The Bizarre Becomes the Benign

A supermarket tabloid might sensationalize this photo by using the following headline: ''Kids See Midget Space Alien Abduct Neighbor's Cocker Spaniel Named Elvis.''

The little hands clutching the rip in the screen, the puzzled, even fearful faces (except for the tall girl's slight Mona Lisa smile), suggest the midget alien might be blasting off just to their right beyond the screen door. Goodbye, Elvis.

Photographer Bob Harbison, a shooter who loves to cover spot news - quick events here one minute and gone the next - was in Selah, Wash., several years ago not searching for midget aliens.

What he saw was a house fire quickly extinguished in a neighborhood. As he turned to leave, he noticed these children crowded behind a screen door in the house across the street, still staring at the red fire engines.

A headline for Harbison might read: ''Shooter Goes Bananas Over Screened Kids in Sweet Tableau.'' As he snapped several frames, he knew the elements he saw - four children, the hands in the hole in the screen, the lacy, grainy effect of the screen, the way the children crowded together - would add up to a memorable image, able to withstand the words of any headline writer anywhere.

But, since headlines are like quick snapshots or very short poems, the best headline for the photo - with no apologies whatever to pessimists - might be appropriate to the season: ''Kids Screen Out Hype and Blather; Reach For Hope and Peace.''

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