Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Milos' Mischief By Eric Chiles

It's career day at the local middle school,
and the guidance counselor wants me
to talk to eighth graders about journalism.

Newspapers are folding. Even TV news
worries more about ratings than
substance. The President tweets

to dodge the press corps. What kind
of future does journalism promise
eighth graders who TikTok?

Hardly any of their parents subscribe
to a paper. When I was their age,
my dad got two - morning and evening

- which meant I got two different
comics sections to read before school
and after doing homework.

But, what the heck, if anything,
one Prez has proven we need
a vigilant corps of watch dogs.

Someone, somehow has to put
a bite on all this foolishness.
So I put AP's website on the screen

and google Milos Novotny,
an IU chemistry prof I interviewed
as an acting science writer

while in grad school. Interesting
guy. Refugee from the Prague Spring.
A grant abstract on my desk said he got

$1 million from NASA to build
something called a gas chromatographic
column for the first Mars lander.

Something from Bloomington was going
to Mars! There's a story. Almost as big
as a planetoid named for Herman B Wells.

After explaining the small, glass spiral,
Milos opened his desk drawer and
pulled out what looked like unfiltered

cigarettes in a plain white pack
with FDA across the front - except
the tobacco was a familiar green.

Even the eighth graders guessed
what it was. Milos piggybacked
an FDA grant on NASA's to test his device.

And he found out that marijuana
has way more carcinogens in it
than tobacco. Guess which story

went national? Wait, says the only
black kid in the classroom, you mean
smoking trees can cause more cancer

than cigarettes? Why are states
legalizing it then?
Ah, some kids
can still cut smoke with questions.


After a newspaper career, Eric Chiles began teaching writing and journalism at colleges in eastern Pennsylvania. He is the author of the chapbook "Caught in Between," and his poetry has appeared in Allegro, Blue Collar Review, Chiron Review, Main Street Rag, Plainsongs, Rattle, and elsewhere.