THE OTHER PANDEMIC
Do you think Kermit is a real frog?
Do you think Lamb Chop is a real lamb?
Do you think Yoda is a real…whatever?
A new disease sweeping the country is rendering otherwise ordinary Americans unable to distinguish between people and puppets.
Bill Howard, 54, of Showalter Acres, was among the first afflicted.
“The other day I turn on the TV, and I see a pig talking to a dog. Seriously. Animals—having a conversation! I call my wife in to come in and see and she tells me that it is just a kids’ show. Kids? Show? What’s she talking about?”
Howard’s wife Alice was at first bemused. “What am I talking about? What’s he talking about?” She flipped the channels and ended on another show, where a puppet of a shark was chewing on the arm of a puppet of a young man. “Bill started to scream. ‘Attack!’ he said. ‘Attack!”
Horrified not by the “attack” but by her husband’s apparent departure from sensibility, Alice fled the house for her sister’s apartment in Helmet Heights. “When I got there, I called Bill and told him that I wasn’t coming back until he got his act together.”
TRIED TO SLEEP
That night, as Howard tried to sleep, it came to him: “I had a flash of a time when I saw a show like that and knew that the characters were not real, but constructed figures, kind of small fabric statues, being manipulated by an operator for my entertainment. I almost thought of the word: pipnit? Something like that. Then it was gone, and I was terrified all over again for the young man being attacked by the shark.”
The next day, at Alice’s urging, Howard went to a local psychiatrist, Gordon Reverton, who diagnosed him with Puppet Blindness, a rare neurological disorder that belongs to the same family as prosopagnosia, or face blindness, but results in the inability to tell the difference between puppets and real people—or puppets and animals, or puppets and monsters.
“You’d think the giant eyes would be a tipoff, or the flappy mouths, or the limited range of motion,” said Reverton. “But people like Mr. Howard have lost the ability to tell the difference. In many cases, the syndrome is intermittent, or temporary, In other cases, it’s permanent. What we don’t know is the extent of it. Is he the only one? Are there other idiots?” Reverton shook his head ruefully. “Man, I don’t mean that. I took an oath of empathy. Can I take that again? What we don’t know is the extent of it. Is he the only one? Are there other poor souls afflicted thusly.” He sighed. “You’ll take out the first cruel thing I said, right?”
Howard’s eyes were dilated for the examination. Alice drove back from his sister to pick him up. While there, she went inside to speak to Dr. Reverton.
The two are now dating.
“It just kind of happened,” said Alice. “I know you’re not supposed to date a doctor who is treating your husband, but…but…” She burst into loud crying. “This isn’t the Bill I married. And Gordon is so…empathetic.”
“Have you caught this old show Alf?” Bill said. “What an actor!”
“You see what I mean?” said Alice, tears streaming down her face.
NETFLIX AND CHILL?
Dr. Howerton appeared in the form of a text. “Netflix and chill?” it read.