Virtue & Mischief: A few moments in Oppositeville


Last night I went to sleep and experienced a dream, an ever-so-brief vision of my life in an alternative universe, a world you and I might legitimately refer to as “Oppositeville.” My short visit to this charming hamlet began with a ringing phone in the early hours of the morning. I rose to answer and flipped (yes, “flipped”) open my wife’s cell.


A short and familiar set of musical notes replied. Then: “This is a message from Oppositeville Schools, brought to you by Oppositeville National Bank, your hometown community bank.” Because I’m apparently wired to wonder about such trivia, I silently mused whether a bank could be a “hometown” institution without being a community one as well. Or vice versa. My trifling reverie was pierced by the continuing message.

“Good morning. This is Superintendent Boyle. Oppositeville Schools will be closed today, Monday, January 8th. Again, Oppositeville Schools will be closed today. Thank you.”

My Oppositeville wife roused slightly. “What’s going on?” she asked, sleepily.

“Schools are closed. I guess the roads are pretty slick from the sleet and snow that came down last night. Maybe it was rain and it froze on the roads. I guess I should give the kids the bad news.”

“Closed?!? Yaaaayyyyyy!” she exclaimed, with obvious and intense glee. “Oh, I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but…I just LOVE it when they close the schools! I mean, is there anything better on a bleak and freezing cold January day than a school closing??” She sighed with satisfaction and smiled. “Yes, Tim, please let the kids know. And Tim?”


“Break it to them gently, please. I know they’re going to be really bummed, having to sleep in, play video games, sketch, text with their friends, and so forth all day. Please be sensitive, okay?”

“I will,” I intoned solemnly. “Promise.”

I tip-toed to Abby’s room. This was going to be tough, but I steeled myself to do what had to be done.

“Abby?” I nudged her gently. “Abby?”

“Huh? What?” she managed, though she kept her eyes shut.

“I’m so sorry, truly I am. But school is canceled today. I know this is a big disappointment.”

“WHAT?? ARE YOU KIDDING? TELL ME YOU’RE TEASING! NOOOOOOOOO!” She began to sob. Her shoulders heaved. She moaned. “I hate my life. Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh. Noooooooo, my life is just horrible. Why did the ice and snow have to come today?? Why not on Saturday???? Oh, wahhhhhhhhh!” she wailed.

“Abby, life sometimes deals us some bad cards. Some difficult blows. Be strong. This will pass, I promise. If you like, I’m sure mom can draft you some math problems or quiz you on various French verb declensions.”

She stopped weeping. “Really? Don’t kid me about stuff like this, dad. Do you think she would?”

“She won’t like it, of course. She’d so much rather sleep late or play ‘Battle Ops’ with Luke, but I’ll ask. Okay?”

“Okay. Thanks, dad.”

One crisis momentarily averted, I moved to the bathroom where Luke had already begun his shower. As difficult as my interaction with Abby had been, this one promised to evoke even greater dismay.

I quietly opened the door and instantly felt the warm, moist air from the shower on my face.

“Knock, knock. Luke, sorry to bother you, but I thought I should give you the bad news as soon as I could. Please don’t freak out—okay? Please be mature about this.”

“Oh my God, dad, please don’t tell me what I think you’re going to tell me! Please-please-please. It can’t be!”

“I’m afraid so.”

“No school????!! Oh, for the love of all that is good and holy in this world, please—no—not this! Anything but this!”

“I’m sorry, Luke,” was all I could muster.

“Are you absolutely sure? I mean, sometimes the news outlets get it wrong. Fake news and all that?”

“I don’t think so, Luke. We got the call from Superintendent Boyle just a few minutes ago. It sounded like the real deal.”

“I see,” he replied with characteristic gravity. “Well, this IS disappointing. I was really looking forward to an academically productive Monday morning. I suppose I could read a few hundred pages of that dystopian Sci-Fi novel I’ve been enjoying so much and work on a Power-Point presentation for my debate next week.”

“Thatta boy!” I exclaimed.

“Thanks. Oh, one more thing dad” he added.


“Have you told Abby yet? I worry about her so. She’s, you know, so tender and fragile, and Oppositeville is a tough place for an adolescent girl, Lord knows. Maybe I should be the one to break it to her.”

“Hmmm. Wish I’d thought of that, Luke, but I’ve already told her. Next time—okay? Maybe you could spend some quality time together, doing some homework or cleaning your rooms or something. That might help you both get through this.”

“Okay, dad. That’s a good idea. Say, dad?”

“Yes, son?”

“I was thinking. Maybe we could move someplace where they never cancel school. Like Arizona. Whaddya think?”

“Hmmm. Interesting thought, Luke. But you and I both know your mother loves the freezing rain and snow and cold and dark of winter too much to ever go for that.”

By Tim Swensen

Virtue & Mischief

Timothy Swensen is the author of the column series Virtue and Mischief. He can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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