Avian Flu Excites the Oversensitive
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
Now, for an accent as strong as a bowl of red, it comes from cowboy poet Baxter Black, who tells the story of a new mother and her baby.
Mr. BAXTER BLACK (Poet): The Avian flu that has yet to appear in the United States remains a frequent topic of television, radio and magazine. It is true that over-saturation of frightening headlines can result in public apathy but can also heighten the awareness in supersensitive people.
Susu(ph) is a new mother. She read the books, took the lessons, and bore a beautiful baby boy named Leopold. Leopold has lived his first 18 months as if he were Prince Charles' firstborn - cooed over, abundantly loved and protected. With every all natural, doctors have approved, boneless, childproof, soft and fluffy, nonallergenic, paranoid restriction followed to the letter.
Aunt Bee invited Susu and Leopold on a trip to the zoo. He won't have any contact with the animals will he? asked Susu. I've read about the threat of foot-and-mouth disease, rabies, tuberculosis, brucellosis and BSE. Aunt Bee explained that the animals are all in cages and they wouldn't actually get close to the inmates. Yes, but monkeys throw their droppings, you know, and what if an elephant sneezed - he could catch elephantiasis.
With a stroller packed full of tin foil, raincoats, an umbrella and a blue plastic tarp, they entered the zoo. Leopold was wrapped in a hooded pullover. He looked like a tree frog in a tube sock. The zoo pathway was lined with trees full of birds - squawking, cackling, whistling, shrieking, chirping birds. Oh, no, said Susu, clutching little Leopold. What about the avian flu? Aunt Bee reassured Susu that she was worrying too much. She convinced Susu to uncover Leopold's little head.
Standing in front of the rhino cage under a sparkling sky, Susu finally relaxed and stepped back to take a snapshot of Aunt Bee holding Leopold. Bee lifted Leopold high up in the air, as if to show him his kingdom. Streaking from behind an errant cloud like a dive-bomber, a lone, feathered strafer crossed above the pleasant family outing and lightened his load. Just as the camera snapped, the laser guided projectile splatted noisily square on top of Leopold's baby-haired noggin.
The photo on close-up showed a startled Aunt Bee, a rhino horn, and a smiling baby Leopold with what looked like a fried egg on his head. Handiwipes: $2.39 a box; photo: priceless.
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WERTHEIMER: The comments of cowboy poet, philosopher and former large-animal Veterinarian, Baxter Black.
This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.