needed for a thirty-minute project?

The six tools required for the job appeared simple enough. I would need a tire pump, several different sizes of Alan wrenches, a Phillips head screwdriver, some scissors, a 5/8 inch wrench, and a 14mm wrench. I casually sipped another shot of scotch as I wondered, “Alan’s?” “Phillip’s? “”What kind of idiot names his tools?” No matter, I was positive that my tools were every bit as useful as Alan’s and Phillip’s any day! Thus, armed with my tools, I boldly set forth, expecting to be done long before visions of sugarplums stopped dancing in my child’s head.

I took another shot of scotch.

My suspicions concerning the intelligence of the manual writer were justified in the first step of the process. The instructions clearly read: “Place the front wheel on the bike. Loosen the bolts enough to allow the fork to slide on to the wheel.” Right off the bat, and they use a tool they didn’t indicate I needed upfront. Maybe they felt that kitchen utensils didn’t count. Nonetheless, I made a quick trip to the kitchen and returned with a fork in hand and…

I took a shot – no sipping this time. I just pumped that baby right on back.

OK, this was totally unacceptable. No matter how I held this darn fork, it would not slide on that wheel or anywhere else. I completely removed the bolts, and there was still no way to make it work. I flung the fork across the garage where it stuck in the corkboard – vibrating furiously. These instructions were more than useless. The guy who wrote this trash had to be a complete moron. He had probably never actually assembled anything before in his miserable life! In a fit of rage, and despite the promise I had made to my wife, I shredded them with my bare hands and put them in the trash where they belonged.

To calm my nerves, I took another shot.

Whether it was the liberation of my technical skills from the paper leash or the liberation of my psyche under the influence of alcohol, the bicycle’s assembly proceeded more quickly than before. However, there were still problems to overcome. The screws had plus signs instead of slots, a significant design flaw that I fixed using screws from the lawnmower instead.

Only a few of the bolts they gave me had the right head on them; the others had a silly star-shaped hole. What idiots! I uncovered some proper bolts leftover from some project or other and continued. I never threw anything away.

Next, I discovered that it was impossible to tighten the handlebars. Still, it was stable enough provided the boy paid attention. Of course, the wheels were a bit wobbly as well, undoubtedly a result of bad engineering. I resolved that first thing on the 26th, the company would get a nasty letter from me.

At last, the bicycle stood completed in front of me. I picked up the half-empty bottle and took a good hard hit as I glanced around the work area. There seemed to be a lot of spare parts. I was always amazed at how wasteful companies were. Almost all my projects had a lot of spare parts. I looked over toward a large bucket that sat against the wall. That was my spare part bucket. I put all of the new “spares” in my hand and, using my best free-throw pitch, managed to get most of the parts into the bucket on the first go.

I felt really pleased with myself. So delighted, in fact, I drained the last of the scotch in one long pull as a congratulatory toast before shuffling off to bed.

An old friend of mine, State Senator Keith Leftwich (deceased) once told me that “You never mention your opponent in your advertising. Words are power, and you shouldn’t pay someone to give your opponent name recognition.”

Keith had a point. This morning, I was thinking about the District 2 Congressional race. The first name I thought of was Stephanie Bice. For a moment, I wondered why her name came up first. The answer? I saw an attack ad from the Horn campaign last night before I went to bed. Words are power indeed.

For both Democrats and Republicans, this may be a problem. A quick survey of Facebook showed twenty mentions of Trump and only five for Biden. All of them negative. Why? Is there any Republican who hasn’t heard about Joe’s age, or potential senility (real or imagined), or that he has been in office for most of our lives? I am guessing that the answer is no.

Same thing on the Democratic side. If there is any party member who hasn’t heard ad nauseum the litany against Trump, he or she is probably dead. With Trump, the situation is even worse. There is basically nothing being said about him today that wasn’t said four years ago…and he won.

More importantly, is there any member of either party who doesn’t turn off the negative vibes about their own candidate? I think not.

Wouldn’t it be better to PROMOTE your candidate rather than tear the other one down? Tell us what your person stands for. What will they do? What have they done? Go after the independents with positives about your party and your position.

Whoops, I said the “I” word, independent. Right now, in the USA there are more independents than there are Democrats, or Republicans. These are people who have lost faith in the party, and vote for the person. Without them, neither party can pull together a majority of the voting population which makes them pretty important, right? 

Never forget what Keith said while putting up signs years ago. Words have power. Always have, always will.

A Matter of Perspective

Over the years, I have rarely thought about what the passion might have meant to Jesus’ followers. They were just beginning to come to grips with his divinity. Primarily, they knew him as a man. Mary of Magdala would have seen Jesus as an incredible man who cared not for the past but only looked toward the future. How could she have helped but love him?

How could things go this wrong? How could the world turn upside down in only a week? At first, things were wonderful, exciting, amazing; and, now things are so…so devastatingly awful. The crowds gave us a hero’s welcome when we arrived. Everyone was all smiles, waving and cheering for us – well actually for him. He was of course the draw, the one they had all come to see. The rest of us were just his entourage, the groupies and roadies tagging along for the ride, and what a ride it had been. There were only a few of us girls in the group, but that was OK. We all got along just fine. The crowds, small at first, had been steadily growing at each stop. More and more people coming from all over to see him. They were not disappointed either. He was a rising star after all. The group had been on the road non-stop for months now, and now it was time to take a break. I for one was ready for some down time.

He and I had had met when he passed through my city a year or so ago. He had stopped by to get a bite at a mutual friend’s home and he had introduced us. We hit it off right away – an instant connection. He was just so easy to talk to. His very presence was intoxicating. When he spoke, even if there were others around, it was like he was speaking only to me. Later, we did have other chances to talk – just the two of us, and it was magical. He really got me…understood me, and I loved him. I knew that there was no one else for me. So, when he left my town, I felt that I had no choice but to join his band and follow.

Nothing ever “happened” between us of course, not that I would have objected. Besides, our relationship was…complicated, and it never seemed the right time to bring up romance and love, so I didn’t. I just continued to tag along with the others, savoring the brief moments he and I were together, and trying not to look like I cared when he touched another girl’s hand or laughed at her jokes, even if it tore me up when he did. He was just so full of life and love that it spilled out all around him. I doubt he ever noticed. Still, now I wish I had said or done something to show how I had felt because now I will never get that chance. I will never know if he felt the same way about me.

A few nights ago, a bunch of us had dinner and a few drinks. For the most part, it was a great time. One of the guys had a bit too much to drink and made a fool of himself in the process, but that only dampened the mood for a moment; otherwise It was a near perfect evening. Afterwards, he suggested that we take a walk in the garden. I rushed to his side in agreement. There was a perfectly clear sky full of stars with only a crescent moon to add to the spectacle. The air smelled of flowers and damp earth. It had seemed a perfect end to a perfect evening, until suddenly it wasn’t.

Without any warning, someone attacked us. It happened so fast, but in that solitary moment, he was taken from me…from us. Just like that, he was gone. In my mind, I can still see the curve of his jaw, his hair, his sparkling eyes, his smile. Right before he died. I was standing so close that I could touch him. One second, he was alive, the next dead. One moment a life of promise, the next an empty shell… rather two empty shells for my heart collapsed in that moment, and my soul became as desolate a place as had ever been. In an instant, my reason for existence was gone. How could I…why should I continue?

When we buried him, I watched as they carried his body into the cemetery and put him in a vault at the back. There were no crowds now, no adoring fans, just us – and not all of us at that. I wanted so badly to run up and embrace his corpse, to let my tears wash him, to take in his scent one last time. How was this happening? It was so surreal. I couldn’t think. I didn’t want to think. He would have been the first person to tell me to “let it go” and get on with my life, but I hated what had happened and how it had destroyed so many “might have beens”. As the days passed, I moved in slow motion as the others grieved along with me, a friendly pat on a hand, a few words of consolation, a sad smile of knowing. They say it helps not being alone at a time like this, but the people around me were suffocating me. I needed to get out for a while. I need to talk to him.

A short time later, I begged away and soon found myself walking down the path to his resting place – I couldn’t bring myself to call it a grave. It was so peaceful here. I felt calmer than I had since he left me. Even though he was dead, his presence seemed to linger in the surrounding landscape. As I tenuously climbed the small hill, a sense of dread came over me. At first, I thought I was imagining things, but then I could see that things were not right. Something in fact was terribly wrong. The place where we had laid his body was now a gaping hole! No body occupied the space. Someone had taken him! But who? For what purpose? My heart pounded as I hurriedly scanned the surroundings, grasping at straws to come to grips with what had happened.

Wait! Over there, maybe that gardener saw something. I ran to him, spun him around and asked, begged him to tell me what had happened. Through my tears, I looked up into a smile and eyes that even God could not duplicate and almost fainted when he called me “Mary”.

A day in 8th grade

“Mr. Baker? Can I go to the bathroom?”, Marta pleaded with eyes and voice as she danced around the entrance to the classroom obviously in distress.

I paused just a moment, tempted to play the old standard joke of “I certainly hope you can by age 13.”, then I thought better of it and simply waved her on her way.

Less than a minute later, one of the boys, Mario, posed the same question. There was no visible perception of need, but then again boys tend to be less demonstrative. I waved him on and returned my attention to the rest of the class. In about a nanosecond, I realized the error of my actions. I continued talking to the class as I walked to the open door where I had a clear view down the hallway. There, I spied Marta and Mario casually holding hands about half-way to the bathroom. Mario happened to glance back and saw me. He gave me a sheepish grin as he realized that there would be no chance for a brief kiss. Their tryst interrupted, they exchanged only a smile and a brief hand squeeze before parting ways.

Spring had sprung.

It is a right of passage of course, one as old as the institution of adolescence. The sudden discovery that boys and girls are different and that they don’t have cooties anymore. Susie discovers that Josh really is “kinda cute” despite his greasy hair and spouting acne, and for some reason doesn’t smell as bad as he did yesterday. Josh realizes that Susie is so much more than the girl he used to torment by pulling her dog ears on the playground. These discoveries rock their world.

It’s not that this experience is unique to 8th graders. In truth, some 6th graders and pretty much all the 7th grade girls make this association as well. Thus, the girls from the lower grades swamp the boys from 8th causing the 8th girls to retaliate. Even though most of them only have eyes for H.S boys, the thought of a younger student invading “their domain” is unthinkable. As all this sexual tension swirls around like a cyclone picking up speed, their question remains, “What are we supposed to do about it?”

When the adolescent mind makes that switch from “uuuuugggghhhh” to “ohhhhhhhh” regarding the opposite sex, the resulting adjustment in his or her psyche is immense. To say they are confused is an understatement. Thus, the boys chase the girls, and the girls chase the boys, yet they have no idea what to do when he or she catches her or him. All they know for certain is that the chase must continue. It just feels right. The reason will have to wait for another time.

Regardless of the age the transition occurs, the result for the unawares classroom teacher is equally traumatic. No longer are they cute little children sitting obediently, expectantly in their desks. Bodies expand exponentially filling desks and popping buttons on blouses and shirts. Legs shoot out the end of pants looking very much like Jack’s proverbial beanstalk in length and speed, and – they smell. Often, as puberty erupts, the middle school classrooms and hallways have more a barnyard flavor than anything else. Every classroom, regardless of its original purpose becomes a petri dish of bacteria, AXE body spray, and hormonal pheromones. Bathroom humor in the form of bodily noises, abandoned at age 6 makes a dramatic comeback that has students rolling on the floor at the sound of a fart, be it real or faux. Teachers with easily stimulated olfactory senses should possibly reconsider their calling.

Amidst all this turmoil, our would-be-romantics must find their “balancing point” between what they want versus what the school will allow them to do. As many schools have rules against PDA (public display of affection), the job of the young lovers is to discover at what level the school’s administration will deliver the “hammer blow” of discipline upon them. They test these limits by incrementally increasing their daring with all the precision of a well-planned science experiment. It is possible, therefore, to discover two students sitting so close that they seem to occupy the same seat. Even though the teacher was unaware that this attraction was building, the students were gradually getting closer every day at lunch until they reached the “limit”. Of course, they will deny vehemently any feelings for each other as they separate – just a little – and go about the rest of the meal. Later, they and their friends will huddle together outside – even when its 80 degrees or higher, because they are “cold”. She wears his jacket. The scent of her perfume has a place in his aura.

It is in this science experiment on steroids that students learn so much about who they are, and it behooves the middle school teacher to help them on that journey. There needs to be a clear delineation between what is permissible and what is not, and the faculty and staff must be vigilant in their enforcement. Here, more than anywhere else, is where the student learns to respect themselves as well as others. Here is where boys learn that girls are not their playthings, and girls learn to demand respect and consideration from would be suiters. Here they become aware of what is acceptable in public and what is private and how to make that decision based on their own observations. One will not find this in any curriculum or study guide. In the laboratory of life, the young people live the lesson minute to minute and day by day not subject to subject.

A letter from Miguel

Miguel is not a real person. This “letter” was drawn from the experiences of some of my middle-school students.

What Makes America Special

By Miguel Hernandez, 5th grade

                America is special because it has freedom. My teacher told me so. It must be true. I know that freedom means we can grow up and do whatever we want to do and be whoever we want to be. I agree that is special, but how do you make it work?

                Mi papi is second generation American, born in Joplin, Missouri. Yesterday, the police pulled him over on the side of the highway during a routine check. He had just picked me up from school, and I was in the car with him. They told mi papi to keep his hands on the wheel while they checked him out. A lot of other cars went by, and nobody stopped them. The officers then had mi papi get out of the car and put his hand on the roof. I was so scared. I was afraid they were going to arrest him and send him away. I shouldn’t have been afraid. The police searched the car, and after about thirty-minutes, they let us go.

                Mi Tio Rodrigo, my father’s brother, wasn’t so lucky. His license had expired, so they took him to jail and called ICE. He is an American too, so he wasn’t worried. ICE thought he resembled someone on their list, so they took him to a detention facility. Mi familia had to hire a lawyer to go down and straighten it all out. They were sorry they had made a mistake, but we had to pay hundreds of dollars to the lawyer anyway.

                When we went to visit my cousins in Mexico, we had a wonderful time, until we came back. We sat in the heat at the border crossing for two hours! We all had our passports and everything! Many people checked our papers and many others went over our car again and again. Finally, without a word of apology, the customs men waved us off, and we left.

I asked my friends at school if these things happened to their fathers and mothers. They said no. They had seen the checkpoints, but the police had never been pulled them over for anything. They asked me what my father and uncle had done wrong. I didn’t know. When I got home, I asked them. They didn’t know either.

                So, I am confused. What does freedom look like? I need to find out so I can get some for my family and I. After all, I am an American, so I am supposed to have it. Aren’t  I?

What is truth?

In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells Pilate that he is here to “testify to the truth” Pilate then retorts, “What is truth?” Then as now, this was and is a valid statement from any government official. They know quite well that the “truth” is whatever the rich and powerful say it is and that the history books are written by the “winners” in life. They pull our strings and encourage us to capitulate and accept the truth presented and to not question its voracity.

Let me assure the reader that I am not jumping on the “Fake News” bandwagon preached by the current administration. I firmly believe that the “news” we receive is not fake. The core events happen as reported in most cases. However, the commentary that accompanies it is more slanted and tends to alter our opinions to move in lock-step with those of the news executives.

After all, that is what editorial commentary has always been about – presenting the thoughts and ideals of a person or group of persons in the light of an event. Today though, commentary often directly follows the news report without qualification or segue, and that is where the news becomes “fake” or at least not validated. As an example, a recent NBC Breaking News item on Michael Cohen started off just fine with a two-minute reporting of the facts. The network immediately followed this with twenty-minutes of various experts giving their take on what occurred – all of which they presented as actual news not the commentary it was.

The same holds true for major tragedies – weather events come to mind. There are great swaths of time where nothing is going on, yet the weather staff is unwilling to release its captives, us, for even a moment. They fill the gaps with observers reporting the same thing over and over accompanied by comments from the weathercasters so afraid that they might miss something the other stations catch.

Is there any wonder that we have become so jaded when it comes to news? Can we not see where the “fake news” proponents get the grist for their mill? As bad as the major networks are, the twenty-four- hour cable versions are that much worse. They fill their days with commentary and diatribe cast about as “real news”. Their programming reflects the position of their ownership, the rich and powerful as it were.

It is our responsibility to separate the chaff from the wheat. We must listen for the key words “I think…”, “It might…”, or any other wording that indicates something other than a concrete fact. Secondly, we must limit our access to daily news. It is far too easy for us to fall into a news addiction and to have our own decision-making abilities scrambled as a result. When we listen to commentary, we should accept it as commentary – opinion, not fact. We, as Pilate, must ask “What is truth?