The scene: A top-security research lab. Monday morning, 8 AM. The present.

Enter BOB, researcher extraordinaire. His lab partner, EDDIE, is already at his desk. They drink coffee out of space-age mugs.

BOB: Morning.

EDDIE: Hey.

BOB: Holy cow. I really tied one on last night.

EDDIE: That Night Train is a mean wine.

BOB: You’re tellin’ me. What’s on the to-do list?

EDDIE: Nothing.

BOB: Nothing?

EDDIE: Zip. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

BOB: Sounds good to me. I need a nap.

EDDIE: You know, Bob, I’ve been thinking …

BOB: Yeah?

EDDIE: What say (sly grin) we weaponize some bird flu?

BOB: Highly lethal and contagious? A super-spreader?

EDDIE: You’re reading my mind.

BOB: I always got a hankerin’ for a powerful new pathogenic organism. Especially one with a little Armageddon flavor.

EDDIE: Or we could just play World of Warcraft until somebody catches us goofing off.

BOB: No, let’s stick with the bird-flu thing.

EDDIE: A few mutations and, well, you are your father’s brother.

BOB: Easy as falling off a log.

EDDIE: Whoa!

BOB: What?

EDDIE: It just hit me. Man, this is sweet.

BOB: C’mon, give.

EDDIE: We write up all the details and publish them in a major scientific journal.

BOB: Effin’ genius. That’s what that is.

EDDIE: I’m thinking Hollywood all the way. Six-figure option. Dustin Hoffman.

BOB: Anything I can do, personally, to get Dustin Hoffman back into a hazmat suit …

EDDIE: It’s not a win-win proposition. It’s more like a win-win-win proposition.

So that happened, more or less. Maybe the Mayans were right. Maybe 2012 will be the year human stupidity reaches the tipping point and, after a brief period of zombie warfare, the species disappears, swept away by the lonesome wind like so many husks.

Good morning, sunshine!

I’m not a scientist. I only play one on the internet, which connects us all, amen.

Never mind that. How smart do you have to be to know that weaponizing bird flu is an insane idea?

All they had to do was consult a five-year-old.

“Timmy, we’re thinking about making a new thing that could kill half the people on the planet.”

“No! That’s scary! Don’t!”

“Now, now, Timmy. It’ll be fine. And we’re going to publish our research in a high-profile journal so everyone can learn how to do it. Neat, huh?”

“No! No! I want my mommy!”

Too late. Sucks for you, kid. Welcome to the moronic inferno.

The ticker is grim. The scroll is not amusing. The Republican freak show moves from Iowa to New Hampshire. State and local law-enforcement agencies are buying surveillance drones. Our “liberal” president continues to sign off on draconian “national security” legislation.

Our corporate masters have made it perfectly clear they will not turn on the money spigots until a sufficiently obsequious toady is installed in the White House.

The Iranian Navy test-fired a cruise missile. Yeah. Iran has a navy. And, apparently, cruise missiles. Way to go, Iran. Nothing complements a nuke program like a reliable delivery system.

On the bright side, your chances of being run down by some SUV-driving maniac – who is paying not one whit of attention to traffic because he or she is thumbing out the text of a lifetime – are much improved.

Hitch! Come back! Now is not the time to ride off into the sunset!

Listen to me, Timmy. Not all adults are insane. Some of us are just as frightened as you are, as sad as that may be.

Courage, as Dan Rather used to say. You probably don’t know who Dan Rather is, Timmy. He’s old. He’s older than I am, Timmy, and I can remember seeing Richard Nixon, Pearl Bailey and Buddy Rich play a gig at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.

It was a pretty wild show. Pearl Bailey and Buddy Rich did “Smoke on the Water,” and Nixon bit the head off a bat.

Dan Rather is insane, too, I guess, but in a harmless way. It’s not like Dan is going to be weaponizing any bird flu today. I don’t think they even let Dan on TV anymore.

Once upon a time, Timmy, there was a man named Louis Armstrong. Louis Armstrong was not insane. He thought the world was a wonderful place, and he sang a lovely song about it.

Recently, I heard two street musicians play this song in Louis Armstrong’s hometown, a place called New Orleans. Sure, Timmy, that’s tourist catnip. We’ve all seen that episode of Treme.

But it made me weep, kid. I had to get out of there.

_________________________________________

John Hicks is not related to Barbecue Bob Hicks, but would like to be.

John Hicks lives outside the city limits, where eagles dare.

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