Fake news didn’t cut it in the old days

Published 11:20 pm Friday, April 20, 2018

The truth is hard to come by nowadays. That’s the honest truth. It’s awfully hard anymore to decipher real news from fake news, although a good rule of thumb is that fake news usually has to say the same thing 17 times to make it believable. The truth can just look you in the eye, say it and walk away.

Of course, I’m probably to blame for it all. There’s an outside chance perhaps I may have, possibly, invented fake news back in the 60s. To test it, I thought I’d try it out on my seventh grade English class — Ms. Truitt, who taught over at the old West Side Junior High where I excelled as an exemplary, all A’s, head-of-the-class seventh-grade student. So, you’ll know, fake news didn’t work any better then than it worked just now.

One day Ms. Truitt called out to the sweet young man sitting halfway back on the fourth aisle, by the window, “Mr. Bowen, are you chewing gum in my class?”

“Oh, no ma’am, no, no, no Ms. Truitt. I wouldn’t try that in your class. No ma’am, you got me all wrong,” I affirmed with a definitive shake of the head. The rest of the class just shook their heads.

But Ms. Truitt not only knew English, she knew the sneaky ways of little boys such as her exemplary student sitting about halfway up the fourth row by the window. A minute later, she walked by me casually, explaining skillfully the difference between a transitive verb and an intransitive one, then — when she was positioned perfectly right by my desk — reached down with the speed of a rattler and grabbed me by the nose to cut off my air. As soon as her poor victim opened his mouth, she saw the evidence as plain as Perry Mason. (By the way, Ms. Truitt, I want you to know that because of you I know that opened in the previous sentence is a transitive verb, if that is any consolation at all.)

That afternoon Ms. Truitt walked me to her car and drove me home to Juniper Street. Seriously. That was the longest drive I ever took. She drove me home, walked me to my door and had a nice, friendly chat with my mama. 

I’ll generously close the curtain on the remainder of that scene, only to say that from that time forward I significantly limited my use of fake news. I couldn’t sit down for a week, and that’s not fake news.

Of course, we weren’t the first ones to try to run fake news by our teachers. You may remember little Johnny. There was a little Johnny in every class, sometimes two or three. He knew not only how to tell it, but he also made an art out of sticking by his story at all costs, while the rest of the class looked on shaking their heads.

One day little Johnny came to school all excited and said, “Ms. Jones, you won’t believe what happened this weekend. My dad and I went fishin’, we caught 75 catfish and each one of them weighed 75 pounds apiece.”

Ms. Jones rolled her eyes, and said, “Little Johnny, now you know good and well you’re fibbing. There’s no way you caught 75 fish that weighed 75 pounds.”

“Oh, it’s true,” exclaimed Johnny. “It’s true. Really, we did. Seventy five of ‘em, or more. It’s true.”

“Okay,” said Ms. Jones, “would you believe me if I told you that while I was walking to school this morning that a grizzly bear came out of the woods and jumped on me. But before he could hurt me, an 80-pound yellow dog came out of nowhere and pulled that bear off of me and sent him yelping back into the woods.”

“Oh, yes’m, I’d believe that,” said Johnny. “That’s my yeller dog.”