“Cows, Mosquitos and Jackasses” — A Mort Laitner Short Story

Cows, Mosquitoes and Jackasses


By: Morton Laitner


In the downpour I drove west on Griffin. My son and I watched the wipers sway across the windshield. When the rain stopped, my smart aleck son exclaimed, “Look Dad. Look at the horizon. That cloud formation, the opening looks like the map of the State of Florida.”


He was right. I saw the panhandle attached to the body of the state. “Wow! That’s amazing. I have never seen anything like it. What are the odds that nature would draw a map in the sky, especially a map of our state?” I replied.


I stared at the opening until the formation disappeared.


Now I was hooked. I watched the sky for more wonders like a sailor scanning the ocean in search of the New World. Then, I found a giant cumulous cotton-candy mountain. I remembered the Alps. “Son, should I photograph those clouds?”


“Dad it’s dusk. You go out there to shoot some film and the mosquitoes will eat you alive. You’re wearing a cotton short-sleeve shirt and khaki shorts. You don’t have any DEET or mosquito repellant.”


As I scratched my arm I said, “You’re right maybe next time I’ll be more prepared. Son, did you know that mosquito comes from the Spanish for small fly? And mosquitoes transmit disease to 700 million people annually and at least two million of those people die?”


“No, I didn’t know that Dad.”


As I continued driving west, I noted that the summer deluge had drenched the ground. Dry holes filled to capacity as a solitary cow stood on all fours smack in the middle of this nature-made swimming hole. In the center of this pond, the black and white domesticated ungulate chewed its cud.


I observed the scene, and I wondered what thought processes ran across the bovine’s brain.


Was the cow thinking about the summer storm?

Was the cow thinking how good she had it…an ample supply of hay, sunny days, and a nature-made swimming hole?

Was the cow studying the sky for oddly shaped clouds?

Was the cow interpreting cloud shapes?

Was the cow being bitten by mosquitoes?


I felt compelled. I had to take the bovine’s photograph. The art of photography mandated I take the risk. “Son, I’m going out there. Look at that cow. That picture is worth 10,000 words.”


“Dad, I warned you. You’re going to have so many bites you won’t be able to count them. I read in today’s Herald about some 61 year-old man who got West Nile Virus. The Health Department issued a mosquito-borne illness advisory not to put your self at risk by going out at dusk, to wear clothing that covers at least your arms and legs and to spray yourself with bug repellant. Mosquitoes also spread St. Louis and eastern equine encephalitis and dengue. The Herald also said there is dengue down in the Keys.”


After taking six shots, I ran back into the car. The heifer posed as if she were a runway model. I smiled and said, “I can’t wait to print these into 8×10’s.” Then I started to scratch both of my arms.


“Damn mosquitoes!

Damn crepusulars!

Damn malaria spreading vectors!


They’re responsible for killing more people worldwide than any other animal. Mosquitoes can smell a cow or a person from 20 meters away.”


The next day I woke up with a headache, fever, fatigue, dizziness, weakness and confusion, all symptoms of West Nile Virus.


As my son drove me to the doctor’s office, he smirked, “Dad for a guy who knows so much about mosquitoes, you sure acted dumb.” He glanced up into the sky and pointed, “Like that jackass cloud on the horizon.”









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