The Common Good
July 2009

The Unkindest Cut

by Ed Spivey Jr. | July 2009

This is my first column in our bold new magazine design, which was created to bring state-of-the-art publishing innovations to our readers. Also, we were bored with the old design.

This is my first column in our bold new magazine design, which was created to bring state-of-the-art publishing innovations to our readers. Also, we were bored with the old design.

But now I only have room for 600 award-winning words, compared to the 800 award-winning words before. And now I only have 544 words left. Make that 536 words. Okay, 532. (Can you believe somebody actually has to fact-check this?) Doesthiscountasoneword?

Working in this small space, I’m reminded of Ernest Hemingway who, on a bar bet, wrote the world’s shortest novel: “Bartender ignores alcoholic author. Dies horribly.” No, that wasn’t it. Now I remember: “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” (I’ll pause briefly so readers can pull themselves together.) And I wonder if I can apply the same technique to a shortened humor column: “Guy walks into a bar. Buys baby shoes. Leaves.” (Nope. I need room to express my legendary comic stylings.)

But let’s move along. Given the ongoing economic crisis in this country, Sojourners is announcing a new financial support program for struggling subscribers. If you are no longer able to pay for your monthly magazine, we will waive the cost, after putting you through a series of stress tests, much like what the banking industry is experiencing right now, only with fewer push-ups. (At least, I hope Treasury officials are making bankers do push-ups, while standing on top of them and—to make for a more memorable teaching moment—holding a bucket of hot coals over their heads. “Oops, dropped another hot coal. Sorry.”)

Our “subscriber stress test” will be different than what bank CEOs experience, most of whom are hiding in their vaults until federal regulators have gone. In fact, subscribers won’t even notice, unless they happen to look out their windows and see a Sojourners staff member in an unmarked car across the street. He’ll be observing your movements and reporting on any suspicious activity, such as delivery of unnecessary consumer products from the Home Shopping Network. But just ignore him. Although, if you’d like, you can bring out food from time to time. That might deter him from breaking

up the monotony of his stakeout by occasionally—okay, frequently—peeking in your kitchen window.

Note: He might be wearing a surgical mask, because of the swine flu pandemic, which senators from the pork-producing states were quick to rename H1N1, thus putting the blame squarely on the true origin of the disease: Star Wars characters.

Symptoms of this flu include fever, sore throat, and fatigue, which is exactly like a cold, except when you have a cold people don’t throw a plastic tarp over you, wrestle you to the ground, and duct tape you to the floor. (The best remedy, we’re told, is to wash your hands and stay in sparsely populated areas, such as the Republican Party.)

Unfortunately, this is also pollen season, and I cough frequently to relieve an itchy throat, or to dislodge cat hair. (Don’t ask.) I try to appear as non-flu-like as possible, but staff members still approach me with plastic tarps. Come to think of it, they did that before the pandemic.

Actually, I don’t mind wearing a surgical mask. With sunglasses and a fedora hat pulled down low, I look like the Invisible Man from that old H.G. Wells novel. He was completely invisible when he took everything off, but my therapist says I shouldn’t do that because, it turns out, I don’t actually become invisible. Plus, it might make the judge mad again.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director.

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