Pope Sixtus IV: Congratulations to the Sardine in resuming A Sardine on Vacation. I’m sure its ten to twenty readers really missed it the last couple years.
Sardine: Thanks, Pope, for mentioning it, but the remark about my readership was uncalled for if not unchristian.
Sixtus: I should have said one or two thousand?
Sardine: Maybe one or two hundred.
Sixtus: Not much difference than ten or twenty or even fifty.
Sardine: I never had the biggest audience. That’s the reality of Internet literary magazines. Although the column aspired to be a newspaper feature with hundreds of thousands, even millions of readers.
Sixtus: Even in a world of diminishing newspaper sales?
Sardine: The column may have eventually been relegated to a digital slot in the newspapers future Internet incarnations.
Sixtus: It wouldn’t have stopped the exodus from newspapers?
Sardine: It would have been an antidote to the lame newspaper humor propagated by Dave Barry, Erma Bombeck, Art Buchwald, and others.
Sixtus: A formidable task.
Sardine: Sample columns and a proposal were sent to every newspaper syndicate and many newspapers. No response except form-letter rejections.
Sixtus: They know what works.
Sardine: They held onto what was familiar. My columns had creative pluck.
Sixtus: Feature syndicates don’t give a pluck. How were yours different?
Sardine: Two ways, primarily. First, the column would never refer to current events and refrain from what newspaper readers expected from a featured piece, preferably located on the op-ed page.
Sixtus: Mother of God, have mercy on this naïve fish’s soul.
Sardine: Second, the columns would start in one direction, and subtly turn to another, hopefully eliciting a delightful surprise from the reader.
Sixtus: Why would you do this? What did you expect to achieve?
Sardine: I wanted the readers to realize that the Sardine feature was a sanctuary from the noise in the rest of the paper.
Sixtus: You thought that an editor was going to occupy space, near the Editorial Page no less, with a column that would alienate most newspaper readers.
Sardine: The Sardine is an alternative to the usual, obvious crap.
Sixtus: That’s like the Pope telling Christians not to obey the Ten Commandments. Where would the Church be then? In the shitter with the Gnostics and Zoroastrians.
Sardine: You didn’t follow the Commandments.
Sixtus: That’s different entirely. I broke them to maintain the Church’s strength. You would have lead newspapers even faster to the digital and destruction.
Sardine: I thought the papers could live with a dissenting voice. That’s how I framed my cover letter. The column by its very nature attacked the basis for a newspaper’s reason to exist.
Sixtus: That’s a hell of a way to sell yourself.
Sardine: The column wanted to avoid selling itself. It wasn’t asking readers to accept its view of the world.
Sixtus: An anti-salesman.
Dexter: Hey, that’s how Gerard described me in Berthcut & Sons.
Sixtus: Who’s that snot-nosed over-educated college graduate?
Sardine: He’s the trainee at the religious goods store.
Sixtus: The one who drove Gerard nuts.
Dexter: I think Gerard or someone in the shop called me the anti-Christ of salesmen.
Sixtus: You’re proud of that?
Dexter: No, your highness.
Sixtus: Your “Holiness”.
Dexter: Yeah. What it means is that the Sardine and I are cut from the same cloth.
Sardine: I wouldn’t go that far, junior.
Dexter: I’m pretty much the representative for the author in Berthcut. And you’re virtually indistinguishable from him.
Sardine: We’re way different.
Dexter: I don’t feel so bad now.
Sixtus: Well, I do. Knowing there are two of you out there who don’t know how the world works. Both of you would have been chewed up in Renaissance Italy.