I know. It’s Halloween season, not Christmas. Yet here once again is a gift in the guise of that passively interactive test of reader acuity: “Did this conversation actually take place?” It’s the column all the kids are talking about when they’re not talking about something else.
I know. It’s Halloween season, not Christmas. Yet here once again is a gift in the guise of that passively interactive test of reader acuity: “Did this conversation actually take place?”
It’s the column all the kids are talking about when they’re not talking about something else.
The rules are so simple an editor can explain them. Did the following dialogue actually occur verbatim, is it partially made up, or is it wholly the product of an unfettered imagination that should have stayed fettered?
The current entry purportedly takes us to a time long ago, October 1970. It was a simple age when pants ended in flared “bells,” people injured their ankles when they fell from their platform shoes, and the word “groovy” was used without fear of censure.
A father and son watch a movie together on TV in a living room. The 10-year-old son lies on the floor in front of the set. The dad sits on the couch. The film is “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” It’s the first time the son has seen the 1956, black-and-white classic. The dad has seen it many times.
As the following conversation begins, the film has just ended.
Or did it?
Son: Wow, that was scary.
Dad: Yeah. It’s a really good film.
Dad: Yeah, there was speculation that it’s actually about the McCarthy era in the 1950s. The alien pods take over the people and they all become mindless followers, without a thought of their own, like the McCarthy followers.
Son: Those pods just took over those people when they fell asleep. Wow. Copied their whole bodies.
Dad: Yeah, it’s really well made. The way the lead actor has to be convinced himself it’s happening. And then he’s got to convince the outside world.
Son: Wow, how about when they stuck that pitchfork into that pod turning into that person ’cause they were falling asleep?
Dad: The narrative style is also very effective. It really grabs your attention.
Son: I thought the lady was going to get away. Wow. She couldn’t stay awake. Wow.
Dad: That was Dana Wynter. She was great in the role. And speaking of sleeping. It’s 10 o’clock. I let you stay up because it’s Friday night, but time to get to bed.
Son: (stalling) What was your favorite part?
Dad: C’mon. It’s 10 o’clock. We’ll talk some more about it tomorrow.
Son: (sees there’s no room for negotiation, rises from the floor, kisses his dad on the cheek) Good night.
Dad: Good night.
Son: (starts heading for the stairs)
Son: (stops) What?
Dad: (in the deadpan tone of a former human turned alien) Just watch out for the pod I put under your bed.
And that’s it. Did this conversation actually take place?
And did people actually injure themselves by falling off their platform shoes in 1970?
Frank Mulligan is an editor in GateHouse Media New England’s Plymouth, Mass., office, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.