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OK, so it’s not quite spontaneous human combustion, but a correspondent Observer reports an incident almost as bizarre at the West Little Rock bank where he works. We suspect — or rather, we’ll choose to believe — the involvement of aliens. Or warrantless NSA spooks, either one.

The noise, our correspondent says, was so loud and sudden, and followed so quickly by the sound of shattered glass, that everyone assumed they’d just been shot at by a passing car. All the windows were intact, however, and a few seconds later, the sound was discovered to have come from another employee’s desk.

At which no one was sitting. Or even standing near.

The desk had been covered by a large, thick sheet of glass. It had exploded. Into thousands and thousands of tiny pieces — because, ironically, it was safety glass. Shards flew several feet in every direction. There were piles in the chair, on the floor. Luckily, the woman who usually occupied the chair had been around the corner in the bank’s vault, so there were no piles in her face.

To our disappointment, there may be a logical explanation for the explosion: There had been a partial crack in the glass, and our correspondent’s co-worker had at some point moved it slightly to slide in some slip-resistant thingies to keep it in place. Our correspondent guesses that put stress on the fracture that continued to build until it reached critical mass.

“The cool part,” he says, “is that after it blew, it continued to snap, crackle and pop like a bowl of Rice Krispies. The occasional piece would leap triumphantly into the air, like a small, jagged, transparent Flying Tomato. Duuuuuuuuuude.”



Seen last week: Purple martins and a barn swallow.

Pondered last week, when it was 80 degrees: Surely there’s something to do besides turning on the AC to make it through the night. The Observer refuses to start paying to be cool before the Ides of March. Our solution: Turning the fan on high. A cold bath before turning in. Kicking the dog off the bed.

We are not too proud to make a canopy of wet sheets over the bed. We refuse to give in to accepting that Arkansas has become tropical. Fight, fight against the buying of cool nights!



The Observer is reminded, by the early spring here — or should it be called early summer, this simmering March? — of a story a Little Rock writer tells. When she was away at college in the chilly Northeast — Harvard, in fact — her mother mailed her branches of quince on the verge of blooming, wrapped up in wet newspaper, each spring. Well, spring in Louisiana. When it’s spring in Louisiana and Arkansas, it’s snow-melt-mud-under-gray-skies season in Massachusetts. The sprigs of new green and salmon pink from home lifted her spirits (and amazed her roommates).

One year, the spray had a special touch from home. Crawling out from the wet package of spring was a stinkbug. Oh sweet stinkbug of the South! From a Southern garden emerging from dormancy to a dorm room in gray Cambridge. Our friend was thrilled (and her roommates were mystified).

Which reminded us of a funny bouquet we once got from home.

When we were in college, we had to make an emergency trip to the hospital to have our appendix out. The Observer’s mother sent us a plant to help us recuperate, and because we had left behind in Little Rock our large stuffed bunny rabbit, she made the plant a gift from him.

The plant arrived; stuck in its pot beside the greenery was a great big carrot. The card accompanying the plant said, “Get well soon. Love, Basil.” Get it? Carrot? Rabbit? We did, but the New York City florist who arranged the delivery for our mother was slow to understand her request that he find and stick a carrot into the pot. He finally came around, however.

The quirky mother package works in the opposite direction, of course, serving not just to amuse the potentially homesick, but to delight from abroad.

For example: A colleague of The Observer’s burst forth with peals of laughter in the office last summer after an e-mail from her mother traveling out West popped up. Mom proudly wrote that she’d found, and bought for her daughter, “the biggest snow globe in Moab.”

They’re watching out for us, they really are.


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