Speaking Truth To Power: A Useless Diatribe by Meryl Streep

Speaking Truth To Power: A Useless Diatribe by Meryl Streep

Contrary to what you might think, I don’t hate Meryl Streep. I’m not exactly what you call a fan, mind you, but that’s only because movies about Fashionable Devils with ABBA soundtracks aren’t my thing. If that’s you’re thing, more power to you. But it’s not mine.

For the record, I’ve liked what I’ve seen. She was good in that Prairie Home Companion movie, and she does an BOSS impersonation of that one cooking lady who’s name I can’t remember. Outside of that, my impression of Meryl’s work has been that, since I see her nominated for an Oscar almost every year, she has to be decent. Right?

What I’m saying is this isn’t about Meryl’s body of work. But that’s okay. Neither was her speech. Which was at an awards show. Celebrating her body of work.

Let’s analyze the speech and see what we can find. She’s in bold.

Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you.

You’re welcome. You know it’s nice when artists thank the people who actually support and pay for their work and I, for one, think…

… This town, thank you. I love you all

Nevermind.

but you’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend

Next time I get invited to party at the Streep household, I’m there. Lamentations! If your Sunday hangover is so huge you have to resort to regret on a Biblical scale, you know you had a good time.

and I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year. So I have to read.

It always amazes me when actors read a prepared speech at an awards show. You spend your entire life and all your available energy learning to communicate well and now, when you get the chance to be You™ in front of a large crowd, you read a prepared statement.

Ah well. At least we know this speech will be well thought out, comprised of the kind of insights only an actor of Streep’s caliber can share. I can’t wait!

Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press, just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said. You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.

I’m sure Black Lives Matter Activits, The Police, Muslim Americans, The Homeless, Homosexuals, and many other marginalized groups who face ACTUAL vilification are excited to hear you, a multi-millionaire white woman, claim the mantle of “most vilified in America.”

But who are we? And what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places.

Pretty much any group anywhere is “a bunch of people from other places.”

I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey.

You were born in a public school in New Jersey? That’s an interesting story right there! That sounds like a great movie. “Young woman born in a public schoolhouse in New Jersey rises above the poverty and degredation around her to deliver quasi-political speeches at Hollywood awards shows!”

Starring Viola Davis as Meryl Streep.

Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids from Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Veneto, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem.

Here, Streep shows that she has access to both Google and Wikipedia, and may have even investigated these sites herself! Earlier, when she asked “who are we?” I should have answered: “The kind of superficial that reads the first two paragraphs of a Wikipedia article and assumes you ‘know’ someone.”

And as for your other question: “What is Hollywood?” It is an ethnically diverse, densely populated, relatively low-income neighborhood in the central region of Los Angeles, California.

Where are their birth certificates?

Ha HA! Zing! … Right?

I mean, sure, the whole birther thing is almost a decade old at this point, and even people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have been saying for years that it’s ridiculous to go down that route. But still. Zing.

I guess.

And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in — no — in Ireland, I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a small-town girl from Virginia.

So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.

When I worked for a small, liberal arts college in Columbus, Ohio, I had the opportunity to work out with a former member of the football team who had recently fallen to injury. The man was 350lbs with a gut so large he was almost spherical. But he could move like a cat! He crawled around in football drills so swiftly you would have thought he was an alien. And he could bench press a Buick. It was one of the most shocking things I had ever seen. This, from a man who played backup O-line for a D3 school in Ohio. He never had a shot at the pros. He worked out like he was an addict because he loved the game and wanted to get back.

I know a few folks who have played professionally. I know a few other folks trying out for shows like American Ninja Warrior and MMA fighting. They are some of the smartest people I know, and the dedication they have for their craft – yes, there is a creative aspect to it – is a wonderful thing to see.

Meryl Streep has literally no idea what she is talking about here, and the fact that she feels it’s okay to denigrate these people to make a political point, as if practicing this craft somehow makes them less than, is insulting. This is why people make fun of celebrities.

Plus, she forgot about Reality Television. Even those stars can become President, I hear.

They gave me three seconds to say this.

1….2….

So an actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like

Says the woman who’s entire career has consisted of playing privileged white women in prominent movie roles that bring her millions of dollars.

and there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that, breathtaking, compassionate work.

Finally! Those actor insights we were talking about. I’m excited!

But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hook in my heart not because it was good. It was — there was nothing good about it, but it was effective, and it did its job.

You’re talking about this, aren’t you?

 

It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

Replace “Laughing” with “Gnashing” and you are DEFINITELY talking about Paul Blart Mall Cop 2.

It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart, and I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.

I did not vote for Donald Trump. His policies, if you can nail them down, will be disastrous if enacted. His insecurity and tendency to lash out is dangerous, and there are countless examples of his absolute lack of character. From his statements about deporting Muslims to his statements about women, it’s clear that a man like him shouldn’t be allowed near the White House.

That being said, this line of criticism has to stop. Here’s a video exploring Trump’s repeated use of the same hand-waving mannerism in many other situations where the people in question are not disabled.

Sure. There is room to argue that he knew the guy was disabled and did this intentionally. There is also room to see how this was Trump doing his normal thing when discussing people who criticize him.

There is a large grey area here, and the fact that the Media as well as prominent figures in Hollywood (of whom Streep says “an actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like”) feel it’s necessary to pounce on a thin issue like this and drive it home – when there are plenty of other reasons to criticize him – is exactly the reason why Trump will be President in a few days and it is exactly the sort of thing that will get him or someone like him re-elected in four years. Nevermind the fact that the entire issue surrounding this incident happened when most of the mainstream media clearly lied about Trump with respect to previous comments about people cheering in New York after 9/11 (source).

I was never going to vote for Trump. His actions during the campaign solidified that for me. But I also don’t believe in attacking a candidate based on lies or castigating him for intentions that are muddy at best.

The Media has a long history of this.

George W Bush, a relative moderate, was a racist/sexist/bigot/homophobe who doesn’t care about Black People. John McCain who, until he was nominated as president, was considered an aisle-crossing “Maverick” was a racist/sexist/bigot/homophobe who would almost certainly die while in office (he’s still alive and still serving as a Senator). Mitt Romney

Ask yourself this. If you are a liberal and you had to choose between Mitt Romney or Donald Trump as President, who would you choose? The fact that the media relentlessly characterizes anyone with a hint of conservatism in their background as a vile, racist, hate-monger is exactly why we have Donald Trump and not an actual conservative leading the Republican party. This “anyone who disagrees with me is the worst kind of Evil” approach has to stop. Because it’s stuff like this that got him elected and it’s continued stuff like this that will get him re-elected.

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and those who DO learn from history are doomed to sit by and watch those who didn’t learn from history doom the rest of us.

How much worse will things get before we change? Because they do it to everyone.

Disrespect invites disrespect.

Ladies and Gentlemen. The Golden Globe winner for “Understatement of the Year” and “The Reason Why I’m Writing this Blog Post” … Meryl Streep!

Violence insights violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

Good arguments for limited government.

This brings me to the press. We need the principal press to hold power to account to call them on the carpet for every outrage.

Note the word “every” in that statement. That doesn’t just mean “things with which I agree.”

That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedom in our Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists because we are going to need them going forward and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.

She doesn’t ask everyone in America. She doesn’t ask the people who love their families or communities. She doesn’t ask the people watching on television.

She asks the people in her community – the community of multi-millionaire, largely white actors who do not debase themselves with “Art!” outside their narrow definition – to be the Safeguards of Truth™ for the rest of us.

Solipsism at its finest, gang.

One more thing. Once when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something, you know, we were going to work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be very proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight. As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia said to me once, “Take your broken heart. Make it into art.” Thank you, friend.

Hey, look. Some acting insights! Finally!

I have no problem with Celebrities who choose to speak their minds at award shows. I don’t even have a problem with people who choose to speak against the current or impending administration. Free speech is Free Speech. Have at it.

There are two things about Meryl Streep’s speech that bug me, though. First, it was bad. It was self-centered, condescending toward anyone who isn’t already like her, and full of half-truths and media lies. Second, everyone ate it up solely because she attacked Trump. If disagreeing with Trump is the standard of excellence, our standards are shot. There are better, more effective ways to “speak Truth to power” as everyone likes to claim she did.

Meryl Streep did not accomplish this.

You know who was full of class and wit and charm? Viola Davis in her introduction of Meryl Streep for the award she failed to mention even once in her acceptance speech.

If she wrote that herself (and I see no reason to believe she didn’t), I’m excited to see what else she’s written. That was cool.

The Candidates

The Candidates

The problem with a two-party system (or even a 10-party system) is you have to make choices. Candidate A might say he wants to put an end to the death penalty and institute a complicated economic policy that is DAMN NEAR GUARANTEED to give everybody a million dollars. But he/she also hates people from Kansas and says he plans to nuke the state once elected. Candidate B wants to give away free cars to everyone in the electorate, but in order to do that you have to give all your money to the government, and 1/5 of all people in the United States will be sent to work camps three months out of the year.

If you vote for Candidate A, you will be called a Kansas-hater and all your friends will say the blood of the midwest is on your hands. If you vote for Candidate B, everyone will say you support the next, great American concentration camps. You will also be compared to Hitler at every turn. People will photoshop mustaches on your facebook photos. It will not be pretty.

Those are your choices. Pick one.

Sure, there are some third party candidates (and there is always the option of voting for baseball players like that one idiot you know), but the sad reality is either the Kansas-masher or the New Hitler will be your next President no matter what you do. You can choose the lesser of two evils or throw your vote away on a third party.

What do you do?

You think back to past elections, like the one in 2000 where Candidate Q promised to give everyone free healthcare but we had to change our middle name to “Feldspar.” Also, people named Bob had to break their pinky fingers over and over on months with more than four Fridays in them. He won. And what’s the world like today? Nobody is named Feldspar, and only a few people followed through on the pinky breaking thing. Everyone wonders whether they were stupid for doing that (hint: they were).

Then there was the candidate in 2004 who promised to really take the fight to the BadEvilDoers from OverThere-i-Stan, who everyone was afraid of for some damn reason. All he required was the right to run a porn website out of the White House and a cadre of people with red hair who followed him around all day telling him how awesome they thought he was. People didn’t like him all that much for that. Well … some people did, but those people are weird. Anyway, he fought the BadEvilDoers for a while, then gave up and focused on Education, which was nicer than the porn website, which never really took off in the end. And thank God for that!

So you realize that every time there has been a presidential election in this country, all the major candidates are painted as THE WORST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD by the opposition and the media and people with blogs and bad youtube channels. And yeah, this time around, Candidate A says he likes to grab women by their genitals and that he wants to deport people who worship the wrong God. And sure, some people say Candidate B sold our national secrets to our enemies and ruined the lives of those people who accused her husband of sexual assault when HE was in the White House, but are these things REALLY true? All the BadThings from past presidential cycles turned out to be not as bad as we might have thought. And, gosh, it sure would be nice to have that million dollars Candidate A keeps talking about. He probably won’t bomb Kansas, right? Who would do that? That’s crazy! If he does, maybe he’ll let people leave first BEFORE he bombs it. Why would anyone want to live in Kansas anyway? It’s so … flat!

Granted, both LOOK bad, and the supporters on both sides are RABID in their hatred of you for having made your choice, even though you REALLY don’t want to bomb Kasnas OR open up concentration camps so people can get a car. Nobody wants that. Not really. But that’s what everyone SAYS everyone else wants.

Because people are crazy in election seasons. Stark raving mad. Completely insane. Like that guy who votes for baseball players. Only with malicious intent.

So you walk into the voting booth and you vote for someone despite their many failings and hope for the best. Maybe it will be like last time. Maybe those BadThings won’t really happen. And, if they do, you plan to stand up to THE MAN even Your Candidate wins. Because you have some friends that live in Kansas. And you don’t like the idea of work camps. You vote for one of the two Candidates and you promise to work with the people on the other side as best you can. It would be nice if there was a Candidate out there who was AllGood and a Candidate who was Allbad. But, like Ben Stiller said in that one movie your college roommate kept watching all the time instead of working (or paying bills), “There aren’t any good guys. There aren’t any bad guys. It’s just a bunch of guys.” It would be nice if you could ignore the failings of one in support of the other. But you can’t. In the real world, you have to choose some things. People don’t always understand WHY you choose as you do, and they might call you names for having done it. But you still have to do it. Because this is real life and real living means making hard choices. Plus, you’d have to be an idiot to vote for a baseball player instead. Right?

Choosing things is hard. Life is hard. Sometimes these things just suck. The important thing to remember is that just because THINGS suck and CHOICES suck, it doesn’t mean YOU suck. And it doesn’t mean your friends suck, either. They did the best they could. God forgive us. We all did.

Except for that one guy who votes for baseball players. Man, that guy is an idiot.

Two More

Two More

Part 1: The Friendly Stop

Jim Thompson spent the final moments of the second-to-last day of his life on a stool at The Friendly Stop Bar & Grille. He was drunk, and he spoke loud to no one in particular. “The last thing I need,” he said, “is another woman.”

Sean Hinken, The Friendly Stop’s bartender, had already locked the door, wiped down the tables, and put up the chairs for the night. He looked at Jim and checked his watch. With anyone else, he’d have gone to his “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” routine, but this was different. Jim was different.

Sean and Jim went way back. They grew up down the street from each other, had played on the same little league baseball teams, and were roommates for a while in college. Jim had recently divorced Janice Thompson, his wife of 10 years and, while he made a habit of telling everyone how VERY HAPPY he was, the truth was Jim was miserable. In fact, he had spent nearly every night since the divorce right here on this stool, staring into his beer, hoping to forget, bit by bit, the woman who meant the world to him.

That’s exactly what he was doing when the Friendly Stop’s door swung, and in stepped a man Jim had never met before. He was an older gentleman with a bushy grey beard and a slick, white suit, like Colonel Sanders if he sold pharmaceuticals instead of fried chicken.

“Anyone know if you can get a good mint julep here?” the main said. “I’ve been dying for a mint julep and no one around here seems to know what they are.”

Jim was alone with the new visitor. Sean had retreated to the back to handle a delivery.

“’Fraid you’re outta luck,” Jim said. “All they got here is watered down beer, and fancy liquor bottles that sit on the shelves and make pretty colors when the light hits ‘em right.”

“Ah,” the man in the white suit said as he stepped fully inside. “The search will have to continue, then. Mind if I join you?”

“I think they’re about to close.” He glanced at the door. “In fact, I could have sworn Sean already locked up.”

The man in white approached the bar and smiled. “Actually, Jim, I was hoping to meet YOU here.”

“Do I … know you?”

“Where are my manners?” The man stood up straight and stuck out his left hand. “Pleased to meet you, Jim. Name’s Lucifer.”

“Lucifer?”

“Sometimes I go by Beelzebub or ‘Old Scratch.’ But you might know me as Satan.” He paused. “The devil?”

Jim laughed slowly and shook his hand. He knew a joker when he met one. He couldn’t quite see the punchline yet, but it was out there in the ether, waiting for him. He was sure of it. “Pleased to meet you, too” he said. Then, somewhat sarcastically: “Lucifer. What can I do you for?”

“I’ve got a business proposition for you.”

“A Business proposition, you say? Okay … shoot”

“I have three people running around out there – three bad, evil people – and I need you to kill them.”

“Sounds perfectly reasonable to me,” Jim said. “Do you want me to shoot them or should I sneak up from behind and attack? Like a ninja!”

“Whatever works best for you,” The man said. “As long as they’re dead.”

“Great! And what about compensation?”

“That’s the best part! You, good sir, will get none other than your heart’s deepest desire!”

“Sounds intriguing. I’ve always wanted a Mustang. Is that what I get? A Mustang? And maybe some donuts. I like donuts, too.”

“You’ll have to get to the end to find out.”

“Excellent,” the man said, smiling. “So do we have a deal.”

“Absolutely,” Jim said, a little too loudly. He could hear Sean coming out from the back. “Why don’t we drink to seal the deal?”

“I’ve had enough. You go ahead.”

“Suit Yourself.” Jim turned, and was about to yell out for more drinks from Sean as he came up from the back.

“This will be good for you, Jim,” the man said “I’m sure Janice would be proud.”

What did you say?!” Jim yelled. But, when he turned around, there was no one there.

PART 2: The Garage

Jim Thompson pulled into the bottom floor of his garage at work early the next morning He wore a pair of sunglasses, and he had a headache the size of Montana.

“What happened last night?” he thought. “And why do I feel like eating fried chicken?”

He shook off the headache as best he could. “No matter. Today, I turn over a new leaf. Today, I start new.”

Jim glanced at the picture of Janice he kept on his dashboard. The one from their honeymoon where she was laughing and trying to hide behind a beer bottle. Blue Moon was her favorite. She’d thumb little pieces of the label off so, by the time she was done with her beer, the label was in tatters. That’s how it looked in the picture. She looked happy. They both looked happy.

He sighed and stepped out.

“HELP!” A woman’s voice nearby. “SOMEBODY HELP ME!”

Jim ran over to see a large man attacking a woman next to a minivan. Jim grabbed the guy from behind, and they struggled. The guy was big, much bigger than Jim, and strong, too. But Jim caught him with a lucky elbow, and the guy fell backward, tripped, and cracked his head on the pavement. He stopped moving immediately. The woman had passed out. Blood pooled around the man’s head.

“Shit,” Jim said as he called 9-1-1.

When he hung up, he heard footsteps from behind. Jim turned, and there he was. The man in white. Evil Colonel Saunders. The Devil.

“Hello, Jim,” The Devil said. “That was your first. You’ve got two more.”

“What? You mean last night was real? You’re … you’re real?”

“Of course I’m real,” he said, lifting his feet in disgust. “And so is all this blood … UGH!”

“I can’t believe this!”

“Neither can I! Do you know how hard it is to get blood stains out of a white suit?” He spit into a rag and wiped at a spot on his suit.

“What do you mean two more? I didn’t kill anyone.”

The Devil glanced at the body, then back up. “He looks pretty dead to me, Jim.”

“But Murder? I didn’t want…”

“Woah! Wait just a minute there, Jimmy. You didn’t think I wanted you to murder anyone, did you?”

“Until a moment ago, I thought you were just a bad dream. Now, I don’t know what to think. “

“Well, That’s not how it works. Listen.” The Devil sat down next to Jim on the hood of an old Toyota. It dented beneath him. “All these stories you’ve heard about me, with God as the good guy and me as this malevolent evil force? Those are nice kid stories, Jim. But that’s now how it works in the real world. God and me? We’re on the same team! He gets all the good people singing hymns in church and making casseroles.

“And me?” The Devil looked down at the body again. “I handle the rougher crowd. Like Mr Wanna-Be-Rapist here.”

“Where do I fit in?”

“A happy accident! I’ve been watching you, Jim. You’ve had a rough go of things lately, I know. I figured I’d let you in on some of my work and, as a token of my thanks, you get your heart’s deepest desire. Pretty good deal, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Look. It’ll all make sense once this is finished. Trust me. Everything will be fine. ”

Police sirens in the distance.

“I have to get going. Buck up, kiddo. You saved this woman’s life. You’re a hero! Enjoy it. Catch you later!”

PART 3: The Drive

Jim Thompson left work early that day. A news van showed up with the police in the garage, and Jim’s face had been thoroughly plastered on televisions, newspapers, the Internet, everywhere. He was an immediate celebrity. A big-time hero, just like The Devil said.

“If I have to tell the story one more time, I’ll shoot myself and get this over with early,” he thought. And he still didn’t know what to make of the man in the white. WAS he real? Or was Jim merely hallucinating?

“I’ll have to ask Janice when I get home,” he thought. “She’ll probably think it’s funny!” Then he remembered. They were divorced now. Janice wouldn’t be there. Nobody would.

Jim turned onto his street and the sun blinded him. He raised his hand to block the light but, before he could, there was a flash of color and a scream. Jim slammed on his brakes and the car shook violently before coming to a stop. He leapt out of the car to see a mangled bicycle lying in the street. Next to it was a small child, no more than five or six years old. The kid wasn’t moving.

“Hello Jim,” the devil spoke from behind. “One more to go. You’re really on your way.”

“Oh my God!” Jim nearly jumped out of his skin

“No. The other one.”

“This is my second one? THIS? You said these people were evil. You didn’t say anything about killing kids!”

“I didn’t say you wouldn’t kill kids, did I?”

“What!?”

“What you have to understand about me and The Big Guy Upstairs, Jim, is we’re Gods! We have an eternal perspective. We see events and their consequences played out in the fullness of time.”

“What does that even mean?”

“It means when you look at this kid, all you see is a kid. I look at him and I see what this kid will become. He has the potential to be a mass murderer, a military leader who will slaughter millions, or worse … a politician. You didn’t kill a kid, Jim. You saved millions of lives.”

“He just looks like a kid to me,” Jim said.

“Looks can be deceiving,” The Devil said. “Just ask my second wife.”

“Huh?”

“It’s all complicated, I know. But trust me. You did a good thing. Trust me. This kind of thing is a science and I’m very precise.”

“You said he has the potential to become evil. You didn’t say he WAS evil.”

“Hey. With Free Will even Science ain’t an exact science. You know what I mean? But why worry about all this? You’ve got one more to go and, trust me, this next one’s a doozy. I’ve got something special for you, Jim, and – OH!. You’re gonna love it!”

Jim looked at the kid. Five years old. Probably just learned to ride that bike of his. He and Janice had always wanted kids, but it never happened. Was this really a mass murdering psychopath? Or just a kid on a bike?

“I don’t think I can do this anymore,” Jim said

The Devil sighed. “It’s up to you, of course. Like I said. Free will is free will.” The devil stepped closer, put his hand on Jim’s shoulder. “But you should know. This next person is on my list. This person will die whether you do the job or someone else. There are a lot of other people who would help me if I asked.” The Devil smiled wide. “A lot.”

“Really?”

“I told you. I’m a scientist. I’ve been doing this a long time. But I like you, Jim. I WANT you to make it to the end. And I’m serious. You’re really gonna like this next one.”

“Here.” The Devil reached into his pocket and pulled out a yellow Post-It note and handed it to Jim. It read: “Blue Fern Restaurant. Downtown. 11:30. Look for the person in Red. Hugs N Kisses, Satan.”

“What if I say no?” Jim started to say, but The Devil was gone again.

“I hate it when he does that,” Jim thought.

PART 4: Two More

Jim Thompson stood in the parking lot behind the Blue Fern Restaurant. It was 11:20 P.M. and it was cold. In his hand, he held the pistol his father had given him when he turned 18. “Only for protection,” his father told him. “Never to hurt. You hear me, son? NEVER.”

“Never,” Jim said, but he didn’t put the gun away. Not yet.

The man in the garage. The kid. He couldn’t get the images out of his head. He hadn’t really killed anyone yet. Not really. Both of those were just … accidents. … Right?”

I’m a scientist, the Devil said. I’m very precise.

Jim still wasn’t sure. What would happen at 11:30? Would some strange-looking guy step out of the restaurant? Maybe a drug dealer or a closeted pedophile or something? Would Jim just shoot him and run away? Is that how it worked?

Could his heart’s deepest desire really be worth all this? What would Janice say?

“Janice!” he thought. So THAT’S what it is. And suddenly the kid ,the man in the garage, the grim task before him, ALL of it swept out of Jim’s mind, replaced by pictures of Janice on their wedding day, walking toward him with that sly smile on her face. Janice asleep on the couch with her hand rested against her cheek in that way that, for some reason, always made him smile. Janice, looking into his eyes and saying she loved him again. That all was forgiven. That they could rebuild their lives together, forever and always. Janice.

“SHE’S my heart’s deepest desire,” Jim thought. “She’s the answer. She has to be!” And suddenly Jim realized … yes, he could kill someone – a very bad someone like the devil said – if it meant he could have Janice back.

Jim stood up, gun in hand, and walked to the restaurant. The doors opened at 11:27 and people streamed out into the street.

“Man in red,” Jim said, scanning the crowd. “Man in Red.”

That’s when Jim saw her. Those eyes. Those lips. That face he could never forget, not in a million years. It was his heart’s deepest desire. His love. His Janice, coming down the steps. And she was wearing red.

“No!” Jim said, realizing now, almost too late, that it was all a lie. “Oh God, no!” He turned and started to run away. But the Devils’ words came back to haunt him.

This person is on my list. This person will die, whether you do the job or someone else. I’m a scientist. I’m very precise.

“I have to warn her,” Jim thought. “I have to try.”

Jim took off running, following Janice down the alleyway that lead to a nearby garage. “Janice!” he screamed. “Janice, wait!” Jim ran full throttle now, not aware that he still had his gun in his hand. He reached her, grabbed her by the shoulder. She turned.

“JANICE!”

BANG! The gun went off.

“Jim? Oh my God, Jim? What are you doing?”

Jim stumbled back and looked down. There was blood on his shirt. Janice stood in front of him, holding a gun of her own. She had pulled the trigger, not him.

“Jim!” Janice screamed.

His watch started beeping. 11:30. If he didn’t act now, Janice would soon be dead. He tried to scream, tried to tell her to run, but all that came out was a guttural “Ahhhh!”

Janice saw the gun in Jim’s hand. “What’s going on? Were you trying to kill me?” she asked, the pain in her voice almost too much for him to bear.

NOW he understood. This had been the Devil’s plan all along. It certainly LOOKED like he was trying to kill her, didn’t it? But looks can be deceiving. Suddenly Jim wondered if that man in the garage had REALLY been attacking the woman, or if something else was going on. Jim fell to the ground.

“Oh my God, Jim!”

He heard the clicking of heels coming down the alley behind him. The Devil himself had come to finish the job, and all Jim could do was watch.

I’m a scientist, The Devil had said. I’m very precise. The person in red will die at 11:30. And here Jim was, his formerly white shirt stained a dark, deep red from the blood that pooled around him just like in the garage that morning.

The clicking got closer and slowed to a stop. Old Scratch, Beelzebub, The Devil stepped over the soon to be deceased Jim Thompson, made a show of brushing a spot of blood off of his white pants, and stopped.

Jim closed his eyes, and the last thing he heard before passing from this world to whatever waited for him in the next, was this…

“Hello, Janice. That was your first. You’ve got two more.”

Baseball, Forgiveness, and Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Baseball, Forgiveness, and Peanut Butter Sandwiches

“Life is hard,” my Grandma would tell me. “Eventually someone will hurt you. When that happens, you get to decide: fight back, or forgive. It’s up to you. What will you do?”

As a kid, I played baseball in the field behind my Grandma’s house. We played every day, all day, and each day for lunch, my Grandma made us her world-famous peanut butter sandwiches. These were beautiful: a single piece of toast with a thin layer of peanut butter spread on top. That’s simple enough, but what made them special was she wrote your name into the peanut butter so you knew THIS one was yours.

Read the rest at Redleg Nation.

Empty Fields

Empty Fields

It was a simple field. The path to it ran past my grandmother’s house, through a set of bushes and into a circular clearing behind. First base was a tree stump. Second was a raised patch of earth that kicked up dust whenever someone ran over it with a lawnmower. We used an old glove, one we found lying underneath a rock next to a stream in the woods behind my house, for third. Home was ditch that had worn thin the first couple years we played there, and then gave up on growing anything thereafter, because when you played ball as often as we did – day after week after month after year – without ceasing, even in the cold months, it tends to leave a mark. Childhood is more powerful than Mother Nature in some ways, which is probably why it wears out so quickly leaves such a lasting impression.

Check out the rest at Redleg Nation.

Under the Blankets with Marty and Joe

Under the Blankets with Marty and Joe

Every night, as a kid, I listened to the Reds on 700 WLW. Every night. Without fail.

Some nights, particularly those when the Reds played teams on the west coast, my parents would tell me to go to bed round about the sixth or seventh inning, just as things were getting good.

“Awww, Mom! Come on! Eric Davis is up first next inning. Can’t I just stay up till then?”

“No. Bedtime. Get upstairs.”

Read the rest at Redleg Nation

Rituals

Rituals

This time of year is always tough. Football season is ramping up, the weather has hinted that it might start to cool off a bit here soon, and the kids have gone back to school. Even those of you who are not either a student or a parent have, at the very least, spent a long commute caught in the sloth-like wake of a school bus, wondering why we haven’t developed flying cars be now.

The answer: because your stupid teenagers would drive those flying cars, crashing into each other, killing thousands. Then where would we be?

There’s lots to distract us from our favorite pastime. Heck, I’ve even given up on Fantasy Baseball. My team, the Florida Dumpster Fire, has descended into last place, breaking decades-long records for ineptitude in our keeper league. It’s easy, in seasons like this, where the impossibility of a postseason was a foregone conclusion before the Findlay Market Parade took its first steps on Opening Day. Back then, we thought anything might happen. Now, we know that nothing has and nothing will. How do we keep things relevant?

Read the rest over at Redlegnation

Elevator Conversations: Reality and the Meaning of Existence

Elevator Conversations: Reality and the Meaning of Existence

Not Person: I read your latest Elevator Conversations post.
Me: Yeah? Did you like it?
Not Person: No.
Me: Why not?
Not Person: You made it up, didn’t you? You make them all up!
Me: I make some of them up. Most are real. And others are a mix.
Not Person: You shouldn’t do that.
Me: Shouldn’t do what?
Not Person: Make those up.
Me: Why not?
Not Person: It’s like you’re lying!
Me: Lying has intent to deceive. This has intent to entertain.
Not Person: Well, I think you should stop.
Me: Okay, but you’re not gonna like it.
Not Person: …Why?
Me: Because I made YOU up, and…
Not Person: No, wait!
Me: …If I stop…
Not Person: …I take it back!
Me: … you stop.
Not Person: Nooooooooooooo!

Not Person disappears into a puff of existential smoke. Other Person steps into the elevator.

Other Person: Why are you talking to yourself?
Me: You wouldn’t understand. … Can you push floor 3?

Other Person pushes the button and steps to the side.

Other Person: Stupid, drunk, homeless people.
Me: Hey! I’m not homeless.
Other person: You sure smell like it.

The doors close. The elevator goes away.

#elevatorconversations

Elevator Conversations: Cleanliness

Elevator Conversations: Cleanliness

Two men step into a crowded elevator.

Man #1: You should just give up and get contacts. They really are better than glasses.
Man #2: No way. I’d have to start washing my hands.
Man #1: …You mean more, right? You’d have to wash your hands … more?
Man #2: No.

Everyone in the elevator steps to the side opposite Man #2.

#elevatorconversations