Life Arts

Short Story: "Authenticity" (6th of a series)

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A woman to her right raised a tentative finger. "Had you been there before?"

"No. But I'd met Buzz at a soup kitchen, and he invited me to come visit."

"So that spot under the highway was his home?"

Marjha was about to answer when she had an idea. She nudged Buzz, who was doing his best to be invisible. "Did you think of that spot as your home, Buzz?"

He looked away for a second, and then turned to face the woman squarely. "It's different," he said. "Not so much my home as a place I was willing to stay for a while. You can't really get attached to anything, or anyplace in my situation."

While Marjha slowly cajoled Buzz towards the moment when the highway collapsed, Betsy moved to the other side of the crowd and began working the pedestrians like a carnival barker. People could buy a copy of the Spectator anywhere in the city, she called, but they could only get the story from the horse's mouth right here at the corner of Main and First.

Buzz loosened up once he realized that the people surrounding him were more interested in knowing what he'd seen than who he was. He really started to get into the swing of it after Marjha asked him to describe what the Department of Transportation's inspector did when he was there.

The interview had gone on for about ten minutes when a truck from one of the local TV stations pulled up next to them, and a man with a video camera jumped out. Buzz immediately stopped speaking, crossed his arms, and glared at the man. The crowd parted to let Betsy through, and then closed ranks behind her, looking very protective. "What's your business here," she asked. "This is my corner."

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"It's a public sidewalk," the man said with a patronizing tone of voice. "Oh, that's right," he continued, "you're peddling the homeless news, aren't you." He raised the camera so she could see the station's logo. "Well, I'm a reporter, and this is the number five. Or can you read that rag you're hawking?"

She laughed, and turned to the crowd. "I hope you're all paying attention. This is how the power structure responds to the truth. They send their lackeys to discredit the messenger because they can't counter the logic of your argument. Who knows what that's called?"

Several people called out, "Ad hominem!"

"Who are these people?" Marjha asked incredulously.

The reporter raised his camera. But before anyone could respond to her question, a man with sunglasses and an ill-fitting sport jacket emerged from the crowd. "I'll tell you who they are," he said evenly. "These people are well-informed citizens of this city, and they have every right to know what their government is doing with their money, and in their name."

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"And you are"?" the reporter prompted.

"Who I am isn't important, any more than who the witnesses to a crime are. What this man knows, what he's observed, and what he says is what's important. The moment that the supposedly "free press' began to concern itself with who witnesses are, and what power and influence they have, it ceased to fill that role. If you want to read a real newspaper," he said, holding up a copy of the Spectator, "then start with this one. It's written by people with a stake in what it says, sold by people who know what it's like to be ignored, and it's read by people like these who have a better grasp of how the world ought to work than the ones who pay your salary."

By this time, the crowd had swelled far beyond the sidewalk, and a number of people were holding their cell phones up to video the exchange. A police siren was drawing near, and traffic was at a standstill in all four directions. The TV reporter swung his camera around towards the police car as he narrated what was happening.

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Ever since I learned to speak binary on a DIGIAC 3080 training computer, I've been involved with tech in one way or another, but there was always another part of me off exploring ideas and writing about them. Halfway to a BS in Space Technology at (more...)

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