Newspaper-Reading Public: Was the Sardine talking about paper?
Logged-In Public: Why are you guys still around? Your time is past. The newspaper is dead.
The Sardine can't understand why the two Publics have such antipathy for one another. True, it seems more crowded with the both of them in the same column.
N-R P: Are you the Sardine from the book A Sardine on Vacation, or from the internet magazine Unlikely Stories?
The Sardine in any venue is still the Sardine. You must learn how to share.
L-I P: We are the future. Soon, everything will be done online. The Sardine buys his books and movies off the Internet. Soon he will have a custom made car assembled on a web page and never have to see the smarmy face of an automobile salesman again. Even the Newspaper-Reading Public checks out the Associated Press and other news reports from Yahoo or Comcast or AOL before they get a paper delivered to their house.
N-R P: You are the real phonies. The column in Unlikely Stories is an imitation. You are only a virtual public. We are the real public for the Sardine. The real Sardine is in the book.
L-I P: The Sardine started online precisely because no newspaper or syndicate would go with his column. The newspapers figured that the Newspaper-Reading Public wasn't ready for the Sardine. Jonathan Penton at Unlikely Stories took a chance with the Sardine on Vacation column. He deserves a lot of credit.
N-R P: Maybe. By the way, how much is Penton paying for the cyber-sardine pieces?
L-I P: About as much as you got from the publisher of the book!
You didn't have to remind the Sardine that he hadn't, and most likely won't, receive any royalties.
N-R P: There are no copies available from Amazon at present. Someone must have bought the book.
L-I P: Don't believe what Amazon says. We've seen it say there is only one book left when a book hasn't gone on sale yet.
N-R P: Most of what is printed on the Internet will disappear after a few years. People get tired of web magazines.
L-I P: Better than turning yellow after a few years and smelling musty. There's something to be said for writing that fades away yet never really does.
N-R P: What do you mean?
L-I P: Anything that has been published on the Internet will be preserved. Long live the web archives.
That's depressing. The Sardine would hate to have died and never really made it to fish oblivion.
L-I P: Besides, we are free from corporate control and censorship. There is integrity and aesthetic virtue in web magazines.
N-R P: Sure, and we read the comics to attain a tragic understanding of life — ancient Greek style.
"I'm impressed by the newspaper public's classical education," Oedipus chimed in.
L-I P: They don't impress us. We used to be a part of that ink-smudged public. We have liberated ourselves from having to wait for our news. Once you have entered the cyber-news world, you cannot return.
N-R P: Your world is corrupt with viruses, crashes, and frozen screens. Not to mention the pop up ads and spam.
The Sardine once hated the computer and, still, views it as a menace, but even this little fish couldn't avoid the lure and got caught up in the Net.
[My pun pal writes: That sounds a bit fishy. Or are you just baiting me into this reply?]
"What's the point of the two publics arguing?" asked Frank Weathers. "The two Sardine columns are basically the same. I'm happy that I'm appearing in twice the amount of articles I had originally counted on. Besides, I see no difference between the columns."
The Sardine would like to differ. The original premise of the print version of the column was to change the nature of newspaper reading.
L-I P: Except that every newspaper syndicate turned you down.
N-R P: They didn't realize what they were missing.
The Newspaper-Reading Public arose because it didn't want something new or original. It wanted something reliable everyday.
N-R P: We come here to defend him and now he's killing us!
You are who you are. The column was created with newspapers in mind.
L-I P: We kept the idea alive until it found a second home. Now we share the tasty items.
"I think I am going to get sick," said McNulty. "Don't these clowns ever read what is in the columns. The Sard's contempt for both publics is palpable."
N-R P and L-I P (together): He really likes us and is afraid to admit it.
Now the Sardine is going to be sick.
L-I P: Why are the newsies giggling?
N-R P: We know one way we are superior to you.
L-I P: Now we're going to be sick. What makes you so much better?
N-R P: We were a Feature with columns. The Internet Sardine articles just descend the page. Columns make no sense there.
L-I P: Haven't you forgotten something?
N-R P: We don't think so.
L-I P: There are no more hard copy Sardine columns. You only continue to exist because the Internet column continues. You owe your continued existence to us.
N-R P: We would rather be dead.
That will be for the Sardine to decide.
Bob Castle is the author of A Sardine on Vacation. He has had two other books published this year: The End of Travel, a comic memoir and send up of traveling abroad (Triple Press) and Odd Pursuits, a collection of stories (Wild Child Publishing). He is regular writer for Bright Lights Film Journal and has over one hundred fifty stories, essays, and articles published. The first fifteen installments of his saga can be viewed at the old Unlikely Stories. Episodes One through Forty-Seven of A Sardine on Vacation (with five semi-canonical additional episodes) are also available in book form.