Elliston Mast plopped the paper down and flopped backwards into his chair. He started reading the daily paper end to end as a deliberate practice two years ago as a way to keep his mind fresh and to have a good understanding of what was going on in the world.

He found the routine satisfying, at first. Over the last few months however, something shifted. His once passive intake of news and information started to come with a mental commentary. Spotty at first, the thoughts and reactions crept in and grew with the days. Audible grunts and ‘humphs’ followed. They prefaced longer strings of conscious responses and soon he was not only reading the paper out loud, but providing feedback on the story at the same time, often waving the pages in the air with disgust.

Today, even the ads annoyed him and he told them so while pointing and shaking his fist. The nerve of so and so mattress company to spread the fear that a mattress needs to be replaced every seven years! Why he could jump right into his twelve-year-old bed, roll around in it without so much of a hint of a squeak and then sleep solidly like a newborn baby in glorious comfort and support. He might even sleep better, to spite the mattress company! Yes, so and so mattress company, in your face!

The rage never started with the ads of course. The silly, simple context of the ads which treated human beings like morons was only the creamy topping on a ‘news’ sundae which not only set the pot to boil, but brought it up to full burn. Even the sports page garnered comments and derision.

Every day, like a soap opera, the paper added a few more sordid details to the developing stories intent on stringing the reader along  just enough to pick up tomorrow’s edition to see what happens next. Sensational murder trails, unfortunate accidents, crimes of the stupid and tragically uninformed littered the pages every day and like a waterfall, new stories of the same ilk awaited him the next day and the next day and the next.

He started reading the paper to keep his mind fresh and to have a good understanding of what was going on in the world. The paper itself often ended up balled up in a huge mass in his backyard with him standing over it, setting it ablaze with the help of some tiki torch fluid from the garage and a disposable candle-lighter.

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