MIDFORD, OHIO—Downtown Midford was rocked with terror yesterday when a man with his shirt off casually lounged in the sun, causing panic in the streets and striking desperate fear into the hearts of the town's citizenry.
The alleged perpetrator, Gary Dernbaum of nearby Plovis, was described by police and city officials as "frighteningly nonchalant" in his behavior, apparently unmoved by the state of stark terror his sweat-covered, flabby torso inspired in others.
Dernbaum, a third-shift auto assembly worker and NASCAR racing collectibles enthusiast, reportedly added insult to injury by spending most of his shirtlessness eating and drinking, devouring a chili dog "without remorse."
According to sources, Dernbaum also engaged in friendly conversation with several terror-struck passersby unlucky enough to make eye contact with him, greeting their stares of shock and repulsion with casual remarks like, "Gee, it's hot out!" and "Phew! Sweaty day today, huh?"
It is believed he also patted and slapped at his belly during a number of these verbal harangues, heightening witnesses' reactions to a fever-pitch crescendo of desperate panic and fear.
"It was horrible," said witness Elaine Dunhover at the overflowing emergency ward of City General. "He just sat there with this oblivious smile on his face, as if what he was... I can't think of another word but, well, baring... to the world was somehow acceptable to human sight."
The distraught Dunhover then collapsed into tears, and, like many others, took solace in the warm reassurances of her pastor.
According to police, efforts to subdue Dernbaum's shirtlessness were badly hampered by the fact that he was standing or sitting in full sunlight, with the resultant glare from his fish-white, distended belly making eyewitness identification nearly impossible.
"It was like you couldn't look right at him, because the brightness hurt your eyes," said one woman who spent 15 minutes exposed to the shirtless Dernbaum before volunteers could remove her to safety.
Added hero teen Glenda Martinez, a 15-year-old student who survived the entire affair with only a fractured rib: "All I could think of was, 'My friends live in this neighborhood. Oh my God, they could end up seeing him too!' I honestly didn't know if they were alive or dead. All I knew was fear."
In the wake of yesterday's tragedy, Midford Police are advising city residents to remain indoors for the rest of the current heat wave, as more shirtlessness may still occur.
Out-of-town callers seeking information on the safety of relatives or loved ones are advised to call a special toll-free crisis line, 1-800-555-WHALE, where volunteers are standing by.
Further, a temporary state of Visual Emergency has been declared by Gov. Jim Nelson for the next 12 days. As an added precaution, authorities have confiscated several hundred lawn chairs, mesh tank-tops and portable coolers in an effort to keep any additional males driven shirtless by the weather indoors, and citizens out of harm's way until the crisis passes.
"The last thing we want is a repeat of this tragedy," Gov. Nelson said. "Flesh like this must be kept from public view at all times."