I once stood in front of a British Literature class of sixty and told them, after a long swig of water and a pop of a fresh cough drop on my tongue, that we call the Firecracker “Outbreak Monkey,” as in the monkey in the film Outbreak who unleashes a pandemic. This was my way of explaining my waning voice and the magician tissue-rope poised to stream from my pocket for the rest of the lecture. Three of the sixty offered an obligatory chuckle. The rest – nothing. Seats creaked as a few students shifted. I coughed in the silence. Then one front-row student, resting his pencil eraser on his temple, said, “Oh. That’s cruel. You call your little girl Outbreak Monkey? That’s awful.”
“Well, not to her face,” I said, which didn’t sound any better.
But the gist of the joke remains true – the Firecracker must surely spend her time at school licking the bottoms of every child’s shoe, and the doorknobs for good measure, because she regularly comes down with raging colds she often passes on to the rest of us. In the last three months alone, she’s had pink eye, mono, and pneumonia. It’s the reason I find Ted McCagg’s Day Care Tasting comic so apropos. The problem is the Firecracker’s adorable.