By Jim Hagarty
There is a story that has disturbed me my whole life and I feel the need to address it as best I can. It involves the account of an old lady who swallowed a fly. Why anyone thought this was worthy of a news item I will never know but the journalist who brought the incident to light did a very poor job of reporting, in my opinion. And as a lifelong journalist myself, I feel my viewpoint should have some validity.
First off, that an old lady would swallow a fly is not an earth-shattering event so I really think the reporter should have found something more important to examine that day. But then the journalist said he didn’t know why the woman swallowed the fly. Well, a very poor job he did and I think I might have fired him if he brought that story back to the newsroom on my watch. He should have asked the subject of his story why she swallowed the fly. But he never did. And then he made the incredible prediction that because she swallowed a fly, the woman was likely to die. If she did, I believe she would be the first person on record to die from ingesting a fly, but the reporter was an alarmist and ignorant as well.
My fear is he told the old lady she was probably going to die because the first thing she did was chase down a spider somehow and swallowed that, in the hopes it would catch the fly. This could not have been easy for her to do with likely eyesight and mobility problems but she found a spider, opened her gob and popped it in.
Realizing she now had a spider and a fly inside her, she panicked, I think, and chased down a bird which she swallowed to catch the spider. Her alarm must have heightened even more as she then grabbed a cat and swallowed that, in the hope that the cat would catch the bird she had sent down her throat. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to swallow a cat but it is a sign of her distress that she would put herself through that. And I think she did that because that alarmist reporter put the idea into her head that she might die from swallowing the fly which I don’t believe she would have.
The incredible story the reporter ended up with then goes on to detail how the woman swallowed a dog to catch the cat. How much dog could one woman swallow, I wonder. I hope it was not a Great Dane.
In any case, the woman was desperate by then and found herself a cow to swallow to catch the dog. Now, any fifth grader could have told the poor lady that cows do not normally try to catch dogs. I hope it wasn’t the reporter who suggested to her that they do. In any case, she swallowed a cow.
And then, she went just one crazy step too far. She decided she had to do something about the cow and so she found a horse, stuffed the poor creature into her mouth and swallowed it, mane, hooves, tail, the whole shebang. Again, she was obviously starting to lose it because horses never try to catch cows.
And this is where the story took a tragic turn. After swallowing the horse, the old lady died. And all the reporter could say was, “She died, of course.” Of course? The reporter knew the horse would kill the woman but apparently he didn’t think to warn her. I just hope he didn’t encourage her.
So, to wrap up, one life was lost when the woman swallowed the fly. The unfortunate fly died, “of course”! Problem solved. Or at least it should have been. But because the old lady was acting on poor information and probably out of panic, the lives of six other creatures were also lost including that of the old lady herself.
I don’t want to sound mean, but I almost wish the old lady had survived swallowing that last big entree long enough to swallow the damn reporter to catch the horse. It would have served the silly scribe right to have suffered the indignity of slithering down into the old lady’s innards.
“I don’t know why she swallowed the fly,” he had written.
Dude, all you had to do was ask her. So much misery could have been spared.
I call journalistic malfeasance. Maybe an investigation is warranted. We have a dead old woman, and deceased fly, spider, cat, dog, cow and horse. The only one to walk away was the reporter.
Sounds a bit suspicious to me. From my experience as a newspaper editor, I know that some reporters will do anything for a good story.