The news comes in and comes in, a tide of events both large and small, and we find ourselves up to our suspicions in headlines and bailing for our lives. It used to be that the news came in, then receded a bit, but there's a failure somewhere in gravity's workings.
I contend in the face of all this information that what we really know comes from the inaudible, not the insufferable, but that seems to be a minority view. So I am in the habit of overlooking headlines to wander in the odd corners and crevices of the paper.
The news from these crevices is usually straightforward stuff, with no enlightened commentary by informed sources, and we are left to puzzle out the significance of these dispatches in the best manner we can.
I've read recently, for instance, that the police in a small town in Iowa had a set-to with rowdy geese. An officer, while tagging an illegally parked car, spied a goose peering around the car's front fender. Suddenly the goose attacked the officer and the officer responded by macing the goose. The goose than dived into a snowbank and sat on its head. There were reports that geese had attacked passersby in other parts of town. "Everyone is concerned about drugs and burglaries," said the police chief, "but we've got disorderly geese . . . "
In Chicago, chickens invaded the North Side. An animal care officer was called to a construction site wher a group of hens had taken over a townhouse unit. A few days later, he got a call that four chickens were chasing dogs down the street, and after that, he found 21 chickens vandalizing a vacant apartment. "These damn chicken are giving us fits," he said, "and we don't know where they're coming from."
Now while these are perfectly clear reports, they contain the ambiguity that is lurking about under things. What can be the meaning of an uprising of poultry? Can this be a portent, signifying perhaps that the balance between man and fowl has been altered in some dire manner?
I'm afraid it means only that Hollywood producers will hear and make another disaster movie, about Iowa overrun with malcontent geese. After all, Hollywood did it with both frogs and bees. The beekeeper down the road is still angry. He says that the first question anyone ever asks him is, "When do you think the killer bees will get to Chester Township?"
I've also read recently that in a small English town an extractor fan went amok in a food factory and blasted great showers of mashed potatoes over houses and cars. "Gangs of workmen," read the account, "took a week to wash down the fallout area."
This is certainly food for thought, and if it is not exactly biblical in scope then we must make do. While an avalanche of mashed potatoes does not rank with a voice in a burning bush, it surely means something. That's a curious sentence there, too. Perhaps it is the word "fallout," which conjures up visions of the Pentagon looking into the military capabilities of mashed potatoes.
The news in the crevices seems to go on and on infinitely engrossing, each with its own little mystery. In Canada, I read, a 13-year-old boy has been found to be "allegric to civilization." The doctors said the lad was allergic to all chemicals taken from oil, gas or coal, preservatives in foods, as well as plastics and other substances.
Can't say I haven't suspected something like this, I even know a man who breaks out in a rash every time he gets near a franchise fried chicken place.
I am glad the network commentators stick to the big national issues and leave the news in the crevices to me so that I may fret over it in my time and manner. I haven't found a pattern to these dispatches, but I'm not worried yet. Such an influential and immediately observable structure as the sun and its planets has always defied a great deal of the thinking applied to it, also. What are we to make of this and that? It reminds me of the time Margaret Fuller, the social reformer and Transcendentalist, arose at a public meeting and said, "I accept the universe!" At which Thomas Carlyle replied, "By God, she'd better!"
In town one morning last week about 6 a.m., Mrs Shidaker and Miss Lucas were awakened by a great crash.
"My God!" said Mrs. Shidaker. "What was that?"
"The morning paper through the picture window," replied Miss Lucas.
"Bad news, I expect," said Mrs. Shidaker.
I still puzzle along in the odd corners of the paper, looking for certain clues, but Mrs. Shidaker's comment has remained with me, a fairly succinct statement on the news that comes in.