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The Pelting of the Gunwriters
PT I
By WIlliam E. Allendorf (the shaman)



The shaman sat on his log, watching the fire and reading. It was drizzling, so he pulled his cloak up a bit around his neck to keep the mist out. All of a sudden, there came a bit of commotion from over at the gunwriter's bit of the camp. It was down aways from the rest of the fire. The shaman looked over, but could not make anything out.

Somebody tripped over the shaman.

"Excuse me," said the shaman.

"Come on, man!" said the campfire regular. "Ain't you coming?"

"For what?"

"We've got a gunwriter cornered and we're pelting him. Grab some rotten vegetables and hurry up?"

"I don't understand." said the shaman. "What's this all about?"

"Gunwriters. Lot's of them. Grab a rotten egg. Get with it!!!" said the fellow and ran off towards the gunwriters. The shaman was left alone.

A little while later, the shaman noticed another regular, this one a ranger, sit down near the fire with a fresh cup of coffee and he went over to enquire about what was going on.

"Oh, that!" said the guy, laughing. "Yep, I think they have old Ken tied up and and they're really doing a number on him. It seems to be the new hobby around here. It's largely replaced cornholing and horseshoes. Whenever a gunwriter shows up, folks gather around and throw stuff at him. If they get a good hit on him-- rotten egg in the ear or something -- then the gunwriter gets mad and tries to pick up something and throw it back. If things get going real good, they all go tumbling into the pig pen and pretty soon you can't figure out what's what-- pig, camper, gunwriter. It's a hoot."

"Why do the gunwriters put up with that?" asked the shaman.

"Hard to say." said the ranger. "A lot of them don't. They catch one cow pie in the face and they leave. Others seem to really enjoy it. They go taunting the crowd just to get them worked up. They're like rodeo clowns, some of them. Others just stick around and try to duck it. Sad thing is that there's so doggone few of them; It would be a shame to lose them all. Folks have so much fun throwing things at them."

"That does not sound like much of sport." said the shaman.

"Oh my! It is a sport. " said the ranger. "I just like to sit back and watch. Sometimes they get a half-a-dozen or so lined up, and then it's kind of like that game, Whackamole. One pops up, and the crowd beats him down, and then another pops up. I like it much better than the Madblast thing with the bullfrog in the blender and the CAT-A-PULT. This is high drama."

"I suppose." said the shaman. "But what about the good stuff. I'd be a bit afraid to ask a legitimate question anymore, for fear I'd lure out a gunwriter and he'd get hit in the face with something unsavory."

"That's the fun of it, son." said the ranger. "That's the fun."

"Well, " said the shaman. "That explains the smell coming from over that way. I guess you can't expect to throw that much compost about without consequence."

"Smell, Schmell." said the ranger. "You get used to it after a while. This is sport! Come on by tonight. We're having a kahuna roast. After they're thrown on a spit and roasted, we throw them to the crowd and let them be torn to shreds. Pulled kahuna on a bun-- yum!"

"But soon there won't be anymore gunwriters to torment. " said the shaman. "What then?"

"Oh, heck!" said the regular. "I guess then they'd all turn on each other. It doesn't make any difference to me. I just like watching guys get it in the mush with rotten stuff. If you ask me, gunwriters need to be continuously pelted with something just to keep them writing. They're all scoundrels!"

"But if they're all scoundrels, why bother reading them?" asked the shaman

"Because they write about the shooting sports."

"But you said they're scoundrels. "

"Yes, but if you don't support them, they'll go away. Then we won't have anything to read at the barber shop."

"Oh," said the shaman. He thanked the fellow for his time and went back to reading.

"What's that you're reading?" asked the ranger. The shaman held up the book. It was a well worn book by Clay Harvey on hunting rifles that the shaman acquired many years ago from a book club. They had sent it without any warning, and the shaman had tried to tell them that it was not his, but they kept asking for money and did not want the book. The shaman told the book club where to go and kept the book. Eventually the nasty computer-generated notices stopped, and the shaman had achieved what he had been unable to communicate to the book club directly: stop sending books. After many years, the bitterness had worn off, and the shaman had found this chocolate brown volume on hunting rifles in his collection and given it a serious look. It seemed like it was filled with basically sound advice on hunting rifles.

"Oh that!" said the regular. "Clay Harvey!!! Yep, they had him out pelting him in absentia the other day. The gun writers like to bring a guy like that out every little once in a while and let the crowd burn him in effigy. It gives the rest of the writers a bit of a rest, and it seems to satisfy the crowd. Clay is supposedly a bit of a scoundrel."

"NO!" said the shaman. "You don't say! "

"I do!" said the regular. "You shouldn't trust anything said in that book."

"But he seemed so. . . so . . ." the shaman was stuck for the correct word.

"It's absolute malarky, what's in that book." said the regular. "The gunwriters said so."

The shaman sat stunned. His sincere little rifle book was now fraudulent. However, gunwriters had all been saying the same thing. So had all the people that seemed to know what they were talking about at shooters.com and here. What was he to think?

"Hmmm. Let's get this straight," said the shaman to no one in particular. "If Clay Harvey is a fraud, and he's saying things just like the other gunwriters and gunwriters need to be pelted to keep them writing, but if you keep pelting them, the gunwriters go away, but . . . " the shaman's head was spinning.

From over at the gunwriters camp, the sounds of the crowd welled after the pronounced splat of something rotten being thrown. The shaman looked back and the regular was gone. The shaman saw him running across the field to see who had been hit with what.
____________________


The Pelting of the Gunwriters
PT II
By WIlliam E. Allendorf (the shaman)

There was such a clamor at the fire that the shaman decided to move elsewhere for a while. There was a nice stump, overlooking the woods to the east. Shaman took a seat and started to read again. Clay Harvey was discussing why the Savage 99 was such a nice rifle. The shaman was bothered by the possibility of going over to the Savage collectors and informing him that they had been taken in by a fraud and that the Savage 99 was really no good. Then again, that seemed like a task he might leave for others. All the shaman knew was that HIS 99 was one of his favorites. Perhaps the gun writer had heard wrong about his colleague and Mister Harvey was only a partial scoundrel.

"Mind if I sit down?" asked the shadow.

"Nosmo?" asked the shaman. "Is that you?" Indeed it was, the illusive and shadowy Nosmo King. "My goodness, old friend. It is good to see you."

"Good to see you too." said the shadow. "It's been a while." It had too. Nosmo was a sort of imaginary friend at large. The shaman had seen more of him when he was younger, but Nosmo had left to sit with others in greater need. Nosmo only showed up now when the shaman was in great turmoil, and that had been many years gone.

"Ah," said the shaman. "I'm in such confusion. Just look at that." The shaman pointed to what had used to be the gun writers dell, a lovely place amid tall Oaks. Many of the oaks had toppled. The place was now a pit of unsavory muck, knee deep. The crowd over there had left, fallen further down the hill into the pig wallow. They were watching a massive wrestling match.

"So I heard." said Nosmo. "I guess you're safe, though."

"What do you mean?"

"You're a writer who writes about the outdoors, not an outdoor writer." said Nosmo. "Furthermore, everything you write is fiction, so there's no reason to argue with you over it's authenticity."

"I suppose you are right. It just makes me feel sad."

"I've been keeping up on your stuff." said Nosmo. "Your novel is quite good."

"Still," said the shaman. "These guys write non-fiction. It's rough to see them live in the real world and pay such a penalty for it. I feel that I'm cheating somehow."

"Not really." said Nosmo. "You pull things out of your backside and call it fiction. They pull things out of their backside and call it non-fiction. The truth in it comes from what the reader pulls out of it. Even the great Jack O'Connor was only as good as his readers."

"I don't follow you."

"No, I suppose you don't. You're still a bit of a little boy, sitting in the barber shop. You believe what is in the magazine."

"Yes, I suppose I am. "

"And somehow you think the crap you're writing doesn't measure up on the truth scale-- not compared to these guys."

"Yes. I write deliberate fiction."

"Ah!" said Nosmo. "That is where you are wrong. Take Jack O'Connor. Jack went all over the planet seeking sport and he wrote about it. However, was there a scintilla of graspable truth in it? Could you in the barber shop conceive of what it was really like to be on a hunt? No, but Jack did a wonderful job of getting you to think you did. Tell me, for all your deer hunting and turkey hunting, does any of it even remotely resemble what you read in the barber shop?"

"No. I suppose not."

"And do you think any one of these gentle readers really put themselves into the mind of the writer and live his experience, whether it be at the bench or in the field? No. It is only the illusion. It is the illusion that the magazine sells and the illusion that the reader craves. No one can be transported magically by words in a book and share the writer's reality. At least not in the sense of 'TRVTH' . The problem is that when the reader does not achieve that illusion, he blames the writer and not himself."

"That has me confused."

"And well it should. You as a writer have the task of creating an illusion of truth that draws the reader, if he is willing and able, to imagine what you are writing. The reader's job is to take what you have written as a road map and go the distance, to reach out with his own imagination and finish the job."

"But that's fiction. These guys are writing non-fiction."

"The mechanism works the same. You write truth and call it fiction. Jack O'Connor wrote fiction andthey called it truth. It all digests the same. It matters not if the writer is a scoundrel or a saint-- it's up to the reader to see the truth in it."

“I’ll stick with fiction,” replied the shaman. “It’s safer. I’m just worried.”

“I’m here to fix that.” Said Nosmo. “You don’t mind if I borrowed a few things, do you?”

“Of mine?” asked the shaman.

“Yes.” Replied Nosmo. “And others.” He made a motion and soon another shadowy figure came from the other side of the fire towards them. The shadow was pushing along a wheelbarrow, filled with all sorts of stuff. On top of the wheelbarrow was a small yellow stuffed bear.

“Allow me to introduce my compatriots.” Said Nosmo. “I give you the illustrious Winnie the Pooh, and my business partner, Busy Backsoon.”

“I’m honored,” said the shaman shaking their hands.

“Busy,” said Nosmo. “Start unloading the gear. We’ll set up right here.”

“Is that what I think that is?” asked the shaman.

“Yes, it’s an assault wheelbarrow.” Said Nosmo. “We borrowed that too.”

Pooh Bear helped Busy as they unloaded the wheelbarrow. It was a massive thing, fitted with several bays for guns and ammunition. There was a portable shooting table, a chronograph, and several target stands. There was also a familiar looking laptop.

“What are we doing?” asked the shaman.

“We are going to prove something.” Said Nosmo. “I took the liberty of borrowing some things from your closet. We are going to test this.” He held out a CD. “I call it the Nosmo King Shamanic Fecal Filter. It’s got a server side piece and a downloadable client. You put it on your PC and it helps to sieve truth from non-truth. It’s loaded with artificial intelligence, so all we have to do is train it to detect one from the other. It’s infallible.”

“Okay.” Said the shaman. “But what’s the rest of this stuff.”

“Oh, “ said Nosmo. “That’s the acid test. You’ll see.”


After everything was set up, Nosmo and Busy started training the new software by feeding a collection of books into the laptop. They fed it two O’Connors, Three Macmanuses, several Howells, a Clay Harvey, and a Ken Waters. They also fed in a fifteen inch thick printout of the collected works of Gunkid, including his treatise on wheelbarrows.

“No, we take the software out of learning mode, like this.” Said Nosmo. “And then feed it the latest issue of Outdoor Life.” The laptop thought for a bit and then flashed “Truth” on the screen.

“Okay.” Said Nosmo. “Busy, hand me that other Macmanus book.” Busy brought him the book and Nosmo fed it to the laptop. “Truth” it said. “Now we’re getting somewhere.” He said. “No lets feed it James Barsness’ latest piece.” The article went in. “Truth.”

“Very good.” Said Nosmo. “Now, I have a capture of flame war between two trolls I downloaded this morning from Internet. One is claiming that that his Mini-14 is accurate to 400 yards and the other claiming that he can do the same with his Mossberg pump.” The printout was fed into the laptop and it took but a second for it to come back with a determination: “Truth.”

Busy and Pooh Bear, all stood and scratched their heads at the screen. Nosmo was not fazed. The shaman just watched.

“Now,” said Nosmo. “I see we have some questions within the researchers as to what the fecal filter is saying. Let me make some adjustments.” He twiddled at the controls and then pronounced, “There, I’ve gone in and adjusted the threshold. Ken Water’s Pet Loads will be accepted as truth but the collected works of John Melvin Davis were now set to register as bunk. Nosmo then resubmitted the troll feud.

“Truth.” Said the Laptop.

“I’ll make another adjustment.” Said Nosmo. “This time we’ll earmark the trolls stuff as bunk.” When that was done. Nosmo fed in a copy of The Hunting Rifle by O’Connor : “BUNK” and The Hunter’s Rifle by Harvey “BUNK” Everyone was astounded. No matter what they fed in, it was bunk. Busy and Pooh tried to take over and make adjustments to the laptop, but Nosmo held them back.

“You see?” said Nosmo “By the light of trolls, it’s all bunk.”

“You have not proved anything.” Said the shaman. “I don’t think this fecal filter thing is going to be practical.”

“I don’t think you’ve seen my point.” Said Nosmo. “It’s not that the program is unpractical. It just gives answers you don’t like. That’s okay. It just proves something important: if you don’t like the answers, don’t ask the questions. On the other hand, this has another purpose.”

“What’s that.” Asked the shaman. “This seems overly complicated to get to a simple point.”

“Ah,” said Nosmo. “What we’re going to do is empirical testing. For the next part of the test, I’ve brought several rifles out, and we’re going to test them. I’ve taken the liberty of raiding a few gun cabinets—yours included. I hope you don’t mind.”

“We’ll see.” Said the shaman. “What did you bring?”

“Busy,” said Nosmo. “What did you bring me?” Busy stepped forward and as he called them out, Pooh brought them from the cases and laid them on a mat on the ground.

“A 35 Whelen bolt action from the collection of a certain Ken Howell, once loaned to another illustrious writer for the definitive work on this round.” Said Busy. “A Winchester Model 70 in the caliber of .270 from the collection of the late Jack O’Connor. A Savage 99 from the shaman’s collection in 308. A Steyr Scout in 308 from the collection of the late Friar Frog. A Springfield ’03 from the collection of a certain Colonel Townsend Whelen, late of this world. . .”

On it went, many famous rifles from many famous writer’s collections, some rifles from the shaman’s own collection as well as an H&K bolt gun from the collection of Clay Harvey, retrieved from a pawn shop. After several minutes, Pooh Bear gingerly put down the last of the rifles and leaned back against the stack of cases. All the cases fell over and buried him. Busy and Nosmo had to scramble to get him out.

“There.” Said Nosmo. “Now, sit down and we are going to compare your shooting results against those of the greats.”

“I’m honored.” Said the shaman, reverently fondling Ken Howell’s rifle. It had been the first uncased, and the shaman had picked it up first and not taken his eyes off it. “However, I don’t see what this is going to prove.”

“It will prove a lot. “ said Nosmo. “You shoot. We’ll record the results, and we’ll build the definitive article on a head-to-head comparison of these rifles. It will be milestone in the annals of outdoor writing. We'll then use that as a benchmark for the Fecal Filter. It will be indisputable!”

“No it won’t” said the shaman. “I could shoot from now until the end of time, and looking at this collection, I probably will. It will prove nothing.”

“Won’t it?” said Nosmo. “Why not?”

“It’ll be just me and my loads,” said the shaman. “Or me and some factory loads, and these old rifles. There’s no telling, with me shooting, how well they shot in the hands of their masters. There would be no truth in it. Even if I deferred to my betters, even if I was to find the great High Master from back at shooters.com and have him shoot these, what would it prove?”

“Ah,” said Pooh. “High Master. I remember him fondly.”

“You do?” said Busy. “I always figured him as a bit of egotist.”

Pooh thought about this for a moment and replied. “Yes, but he was so nice about it. He made me feel good.”

“I don’t think he could do what he claimed.” Said Busy.

“I’m not sure,” said Pooh, “But I don’t think that made a difference. At least not to me.”

“Quit bickering,” said Nosmo. “If shaman won’t do this test, and we cannot find anyone else, what are we going to do with all these rifles?”

“Admire them?” said Pooh. “They’re most sentimental. They all smell so nice. I like this one.”

“Watch it.” Said Busy. “I think that’s the one we lifted off Carmichael He used it for bear hunting.” Pooh shivered at the thought and put it back down.

“Look,” said the shaman. “I appreciate all the work you’ve put into this, but I really think you should be putting these rifles back where they belong.”

“You must at least take one shot.” Said Nosmo. “We really want you to.”

“Oh,” said the shaman. “Okay. He picked up his own Savage 99 in 308 and dug around in the ammo boxes until he found the blue box of reloads he’d made up for deer season. As everyone put on eye and ear protection, the shaman stepped up to the shooting table and leveled the rifle at a soda can someone had left on a fence post out in the field. “At least,” said the shaman. “I know I can hit something with this. At least I could the last time I shot it.” The shaman touched it off, and there was a roar from the rifle and the soda can disappeared from the post.

“Why didn’t you pick another rifle?” asked Nosmo.

“I didn’t want to dirty up someone elses.” Replied the shaman. “I’d love to shoot that one over there, but it’s Ken’s and it’s not mine, and I’d probably just waste rounds trying to figure out where it would shoot.”

“But . . .” said Busy.

“No,” said the shaman. “I appreciate what you’ve all done. At least I know my Savage 99 is still a good shooter, but I think you’ve just wasted a lot of time. When we’re done, it’s still a lot of fuss and muck, and I cannot say the Nosmo King Shamanic Fecal Filter does any good. If it can’t tell the difference between MacManus and Barsness, High Master and GunKid, what use is it, Nosmo?”

“When you were in the barber shop,” said Nosmo. “Who did you like better?”

“MacManus.” Said the shaman. “He was always my favorite. He was in the back of the magazine and I always read him first. But he was . . .”

“Fiction?” said Busy, butting in. “We’re all cleaned up.” The shaman looked over and Pooh was loading the last of the rifles back in the wheelbarrow. The shaman was quite amazed at their efficiency.

“Those assault wheelbarrows are really something,” said Nosmo. “It’s amazing what they can hold. But getting back to our discussion, do you really think that writing fiction saves you?”

“What do you mean? said the shaman.

“I mean this.” Said Nosmo. He motioned, and Winnie the Pooh brought forward a golden crown of thorns on a corduroy pillow. Nosmo picked it up and placed it on the shaman’s head—well almost. The shaman’s big hat had his headdress resting on it, sort of as an extended hatband. The antlers of the headdress kept the crown of thorns from embedding in his scalp. As it was Nosmo had to sort of hang it off one of the antlers on the headdress. “There, you’re officially and outdoor writer.”

“But I write fiction.” Said the shaman.

“So?” said Nosmo. “So do most writers. Some of the best non-fiction books ever written were fictional.”

“But I write crap on online forums.” Protested the shaman.

“So do those gunwriters.” Said Nosmo, pointing down the hill.

“But . . . but . . .” sputtered the shaman. “I don’t want all the rotten stuff thrown at me!”

“Sorry fellow.” Said Busy. “You sort of asked for it.” He reached into the wheelbarrow and brought out some overripe cabbage.


“STOP!” said Pooh Bear. He’d thrown up a sky hook and was now lowering himself down from a rope that he’d thrown up . “ I am the Deus Machine Gun!”

“The Deus Machine Gun.” Said Nosmo. “Don’t you mean the Deus ex Machina?”

Pooh replied. “Oh, bother! Yes, that’s what I meant. I am the . . . the Deus . . . whatever it is! I am here to save the shaman from the ugly fate of becoming an outdoor writer. He’s too good a chap for that. I declare that the shaman be forever exempt from such glaring scrutiny! For now and for ever more may the shaman’s writing be put behind the classified ads, so that no one will ever take him seriously and save him from the terrible fate of . . . of those horrible wretches.” Pooh Bear pointed down the slope, where the gunwriters, their fans and the pigs were wallowing.

“Thanks,” said the shaman, pulling the crown of thorns off his head. “I’m quite happy where I am, all of you. I would just as well like to stay here just as I am and shoot my own rifles and write about how I feel when I shoot them. That I know is truth, and no one can dispute it. Pooh, as much as I appreciate your effort to save me, I think this is the only true way to be safe.”

Nosmo was crestfallen. He’d really wanted the shaman to make the leap into the world of gunwriting. They really needed some fresh blood down in the pit. Any blood would do at this point. Busy patted him on the back and the two took the assault wheelbarrow and started back off the way they had come. Pooh Bear saw his ride leaving and started to run to catch up. However, he thought twice about it, which was a very hard thing for a bear of his intelligence to do, and stopped in his tracks. He walked back to the shaman.

“Here,” said Pooh. “Perhaps this should be yours.” He reached out and placed something in the shaman’s hand. “Wear this, and it will protect you. I hear it is magical.” The shaman examined it. It was a badge made from aluminum foil. Someone had taped a safety pin on the back and scrawled “IMHO” on the front with magic marker. The shaman thanked the bear and pinned it on the outside of his clothes. Winnie the Pooh ran to catch up, and soon they were all out of sight.

“Who or what is this IMHO?” called the shaman, but Pooh was already gone.

The shaman sat down again with his Clay Harvey book, and went back to reading.



__________________________




The Pelting of the Gunwriters
PT III
By WIlliam E. Allendorf (the shaman)

The shaman was back at the fire when he felt a large weight fall on the other end of his log. He looked up to see a rather disheveled man. He recognized him immediately as one of the gunwriters.

“Busy day?” said the shaman.

“Busy!” said the gunwriter. “It’s been murder. I’ve been pelted three times today, plus I had to go to the flame war with the trolls, I’ve got a deadline to make, and I’m three thousand words short.”

“My sympathies.” Replied the shaman. “Perhaps I can be of service to you.”

“What’s that?” said the writer.

“I’ve got a new toy.” Said the shaman. “You might find it useful.”

“I don’t have time to review another rifle.” Said the writer. “I’m backed up as it is. I have to get this article out and then get back to the hog pen. Lord only knows when I’m going to get a chapter done on my book.”

“This is not a rifle.” Said the shaman.

“I don’t do accessories.” Said the writer. “They tried to get me to do a cough silencer a few years ago, and I never got paid.”

“No,” said the shaman. “But this little gizmo might quiet down the rabble a bit so you can have some piece.”

“Sir,” said the writer. “You have my attention.”

The shaman got up and took the writer over to his tent. Just outside was something under a tarp. The shaman lifted up the tarp and there was a stout white marble pedestal about waist high with “TRVTH” etched on its face. A small electronic screen was in the side, and a cable trailed off inside the tent.

“What is it?”

“It’s the pedestal of TRVTH.”

“How does it work?”

“I was thinking you might ask that, “ said the shaman. “Jump up there and say something definitive. If you speak the truth, nothing will happen. If you say something that has no truth in it, a large bolt of lightning will come from out of the sky and fry your a$$.”

“No thanks.” Said the writer. “There’s a bunch of folks I’d like to see up on there.”

“I’ve been playing with it, reading the manual and such.” Said the shaman. "I can put it into test mode and you won’t get zapped. Care to give it a try?

“I suppose.” Said the writer. “Hey! How did you come by this anyway?”

“A friend gave me this badge yesterday.” Said the shaman. The shaman pointed to the little aluminum foil thing that Pooh had given him as a parting gift. “IMHO” was written in magic marker.

“So?”

“I guess having it written with a magic marker did something to it.” Said the shaman. Anyhow, I was eating a bowl of chili last night and I dribbled some schmutz on it. When I went to wipe it off, there was a loud crash and a lot of smoke, and all of a sudden I had this genie standing in front of me. He said he was IMHO, the magic genie, and he would grant me a wish. I asked for an end to all this discord at the campfire, and the next thing I know I had this thing.”

“You should have had him ask for riot shields for the gunwriters.” Said the writer. “We need help.”

“Well, maybe this will do something.” Said the shaman. “Let’s give it a try.”

“You sure I wont’ get zapped?”

“I’ve got the key right here.” Said the shaman. “Without this key inserted, all you get is a little sound and an indication on the panel.”

The writer reluctantly crawled up on the pedestal. “I never had to do this before the damn Internet came around.” He said.

“I know.” Said the shaman. “Times change. I used to be able to wiggle my rattle at something, and poof! Now I have to freaking prove everything I do is magical before folks will believe it works. Say something absolutely true.”

“The Thirty-Ought-Six is the most popular cartridge ever made.” Said the writer. The shaman looked at the indicator. “OPINION” flashed on the screen, followed by a non-commital buzz.

“Try again. “ said the shaman. “It says it was an opinion.”

“In my opinion, the Thirty-Ought-Six is the most popular cartridge ever made.” Said the writer. The pillar flashed “TRVTH” on the screen and made a satisfying little tinkling noise.

“Okay.” Said the shaman. “What that means is that the Ought Six cannot be proven to be the most popular, but it can be proven that it is your opinion.”

“That’s ridiculous.” Said the writer. “Everybody knows-“

“I suppose more people use something else.” Said the shaman. “Maybe it’s twenty two long rifle. “

“Well, you know what I mean.” Said the writer.

“It could be a lot of things.” Said the shaman. “The oh-you-know-what-I-mean circuitry is an add-on feature. IMHO, the genie, only gave me the base model. We’re going to have to stick to basic truths.”

“That is not going to get very far with outdoor writing.” Said the writer.

“No,” said the shaman. “However, if you and the trolls both agree to use this device as the final arbitrator of truth, you might get somewhere.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Why?”

“Well,” said the writer. “For one thing, there’s so much of what we write that is based on our experience. Not all of it is what you would classify as quantitative. Nobody would read a magazine filled with purely quantitative articles. It would be a scientific journal and not a gun magazine. If somebody wanted to criticize us, they would have to duplicate the experiments and submit their data and conclusions for peer review. Who would want that?”

“The great Rastafarian prophet, Lawn Boy once said,” quoted the shaman. “’Everybody want to go to heaven, but nobody want to die.’”

“Damn right!” said the writer. “I’m a working stiff. I don’t have to stand on that thing.”

“Then,” said the shaman. “It won’t be fair to demand that the trolls do the same.”

“You get a troll up there,” said the writer. “Once one of their sorry stretched-out a$$es gets toasted, then maybe they’ll quiet down. Then I can get back to work.”

“However,” said the shaman. “If the writers don’t want to stand on the pedestal, how can we expect the trolls?”

“What I intend on doing,” said the shaman, “Is to put this pedestal in the middle of the campground. Anyone who wants to use it is welcome. However, if you want to call your neighbor a moron and have it stick, you’re going to have to do it up there.”

“And if they don’t?” said the writer.

“. . .and if they don’t, it will be simply left as an opinion. Troll and writer alike are entitled to their feelings and to their opinions. Rudeness will still be rudeness. Meanness will be meanness, and a righteously thrown rotten egg will stink the same as an unrighteous one. We will still all be judged as gentlemen or knaves.”

“I don’t get the point then.” Said the writer. “We need something to knock these trolls back on their heals.”

“This pedestal does come with a remote control” said the shaman. “It has a red button on it. All I have to do is press it, and you will be zapped into oblivion.”

“Yes,” said the writer. “That’s what we need.”

“But who do I give the remote to? Rick? Ken? You? Do I keep it for myself? Who will stand on the pedestal if I do that?”

“Give it to Rick” said the writer. “He’ll give us a square deal.”

“I don’t think Rick wants the remote. Nor do I. In fact, I would mistrust anyone who would gladly take this remote.” Said the shaman. “So there you have it.”

“What?”

“The pedestal.” Said the shaman. “I’m moving it now to the center of the campground and I will make the announcement later tonight when everyone is at the fire. Anyone is free to use it, but they must sign a waiver, absolving Rick of any damage that happens to themselves and to others.”

“No one will use it.” Said the writer.

“Funny” said the shaman. “I just looked down, and somewhere along the way I must have pressed the AUTO button by mistake. That pedestal is live. I’d be very careful what you said.” The writer jumped off immediately.

“I could have been killed.” Said the writer.

“Yes, but you were speaking truth,” said the shaman. “No one will use this pedestal.”

 


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