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Presenting the Athena News Service (ANS): a non-profit website devoted to publishing late breaking news for the town of Backwoods, Massachusetts …

From the Editor’s desk:

Now that phone lines have been upgraded in town, Backwoods will finally join the modern world. No longer will we cower before that mystic idol—the newspaper—and drag our plague-ridden bodies through the stench and grime of cow pastures to relay nasty things about our neighbors’ love lives. No, indeed. My crack reporting staff and I will be bringing the latest intelligence, gossip, and hearsay straight to your computer screens. Technology, like yours truly, is a glorious thing. I’m typing this on a ten-year-old computer in my parents’ basement, yet my next-door neighbor can read it at his house half a mile from here. IF he’ll condescend to read it ... we haven’t been on speaking terms since he let his vicious brute of a poodle eat one of our chickens. The incident occurred soon after I accidentally ran over his cat with my father’s tractor. Coincidence? I think not. (Really, the darned kitty came out of nowhere. Honest, it wasn’t my fault.)

As I was saying—or typing—in response to townspeople’s increasingly voluble demands for a local-news source, I have selflessly taken advantage of the new medium to provide the most up-to-date news as a community service. I have to do 100 hours of it. *If you would like to make a donation, email me your credit card number. Thank you.*

Sheep in Road
July 31, 2001 04:03

A staff reporter was going for a walk at 2 a.m. when he spotted a herd of sheep in the middle of Old School House Road. The sheep were white, dressed in wool coats, and moving at a steady five miles per hour. The reporter returned home and phoned the police.

Update on Sheep Situation
July 31, 2001 19:48

Police chief Bill Jones successfully located the sheep’s owner, Sarah Sweet of Appleblossom Lane, and, together, they managed to herd the recalcitrant ruminants back into their pasture. Jones then entered Sweet’s house to drink a glass of lemonade and has not been seen since.

Sheep: The Saga Continues
August 1, 2001 09:48

A reporter sent to interview Sarah Sweet discovered that her sheep were in the road again. When the reporter rang the doorbell, Sweet and police chief Bill Jones appeared, both wearing pajamas. Jones was dispatched to retrieve the sheep, and Sweet offered the reporter a glass of lemonade.

Sheep Problem Solved, Experts Declare, But Mystery Remains
August 2, 2001 15:43

After numerous residents complained about subsequent escapes, Sweet called in a vet and a carpenter. Upon a thorough examination of the area, the carpenter discovered that six feet of fencing in the pasture had been crushed. Details are sketchy, but tire marks were found in the mud. The vet’s only contribution to the puzzle was to comment, “I’ve never seen sheep with such clean teeth.”

E-letters to the Editor:

i hate the sheep stories smart aleck give me something better or i’ll sic my dog on your chickens again

i *luv* the sheep!!!! tell Me mOr!!!!!!!!!! =)
--ashley, aidj 6

On behalf of all the mothers at the Unitarian Church, I would like to extend a heartfelt Thank You to all the dedicated staff at Athena News Service. You are doing a tremendous service to the community providing Much Needed coverage of current issues.
--Elizabeth Goode

Athena News Service Announces Change in Policy
August 4, 2001 14:32

After town residents complained to the editor about the lack of substance in the website’s news stories, Athena News Service began a complete overhaul of its operations, stealing several bottles of root beer and holding a Star Trek marathon in the editor’s basement. The editor was quoted as saying, “Whose fault is it if there’s nothing substantial to report on? This town needs to get a life!”


The editor would like to apologize for a mistake uploaded in a recent press release. The root beer was paid for, and the business meeting in no way resembled a Star Trek marathon. Star Trek is for losers, and the editor denies all knowledge of the series, its four spin-offs, or the nine motion pictures produced by Paramount. Or the books. The editor has not read any Star Trek novels, nor has she attended any Star Trek conventions. Finally, the editor would like to point out that, contrary to rumor, she did not buy an autographed photo of Leonard Nimoy on E-bay for $200. The reporter responsible for these errors must have been smoking pot at the time and has now been fired.

Hot Weather Due to Time of Year, Says Pundit
August 6, 2001 10:32

At an interview today, Backwood’s only claim to fame — Harvard University undergrad John Blanchard, son of Susan and Peter Blanchard of Rich Farm Road — revealed that the weather in Massachusetts has been extremely warm lately, reaching temperatures of 90 to 100°F daily. When asked what the cause of all this heat was, Blanchard responded with typical scientific accuracy. “Dude, it's, like, August, you know!”

Reporters visited his home to ferret out his personal thoughts on the moral and ethical implications of this startling discovery, but he declined to answer their questions. However, Blanchard consented to inform the reporters on his opinions of the scientific community, modern journalism, and the reporters’ taste in clothing.

Resident Reports Suspicious Toothbrush
August 8, 2001 03:23

Late Saturday night, ANS received a phone call from Eerie Road resident Jim McDougal, who claimed that he saw a giant toothbrush sneak across his front yard. When asked why he didn’t contact the police, he replied, “They wouldn’t believe me!” Made famous by the rabid chipmunk panic of ’78, McDougal has since been the author of myriad announcements, including “Witches blighted my crops,” and “Pumpkin pie is a government conspiracy.”

However, when a sleepy reporter went to investigate, McDougal denied all knowledge of the incident. “I haven’t seen anything. Been flossing,” he said. The reporter noted a stray tube of toothpaste lying on floor of the front hall before McDougal closed the door in his face.

Police Harass Youths, Student to File Charges
August 8, 2001 15:34

Conflicting interests are causing a build-up of tension between the town’s older and younger generations. Thursday afternoon, police responded to a complaint about teens causing a disturbance in the town center. Five high school students, including a staff reporter, were drinking orange soda in the General Store parking lot. When an officer asked them to vacate the premises, they protested, citing the Constitution and other authoritative documents.

One youth, Emily Smith, announced her intention to file discrimination charges. “We’re sick and tired of being treated like babies. People assume that just because we’re teens, we must be up to no good,” Smith expounded from her trademark podium, a collapsible wooden structure that, according to Smith, she always carried in her backpack.

Others verbalized their agreement.

The reporter described the incident as, “A total bummer. They completely ruined my plans for the day. I guess I’ll go throw stones through my neighbor’s windows.”

Mystery Performance Group To Perform in Backwoods
August 11, 2001 11:02

A travelling performance group, The Word of the Toothbrush, arrived in Backwoods yesterday and will put on a show this Saturday on the town common. Neither the town government nor the staff at ANS has ever heard of the group, but due to the complete absence of any other form of entertainment, attendance at the event is expected to be high.

It was discovered that the reporter who was assigned to interview the group did not have a driver’s license although he was already 18 years old. Further investigation revealed that he had failed the road test 15 times. The ANS staff laughed.

The only reporter with a valid license sought out members of The Word of the Toothbrush where they were camping out on town property adjacent to Sarah Sweet’s sheep pasture. The results were inconclusive, but the reporter classified the group’s genre as “mystical avant garde crap.”

Town Goes To Town
August 12, 2001 20:45

The entire town population was present at the eight-hour carnival hosted by The Word of the Toothbrush on Saturday, according to Fire Chief Tim Spigot. The performances included comical sermons and a variety of skits.

Many of the skits purported to be moral tales, such as “The Prophet and the Burning Mouthwash” and “The Eight-Day Toothpaste Miracle.” The latter told the story of a family of dentists whose stock of toothpaste was “desecrated” by the police. Although they only had a one-day supply remaining, they managed to clean their teeth with it for eight whole days before succumbing to gum disease.

Following the sketches, actors held a tooth brushing ceremony, selecting people from the audience and liberally applying paste to their molars. For the grand finale, an actor in a priest costume performed a benediction over the volunteers’ heads.

ANS staff reporters, dispersed among the crowds, overheard many residents mutter repeatedly, “I don’t get it.”

John Blanchard of Rich Farm Road, an undergraduate at Harvard, was unimpressed by the act. “I have never seen such hideous color combinations. What moron did they put in charge of costume design? Speaking of idiots, what kind of a nom de plume is “Athena” anyway? I’m talking to you, you pretentious b****.”

However, a large percentage of the interviewees, particularly the volunteers in the tooth brushing skit, took the group’s message seriously. “I was so moved,” said one participant. Another said, “This has changed my life. I’m going to brush my teeth regularly from now on.”

E-letters to the Editor:

you little brat you ran over my new kitten i’m gonna get you for this

I was shocked and outraged by your recent article “Town Goes to Town.” This town relies on ANS to present the facts fairly and impartially, yet you allowed your degenerate Democratic prejudices to color your coverage of The Word of the Toothbrush revival. How dare you insult my faith! No wonder this town has sunk into moral depravity. When I was a boy, my parents made me brush my teeth every day—we didn’t stand for any of that wishy-washy, liberal “Let people have a right to their own lives” garbage. This news service is an abomination under Toothbrush. Your putrescence will be extinguished, and we will usher in a new era, free of religious pluralism!
--Willard Sweet
P.S. Stop spreading those false rumors about my wife. She is not an adulteress.

Sweetheart, stop playing on the computer and come upstairs. It’s past your bedtime.


ANS would like to apologize for an incorrect statement made in “Group To Perform in Backwoods.” The Word of the Toothbrush is not an avant garde performance group, but rather a group of missionaries from an obscure cult.

ANS Editor Plagued by Death-Threats
August 12, 2001 11:56

The editor of Athena News Service received a suspicious letter via snail mail earlier today. The note reads as follows: “If you continue to mock the Great T**thbr*sh and His people, we’ll kill you.” In response, the editor prepared a statement for press release: “Bring ‘em on!”

Interest in Dental Hygiene on the Rise
August 16, 2001 23:41

In the aftermath of The Word revival, increasing numbers of townspeople have been swept up in the dental fad. Mothers discuss their mouth cleansing experiences at the library, children wear WWTBD necklaces, and cars sport such bumper stickers as “Brush your teeth five times a day” and “The Toothbrush loves you.”

In an interview with ANS today, Backwoods dentist Bob Wilder remarked that he had never seen residents so concerned about their teeth. “People who would avoid their appointments for years are now flocking to my office every Sunday.” On the other hand, Wilder lamented that the new mania had scared some of his regular customers away. “They keep calling up to cancel. They all tell me they won’t have anything to do with those Toothbrush freaks,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this thing soured people on dental care altogether.”

Selectmen Choose New Advisor
August 19, 2001 16:11

After the mysterious death of its advisor last night, the Board of Selectmen chose newcomer Adam Reed as a replacement. Reed, who took up residence in July with Selectmen Chairman Willard Sweet, is the founder of The Word of the Toothbrush.

When ANS reporters asked Chairman Sweet to comment on the odd circumstances surrounding the former advisor’s demise, he dismissed all implications of suspicion. Sweet lamented, “It was a tragedy, really. We’re lucky that I was able to find someone so well qualified for the position on such short notice. Although I’ve only known Adam for a month, I trust him implicitly. He’s my best friend.”

News Update 2001 Aug 21 15:25

At a public hearing today, the Selectmen denounced the former editor of Athena News Service as a heretic and sentenced the evil witch to be burnt at the stake. Her cowardly disappearance prevented them from carrying out the sentence, but several reporters were detained as compensation. Quoth Chairman Willard Sweet, “Hear ye, hear ye! Lo, for I have cast forth from me all temptations to Sin and hereby institute a new theocracy under the Great and Powerful T**thbr*sh!” The vile reporters were then tarred and feathered, and their stories rewritten.

Athena News Service Under Attack
August 21, 2001 16:54

An hour before teatime today, a militia composed of town officials and known Toothbrush adherents instigated a hostile takeover of Athena News Service, formerly located in the editor’s basement. The attacks came during a funeral for the editor’s prize rooster, Mr. Spock, and caught the mourning staff off guard. When the enemy forces used projectile toothbrushes dosed with bad toothpaste to immobilize many of the reporters, the survivors were forced to retreat.

Harvard undergrad John Blanchard of Rich Farm Road was severely injured in the attack and had to be rushed to the hospital. He told ANS reporters, “I went over there to sneer at the editor’s dead cock, but the fundies jumped out of the woods and started hurling stuff at us. That b**** threw me into the line of fire. I’m going to sue.”

ANS immediately resumed work at an undisclosed location, but discovered that the Toothbrushers had gained access to its server and disseminated false information to the public. The ANS computer geeks plan to fix the security breach later tonight.

From the Editor’s desk:

Okay, I started this project as punishment for breaking into the General Store and stealing all their coffee beans, but Goddammit! I’m not going to let those fanatics take my website away from me. This is a battle between truth and lies, good and evil, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, but we can’t win if we’re fighting blind. Information wants to be free. The remnants of my staff and I will be working round the clock to bring you the unbiased truth.

Sheep Stampede Silences Speaker
August 24, 2001 22:23

Early this morning, a herd of sheep trampled student activist Emily Smith as she was delivering a lecture. Smith suffered minor bruises, but was not hospitalized.

Smith had been chatting with friends outside Town Hall when she overheard a bystander praise the recent attack on Athena News Service. Smith immediately jumped on her podium and criticized townspeople for not upholding the U.S. Constitution. “This is a violation of our rights under the First Amendment. How can we, as Americans, ignore the blatant disregard for human rights that Toothbrush proponents have shown?” she asked the gathering crowd.

Smith told ANS that she was “just getting warmed up when the herd came out of nowhere.” Smith added that, “They reeked of mint-flavored toothpaste.”

After destroying her podium, the sheep melted away, but witnesses identified them as Sarah Sweet’s. The police have not yet brought the woolly hooligans to justice.

Surprise Ending
August 27, 2001 09:59

At 9 a.m. today, Selectmen advisor Adam Reed was placed under arrest for distributing non-FDA-approved toothpaste. When tested, the toothpaste was found to contain illegal mind control drugs.

A CIA official spoke on condition of anonymity. “Yeah, QPSXCNPI-2 was supposed to be top secret. I don’t know how Reed got hold of it.”

A former CIA employee, Reed worked in a high security lab that tested mind-altering chemicals on farm animals. Reed was fired when the janitor discovered him stealing mass quantities of one of the drugs.

From the Editor’s desk:

Everything seems to have quieted down since Reed’s arrest. School has started, kids are skipping it, and parents remain blissfully ignorant. Of course, I always go to school. I’m not one of those slacker types. Now that I’ve completed the required 100 hours of community service, I’m through with this website. I pass on the responsibility to my neighbor, who also got in trouble with the law. The chief of police, tipped off by an anonymous source, discovered him in a compromising position with Sarah Sweet.

© 2001 Athena News Service

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