"Getting off your main focus."
"Which is what, again?"
"Huh," Archy said. "Hey, Mr. Jones? What’s wrong?"
Mr. Jones was up and out of his chair. He reached up a hand to Fifty-Eight, and the bird sidled up the gangplank to its inveterate perch.
"Mr. Jones, what did I say? Why you leaving? I’m not quite done, but I’m almost."
"Just bring it to the gig," Mr. Jones said. "It don’t work, fuck it."
He started toward the back of the van, wanting—or feeling that at the very least he ought—to tell Archy about Lasalle, born and died April 14, 1966. Tell him about the two hours and seventeen minutes’ worth of the pride and the joy that Archy had been squandering for fourteen years. He went to the Econoline, slammed the doors on the empty cargo bay. Mr. Jones helped the bird onto the headrest of the driver’s seat, where he liked to ride, clutching the shoulder belt with one claw to keep its balance.
"Maybe you need to start trying to focus on the distractions instead," Mr. Jones said. "Maybe then they wouldn’t be so distracting."
"Mr. Jones! Hey, come one, now. What’d I say?"
Mr. Jones got into the van, started the engine. Even over the slobbering of its three-hundred-horsepower V8 Windsor, he could hear Archy repeating uselessly, “Mr. Jones, I’m sorry.”
He’s attractive enough, in a small-market weatherman kind of way.
If the author once winked during this accumulation of preposterous particulars, it would all turn flimsy and come tumbling down. But White never forgets that he is telling about serious matters: the overcoming of a handicap, and the joys of music, and the need for creatures to find a mate, and the survival of a beautiful species of swan.
These debates likely never would have occurred had it not been for the press’s willingness to parrot quack claims under the guise of reporting on citizen concerns. In this instance, anti-flouridationists fixated on the dangers of fluorine, a poisonous gas that is among the most chemically reactive of all elements. What we know as “fluoride” does not contain fluorine gas—it’s made up of some combination of sodium fluoride, sodium aluminum fluoride, and calcium fluoride. Equating the two is like accusing Joe the Plumber of being a murderous dictator because he shares a first name with Joseph Stalin, or claiming Joseph Stalin must be a brilliant writer due to the skill of Joseph Conrad. That parallel is not as tenuous as it sounds: Sodium fluoride is used to strengthen teeth, sodium chloride is table salt, and chlorine is a poisonous gas that was used by Germany in World War I.
What follows is a condensed version of our conversation, edited lightly for clarity and with all of Díaz’s frequent swearwords removed.