Saturday, May 2, 2009

News stories, short stories, my stories

Maybe it was listening to stories about swine flu all week.

Maybe it was reading a short story from 1975 about the fear caused by cholera on Wednesday night...

... "No, there is more than the body of a man that you have in there," I said. Because now I was sure what it was. I had heard the talk up and down the river, and everyone was afeared that it was coming back, any day now. I don't mind saying that I was afeared too. And had been for a long time at the thought it was coming.

from The Burial by Jack Matthews

Maybe it was the dead squirrel on my side walk Friday morning.

I love making up stories so all day Friday I found myself telling this one...

Have you heard that Squirrel Flu has come to Lansdale? You see, when I left the house for work I saw what I thought was a dead squirrel on the sidewalk at the bottom of my porch steps. I went in to tell Mosaic Woman that she may want to stay inside for a moment. I was going to head back to the garage for a shovel when I realized I had a snow shovel in the mudroom. It was when I was scooping up the squirrel that I realized it wasn't quite dead. It turned and faced me and with a final gasp, it coughed directly at my face. Knowing that deadly flu viruses can spread from other species, I began to be concerned when I my temperature rose over 100 and I began twitching nervously in the middle of a road not sure which way to run away from oncoming traffic. A concerned friend tells me that the final stage of the disease involves raiding bird feeders and making squirrel like sounds.

Anyway. I have always felt blessed to be living in a country and during a period of time when fear of infectious disease has been so low. Cholera, Typhoid, TB, Polio.... I am also glad that my tax money goes to the CDC. I don't expect them to always say the wisest statements, but I believe in their mission.

I imagine the human brain has a special section to fear diseases that spread causing much suffering as they move through populations. Listening to folk this week, I believe our brains are alive and well, and thus full of fear.

For my part I tell stories. And my students, who know me well, say... "You're lying to us again."

and I say, "part of it is true."

may peace be with you.


  1. Perhaps squirrel flu caused the little fat-tailed rodent to jump into the back of my car and pull over a bag of groceries while I was putting the ice cream in the freezer. :)

  2. Good way to keep kids on their toes there Wayne; always keep 'em guessing.

    My dad told me this old joke many years ago.

    Q. How do you catch a squirrel?

    A. Climb up a tree and act like a nut.

  3. Let us know when it becomes an epidemic?

  4. ...we are still reeling here from the untimely demise (OK, outright murder) of the bunny on Easter (yes, the Easter bunny) by the feline that lives with us. Will we ever get chocolate eggs again? I wonder, and plot little stories...

    hope the shoulder will continue to heal -- be gentle!

  5. just an breaking news alert in re: squirrel fever: it has apparently skipped across species and caused a groundhog to run wildly out on to broad street and get squashed.

    at least that's my story!

  6. Kathryn---- hope it did not rip up the interior. Is Rochester safe?

    Daisy--- yes, some teachers teach, others tell stories to train ballet dancers.

    Giggles--- see Red's comment

    Michelle--- Fluffy the Killer strikes again?

    Red--- was it the one living under the rectory? was there a car chase involved? what did you do with the dead body?

  7. what did I do with the body? ME? hell to the no! corpse is still in the northbound lane of broad street: i can go get it with a shovel and drop it off in your backyard if you'd like -- after i track down a mask.

    it's closer to the house on the corner of 5th and broad and of course, i had to cross the street a gazillion times today and had to make certain i wasn't too close in case it suddenly jumped up and coughed at me!

    no car chase that i know of but it's actually been quite amusing to be sitting in my bedroom, reading by the window, and watch cars swerve to avoid it when they weren't in any danger of hitting it in the first place.

    did the groundhog at the rectory wear a clerical collar or some other form of identification?!?!

  8. Red---- I have enough dead animals, thanks. No collar, but it looked like a varmint.

  9. Sunday morning here and you have started my day with laughter in my soul. I read a newspaper article once about a fellow who went up on his roof to examine his chimney, having been unable to start a fire in the fireplace. Leaves somehow had been stuffed into that upper opening. He stuck his hand in to extract the blockage and out popped a squirrel, scaring him so badly that he lost his footing and fell to the ground, breaking his neck. I have often imagined him walking up to the Pearly Gates and St Pete asking him what had caused his demise.....

  10. Jim and All--- the cool thing of telling one's story (even if it may have a few lies) is that you end up hearing other stories.

    actually the short story mentioned in my post has several versions (told over the years) of the same incident. One is left wondering which is true and seeing how stories change

  11. Good observation about stories and time! The blurring of truth and the shift over time resulted in some mighty fine tall tales and fables over the years.

    Rochester is safe unless you're a loaf of italian bread in an open car.

  12. Kathryn--- I am trying to imagine how your statement about the safety of Rochester could be warped over time...


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