I pull into the driveway and get out of the car.
“Hey! Dad’s home!”
Hey, guys! What’s up? Ready for football practice, little guy? Hey, Pete! Hey, Tim! I see you guys got the dirt bikes out today.
“Yeah, we’re gonna ride down the road to the farm.”
Okay. Just keep an eye out for cops. You don’t want them to catch you riding on the road. Never know when they’ll be around. Joel, I’ll be out in a minute. I have a migraine. So, I’m going to drop you guys off at practice, then come home and sleep. I’ll pick you up at 8.
In my own room. Can’t wait to get back here and get in bed.
What did I get in the mail today? Some health insurance mumbo jumbo… junk mail… Netflix movie. Sweet! “Coffee and Cigarettes” came today. Can’t wait to watch this. Wish my head didn’t hurt so bad. I’d watch it tonight. What else came? What’s this? Oh, it’s my art magazine. I wonder why it’s wrapped in plastic. Oh, there’s another magazine with it. Wonder what that is. I’ll open it after I drop the boys off at the field.
You guys have fun! I’ll be back for you at 8. I gotta lie down. I feel like a zombie.
Finally! Back in my own room. Now to get undressed and hit the sack.
This issue of the art magazine is devoted to New York City graffiti art. That’s cool. Let’s open it up and see what this other magazine that they sent is.
Looks like some kind of comic book. “The Lost Ones” Is that dude a vampire? I guess being a vampire is back in vogue. I never heard of the guy that wrote this. I wonder why they sent it. There’s no note with it. There’s nothing in the art magazine explaining it. Oh well, at least I got a free comic book.
Nice thick paper. Good artwork. I’ll have to read this when I feel better.
What’s this on page 4? What’s this dusty powder stuff ?
Oh hell! I automatically wiped it without thinking! I don’t even know what it is! What if it’s some crazy shit that some psycho put in there? Oh crap! I got it on my finger! I got it on my finger! Shit! Now it’s on my pants! Damn it! Oh hell! I got it on the wall!
And suddenly I’m having a flashback to 1969, six years old, and my mom is catching me wiping boogers on the bedroom wall.
“Sammy! That’s disgusting! Use a tissue!”
But, Mom! It’s ANTHRAX! A tissue is snot going to save me now! Aaaarrrrggghhhh! Some “comic” book! Ha ha. Jokes on me. “Surprise! A little Powdered Bubonic Plague for ya! (“Boob” being the key word.) We thought you’d enjoy it!” I fail to see the comedy in that!
Okay. Calm down. It’s probably nothing. But just set it aside on top of the TV just in case. And go wash your hands.
10 minutes later…
Hey, Sarah… Do you think this is weird? I got this comic book in the mail and there’s this white, dusty, powdery stuff inside.
“YOU DIDN’T TOUCH IT, DID YOU??!!”
“DADDY!!!! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS!”
That’s just the point! My brain hurts too much to think today. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I just did. Like a reflex.
“You should call somebody… like the Poison Control people or something.”
You really think?
“YES! DO IT NOW!!”
Phonebook in hand…
“Hello, Poison Control Center.”
Yes, Hi. I’m calling because I got a comic book in the mail and there’s some kind of white powder inside on one of the pages. I’m not sure what it is.
“Did you touch it?”
“Sir, you shouldn’t have touched it. Can you describe it to me?”
Yes… white… but not pure white… kind of dusty… kind of chalky… about a three inch area… only on this one page… came sealed in plastic…
“Sir, what you need to do is call your local police. That is how these situations are handled.”
The police? I have to call the police out here? What if it turns out to be just dust or chalk or something? I’m going to feel like an idiot.
“It’s routine, sir. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Just keep the magazine where it is. Don’t let anyone else go near it. And don’t touch it.” (Probably wanting to add, “Idiot.”)
Phonebook still in hand…
Just great. There is no local phone number listed for our township police. It just says 911 here. Now I have to call 911 like it’s a big emergency here. Crap.
“911! Where’s your emergency?”
Er… I don’t really have an emergency. I’m trying to get in touch with my local police and there is no other number than 911 listed for them in the phonebook.
Yes, sir. We dispatch for them. What’s going on?
Repeat the story… I don’t know, it might be nothing. But the Poison Control guy said to contact the police.
“Sir, did you touch it?”
“Okay. Sit tight. An officer will be there shortly.”
A squad car pulls into my driveway.
Hesitantly, “Uh… You Mr. Snyder?”
Yes, I touched it.
From 10 feet away, “If you don’t mind, sir, I don’t want to get any closer than this. Just as a precaution. You understand.”
Yeah. Heh heh. No problem. Don’t worry. The wind is not blowing in your direction. Ha ha.
“Yes, I know. I already checked.”
What am I? A leper? He checked the wind direction before he approached me? Well, this is getting awkward.
“Sir, can you give me your date of birth? Is there anyone else in the house?”
Yes, my daughter. She’s upstairs.
“Has she been exposed to the substance in question?”
“So, SHE didn’t touch it?”
“Okay. Please tell her to remain upstairs until we are sure the area is safe. I’m going to call in some help on this… guys who know how to handle such situations. It’s going to be a while.”
Crap. The boys are at practice. What if this ordeal isn’t over by then? What if they want to quarantine me and everything I’ve touched after touching IT? How many things have I touched? This. That. This. That. That again. Geez! Does everybody touch this many things in such a short period of time? Do I have an abnormally high touching rate? That’s probably why I touched the stuff in the first place! I’m a hyper-toucher!
Hello, Dave? It’s Sam. I have a… uh… sort of “situation” here at home. Could you pick up the boys at 8:00 if I need you to?
Tim? You guys better not ride the dirt bikes back here. There’s a cop here because there was this powder stuff in a magazine… uh… yeah, I touched it. I know. I know. I’ll call you when it’s all over and you can ride the bikes back.
Another police car, unmarked black SUVs, county health department response vehicle, and more parked all along the road… the neighbors watching…
“Hello, Mr. Snyder. I’m from the county health department. I’m not afraid of getting contaminated. So, I don’t mind standing close to you.”
Bless you, Father Theresa, for showing me kindness in this New Calcutta of Northwest Jersey. Long have I been in exile and forgotten the touch of human kindness.
“Sir, I am almost positive that the substance you have described is harmless. But we will take a look at it. What we do is we put on full-body protective gear, respirators, gloves and we go in there and put the object into a special bag and seal it. Then we bring it outside and, if we have the proper testing materials with us, we test it right here and let you know. But I need to call this friend of mine who works with a Federal agency. He’s an expert and he has a better testing kit. When he gets here, we will take a look at it. So, sit tight. It’s going to be a while.”
The Township emergency squad arrives on the scene.
“Officer! You are out of your mind! You called us out here for some F***ing powder in an F***ing magazine???!! You wasted our time for THIS??”
Man, that chick is really hot! No, definitely not “cute hot.” She is pissed! This is turning into quite a show! I’ll just lean here on Sarah’s car and watch the action. I might as well play the part of the freak at the circus that everyone pays a quarter to get in and see. ‘Step right up, folks! See the Mutant Man! 9 fingers on each hand due to exposure to radioactive dust!’
“Officer, as a county health official, I don’t feel there is a need to keep the squad here. You can let them go.”
Thank God. She can take her fat dirty looks and her squad truck and get on out of here!
An old guy struggling up the road on a bicycle and turning into the driveway to talk to me after seeing all the vehicles…
Man, the cop is going to yell at this guy! I can see it coming. Should I warn him? No, I’m bored.
“Hey, buddy what’s going…”
“YOU! GET OUTTA THERE! GET OUTTA THERE!”
“But I just want to talk to this fellow here.”
“NO! GET OUTTA THERE! YOU CAN’T TALK TO HIM!”
Right, instant death carrier here. One word from me and you catch it!
“GET OUT NOW! WE HAVE AN EMERGENCY GOING ON HERE!”
Ha! If so, then why did you send the fat girl away? Emergency! No one but me has even seen the so-called noxious powder! I could be making this whole thing up out of a need for attention! Emergency my left ankle! It’s been over an hour since I first called about this! Oh! I can’t breathe! Oh! My face is swelling! My spleen is quivering!
Give me a break.
“Well, Mr. Snyder. I talked to my friend with the Feds. He says it’s…”
Anthrax? Heroin? Spores from the deadly Bora Bora Fungus??
Cornstarch? Are you serious? Cornstarch?
“Yes. Let’s go inside and have a look.”
What? No suit? No gloves? No mask? No cape?
“Yes, I’m almost completely positive this is nothing to worry about. But do you mind if we take it back to our lab just to be sure? Have you read it yet?”
No, I didn’t read it yet! Wouldn’t that be like reading the label on a bomb before it falls on your head?
“Do you have a bag or something I can put it in?”
What happened to the special bag with the airtight seal?
Uh… there’s a Wal-Mart bag here.
“Oh! THAT’s perfect! Thanks! We’ll be in touch soon! Bye.”
Everyone is back home. The crickets are singing once again.
“Yeah, dad, bet you feel dumb! Cornstarch!”
“Ha! We were waiting down the road all this time just because you found some ‘deadly’ powder! Ha! You need to wipe some of that on your butt to stop sweating!”
I know. I know. Whatever. What would you have done? Besides, it was Sarah’s idea to call someone.
Then, from her upstairs window…
“Well, Daddy, it IS a good thing you called. That was one DIRTY magazine! Ha!”
Yes, there's always a comic in the house...