(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Feb. 11, 2001.)
Get out the cocktail wieners and settle back for a pleasant ''read,'' because it's time for our fun feature, ``Body Parts Making the News.''
Our first body part is featured in an article from the Seattle Times, written by Ian Ith (yes, ''Ian Ith'') and sent in by alert medically trained reader Christine Robertson, M.D. The article states that a janitor at a Bellevue, Wash., apartment complex saw ''crows pecking at something'' in the parking lot; he shooed the crows away, and saw what they had been pecking on: a human thumb.
Nobody knows how the thumb got there. One possibility, of course, is that it was originally an entire human, and the crows pecked away everything but the thumb, which they were saving for dessert.
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Another possibility is that this situation was caused by a bagel. As a species, bagels have survived for thousands of years by developing highly effective defenses against being sliced. Many people try to overcome these defenses by grasping the bagel with one hand and using the other hand to attack the bagel with a sharp knife the size of a canoe paddle. A person could definitely lose a thumb this way, although it's hard to believe that even a really hungry person would simply abandon the thumb and wander off, chewing the bagel.
In any event, the janitor, having found what was clearly a human body part, elected to handle this situation by -- Crimestoppers, take note -- throwing the thumb into a Dumpster. Later on, according to the Times article, he ''casually mentioned'' the incident to a manager. The manager called the police, who searched the Dumpster but did not find the thumb, which apparently had been taken by the crows, or had somehow managed to flee on foot. The thumb is still at large, so be on the lookout for it. The article describes it as being -- and I am not making up this quote -- ``in good shape except for a few peck marks.''
Our next item in Body Parts Making the News comes from a story in the Norwich (Conn.) Bulletin, written by Robert LeBlanc and sent in by alert reader Carol Murkett. The article is datelined Mashantucket (yes, ``Mashantucket''), Conn., and begins with this riveting sentence: ``A Massachusetts man was arrested Friday at Foxwoods Resort Casino and charged with stealing two human corneas.''
The obvious question raised by that sentence is: Were the human corneas attached to an actual human at the time of the theft? This is not out of the question. Remember, this occurred at a casino. I have seen casino patrons so deeply engrossed in losing money that they would not notice if you amputated a good 75 percent of their limbs, as long as you left them one arm for yanking the slot-machine lever.
But it turned out that the corneas were inside a plastic foam box, which belonged to a medical transplant bank, and which had been stolen in Boston. In a news article the following day, the police are quoted as saying that the man charged with stealing the corneas claimed that ``he thought they were lobsters.''
In legal circles, this is known as ''the lobster defense.'' You see it often in criminal cases because it is so effective:
JUDGE: You are charged with kidnapping and robbing these people at gunpoint. What do you have to say for yourself?
DEFENDANT: Your honor, I thought they were lobsters.
JUDGE: Well, OK, then. You're free to go.
Anyway, the positive side of the Mashantucket case is that the police got the box of corneas back before it wound up being sold on the black market, perhaps to some guy who thought he was getting stolen lobsters, which he intended to use to impress a hot date:
HOT DATE: What's in the box?
GUY: A little something I picked up for dinner!
HOT DATE (opening the box): Let me seeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
GUY: For dessert, we're having thumb!
Our final story in Body Parts Making the News comes from Cairns, Australia. Workers at a seafood wholesaler there called the Fine Kettle O' Fish (yes, the 'Fine Kettle O' Fish'') had cut open the stomach of a 97-pound cod, when -- according to a newspaper report sent in by many alert readers -- ``a human head rolled out.''
I would explain how this happened, but I'm out of space here. Let me just conclude by reassuring you that there was a perfectly simple explanation, and it had nothing to do with bagels. So be careful.
(c) 2008, Dave Barry