“My Opinion, Which I’m Entitled To,” by Jay Morris

May 31st, 2017 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

I think we humans have been doing a pretty rotten job taking care of the Earth lately, and that we should therefore consider turning over our dominion of the planet to another species. I suggest possums. They are smart and have little hands—maybe they’ll be able to use some of the tools we leave behind. Except jigsaws. I don’t like the idea of possums with jigsaws.

I form most of my opinions while listening to the morning news on TV. I say “listening” instead of “watching” because I’m usually in the other room shaving when the news is on. I use an old electric razor which is pretty loud, so I’d have to concede I probably miss out on hearing some important facts, but though it might be quieter I just can’t shave with a regular straight razor. Using a super-sharp blade to scrape at my precious face and throat when I’m still half-asleep just seems like a bad idea. Not possum-with-a-jigsaw bad, but bad.

TV news has evolved over the last couple of hundred years, becoming much more streamlined, focused, and efficient. In the old days, news editors had to send out a bunch of guys in trench coats to ask people questions. These guys would use a pencil to write down the information they were told, then they would come back to the office and type up the story. Luckily, investigation is no longer necessary—news editors just have to look at YouTube videos and read Tweets to see which ones to tell us about.

The local broadcast starts with the weather. In the winter, they tell you how cold it is, and how cold it would be if it were colder, which is called Wind Chill. In the summer, they reverse it, and tell how hot it would be if it were hotter, which is called Heat Index. I think it’s fair to say that weather forecasters as a group are desperate for some drama in their lives.

After the initial recitation of the weather (repeated every five minutes thereafter), the anchor person reads out the list of required overnight shootings. Editorial note: there is no record on file of a possum actually being convicted of shooting anybody.

The news broadcast then moves on to its main topic—celebrity news. A celebrity is a really, really famous person you have never heard of. Some celebrities are famous just for having nice butts. Some are butt millionaires. You have to wonder at least a little bit about an economic system in which people with ordinary butts have to kill themselves working to try to feed their families, while butt millionaires just sit around on those butts all day, primping in the mirror. Yes, these celebrities usually end up being horribly disfigured with unnecessary plastic surgery, but that’s not much consolation for the rest of us.

The next news topic is politics. Like most people, I don’t pay much attention to politics until I’m in the voting booth. It is extremely important to vote, and I make sure to vote in each and every election. Of course, when I say “each and every election” I mean only the important ones. I don’t vote in little elections, like for Schoolmarm or whatnot. The people running in those elections don’t have enough money to put out TV commercials to tell me what to think, so how would I know who to choose? I like to vote for mayor, governor, and president. I get in the booth and then try to remember which commercials I liked best, even if they were probably unfair and kind of mean. Is there a better system?

Another important issue for the news these days is immigration. There are two kind of immigrants—regular ones and official ones, who are called immigration officials. Most of the regular ones get here these days by swimming across the ocean from Mexico. My own ancestors came to the United States thousands of years ago, just before the American Civil War in 1776. They came from Europe, which is a big mass of countries to the right of here. Europe consists of France and Germany, a few little backward also-ran countries, and an island just to the left called England. As everyone knows, England is made up of Great Britain, London, Scotland, and The Republic of Ireland, which is divided up into Northern Ireland and the only country named after a mammal—Whales. I’d like to visit these countries sometime, and maybe another country like Africa, but that kind of travel can be tricky. Nations of the world these days can be divided into two groups—those that really want to kill us and those that would probably rather not. But global circumstances change all the time, and keeping track of these changes is exhausting. I’d recommend just going to the Jersey shore instead—at least you know what you’re getting there.

After listening to the news most people are bummed out, so the broadcasters put a funny little video on at the end of the broadcast to cheer us up. (I usually get to see it, as I’m done shaving by this time.) One video I have often seen features a water-skiing squirrel. He is genuinely cute, on his custom made water-skis, being pulled by a string attached to a motorized toy boat, going round and round in circles in an above-ground pool!

But then I think about the person who made the video. I picture a man and imagine his life. I see him in his workshop. There he is building the squirrel-sized water skis, perhaps lovingly carving them by hand. Then I imagine him in the toy store, selecting just the right kind of toy boat. “Is this toy boat for your child, Sir?” the clerk asks. “Ha, ha! Nope! It’s for a squirrel!” the man says. Look at the uncomfortable expression on the face of the clerk. After visiting the toy store, the man comes home and sets up the video recorder at the pool, checking repeatedly that he has chosen the optimal camera angle. Then of course he must find and train a squirrel. I wonder: did he hand-raise a squirrel specifically for the task, or did he just go out in his backyard and capture a wild one, which he then forced to take up water sports? On his resume, does it say “In my leisure time I like to brow-beat rodents into performing tasks to which they are not naturally suited”? I speculate about how much effort went into all that. How many hours of his life did he invest? How many days, how many weeks? What percentage of his precious, fleeting, one-time existence on this magnificent planet did the man spend on this inane project?

When I think these thoughts I’m no longer cheered up. In fact, to be honest I really get pretty damn sad.

It’s all yours, possums.


Jay Morris is a graduate of LaSalle University, where he was awarded a scholarship for creative writing. He has published dozens of stories in various literary magazines, including Philadelphia Stories and Zahir. He has also written one play, Rude Baby, which was recently produced, and worked for a time as a joke writer for Jay Leno. His new humor book, Uncle Jay’s Unreliable Almanac, is available at Amazon.

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