WITH APOLOGIES TO DICKENS: AN ELECTION EVE CAROL

November 4, 2022
WITH APOLOGIES TO DICKENS: AN ELECTION EVE CAROL

While having dinner out this past Saturday night with my family, I happened to run into my old friend Julian Frye for the first time in what seemed like forever. 


He looked a little green around the gills and wasn’t acting like his usual flamboyant, “I’m the world’s last authentic playboy” self - and as anyone who has known Julian for as long as I have will almost certainly quickly attest, such behavior on his part is always cause for alarm.


“Why so glum, chum?” I asked him. “You look about as happy as a millipede with terminal athlete’s foot.”


He looked at me with eyes that betrayed a feeling of fatigue… and perhaps a hint of fear. “Can’t help it,” he responded. “Had a pretty rough night last night.” Before I could inquire further, Julian he commenced to telling me about a terrible dream he’d had which lay at the heart of his dismal mood…


Seems Julian had dozed off in his easy chair in front of the boob tube the previous night after an exhausting night of trying to ignore all the political ads airing during his favorite television programs. 

Understandable, I suppose. We’ve probably all done it at least once during this campaign season, given the constant barrage of election news that has even supporters of certain candidates wishing it would stop and just go away. 


But in this particular instance Julian’s sleep proved even less sound than usual, thanks to all the campaign rhetoric buzzing through his head. That rhetoric has been such that, for the first time since he became old enough to do so, Julian had pretty much decided he wouldn’t vote at all this year - and that, apparently, was why he was having trouble sleeping. 


His passage to Snoozeville was a rough one, it seems, and by Julian’s account punctuated by unsettling dreams of candidate debates, political press conferences and Nora O’Donnell in a high school cheerleader uniform. (Never mind…you’d have to know Julian to understand that last part, and I really don’t feel like going there at the moment) 


His subconscious was inundated by sound bites and colorful flashes of bumper stickers, each carrying the name of a different candidate, causing him to thrash about in his recliner and give his poor old dog Padishar a bit of a scare.


“No, I won’t vote,” he mumbled in his sleep. (Julian, not the dog.) “You can’t make me. I’m just so tired of the whole darn thing…”


This apparently went on for a while until finally Julian awoke with a start, his bleary eyes blinking in fright at the sight of the figure which had suddenly materialized there in the dark room. The figure was burdened by heavy chains that held a large ballot box to its shoulders; the glow from the TV screen cast an eerie outline around its form.


“Who are you?” Julian asked. “Why are you here?”


The figure moaned and rattled the chains as it thrust the front page of a 1948 Chicago Tribune out for Julian to read. At the top of the page was a big black headline: “Dewey Defeats Truman.”

“I am the Ghost of Elections Past,” the figure wailed. “The polls said I would win by a landslide. But then Harry went on that whistle stop campaign. Covered 31,000 miles and made 350 speeches. And I lost. If only more people would have voted… Now I’m forced to haunt the minds of dreamers like you, forever looking for new votes.”


The figure faded away, and Julian jumped up out of the chair and grabbed another root beer from the refrigerator. He came back into the living room, switched the television channel, and in no time at all had dozed back off again…


He felt a hand upon his shoulder, and Julian awoke to find a figure in white. She looked slightly familiar; maybe it was the big wooden gavel she held in her hand.


“I am the Ghost of Election Present,” the ghostly visage intoned in her loud, booming Georgian voice. “Julian Frye, don’t you want to see a new greatness for America? Don’t you…?”


“For mercy’s sake, leave me alone!” Julian screamed. “Just what is it that you want from me?”


The spirit called out as she floated backwards and faded into the woodwork. “I want you to vote… to vote… to vote…”


Julian rubbed his eyes again, choked down the last remaining drops of the opened can of root beer that sat on the end table, then fumbled for the remote control and shut off the television. He managed to lumber into his bedroom and climb into bed, but hadn’t even let out with his first decent snore when the room suddenly shook around him.


He opened his eyes to the flash of gunfire. Bombs went off all around him. The room smelled of sulfur and rotting garbage, of death and destruction. A huge figure, dressed in black and looking for all the world like Darth Vader, rode through the bedroom on a huge black stallion named Apocalypse.


“I am the Ghost of Elections Future,” it said in a raspy, evil voice that sent cold shivers up and down Julian’s spine.


“And what do you stand for?” Julian asked from his hiding place beneath the blanket. And the figure laughed - a wickedly deep, baritone guffaw that echoed like it had erupted from the pits of Hades.


“I stand for appeasing the leaders of Russia and North Korea,” the spirit proclaimed with a sneer. “I stand for denying the reality of climate change. I stand for tax breaks for those who can afford to pay higher taxes, for taking away all your rights and for getting rid of all those who I feel do not belong in this nation.”


“But I won’t vote for you,” Julian protested.


“You ALREADY voted for me,” the ghost in black laughed. “You voted for me when you DIDN’T vote; now you can’t vote against me. So few of you were willing to haul yourself up out of your easy chairs and go to your local polling places in 2022 and 2024 that it was decided to do away with the privilege altogether. 


“So we abolished the vote! You’re stuck with me now – and it’s nobody’s fault but your own!”


Julian apparently didn’t get much sleep the rest of the night. Well how could he, with all those ghosts dancing around in his bedroom all night?


I just sat there silently, sipping my unsweet tea and wondering what the rest of my family was talking about as Julian finished sharing the whole ugly story. 


He buried his face in his hands for a moment, then looked back up at me and announced with renewed purpose that he was going to make darn sure that he votes in every election from this point forward, from the local school board to the White House.


“It’s my duty,” Julian said.


He was right. It is his duty - and yours, too. 


This isn’t a partisan appeal to vote one way or the other. I have my set of preferred candidates and you have yours - preferred for reasons that are important to us, to be sure. But at the end of the day, who we vote for and why is only part of the equation; the other part - some will say the most imporant part - is that we vote at all. 


Regardless of who you vote for, your very participation in the process helps keep the Founding Fathers’ Grand Experiment moving forward, in spite of the polls and the deniers and those who would attempt to rob you of the right to cast your ballot.


Don’t let Julian’s nightmare become America’s reality 


Get out there and vote. 


(Copyright © 2022 by John A. Small)

 

A DIAMOND ANNIVERSARY REMEMBRANCE

August 31, 2022

Today would have been Mom and Dad’s 60th wedding anniversary. They were together just short of 55 years when Mom passed away in 2017; Dad joined her a little over a year later, just a few weeks short of their 56th anniversary.

Theirs was a union that weathered many storms - too many of them, I’m afraid, the result of three thoughtless young sons who hadn’t quite figured out yet just what kind of sacrifices their parents were willing to make for them. I would be an adult myself before I ...


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How I Spent My Summer Vacation, 2022 Edition...

August 17, 2022

Lighthouse At Casco Bay, Portland, Maine (Photo by Yours Truly)



I wanted to. I really did.

There I was, driving along U.S. Highway 22 west on the evening of Aug. 5, through the most torrential downpours that I had seen in many a moon. It was the longest single day we would spend on the road during this year’s summer vacation - a 12-hour, 682-mile trek that began that morning in Maine and would ultimately end at the Doubletree Convention Center in Cranberry, Penn., that night - and to be h...


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FAMILY STORIES BECOME LEGENDS IN THE RETELLING

July 28, 2022

If there is one thing that each new generation has in common with the one that immediately preceded it, it is the tendency for members of the older generation to rant and rave about how easy the current crop of youngsters has it compared to the days of their own youth. 


We all grew up with the stories about how our fathers had to travel for miles in the snow to get to school and back - walking uphill both directions, naturally. 


Or how their favorite toy one Christmas was a stick that had f...


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A REAL AMERICAN HERO…

July 27, 2022
(Editor's Note: Upon learning that today happens to be the subject's birthday, Mr. Small thought it might be appropriate to once again share the following newspaper column that he originally wrote back in 1997.)

He is many things to many people, a figure for all seasons. Dadaist, wizard, entertainer, revolutionary, ecologist - the definitive pre-post-modern futurist. One part superhero, one part scheming criminal genius. Cultured yet unpretentious, he is at once the Ultimate Everyman and the e...

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ADVANCE BOOK REVIEW: LORD GREYSTOKE RIDES AGAIN!

May 18, 2022

Recently I was invited to review an advance reader’s copy of a new novel scheduled for release later this year. 


This isn’t the first time I’d been afforded this honor; one of my favorite perks that comes with being a newspaper columnist has been the number of books, fiction and non-fiction alike, that I’ve received over the years from both authors and publishers. 


In this particular instance, however, the invitation held special meaning for Yours Truly, and - being an unapologetic book...


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"WOMEN IN PANTS? IT'S AN OUTRAGE!"

April 28, 2022

Today's TV History lesson, prompted by a discussion I saw on a Facebook page this morning:


No, Mary Tyler Moore on The Dick Van Dyke Show was not the first woman to wear pants on TV. Yes, Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance both wore them on I Love Lucy. I'm pretty sure you can find some other examples of pre-Petrie panted pulchritude as well, if one wishes to take the time to investigate. Yet it was very much Mary's pants which DID become an issue with some sponsors and network execs.


The reason...


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WILLOW: A STAR WARS STORY?

April 15, 2022

..So I've been reading about this made-for-streaming series reportedly in the works that is a sequel to the George Lucas-Ron Howard film Willow, and I keep wondering if it will make references to the Lucas-Chris Claremont trilogy of follow-up novels. I personally liked those books a great deal, but I suspect they're now going to be shunted off into non-canon like the Star Wars Legends material.


In any event, an online conversation I started on the subject earlier today brought this response ...


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SAINT PATRICK’S DAY IS ABOUT MORE THAN WEARIN’ GREEN...

March 17, 2022

Today, March 17, is Saint Patrick's Day. Which means that it is once agan time for my annual holiday-themed public service announcement:

REAL Irish folks don’t care whether or not you wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day, and they don’t go around pinching those who don’t. So stop it!

I don’t have to wear green every year on March 17, or eat a bowl of corned beef and cabbage, to prove that I’m Irish. My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Murphy; you just don’t get any more Irish...


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BATMAN: HOW DARK IS TOO DARK?

January 5, 2022

I’ve been taking part over the past day or so in some interesting discussions on a couple of different FB sites regarding the nature of the Batman character, initiated by an article in which Michael Keaton - in my mind still the BEST cinematic Batman, and that is not a subject which I care to debate - decided he did not want to return for a second sequel after the franchise was turned over to Joel Schumacher. At some point I decided perhaps I might distill my thoughts in those conversations...


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About Me


John Allen Small John A. Small is an award-winning newspaper journalist, columnist and broadcaster whose work has been honored by the Oklahoma Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Press, the National Newspaper Association, and the Oklahoma Education Association. He and his wife Melissa were married in 1986; they have two sons, Joshua Orrin (born 1991) and William Ian (born 1996). Mr. Small is the News Editor and columnist for the Johnston County Capital-Democrat, a weekly newspaper headquartered in Tishomingo, OK. He obtained his nickname, "Bard of the Lesser Boulevards," from a journalism colleague - the late Phil Byrum - in recognition of the success of his popular newspaper column, "Small Talk." (In addition to the many awards the column itself has received over the years, a radio version of "Small Talk" earned an award for "Best Small Market Commentary" from the Society of Professional Journalists in 1998.) John was born in Oklahoma City in 1963; lived in the Bradley-Bourbonnais-Kankakee area of Illinois for most of the next 28 years (with brief sojourns in Texas and Athens, Greece, thrown in to break up the monotony); then returned to his native state in 1991, where he currently resides in the Tishomingo/Ravia area. He graduated from Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School in 1981, and received his bachelor's degree in journalism from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais in 1991. The years between high school and college were a period frought with numerous exploits and misadventures, some of which have become the stuff of legend; nobody was hurt along the way, however, which should count for something. In addition to his professional career as a journalist he has published two short story collections: "Days Gone By: Legends And Tales Of Sipokni West" (2007), a collection of western stories; and "Something In The Air" (2011), a more eclectic collection. He was also a contributor to the 2005 Locus Award-nominated science fiction anthology "Myths For The Modern Age: Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe," edited by Win Scott Eckert. In additon he has written a stage play and a self-published cookbook; served as project editor for a book about the JFK assassination entitled "The Men On The Sixth Floor"; and has either published or posted on the Internet a number of essays, stories and poems. He has also won writing awards from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National Library of Poetry. He is a past president of the Johnston County Chamber of Commerce in Tishomingo; was a charter member and past president of the Johnston County Reading Council, the local literacy advocacy and "friends of the library" organization; served as Johnston County's first-ever Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator in 1994-95; served two terms as chairman of the Johnston County (OK) Democratic Party; and has taught journalism classes for local Boy Scout Merit Badge Fairs. He is a member of the New Wold Newton Meteorics Society.

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