"Uh oh," I say from behind the newspaper. "Look out."
"Uh huh," my wife says without looking up from her crossword
"Don't you want to know," I ask, "what you should look out for?"
"Um," she says. "What's a five-letter word for 'intrusive'?"
"Look, m'love," I say. "I'm trying to alert you to impending
catastrophe. That's not intrusive. It's my duty as your husbandto
protect your physical and moral safety."
She sighs and looks up from her puzzle.
"Okay, Mr. Protector Man," she says. "What's about to happen?
Why should I look out?"
"Because," I say, ominously furrowing my brow, "all hell is
about to break loose. That's all."
She rolls her eyes.
"Not again," she says. "You broke my crossword concentration a
week ago to warn me that all hell would break loose in the second half
because the Huskers were about to score six touchdowns. So what does all
hell breaking loose mean this time? Try to be brief."
"Wheaton College," I say. "About to implode. And when it
implodes, all hell will break loose."
"Wheaton College?" she says. "Billy Graham's alma mater? What
could possibly go wrong there?"
"Dancing," I say.
"Dancing?" she says.
"After 143 years of no dancing," I say, "Wheaton students can now
dance. It's the end of Christian education as we know it. Billy Graham
would be spinning in his grave if he weren't still alive."
She studies the ceiling for a minute or two.
"This is a lingering vestige of your misspent youth, right?" she
"Sure, make fun," I say. "Scoff if you will, but remember what
happened to Baylor."
She studies the ceiling again.
"I give up," she says after a while. "What happened to Baylor?"
"A foreshadowing of perdition," I say, making my voice deep and
sorrowful and Really Serious, the way I remember the voice of the preacher
who used to try to scare me out of hell. "Baylor went 151 years without
allowing student dances. Then they turned their back on their mission and
told students they could dance."
"Well, Baylor's still there, isn't it?" she says. "It didn't
implode, did it? What am I supposed to remember about Baylor?"
I bow my head and pinch the skin between my eyes.
"Their basketball players," I say. "They began shooting each
"All of them?" she says. "They all started shooting each other?"
"Just one so far," I say. "But it's a start."
"They started shooting each other after they started dancing?" she
"Well, not right after," I say.
The Truth, Mainly
"How long after?" she says.
"Well, a little while," I say. "They started dancing in 1996 and
they started shooting each other this year."
"Seven years later?" she says. "You've got a warped sense of
cause and effect, don't you?"
"All I know," I say, "is what I learned in church when I was
growing up. You don't dance, everything's fine. You dance, you go into a
downward spiral. Because dancing leads to cussing and going to movies on
Sunday and all kinds of things I can't talk about in a family newspaper.
Then all hell breaks loose. Salome danced and then asked for John the
Baptist's head on a platter."
"I forgot," she says. "You grew up believing that the measure of
virtue is what you don't do instead of what you do do."
"Sure," I say. "Didn't you?"
"Didn't you learn anything about what you should
do rather than what you shouldn't do?" she says. "You know, like
getting acquainted with the vacuum cleaner or taking your turn cleaning the
toilet bowl or donating your body parts to someone who needs them after you
die? You know, silly things that help other people. Didn't you learn
"At my church?" I say. "There wasn't time on Sunday morning after
the preacher got through with dancing and cussing and Sunday movies.
Besides, he probably didn't want to open up that can of worms."
"Helping one another's a can of worms?" she says. "Strange
"Well," I say, "it's like this. . . ."
But she's not listening. She's back at her crossword puzzle.
"What's a seven-letter word," she says, "for simplistic
There she goes again. She can't stick to the subject for
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail