The Lizard of Fun sits perched on my suitcase, its face screwed up into a scowl like some living gargoyle. Its muttering incomprehensibly as it taps away furiously at my laptop computer.
"Im imitating a journalist. Since youre going on vacation, and obviously wont be fully prepared for any kind of rest and relaxation until about an hour before youre supposed to come home, I figured Id help you out," it explains when I threaten to pack it into the suitcase. "Just to prove what a great pal I am, Ive made up the news for you. All you need to do is plug in the details as they become available."
"Oh yeah?" I say distractedly, wondering if Ive packed the extra waffle iron and my off-road bikini. "News?"
"I call it The Lizards One-Size-Fits-All Newspaper," it says, holding up the laptop. "Check it out."
Headline: Weird weather breaks all records
Dateline: (Detroit, or Alaska, or Florida, depending)
Copy: The weather was the hot topic of conversation yesterday, when a) tornadoes; b) flash floods; c) a record-breaking heat wave; d) snow in August broke out in parts of the country.
Residents rushed to a) storm cellars; b) shovel 3 feet of snow; c) buy air-conditioners; d) get their video cameras to film footage to sell to TV news programs.
Hardest hit by the storm/water/heat were residents of trailer parks/lakefront properties/low-income housing, who had to be evacuated/thrown life preservers/refrigerated for up to six hours.
Meteorologists, claiming that this weather event breaks all previously kept records, blame it on a) El Niño; b) La Niña; c) global warming; d) The Media. The last record-breaking event of this type happened in a) the Ice Age; b) August 1789; c) July this year.
"Or how about this?"
Headline: Shooting rampage in _______ leaves ____ dead, ____ wounded
Dateline: (Fill in the blank)
Copy: A disgruntled a) postal worker; b) high school student; c) day trader; d) social misfit arrived at a) his former place of employment; b) his former girlfriends place of employment; c) a high school; d) a highly populated grocery store/community center/shopping mall and opened fire with a) a semiautomatic assault rifle; b) an unregistered set of handguns; c) enough artillery to outfit an entire platoon; d) a Super Soaker.
Police have confirmed that (insert number) people were killed and (insert number) were wounded in the attack, before the gunman a) turned the weapon on himself; b) led officers in a high-speed chase before turning the weapon on himself; c) had a lengthy standoff with police before turning the gun on himself; d) escaped, and is believed to be at large or may have turned the gun on himself; e) surrendered to police after threatening to turn the gun on himself.
Witnesses at the scene said they a) hid in closets or behind locked doors; b) ducked and covered; c) ran like hell; d) got their video cameras and filmed footage to sell to TV news programs.
Authorities in (applicable city name here) were a) holding the suspect on $1 million bond; b) still searching for the suspect; c) wiping up the bloody aftermath; d) calling for stronger weapons restrictions; e) wondering who to blame.
(Insert name here), a friend of the gunman, said:
a) "Hed been feeling under pressure lately."
b) "He was always such a nice guy. Id never think he would do something like this."
c) "Hed been planning this for years. I didnt take him seriously."
d) "Im just glad he didnt decide to do this
when I was at work/school/the mall."
Government officials are calling for a nationwide registry of
a) all guns
b) office workers/postal workers/high school students
c) all psychiatrists who specialize in sound bites about mass killings.
Generic quotes to plug in, depending on situation:
Concerned politician: "I keep telling my political colleagues this is an important issue, but they keep waffling. This is an important issue, isnt it?"
Gun-rights supporter: "Shooting people in offices is like shooting lions in a zoo. Its just not sporting."
Anti-gun activist: "Told ya so. Told ya so."
"But what if there arent any weird weather events or shooting rampages in time for the next issue of the paper?" I ask.
The Lizard shrugs. "Wanna hear my lizards-eye view exposé of the alligator shoe industry?"