"We need to be aware of one very small, but often obvious contributor to the bridge collapse in Minneapolis," announced accountant McBeane whose fabled financial reports were often concerned with cause and effect. "It seems the chemical actions of pigeon guano have been targeted as an attacker of modern sturdy materials used in bridge construction.
"According to a press report, documents from 20 years ago mentioned a "coating of pigeon dung on the steel with nest and heavy buildup on the inside of hollow box sections."
"So what?" challenged Doberman. "Pigeons have been dropping natural fertilizer on a cemetery statue of an ancestor of mine for decades. And that stuff even had an effect on his great-grandson's tractor which was mostly retired to his barn."
"You know, that's a word with kind of a nice sound. Guano. Spanish, isn't it?" remarked the merchant.
"Before you get carried away with your addition to your vocabulary, let me advise you that this word doesn't apply to big barnyard animals like bulls, cows and pigs; it applies strictly to bird droppings according to my University of Chicago Dictionario," advised McBean.
"I too read the article you mention," noted the philosopher. "As I recall the story, a bridge expert says that bird manure is acidic and ammoniac. Moisture can cause it to become electrolytic, producing rust. Plus, they are still unsure if road chemicals may be a combination factor."
"I want you fellows to know I am so pleased to be a part of this illuminating discussion. I wager that on this day, not too many scholars have reviewed such a topic along with their morning coffee. I await the professional report on that tragedy about all possible contributing causes," concluded the historian.
"Speaking of professional reports, it won't be long until we hear an evaluative statement from our top military guy in Iraq. The philosopher wanted to change the subject. "Four Star General Petraeus is supposed to be just about the smartest general we have. President Bush gave him the job of managing the 'surge' which was supposed to have a positive effect over there. There is also a special diplomat named Crocker checking things out as well."
"We have heard this esteemed general's name tied to an earlier matter when thousands of AK 47s we sent over there came up missing," noted the historian. "Another special, lesser rank U.S. general, was assigned to get that mess under control, maybe even determine where those weapons went. He worked for Petraeus. The special general found a mess and finally committed suicide in apparent frustration. It bothers me that General P. couldn't straighten that one out and now we have him in charge of the whole thing."
"I remember my supply sergeant from Korea," Doberman recalled. "He knew where everything was, where it might go and who was responsible for it. Nothing got away. Sergeant First Class Sam Kushner was a brilliant guy in the right job. Maybe we could send him over there to help. If he is still alive."
"I just hope that General Petraeus' integrity is steadfast enough that he is not excessively influenced by the person who appointed him and to whom he reports," remarked the philosopher.
McBeane had a new thought. "I see that another Bushie has resigned; Attorney General Gonzales. I wonder if this is an example of 'cut and run' which causes this national administration to have a fit where the Iraq war is concerned. Wolfowitz, Miers, Rumsfeld, Rowe and now Gonzales have given up."
The cynic grumbled, "To me it sounds like Sink and Slink."
Pondering three great questions was enough for one morning. Meeting adjourned.
Remember to fly your flag on Labor Day... and give thoughts and prayers to those who serve our nation.
Richard Armbrust of Norwalk is the unofficial scribe of the Cheap Coffee Club, a group of retirees who meet each morning for coffee and conversation at a local restaurant. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.