At the crack of dawn, Evo awoke awkwardly on an ER cot. As his senses focused, he took in the stinky yellow mess they made with MIFF, including on his clothes. One of the orderlies informed him there had been no flare ups for hours. So Evan took a quick walk around and signaled to lift the quarantine. A flock of folks–health care personnel and visitors alike–quickly evacuated the unit.
Unshaven and hungry, Evo headed for the lab, dragging an empty canister. En route, he passed by the football field, where Ayden still kept watch. Ayden’s strategy to spray the perimeter of the track with MIFF to keep Prime Slime contained appeared successful. Both scientists stood side by side in silence near the festering field, looked pretty torn up. But they needed to stay alert. With things seemingly under control, Evo gave Ayden a thumbs up and proceeded quickly to the lab.
Katey spent an uncomfortable night wrapped in Evo’s chair. She awoke periodically with a throbbing headache, and doused the flare-ups of Prime Slime inside and out. The lab had taken on a new coat of yellow streak; so had the juniper bushes outside. Katey was about to refill her canister when Evo arrived.
“Give it a break, Katey! Let’s look at that Petri plate.”
As the incubator door opened, a waterfall of slime fell to the floor with the glass plate, shattering it into many pieces. The scientists fell back quickly to avoid contact. Katey took aim, but Evo stopped her.
“Don’t kill it! Let’s freeze a little first.” Against her instincts, she dutifully scooped the slime into several sterile tubes. The slinky green goo was not easy to handle.
Inside the incubator, a green haze lit up their faces. Slime dripped from the shelves like a scene from hell. With paper towels soaked in MIFF, they wiped it up and sprayed it several times to be sure.
“Take a look at those gorgeous roses,” Katey suggested.
“Wow! What do you make of it?”
“Not sure. Where did you get them?”
“Oh my God!” Evo cried, realizing he left Nan hanging. Being a typical male, he could focus on only one thing at a time. As the sun broke the horizon, illuminating the lab, he gave Nan a call.
“Sorry to wake you, honey. You won’t believe what happened.”
“This better be good,” she said, in gravelly voice.
“We had a severe lab accident. A mutant escaped and spread all over campus.”
“You’re kidding, right? Anyone hurt?”
“It infects only plants, thank God. But, what a mess.”
“That’s insane! What’s the status?”
“It’s under control, I believe, after spraying the crap out of it.”
“With MIFF I presume.”
You’ve had a rough night. I was worried. How can I help?”
“Tell me about that organic rose farm.”
“You mean Terra in New Jersey?”
“I bought the roses as you recommended. They’re gorgeous, and strangely resistant to our mutant.”
“Hmmm? Might be because they’re organic. Plants grown on good soil resist infection, like healthy people resist disease.”
“That’s intriguing! We need to learn more about it.”
“We should contact the head farmer at Terra, a fellow by the name of Philmore Potts. In fact, there’s an organic conference at Terra this weekend. Would you like to attend?” Katey gestured eagerly that she wanted to go, too.
“Let’s do it! Katey wants to join us.”
“My prize student.”
“Not the mad GMO scientist?
“No. Katey Cairn. A tree-hugger like you.”
“Great! I’ll make arrangements for three to attend.”
“Thanks, honey. I’ll talk with you soon.”
“I’m so glad you’re safe.”
With that, Evo hung up the phone and turned to Katey. “So, what’s up with this organic thing?”
“It makes sense. Living soil is superior to depleted, toxic soil. Plus, organic plants make more antioxidants to ward off intruders.”
“No wonder the football field disintegrated so quickly.”
“Yes. It’s awash in chemicals.”
“The football field!” Evo blurted. “Is everything fine here?”
“Yes, it’s all snuffed out, thank God.”
“Go get some rest,” he said, as he left the building
Exhausted Evo was again running down the main campus road. He met up with Ayden again at midfield. The scientists toed the sidelines, as Prime Slime glistened in the hot sun. The track beneath them was a yellow spatter, from multiple MIFF applications.
The dry spell actually worked in their favor. Slime is composed mostly of water, so the drought kept it from spreading. In contrast, the well-watered football field was fertile ground for plunder.
Prime Slime baked in the sun like creme brûlée. Yard markers were no longer visible, as the slime coalesced into a large mass. It recoiled on the sidelines, faintly hissing, from contact with MIFF.
Exhausted and poisoned, Ayden buckled with the dry heaves.
“You all right?”
“Yeah,” Ayden mumbled, half choking.
“Take a break! Get some food and rest. I’m off to the ER.”
As Evo was leaving, Ayden left him something to think about: “Hope it don’t rain, Chief.”
The ER was largely restored when Evo arrived, but the smell lingered. All patients had been taken elsewhere within the hospital. Custodians were still flipping the light switch periodically, and applying MIFF selectively. A teaspoon of the yellow liquid mixed in a bucket of hot, soapy water was used to decontaminate all nearby surfaces. Evo was taking no chances.
While in the hospital, Dr. Lucio was summoned to the VP’s office. He lumbered down the main hallway to Administration. Needless to say, the brass at Brookstone was not happy. Minnie Hardash greeted him with a menacing stare.
“What kind of business are you running over there?” she said, edging up a bit too close. If she were any taller, he might have head-butted her. Evo was in no condition to deal with her vitriol, not without coffee, breakfast, or sleep. With just a handful of brain cells firing, he took a deep breath to control himself.
“Brookstone is a disaster area!” she squealed, as Evo backed away. All the dutiful years he gave to the hospital, and now this.
Dr. Honcho stepped forward to steer the conversation. “Is it under control?” he asked, sternly.
“Yes sir, in all areas. The football field is still under siege, but we have it contained. We’re letting it run its course. The ER is in good hands, as is the lab. I believe we snuffed it out in both places. A detailed report will be submitted soon on all three incidences.”
“What is the nature of this thing?” Honcho inquired.
“My graduate students were playing with two harmless bacteria–one fast and one slimy. They somehow mingled in the infectious waste and created a fast slimy plant eater. It was totally unexpected.
“So now the ER is part of your lab,” said Hardash derisively.
“No, but apparently my lab is not worth having services provided. Infectious waste was not picked up and that’s what allowed those germs to accumulate and fester.”
“Patients are our priority.” she scoffed.
“I don’t see patients, as you know. My job is to outsmart germs, but sometimes they outsmart us. They’re quite clever.”
“Destroy this thing immediately!” Hardash demanded. Honcho nodded in agreement.
“But sir, what will we gain if we don’t study it? Some plants appear immune to this disease.”
“Who gives a rat’s ass?” Hardash balked. Honcho concurred, silently.
“To improve MIFF, we need to keep Prime Slime alive.”
“Prime Slime?” Honcho queried.
“That’s what my students call it, sir, but I like your Franken Slime better. We may have the only drug that can stop it, which could make a fortune for the hospital.”
You could almost hear the cash register in Hardash’s head go “Cha Ching!” as she pondered his words. Then the grimace returned.
“You own nothing, Lucio. MIFF is the sole property of Brookstone. The Board will meet this afternoon to determine your fate. Any revenue you receive from this invention will be used to pay for damages. In the meantime, stop terrorizing our patients!”
“This is not just about you, Lucio. The hospital’s reputation is at stake,” Honcho warned.
“In other words, we’ve been touting you as a hero rather than as the bumbling idiot you really are,” Hardash blurted. Evo took another deep breath.
“Keep a low profile,” Honcho added.
“Yes sir,” he offered, inching his way out of the office, leaving Hardash and Honcho flustered once again. On his way back to the field, Evo met up with the snoopy newspaper reporter.
“What’s going on here, Doc?”
Evo collected himself. “Getting things under control.”
“That’s your idea of control?” asked the reporter, pointing to the football field. Players and coaches stood by, watching their field melt. “They won’t be playing anything here for a while.”
Prime Slime’s run on the football field eventually ended, after razing it to the roots. The area would eventually be roped off and guarded 24-7 for weeks.
Back at the lab, Evo’s students were in damage control. Preparing more MIFF caused another wave of stink. Clearly, the technology needed improvement. Odor was not the only problem. They needed a better, safer, purer product.
Brookstone had no choice but to downplay the fiasco. On the local news, Dr. Honcho called it a freak accident that harmed only plants. He credited Brookstone scientists for creating antidotes and snuffing it out. He even joked about the smell. Evo and company were safe for now.
But those who saw the light show would not soon forget. The sights, sounds and smells were etched in their minds forever. It lingered on campus as a topic of conversation for quite a while.
Poor Dr. Lucian was a reluctant hero. He bristled with anger over the trail of carelessness. Letting kids run an infectious disease lab was foolish and dangerous. The buck clearly stopped with him. On the other hand, he was lucky to have Katey and Ayden in his life. The task ahead was too big for one person.
Such crises required patience and diplomacy, the very things Evo lacked. He hailed from an impatient, impetuous lot. But, unlike the cavemen before him, he now held a position of great responsibility, and had to temper his anger. It wasn’t always easy or pretty.
But his frustration tolerance was improving. Not only was Evo on the downside of the testosterone curve, he was now being schooled by one of the best. Nan was grooming his feminine side. But the monster inside was not easy to tame.
Eating away at him still was the frustration of not being regarded. Meanwhile, even the lowest ranked physicians were more respected. They were part of some secret society supported by drug money. He was enraged at the corruption in medicine: the daily solicitations and perks from drug reps; pushing unneeded drugs and surgeries, while suppressing information on healthy alternatives. Both political parties were under the thumb of Big Pharma. And those despicable drug commercials on TV! The lack of ethics drove Evo crazy.
Appropriately, on Halloween, Evo dressed up as the Frankenstein monster: the ultimate symbol for low frustration tolerance. Due to a damaged brain, it got flustered at the slightest provocation. Evo could totally relate. He hung up a picture of Karloff’s Frankenstein on his bedroom wall to remind him of the danger lurking within. By acknowledging the dark side, it helped him confront his demons and exorcise the curse of his fathers.
Evo was evolving. His recent career gains and new students were game changers. Though commercial success from his invention was not immanent, he was buoyed by the good it might do. On top of that, the woman of his dreams showed up, with lessons he needed to learn. He was ready to embrace life once more.
With a few new tools and practices, he felt better equipped to deal. Proper nutrition was doing wonders for his vitality and had relieved the inflammation in his body. With each deep breath, Evo shed the anger and left the beast behind. Thanks to Nan, he was finding peace, within and without.
Special people like Nan, Katey and Ayden do not come along until one is ready for them. In turn, they helped carry him further along the enlightened path.
Frankly, Nan was just amazing. There was much to learn from the feminine psyche. Mindfulness is the wisdom of women, and the cure for Frankenstein’s curse.