They like to keep it simple
—Ripped from the headlines
“There will come a Monday,” the old-timer muttered, his gaze shifting briefly toward the horizon, then back in our direction. “There will come a Monday when the news is good.”
We listened hard. We knew there’d be more.
“When that Monday comes,” the old-timer went on, “your job is to take that news as your own.”
“As our own?”
“You need to claim it, that’s what I mean. You need to take credit for it. It’s you who’ve made it happen, with the things you’ve done.”
“What if we haven’t done a lot of things yet?” we wondered.
“If you haven’t done a lot of things yet,” he said, “then the good news is because of the things you’ve said about the things you were going to do. Or the things you’ve thought about saying about the things you were going to do. The important thing is it’s your doing.”
“Take the credit,” we whispered, trying to remember his instructions. “We did it all.”
“Now,” the old-timer continued, “there will also come a Tuesday, a Tuesday right after that Monday. On that Tuesday, the news won’t be so good anymore. The news will be bad.”
“But we’ve already taken credit for Monday!” we cried. “If the good news was to our credit, then isn’t the bad news our fault, too?”
The old-timer looked again toward the horizon, his jaw working hard as he gathered his thoughts. Then he turned back toward us, and let fly a stream of tobacco juice that nearly drowned our boots.
“Total and absolute bull twaddle!! You were responsible for Monday’s news, the good news. You’re who turned it all around!”
“And Tuesday’s news? The bad news?”
“That’s their fault.”
“The other folks, on the other side. You’ve got nothing to do with Tuesday’s news.”
“Even though we turned it all around on Monday? It doesn’t seem logical.”
“It doesn’t have to be logical—it only has to be loud.”
We thought about that for a while. Then the old-timer started up again.
“You take all the credit in the world for Monday. Tuesday’s an entirely different matter—Tuesday’s because of what they did. Or didn’t do. Or messed up doing.”
“So we only get the one day’s credit? After that it’s all on them?”
“Don’t be silly! You get one day’s credit for Monday’s news. On Tuesday you point fingers. But come Wednesday—when the news turns good again on Wednesday…”
He waited for us to say something. We were all confused.
“You did that, you ninnies! You brought the good news on Wednesday!”
We began to cheer our good fortune—we could get more than one day’s credit! But then a dark thought fell on us.
“What if the news is bad again on Thursday? Wouldn’t that be our fault?”
“Nonsense!” said the old-timer. “You just say something about it being some left-over something-or-other from what they did when they were in charge.”
“Even if the bad lasts for days?”
“It was their doing. It’s their bad.”
“Even if the bad only lasts an hour?”
“Still their bad.”
“And if there’s five minutes of good right in the middle?”
“You tell me,” he said. This time he didn’t have to wait.
“Our good!” we shouted. “The good is from us, and the bad is from them! The good is from us and the bad is from them!”
The old-timer smiled, or something close to a smile.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at email@example.com.