Chapter 12 of The Empty City

By Andrew Looney

After the initial shock had worn off, the man and the woman in apartment 1016 began trying to cope with their problem. They were faced with a difficult choice: either abandon the television set forever, or give up their faith in the printed word of the newspaper they so cherished. The newspaper provided great entertainment, but lasted only for an hour or two once a week. The television set was a constant and continual friend; to do without it seemed unthinkable.

"Umm..." the man said at last, "Do you really believe that about the Russians and their new Secret Weapon?"

"Umm... do you?" replied the woman.

"Well, it just seems strange to me that we never heard of it before," said the man. "Why didn't they say anything about it on the evening news?"

"Those news shows never talk about the important stuff," said the man's wife.

The man found himself thinking the unthinkable and saying the unspeakable. "Did you ever stop to think that maybe not everything that the Weekly World News prints is completely, well, you know, true? I mean, maybe they make mistakes from time to time..."

The woman was shocked to find herself agreeing with her husband. "Well, yes, I guess sometimes those stories are a little hard to believe."

"It just seems to me that SOME of the stories run by the Weekly World News would have to appear in other papers if they really were true. Remember that one story that said that the President was dead, but that he'd been replaced by a life-like android so that no one would find out? If that was really true, don't you think we'd have heard about it on the television as well? Once people found out about it, they'd have to promote the Vice President."

The woman chuckled. "And that story about the baby who could recite the Gettysburg Address on the day she was born? Who would ever really believe that!"

Soon the woman and the man were laughing up a storm at the silliness of the various far-fetched news stories they had once so fervently believed were truthful. After they'd calmed down a bit, the man said, "Well, should I turn the television set back on?"

"Sure!" said the woman, still snickering, eyes still moist from having laughed so hard.

The man plugged the set back in, and then paused, finger poised over the on/off switch. He looked at his wife. "Are you sure?" he said. They both gazed down at the newspaper, now lying rumpled on the floor.

"Yes," said the woman resolutely.

The man turned the television set back on, and sat down next to his wife on the couch.

Copyright © 1991 by Andrew Looney.

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