The Emperor’s New Clothes

By Matthew Moniz

Once, in the days of the Red Scare, respected newspaper magnate Edward Rojoja produced a completely blank Daily Edition and told everyone it was printed with a special new ink invisible only to Communists.

Believe me, there was a hullabaloo:

The comics that day were the funniest they had ever been – everyone was laughing out loud. They will never be that funny again.

Fans of every baseball team except Cincinnati celebrated, patting each other on the back because the news had reported a win for their side.

Across the country – from Boston to Los Angeles, and all the small nameless towns between – boastful men shared that they had read every single word in the paper. Some had read it twice. Behind the comfort of closed doors, artists bragged to each other that they couldn’t see a thing.

A few companies – Coca-Cola, Hormel, Marlboro, Sears – played radio advertisements reminding people that coupons had been printed in that day’s edition and encouraged customers to purchase their products. People cut out these squares of paper and redeemed them at their local markets.

Americans learned that day of events happening across the globe – first London, then Paris, then West Berlin – the whole entire world – each more concerning than the last. Everyone agreed aloud that the evils of Communism were responsible for these problems.

Spouses quizzed each other to make sure their significant other wasn’t an other and could see the same words as them. Infants were arrested on suspicion of being unable to read.

Politicians took the opportunity to confirm their own upstanding, patriotic morality and held hearings to incriminate any people and groups they didn’t like. The targets couldn’t match the stories the senators quoted from the paper. Some of these people remained locked up for months.

The next day, the paper went back to normal. Everyone forgot quickly. Historians never mention the event, and no copies of the issue remain. This poem was printed on its pages.

Matthew Moniz is a PhD student in poetry at the University of Southern Mississippi. Originally from the DC area, he holds and MFA from McNeese State University.

Art by Lesley C. Weston (Colored Pencil and Ink)

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