Bob and Jim report from Podunk, Ill.
Mary Beth Ellis
Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude
NEWS ANCHOR IN PODUNK, IL: Tonight we begin our crack coverage of the tri-cornfield area with a report from our newest news correspondent, Jim Gray, who has just been mysteriously released from his NBC contract. Jim, what do you have for us this evening?
JIM GRAY: Bob, I'm here at Don's Funeral Home and Vend-A-Bait, where the wake for Billy Joe Ray Lance Jackson is now underway. Jackson, beloved editor of Podunk's world-class newspaper, The Daily Silo, died in his sleep on Saturday night. Standing next to me and looking just guilty as sin, if you ask me, is Podunk's coroner, editorial cartoonist, game warden and Internet service provider, Larry Warrenson. Larry, tell me — what killed Billy Joe Ray Lance Jackson?
LARRY: Well, it looked to me like natural causes, Jim.
JIM GRAY: Really? Are you sure?
LARRY: Pretty sure, Jim.
JIM GRAY: Really REALLY sure?
LARRY: But —
JIM GRAY: Because what we have here, Larry, is a guy who's perfectly healthy one day and suddenly sucking maggots the next. Did you question the livestock who last saw him alive? Did you immediately contact "20/20 Downtown" for a full and complete investigative piece on the matter? Did you notice if his Craftmatic Adjustable Bed was fully reclined or merely in the Daybed position? I mean, there's just a lot of questions surrounding the death of Billy Joe Ray Lance, who was so obviously cut down in the first bloom of his youth.
LARRY: But he just turned 97.
JIM GRAY: Well, you're just FULL of excuses, aren't you, Mr. Smartass?
ANCHOR: Uh, Jim, why don't you move on to one of the other mourners?
JIM GRAY: Fine. Here's Billy Joe Ray Lance's widow, Clara Sue. Clara, that was a lovely memorial service for your husband of 68 years, was it not?
CLARA: (crying) It surely was, Jim. The whole town turned out today.
JIM GRAY: So. You must really be looking forward to the life insurance wad. The lonely nights on the farm are really kicking in, am I right? How much was the old fart worth, anyway?
CLARA: (Runs away.)
JIM GRAY: (Yelling after her) I'm referring to allegations that he violated your farm's pet yak at regular intervals. How do you respond to that?... Damn it. Well, Clara's refusal to continue the interview is obviously a part of the Jackson family's continuing efforts to thwart the investigative nature of this rapidly developing story, Bill. Let's see what other key players might have to say. (Makes way to casket.) Billy Joe Ray Lance, what sort of impact do you think your death will have on the Podunk community?
BILLY JOE RAY LANCE:
JIM GRAY: Isn't it true that you died under what some might call suspicious circumstances?
BILLY JOE RAY LANCE:
JIM GRAY: You can take the Fifth all you want, Billy Joe. I've got just as much time as you do.
ANCHOR: Jim, we need to take a break.
JIM GRAY: Just a second, Bob. I have Jesus Christ standing by on a satellite hook up. Mr. Christ, you are Supreme Ruler of Heaven and Earth, are you not?
JESUS: It is you who has said it.
JIM GRAY: Well, don't you agree that belief in a so-called "afterlife" is really just a manifestation of man's subconscious desire for immortality? I mean, Billy Joe here (smacks casket) really isn't on some sort of sublime otherworldly plane, is he? He's just withered-up worm chow, am I right?
JESUS: I am the way, the truth and the life. Whosoever believes in Me shall not perish.
JIM GRAY: That's a pretty ambiguous answer there, Mr. Christ. And who the hell runs around using four-syllable words like "whosoever," anyway? Your statment is just a wee bit arrogant, don't you think? I mean, who died and made YOU God?
JESUS: Well, actually —
JIM GRAY: You know, Mr. Christ, some say that you are your own worst enemy. Do you care to comment on that?
JESUS: Amen, I say unto you —
JIM GRAY: Oh, here he goes with the "Amens" and the "untos!" Listen, pal, don't try to double talk ME! The Fourth Estate won't stand for the dissemination of false information! How does an obstruction of justice charge sound, buddy boy? How do you respond to THAT?
JESUS: You little snot.
JIM GRAY: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed, Mr. Christ.
JESUS: Hey! March 4, 2019, punk! Obstruct THAT!
JIM GRAY: Back to you, Bob.
ANCHOR: Thank you, Jim. You're fired.
JIM GRAY: What? Is it me? WHAT?
Mary Beth Ellis, SMC '99, is an MFA candidate at Bennington College.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Tuesday, November 2, 1999