Lost in Space . . .

Responding to growing pressure from the media, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NAFTA) has finally revealed which of the three astronauts was responsible for most of the trouble on board the space station Mir.

It was Curly.

Curly, officials reported, was the crewman who accidentally disconnected a primary power cable (he needed to plug in his electric shoe polisher). It was Curly who nearly caused a catastrophe during the failed supply ship docking. And it was Curly who mishandled the oxygen generators, forcing the astronauts to breathe pure helium and talk like cartoon characters for almost a week.

Trying to put this embarrassing episode behind them, American space officials presented the three astronauts at a press conference, where, predictably, Curly tried to defend himself. Unfortunately, the astronaut speaks little English, and could only wave his hands excitedly and babble something like "Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop!" and "Nonck, nonck, nonck."

Through an interpreter, the beleaguered Curly insisted that most of the problems were the fault of the space station leader—Commander Moe—who allegedly threatened the crew with a big rubber mallet. Moe denied this, saying "Why, I oughta..." He then hit Curly on the head with a big rubber mallet.

The third crewman—Larry—was visibly fatigued by their recent ordeal in space (his hair still showed signs of an apparent electric shock received on Mir) and said little during the press conference. Oddly, his eyes seemed to bear evidence of having been recently poked.

Asked how the three astronauts made it past the exhaustive screening process for space station assignment, officials admitted that the testing officer "just got fed up with the food fights and finally said 'ah, the heck with it' and waved them through." (Moe also threatened to hit him with a big rubber mallet.)

Officials assured the public that the three will no longer be a part of the space program but will, instead, return to their former jobs as federal meat inspectors.

And speaking of meat...

Last month we learned that millions of pounds of ground beef were recalled before Rush Limbaugh had a chance to eat it. The meat was exposed to E. coli O157:H7, which, in the interest of science, we print here in its complete numerical classification. Also, since I could easily have gotten one of the numbers wrong, our copy editor has to spend a lot of time double-checking it. Hah! Hah! Hah! I love to do that.

But I digress.

As you know, E. coli is a dangerous bacterium which, laboratory tests have shown, can cause the drive-through lanes of fast food restaurants to be clogged with annoying news crews. That's because much of the infected meat was distributed to fast food outlets, possibly including What-A-Burger, That's-A-Burger, and Lot-A-Burger. (But then again, maybe not these places. I'm just looking for an excuse to print the names of restaurants whose owners thought hyphens were going to be the next big thing in the food industry.)

We saw a lot of these something-hyphen-burger places on our summer vacation, and we made up a game of thinking up other names for them. (We made up this game because when you drive 4,000 miles you need distractions. Specifically, you need distractions from my wife's favorite road pastime: the dreaded license plate game. "KIDS, LOOK! THERE'S WISCONSIN! NOW, ONLY 22 MORE TO GO!! No wait, I've got Wisconsin already. Never mind.")

Some of the names we came up with for your typical hardening-of-the-arteries restaurants include:

• Might-Be-A-Burger (for states with lax health codes)

• Mostly-A-Burger (for states with slightly higher health codes)

• Shouldn't-Be-A-Burger (vegetarian)

• Why-A-Burger (and the fierce competitor across the street: Why-Not-A-Burger)

• In-A-Godda-Da-Burger (for aging rock-and-roll fans)

• Stairway-To-Burger (see above)

• Hurl-A-Burger (slogan: "You'll be comin' back for more—since you couldn't keep the first one down!").

You get the idea. Fun game, huh? Of course, I'm not at all tempted to include our poetry editor (Rose-Marie-Burger), since poets are notoriously humorless and seldom eat fast food. Or if they did, their order would probably read like this:

Oh yes, I've come for your burger.

But the price
too much
Has already been paid
At a distant farm.
Oh the sadness...the sadness
That almost made me forget
onion rings.

Since this is a religious magazine, how about some Church News?

Pope John Paul II (or is it "Jr."?) surprised a lot of people when he recently declared Mary "co-redemptrix" with Jesus. It was looking like the Trinity was going to get a little crowded ("The New, Improved Trinity: Now With Mary!"). But the pope later changed his mind. Probably one of those Vatican guys in a long robe pulled him aside and discreetly said, in a deeply respectful tone appropriate to addressing the pontiff: "Is this rope belt supposed to be tied in a regular knot or a double knot?" But then he said, "Yo, Boss, are you crazy?! You can't start rewriting church dogma. What's your next bright idea, ending the rosary with 'and your little dog, too?!'

"If you really want to change something in church history, how about something minor, like saying that Zaccheus was actually a medium, instead of a short. Anything else is going to rile up those crazy Southern Baptists, who could boycott our most cherished Catholic institution: Italian restaurants. That would be bad."

And finally...

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"Lost in Space . . ."
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