Pickle Panda Find Love in the Time of Robot Bees: Intro. to Part 1

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“Hello, again! If you’re just joining us on Good Morning St. Augustine, we’re here with Dr. Joyce Sartin, a professor from the Environmental Science department of Flagler College. She’s here to talk to us about bees. Isn’t that right, Dr. Sartin?”

“Call me Joyce, Diane, please.” she corrected with a smile, leaning forward in the studio’s comfortable lounge chairs.

“Of course, Joyce. Is this ‘thing’ with the bees something we should be worried about?” asked the chipper newswoman.

“Yes, indeed. It’s a very serious matter. This past winter, nearly 34% of all the captive honeybees in the US have died. That’s the worst number since the US Department of Agriculture started keeping track. We’re very rapidly approaching a critical situation, where-”

“Tell me, Joyce,” interrupted Diane, “why is that a problem? I mean, no one wants to get stung by a bee. Isn’t less bees a good thing?”

Dr. Sartin just stared at the pretty blonde newswoman for a moment. Lots of make-up. Blue contacts. Fake nails. She was playing the role of “television journalist” well enough, for a light morning show in the North-East corner of Florida. Dr. Sartin reminded herself that the general health of America’s bee population was not usual morning-show fare. She should be grateful to have an audience – any audience! – and she reminded herself not to blame Diane for asking what seemed to be an obvious question. She quickly composed herself and went on, a bit more slowly. “No, Diane. Less bees is not a good thing. It’s not. Honeybees pollenate crops. These bees perform a vital function that we all depend on. If there aren’t enough bees to collect the pollen from flowers and the go from flower to flower spreading the pollen-”

“Like the birds and the bees!” exclaimed the newscaster, happily.

“Ye-ess,” said the professor, drawing out the word. “It’s like the birds and the bees. The bees help make baby crops, and if there are no new baby crops then people won’t have enough to eat. Unless someone does something about it, food prices will go up. That means a lot of people won’t be able to afford-”

“Well, I was stung by a bee once when I was five, so I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. Up next – what’s with all these talking animals, Bob?”

The shot switched from Diane and a slack-jawed and bewildered Dr. Sartin to a more traditional anchor desk. Bob wore a sharp gray suit and sat in front of a bustling newsroom full of metallic surfaces.

“Thanks, Diane! Of course, we’ve all heard of talking parrots, but Diane is referring to a number of popular YouTube videos showing animals that seem to be talking. Popular theories explaining the cause of these talking animals have ranged from wi-fi signals to GMO foods to miraculous signs from God. We’ve got channel 6 reporter Jamie Day on the scene at a Humane Society brunch where one of these talking animals may have found a new home right here in St. Augustine. Jamie?”

The shot switched again, this time to a white tent on the beach filled with aging socialites in linen pants drinking their mimosas in the salty morning air. The tent was white, the tablecloths were white, the shoes were white. In true, upper-crust, old-Florida-money fashion, the only things that weren’t white were the waiters.

“Thanks, Bob! It looks like Mr. Bryce Clark has agreed to adopt the famous talking panda cub that was born at the San Diego Zoo last year as a birthday present for his young daughter, Kelsi. This is a fantastic contribution to Panda International’s breeding program, as you know. Tell me, Mr. Clark – what motivated you to pay $600,000 to adopt this one-of-a-kind panda?”

Mr. Clark smiled self-effacingly, “well, my wife passed away last summer and it’s been a tough year for us. This is my daughter, Kelsi. She’s had a tough time and she doesn’t really ask for much. I’d promised her that she could adopt one of the zoo animals and she fell in love with this one and it seemed to mean a lot to her. I had the money, and I wasn’t going to tell her no. It’s important to live up to our promises, isn’t it, Kelsi?”

“Right! I’m going name him Pickle, because he likes pickles,” said the young girl.

“Does the panda like pickles?” asked the newscaster.

“Not that I know of,” said Mr. Clark, “but she has quite an imagination!”

“I see, I see. Now, of course this is all for charity and this money is all going to a good cause,” explained Jamie. “The zoo will eventually use the money raised here today to build a larger enclosure for the pandas there, which will help them to do more research and determine why their pandas gave birth to a talking panda like – I guess his name is Pickle.”

“Well, that will be great. I’m sure Pickles will enjoy his new habitat,” said Mr. Clark.

“Pickle is coming home with us, daddy,” said Kelsi.

“No, no, dear,” explained the man, softly, as he turned to his daughter. “Pickles is going to stay with his family in San Diego. This was a fundraising brunch to build a bigger-”

“Actually, Mr. Clark,” interrupted the newscaster, “all of the other bidders were zoos and wildlife organizations. You were, in fact, bidding to take the panda home.”

“I told you!” said the little girl, triumphantly.

“What!?” shrieked Mr. Clark. “What do you mean? I can’t take care of a panda! I’m in real estate-”

The camera panned away from the Clarks and focused on channel 6 reporter Jamie Day’s brilliant white smile. “It looks like Mr. Clark is going to have an interesting drive home. Speaking of driving home, gas prices seem to be going up again just in time for the long weekend. Channel 6 anchor Bob Krandle has the story. Back to you, Bob!”


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