Flavin's Corner

Great Things

"A friend in need's a friend indeed, a friend who bleeds is better..."
from "Pure Morning" by Placebo, c.1998 Elevator Music Ltd.

     It may have been my dilettantish interest in history or perhaps my
occasionally acute sense of smell, but when Friday morning dawned and I
became aware that I hadn't showered in several days, an immediate
appreciation for time and relativity nearly overwhelmed me.  Well, it was either
that or the manly reek from my unwashed body -- it isn't important.  Great
things are sometimes dearly paid for and if the cost to me is temporary hygienic
laxity, a case of cheap beer, a couple of bottles of rock-n-rye, a carton of
cigarettes, and a reputation in this town that I don't tip pizza and Chinese-food
delivery guys, then ...so be it!  What does it matter that I can't attest to
specifics concerning the last three or four days?  I've done it!  I solved the
classic Ernest and Shiller dilemma!  Now, with luck and outstanding epigraphy
skills, I'll be able to decipher all these scribbles before me and figure out what I
did, how I did it, and what it all means.  Great things are way cool, but
sometimes they give you headaches.

     The blob in the corner scares me though...  It's kind of hard to concentrate
when there's this dark green basketball-sized glob of goo in your living room
and you don't know how it got there or what it is.  I think I've seen it move.
Breathing or pulsating comes to mind...  There was movement and I don't
know what the blob is, what it wants, or how to make it go live someplace
else.  The cats stay away from it, so I'm fairly certain it's not a good thing.  I'm
thinking really outrageous fungus from rotten food or an alien lifeform.  Maybe

     We're not supposed to be gullible on urban-myth levels.  The fried-rat in the
bucket of chicken at a KFC and the Richard Gere and the gerbil story are
tall-tales of the first pressing, but sometimes the scary whispers carry a
modicum of factuality.  If the odd and unusual never appeared to disrupt the
orderliness of the mundane, Ripley's Believe It or Not! and all the yearly
Guinness Book of World Records would be way dull.  The dark green glob of
goo reminds me of a popular urban-myth I heard awhile back, which I didn't
believe at first, but am now having sincere second thoughts about.

     The urban-myth goes like this:  A friend of a friend goes on a vacation to
the Southwest; Arizona or New Mexico, I can't remember which.  At a
roadside stand she buys an inexpensive potted cactus.  When her vacation is
over she returns with the cactus and places it in her living room on top of the
television.  In the weeks following her vacation, at home watching television,
she thinks she sees movement from the cactus, but isn't sure.  Discussing the
possible hallucinations with a friend, she is advised to call a flower-shop or
some authority on cacti.  She telephoned the police instead, who listened to her
description of the "moving cactus" and then put her on hold for the longest
time.  While she was on hold, several men showed up at her front door wearing
protective clothing, the kind used by those who clean up nuclear waste.  The
men explain that the constant heat from the television has warmed the cactus
and allowed the contents to develop.  She watches in horror as the men smash
her cactus and hundreds of baby scorpions emerge.  End of story.

     Personally, being the confirmed cynic that I am, I never believed the story.
However, being faced with a mysterious glob of goo which shows signs of
containing something most unpleasant, perhaps the cactus-scorpion
urban-myth is in need of reappraisal.  Part of me is very interested in what's
inside and, of course, there's that other part of me who wants to run screaming
from the house...  So many decisions!

     My memory of the past few days may never fully return and that's
something I'm just going to have to live with.  Apparently I focused a little too
much on solving the Ernest and Shiller dilemma and neglected some basic
household things ...like feeding the cats.  Necessity truly is the mother of
invention and, as Katie and Gilda lack opposable thumbs essential for
successfully operating the can-opener, the two cats have been inspired by
necessity and have now figured out how to make fried potatoes and scrambled
eggs for breakfast.  The potatoes were a little greasy this morning, but I'm very
proud of my cats.  When I feel better I'll show them how to do blueberry
pancakes and sausages.

     One of the many newspapers scattered on the floor has a front-page article
on a local flu epidemic.  Apparently a couple of kids have died in the past two
weeks and there's been dozens and dozens of reported cases of the flu at area
hospitals.  I think we've become too complacent regarding the flu and need to
return to calling it influenza.  Flu is cute and common -- influenza scares
people and they behave differently.  I know I behave differently with influenza;
this week's column should attest to that.

     It's back to bed for me...  The Ernest and Shiller dilemma will wait and I
can only hope the green glob of goo doesn't assimilate me while I sleep.  I'm
sure I'll feel better in the morning and the great things will still be there for the

hoping everyone stays healthy,

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