You're not going to believe this, but from time to time I am accused of being tasteless. Yes. Just recently, for example, I received a large quivering mound of violent letters from readers who were upset about a column of mine in which the words "President Bush" appeared to be connected via a direct grammatical linkage with the word "Sputumhead."

OK. People make mistakes. Sometimes even a trained professional newspaper columnist like myself, in an effort to be humorous, may go a little "too far." And sometimes a man has to be man enough to stand up on his own two manly legs with thighs like construction-grade steel, and he has to admit that an injustice has been done. I am such a man, and this is such a time, which is why I want to say to you irate readers out there, by way of a sincere and humble apology, that whatever I may have said to offend you, IT WAS NOT MY FAULT. All of the tasteless items that appear in this column are inserted without my knowledge by THE EDITORS OF YOUR LOCAL NEWSPAPER.Week after week I send out thoughtful, well-reasoned, thoroughly researched columns about significant, far-reaching issues such as the Trade Deficit, only to have local newspaper editors change the entire thrust of my message by inserting childish expressions such as "weasel boogers." Well, I am SICK AND TIRED of taking the blame, which is why I am going on record, here and now, as stating that I have nothing but the deepest personal respect for President Snailsucker and Vice President Dootbrain. OK?

Now that we've cleared that up, let's proceed to today's scheduled column, a tasteful and mature discussion of a topic that I am sure is very much on the mind of anyone who is concerned about current world affairs, namely:


As you regular readers are aware, in recent months this column has contained several detailed reports, backed up by documented evidence from respected supermarket-checkout publications, concerning the massive uncontrolled worldwide epidemic of mysterious animal explosions involving a snail, a cow, and an undetermined number of South American pigs. And yet the government continues to do nothing. The government prefers to fritter away valuable time worrying about: grapes. Really. We just had a national Grape Scare, with panicked shoppers trampling each other as they fled the produce department screaming "GRAPES! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!" Why? Because somebody found TWO LOUSY GRAPES that exceeded the recommended daily adult nutritional requirement for cyanide. Big deal.

You're not supposed to eat grapes anyway. Grapes aren't food. Grapes are what botanists call a "garnish," defined as "a foodlike object that hotel restaurants put on your plate so they can charge you $10.95 for a cheeseburger." Other examples are pineapple slices and "parsley," which is actually a small artificial tree manufactured from petroleum byproducts by the Lionel Corp.

So when we carefully consider all of these facts, we are forced to ask ourselves the following question: What was today's topic again? Wait, I remember: exploding human stomachs. I was made aware of this alarming new facet of the Mysterious Explosions epidemic by an alert reader named Kenneth Myers, who sent me an article that I am absolutely not making up from the British Medical Journal. The article is entitled "Gastric explosion: a cautionary tale," and it was written by two doctors who state that "under certain circumstances, gases in the stomach may be explosive." They discovered this fact while performing an extremely disgusting operation on an elderly man. Here is the crucial sentence: "As the stomach was opened, the gases within it ignited momentarily, an explosion was heard, and the scrub nurse and the theatre light were sprayed with gastric contents."

The doctors state that they went ahead with the operation, and the patient "made an uneventful recovery." They say nothing, however, about what happened to the scrub nurse. We can only hope that she did not go insane, or, even worse, have to attend a formal dinner engagement immediately after the operation ("Mildred, what's that in your HAIR?").

But that is not the major issue. The major issue is that if you, like so many people, are a human being, there is strong medical proof that at any moment your stomach could detonate like a hand grenade, splattering innocent bystanders with gastric contents, possibly including deadly cyanide grapes.

What can we do about this situation? We can note that "Gastric Contents" would be a good name for a heavy-metal rock band. Other than that, until high-level officials such as President Roachbarf decide to take action, there is very little that we CAN do about this situation, except to write angry letters of complaint to the people who are most directly responsible for this whole mess. Your local newspaper editors.