By John Thomas Tuft

And the Story Guide took them into the city, the seat of the government of the land, and they walked among the throngs of sightseers and travelers, among the rich and the wise and those wishing they were rich and those too afraid of what is wise, the officials and the officious, those begging for favors and those begging for food, the uber chic and the Uber drivers, the chattering pundits and children with chattering teeth, those proudly displaying the documents proving their position and privilege and those hiding their undocumented status from the enforcers. And he led them to the stairs of the Great Court and sat down among the throngs to gaze upon the Great House of the Representatives of the Perishables and in the distance the Mighty House that Blacks Built, where the Great Pilot resided.

A sadness swept over his countenance, making his band of BFFs wonder. “It is all such foolishness,” he sighed. “And in a short time these mighty streets will be deserted. People will be locked up in their homes, afraid. The Representatives of the Perishables will be cowering in dismay and the Great Pilot will be mumbling in abject misery.” One of his BFFs, Rocky, said, “No way! We are the people! Look at this place. Nothing can stop us.” Another BFF, JJ, his favorite, said, “We have the best economy and the mightiest armies. This is the seat of the richest land in the history of the world. We are mighty, we are strong. We are united.” The Story Guide shushed them. “In the words of the ancient margarine commercial on your precious light boxes, ‘It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!’”

And they were amazed at his words and questioned him saying, “How can this be? We have science. We have wealth. In fact, we can make wealth up out of thin air. What can top that?” And he seemed burdened by their questions. “All the 5G internet and all the algorithms, all the TikTok and Twitter, all the Facebook and the expressing of every last thought, all the walls and borders, all the posturing and posing will not help you find what you need in this time. The cost will be heavy and…and I must leave you soon.” They were astonished, saying, “Say it ain’t so. Just this Sunday they were yelling Joe Santa, Joe Santa, at you arriving in the old VW Bus.”

The Story Guide said to them, “Behold. Some will come saying they can blow this curse away with their breath in my name. Some will say there are magic pills that remove suffering. Some will say this is our shame. Some will say this is punishment. But I say unto you, this is your course. Walk it humbly.” And there was much confusion among his BFFs, and they beseeched him saying, “What can we do? And, hey, where are you going? You’re just going to up and leave us with this mess?” And he called a little child to him, and placing her in their midst said, “You must become like this child. And you must repent.” They were sore afraid and asked, “Repent? Huh? Repent of what? We didn’t cause anything!” And he took a piece of sidewalk chalk from the child and wrote there on the steps of the Great Court. When he finished, he took the child by the hand and walked away, chatting like old friends.

The BFFs crowded around the letters he had written, staring in amazement. For there on the steps were the words: ‘Playing dumb.’ “That’s it? Repent of playing dumb?” asked Rocky. “Who’s he calling dumb?” And the BFFs were frustrated and angry. And they ran after him to confront him. But he saw them coming and turned to face them. “JJ,” he said calmly. “Go get us some pizza and Coke. Let’s have a last supper here at the Lincoln Memorial, shall we?” JJ hesitated. “Last supper? Where are you going? Can we come too?” The Story Guide’s face grew solemn and the child appeared afraid. “The Great Pilot is restless. Some say that I am the one, the Messy Eye. The one who sees into hearts. But worry not, that’s a story for another day. Run along now.”

And it came to pass that they gathered at the great memorial for their last supper with the Story Guide. And as they were eating, one of them said, “Wouldn’t it be better if we all held hands and asked your dad to keep us from this suffering?” Impetuous Rocky piped up,  “I feel like we’re in some damn painting, while the world’s getting crazy. You’re always sayin’ how your dad’s got the whole world in his hands. So…?” JJ even added, “Dude, c’mon. What gives?” The Story Guide looked around the room slowly, quietly, looking each of them in the eye, which is to say, in the heart. “None of you,” he said, “has asked yet what the little girl and I spoke of this afternoon. Would you like to know?” Some shrugged, some nodded.

“I asked her what she needed. And she whispered to me the answer, one from the book of wisdom.” His voice dropped lower till they all had to lean in to hear what he said. “She asked me, ‘Won’t you be my neighbor?” He stood up to leave them. “Now, I’ve got to go call my dad. Catch up with you later.” And it was holy.

Words are magic, and writers are wizards.