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Doug Clark: Man-eating fish are a real civic problem

THURSDAY, AUG. 16, 2012

Not that I’d ever want to push the public into a paranoid, mouth-foaming frenzy, but I’m warning all of you in the Spokane area to stay away from lakes, rivers and public pools for the next few days.

Oh, and whatever else you do …


Until we get this missing human-eating fish situation sorted out, everybody – and I mean, everybody – should do his or her business standing up.

I don’t know why I always have to zero in on the crucial elements of the news, but I was aghast at what I found (or didn’t find) in our Wednesday front-page story, headlined:

“Seizure nets pot, alligator, piranhas.”

The article told of a recent bust on a lower South Hill apartment by state fish and game agents.

(Do critter cops wear hunter-orange vests and Elmer Fudd hats?)

Anyway, the agents had been tipped to some guy offering piranhas for trade on Craigslist, the Internet advertising site that is running the newspaper industry into the ground.

What’s wrong with you people, anyway?

If you want to keep reading great stuff like my column, you should advertise your human-devouring fish trades through our handy classified ads.

Sure, we’re gonna charge you a few bucks. But using the newspaper will give you respectability you’ll never get on Craigslist.

Which means you won’t have to worry about busybodies killing your buzz by bursting into your apartment and interfering with your take on the free-enterprise system.

Sure, Craigslist has its place, like for those in the various sex-trade service professions.

There are plenty of good deals, too.

Just make sure you take several well-armed buddies with you when the seller of some unbelievably low-priced merchandise says to meet him in an unlit parking lot at midnight.

But getting back to our tale …

Raiding agents said they found the deadly fish, some kind of wacky weed operation and an alligator too small to even make a decent wallet.

Fine and dandy. But here’s the part of the story that moved me to change my bathroom habits.

Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Madonna “Luers said she couldn’t confirm the number of piranhas seized. Police said 20, but (owner Christopher Ryan) Harper said he had only six.”

I never took another math class after high school geometry.

I do, however, know how to add and subtract well enough to figure out that we have a 13- or 14-piranha discrepancy.

Where are these missing piranhas?

And, more importantly, how many of them escaped into our water system?

According to Luers, the piranhas her department received were killed and used for evidence.

Which is just what you’d expect a government agency mouthpiece to say.

But we’ve all seen this movie before.

SCENE ONE – A lone duck glides softly in the gentle Spokane River water near the Carrousel at Riverfront Park.

SCENE TWO – A tuba repeats two ominous notes as a seedy transient reaches down from the shoreline to snatch the bird for his next meal.

SCENE THREE – The water suddenly erupts. A swirling mass of razor-toothed piranhas grab the hapless man’s hand, pulling him into the foam that quickly boils red.

SCENE FOUR – Two days later, Mayor David Condon holds a press conference urging everyone that it’s safe to go back into the water. “Spokane doesn’t have a piranha problem,” assures Condon. “Those 17 missing transients probably just left town because of the proposed crackdown on panhandling.”

Did I mention that it’s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel?

Not that sharks could ever be a problem to a landlocked city like Spokane.

How ridiculous.

But could a pack of aggressive and hungry piranhas get into our sewer systems? And could they swim up the toilet pipes and chomp onto anything that dangles?

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Doug Clarkcan be reachedat dougc@spokesman.com.

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