AND SO THE death watch begins for the northern snakeheads in that Crofton pond, the infamous "fish from hell" that provided us with so much entertainment throughout this long, horrid summer.
Only a call from the governor can save them now.
Yep, as early as today or tomorrow, the state Department of Natural Resources hopes to call in a massive air strike, and a large thermonuclear device will be dropped on the pond, wiping out once and for all these horrible creatures that have terrorized the other decent, God-fearing species who want nothing more than to live in peace and ... oh, wait, they're going with poison, aren't they?
OK, forget that stuff about the air strike and the nuclear device.
The DNR will be using poison to kill the snakeheads.
But has anyone considered this?
Has anyone considered the fact that when they're gone, when they sleep with Luca Brasi and Fredo Corleone and all the other fishes, there will be nothing left to talk about except the heat and the drought and the crows wracked with the West Nile virus dropping from the skies?
Somebody should think about that.
Me, I miss the toothy little killers already.
Has any 16-inch fish in history arrived with a bigger rep than the snakeheads?
It was said they could live out of water for days and walk on land and arm-wrestle a burly forest ranger to a draw.
It was said they could do 300 push-ups at a clip and bench-press a rowboat and leap out of the water to snatch a stray deer or two for their evening meal.
Look, I don't know what's fact and what's fiction with these snakeheads anymore.
All I know is they were like biker fish, mean and tough and ready to rumble with anything that got in their way.
And now they're gone.
Well, any day now.
When I called the DNR the other day, Chuck Porcari, their personable chief flack, described the coming execution of the snakeheads thusly:
At a little after midnight, the snakeheads will be offered a last meal.
Then a priest will be summoned to hear final confessions.
Sometime around 2 a.m, the snakeheads, all of them shackled together, will begin the long walk to the ... OK, Porcari really didn't say any of that.
What he did say is that the poisoning process will be done in two steps, starting with a herbicide called - strangely enough - Rodeo.
"This will be sprayed on and into the water from boats crewed by DNR fisheries personnel," Porcari said.
Once the Rodeo hits, the snakeheads will be staring at their last roundup, if you catch my drift.
Within 24 hours, the aquatic vegetation in the pond will start to die.
You've heard that expression: You can run, but you can't hide? Well, without aquatic vegetation, the snakeheads won't be able to hide.
They'll stand out like Anna Nicole Smith at a convent.
Plus, the oxygen levels in the pond will begin dropping, which should kill some of the snakeheads right there.
"There will be a pleasant odor from decaying organic material," is the way Porcari delicately described this first phase of what should be called Operation Belly-Up.
A week or two after the herbicide is applied, the DNR will return and apply a poison called Rotenone to the water.
And that'll be checkout time for any remaining snakeheads.
You could start playing taps for them right then.
Since I had Porcari on the phone, I asked whether he'd miss all the excitement generated by the snakeheads, the TV trucks pulling up to the pond every day and the national media attention and the Letterman Top 10 jokes and the interview requests pouring in from all over the world, including German public radio.
(What is with those Germans, anyway? Shouldn't they be getting ready for Oktoberfest or something?)
"In all honesty, it's been a lot of fun," Porcari said. "It's a rather expansive and dramatic way to get our message out about invasive species. ... It's been interesting."
Oh, you bet.
And here's the thing about these snakeheads: They may originally be from the Yangtze River region of China, but apparently they're willing to relocate anywhere, not just to Crofton.
For instance, I just saw an article in the paper that said two snakeheads had been fished out of a lake in North Carolina.
A fisheries biologist for the wildlife commission said the state would keep a "vigilant eye" for further snakehead sightings.
Which means the fun in Carolina is just beginning.
I wonder when they'll start talking about air strikes.