Not-So-Rocky Future Coming

I sat down in a booth with my coffee and waited for inspiration. I needed ideas for the next column and they often appear at Avogadro's restaurant. Seymour Sharpe slid in across from me. "Mike, now that you're a full-fledged columnist, are you gonna make predictions for this new year?"

"You mean like those psychics telling how your future will turn out?" I shook my head. "I don't believe in any of that astrology stuff. Of course, that's probably because I'm a Sagittarius and we're naturally skeptical."

He gave me a quizzical sort of look, rubbed his eyes, then continued. "All the other columnists do it. Even respectable ones. Maybe you at least ought to think about it."

I leaned over the table in my best imitation of Rodin's Thinker if he'd been sculpted in a restaurant booth. Eventually, I leaned back and said mystically, "I predict more people will die in car accidents than in airplane crashes, but airplane 'disasters' (I made the air quotes for emphasis) will make more headlines." I slumped, exhausted from my psychic efforts.

"Too easy," he said. "Worldwide, more people will die from mule kicks than in airplanes, but that happens every year. Maybe you should try a political prediction like a true pundit."

"Hmmmmmm," I said, eventually drawing it out into a long "Om." I tried to assume the lotus position but bumped my knees against the table and spilled coffee all over Seymour. After he quit swearing and piled up a big wad of napkins to stem most of the flow, I said, "I predict the Democrats and Republicans will argue about the size and focus of next year's tax increase while both parties collude to keep the Libertarian perspective from messing up their carefully contrived facade of 'choices'." Again I made the quotes just like a real TV "personality." This was fun.

"Same old, same old," said Seymour. "Give me something that will only happen this year."

I stared at the ceiling. Couldn't give him trouble in the Middle East or new cancer-causing foods based on rat studies. I gazed at Susan's wall painting. Couldn't give him scandals in Congress or a diaper full of worldwide web hype. I looked at the table where the spilled coffee was beginning to ooze past his napkin dam. Got it. "When three-year-old Matthew and I went to Edora Park in October, the Spring Creek Flood had left piles of rocks at certain curves. We spent an hour throwing rocks in the stream. In December, we went back and the rocks were gone or mashed into the mud. But city workers had left huge new piles of sand, dirt, and rock to dump in some of the more severely eroded places. So we threw those in. An 18-month-old toddler also threw rocks with his mom who wasn't really into it. A couple older boys skipped rocks on the other side of the bridge. I tossed boulders to make big splashes. Rocks, streams, and boys of all ages have a natural affinity. I predict that by next year, there will be no loose rocks along the edge of Spring Creek."

"That's it?" asked Seymour. "You're not much of a prophet."

I shrugged. "Give me time. This is my first year. Maybe in the future I'll --" I grabbed my head with both hands and rocked from side to side. "Oh, oh, oh. I got another one. Guaranteed true." In a low voice I moaned, "I predict that this is the final sentence of my newspaper column."

"Close, but no cigar," said Seymour. "I'm getting more coffee."