The Morning The Earth Stood Still
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Earth"
Originally featured on 03-18-2008
As part of our series "Elements of Style"

Recently, during a heated discussion about geography, one of the hosts of a popular morning show told her co-hosts, the studio audience, and millions of people watching at home that she wasn’t sure the Earth was round. There was an immediate silence. Her co-hosts — the Asian one, the black one, the young one, and the venerable one — stared at her as if she were crazy. Sally (the sassy one) blushed and it appeared that she was about to say something to refute her earlier statement. But then the venerable one’s withered jaw creaked open and she spoke for the first time in several episodes.

“You know, Sally,” she croaked, “you just might be right.”

She nodded at the Asian one who nodded at the black one who nodded at the young one, until the whole panel looked like their own bobble heads (which, coincidentally, were available for purchase in the gift shop out in the lobby).

The perplexed audience members turned to each other and began chattering like excited squirrels. After a minute they cheered and burst into a vigorous applause. Sally, a moment ago feeling foolish and now feeling vindicated, smiled and took a sip of her luke-warm latte.

But the story doesn’t end there.

When news got out, panic ensued. Everyone everywhere — meter maids, goat-herders, diplomats — all wondered the same thing: Had we been fooled? Could we all have been wrong this whole time?

The leading cartographers, scientists, and gym teachers (for their extensive knowledge of round things) were immediately assembled. The world waited with baited breath for their conclusion, and finally, after a six hour meeting in a Holiday Inn conference room, their spokesman, Mr. Rafferty, approached the podium. Nervously fiddling with the whistle dangling from his neck, he said just five words, “Hey, we all make mistakes,” then rushed off to a volleyball tournament.

Naturally this caused pandemonium. All ships immediately stopped sailing for fear of falling off the edge of the world. Senior citizens, irate over their luxury cruises being canceled, revolted and stormed travel agencies.

Shipments of bananas, Nikes, toothbrushes, and everything else remained stranded in ports. Commerce everywhere ground to a halt and the global economy collapsed.

But the story doesn’t end there.

If it wasn’t for second-grader Billy Jeffries who happened to recall a lesson he had learned the previous school year about an explorer named Magellan who sailed around the world, therefore proving the Earth was in fact round, things might have turned out differently. But he did, raising his hand in class and waiting to be called on after Ashley Morgan’s show-and-tell presentation of her favorite puppet.

Billy was hailed as a hero and immediately promoted to the third grade. Ships began sailing again and it wasn’t long before everything was back to normal.

But the story doesn’t end there.

On that popular morning show, in front of her co-hosts, a studio audience, and millions of people watching at home, Sally was tied to a make-shift stake and set on fire. As she burned, her co-hosts — the Asian one, the black one, the young one, the venerable one and Bonnie, the new brassy one — looked at each other and nodded. And next to the show that featured exotic rain forest animals, it was the highest rated episode of the season.

Read More By Tim Josephs

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