A game of pretend involving news and more...

Most children enjoy playing "pretend," or at least they did before computer and video games sucked all the potential imagination out of their developing brains. Even so, when wrested away from a keyboard or joystick, today's kids will often revert back to what generations of youngsters have always done: create characters and scenarios where they can revel in impromptu and unscripted drama.

By the time we grow into an approximation of adulthood, pretend play joins other dusty memories of our youth. Sorta, but not quite: What really happens is we substitute an adult version easily recognized as the "what if" mind game. What if we had taken job A instead of job B; what if we had married Melinda instead of Marianne? You get the idea.

As a columnist, it's especially tempting at this time of year to indulge in a journalist's version of the "what if" game.

What if we all awoke one day to discover, as we sipped our morning coffee and read the day's news, that the world as we knew it when we went to bed had miraculously transformed itself?

As 2007 unfolds, suppose we were treated to the following news items:

TUCSON--In an unprecedented demonstration of a successful collaboration between government agencies and private companies, the Rio Nuevo project is slated for its official grand opening Sunday, Aug. 12. Wickropolis, a media museum and the new home of Wick Communications' Tucson Weekly, will anchor the development.

In an effort to attract large crowds downtown in the midst of monsoon floods, Weekly columnists have agreed to volunteer for dunking pools. For a modest fee, readers, as well as garden-variety miscreants, will be allowed three chances to hit a target, landing the writer in a tub of frigid water. It's expected that the prospect of dunking Tom Danehy will draw the most bloodthirsty crowd. Proceeds from the attraction will benefit out-of-work journalists who lost their jobs when Gannett pulled the Tucson Citizen off life support.

WASHINGTON--As the result of an E. coli outbreak at a White House state dinner, both President Bush and Vice President Cheney were rushed to Walter Reed Hospital late last night. A hospital spokesperson reports that both are suffering from severe dehydration and uncontrollable diarrhea.

Pathologists have determined the never-before-encountered strain of E. coli is lethal. Since neither Bush nor Cheney is expected to survive, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will be sworn in as president later today.

While terrorism is not suspected in the outbreak, the FBI is interviewing chefs and waitstaff, some of whom formerly worked at Taco Bell.

TUCSON--Responding to readers' criticisms that the Tucson Weekly is a sorry shell of a once-vibrant alternative rag, the paper's management is taking steps to transform the weekly into an über-alt publication. To that end, dispatches from Al-Jazeera will now regularly appear opposite "News of the Weird."

BAGHDAD-- Despite press reports and photos of Saddam Hussein's supposed execution, thousands of Iraqis stormed the prison where he was secretly being kept alive, disarmed the guards and led the former dictator to a heavily fortified location. A spokesperson for the crowd said, "Saddam may be a tyrant, but he's our tyrant and the only one capable of bringing order to Iraq. It is our intention to restore him to power."

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, an American general (who refused to comment on rumors of Saddam's survival) told reporters that if the unexpected development proved true, it provided the U.S. coalition a convenient way to leave Iraq. "After all," he said, "the Iraqi people have made their decision. Our hope is that Saddam will prove a kinder, gentler tyrant the second time around. If not, we're going home anyway."

PHOENIX--Gov. Janet Napolitano shocked supporters and detractors alike today when she announced her intention to make a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. On hearing the news, Jim Nintzel, the Tucson Weekly's savvy political observer, was rumored to have said, "Well, if the Dems are going to nominate a woman, they should at least run one who has a chance of winning." Nintzel refused to confirm or deny the statement.

TUCSON--Despite its surprising success, the Rio Nuevo development is scheduled for demolition after being open to the public for only two months. It appears contractors for the project failed to take the widening of Interstate 10 into account when planning Rio Nuevo. When asked to comment on the debacle, Mayor Bob Walkup said, "Let's look on the bright side: Think of all the construction jobs this will create when we get around to rebuilding."

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