Evo’s lab was part of a cluster of one-story, brick buildings that formed the Science Department at Brookstone. In better years, the verdant ivy on the red brick was something to behold. Those vines had since shriveled into the scorched terrain. The greenhouse nearby stood out like an oasis.
While awaiting the flowers from Terra, Evo outlined several experiments to compare organic vs. conventional plants and to test the new MIFF formula. Since their last fiasco with Prime Slime, Ayden and Katey had devised a new method to make MIFF and reduce its smell. It really made all the difference. Now they could spray MIFF freely without disturbing the community at large. Also removed was any toxicity inherent in the stink.
Early on a Saturday morning, the three scientists made their final preparations. They worked well together, like a three-part harmony. In a short time, all was in place and ready to go. Only the Guinea pigs were missing, namely Philmore’s plants.
Like clockwork, Philmore Potts and a farmhand arrived from New Jersey. They drove up in an old VW bus bursting with foliage. The bus was painted bumper-to-bumper with psychedelic flowers, like a flashback from the 60’s.
This magic bus carried valuable cargo: organic and conventional plants matched for size and kind. Philmore was not happy buying plants from their wretched neighbors, but they served as ideal controls. His Mexican farmhands made the purchase, because Philmore would not set foot on their filthy farms.
Indeed, this neighboring farm was a thorn in Philmore’s side. It was basically a toxic waste dump, tainted with heavy metals, manure runoff, weed killers and pesticides. Seeds from their GMO crops contaminated Terra’s gardens, and had to be removed each season. Horrid pig pen, chicken coop smells drifted over and detracted from Terra’s serenity. In contrast, farming was an art form at Terra, with manure management and compost production. Terra was buzzing with bees, beetles, worms, microbes, cattle, plants and happy people. And to think they were neighbors.
It was not a perfect experiment–no biological trial ever is–but it had merits. The soils were once identical. Yet, conventional farm topsoil degrades over time, while organic soil becomes enriched. Could Prime Slime tell them apart? Philmore certainly could.
Katey took Philmore’s hand as they entered. “Welcome to Brookstone!”
“Greetings,” Ayden offered.
“Nice to be here,” Philmore answered.
Evo seemed a bit perturbed. He could have done without the psychedelic bus. Plus, there was no mention of a farmhand.
“This is my co-worker, Cal Radi”, Philmore said. “Cal’s been with us a long time.” Cal, a short, stocky Mexican native with a dirty red bandana and a jet-black ponytail, nodded quietly.
They formed an assembly line to transport the plants. Eventually the entire lab was brimming with vegetation: begonias, peonies, roses, pepper plants, ferns, hostas, and chamomile. Plants were positioned on the bench tops, so that each organic plant juxtaposed its conventional counterpart. MIFF-soaked paper was placed under the pots to prevent disease spread. A slight sulfur odor was detectable, but nothing like before.
Evo took no chances. Combination locks were installed to restrict entrance to the lab. UV lights were directed at all surfaces. MIFF spray bottles were placed on each bench top. Prime Slime was kept under lock in deep freeze, and only Evo held the key.
When all was ready, Dr. Lucio unlocked and opened the freezer door. With cryoprotective gloves, Ayden opened an icy drawer, releasing a puff of frigid air. He pulled out a tube and returned the frigid rack to the freezer. The farmers watched hypnotically as Ayden placed the frosted tube on the bench top.
The thick, murky, pukey green liquid inside contained billions of bacteria.
Ayden proceeded to dilute the mixture into three tubes of saline, one for each scientist. Like artists, Katey, Evo and Ayden applied Prime Slime onto each leaf with small brushes. Some of the leaves were sprayed with MIFF beforehand.
Inoculating all the plants took a good hour. Afterwards, protective garments were removed disposed in the red bag with used glassware, brushes and other disposable items. They washed their exposed skin thoroughly with an antiseptic and wiped the bottom of their shoes with MIFF before exiting the lab.
The motley crew made off to the Social Hall to grab lunch, not far from the lab, while Prime Slime did its thing. Like most cafeterias, a profusion of junk food was available in vending machines.
After a quick look at the menu, Philmore protested: “So, what am I supposed to eat?” Ayden looked around the room, as if for the first time.
“Not to worry,” Katey said, unveiling a salmon avocado sandwich on sprouted spelt bread. “I don’t eat this crap either.” Ayden wondered what all the fuss was about, while inhaling a super-sized coke and two pieces of cardboard pizza. Evo had a hamburger without the bun or fries, and Cal downed two bags of tortilla chips. Philmore and Katey looked at each other smugly.
Less than an hour later, they were back at the lab. As predicted, conventional plants were wilting beyond recognition, while organic plants stood untouched. It was even more convincing in the dark. Conventional plants glowed brightly, while organic plants were invisible. Such perfect results were quite rare in science.
Before long, thick slime encased the lifeless, wilted conventional plants. By morning, they were completely devoured. Next to each slimy mess stood a beautiful, flowering organic plant. No doubt, Prime Slime was an opportunist.
Conventional leaves sprayed with MIFF also resisted the slime, even at low MIFF doses, which was encouraging. Being nontoxic, inexpensive and now odorless almost ensured MIFF’s commercial success.
“Our hypothesis is supported,” Evo concluded.
“Sickness invites decay,” Philmore responded.
“Healthy soil breeds healthy plants,” Katey added.
“Don’t overlook the power of MIFF,” Ayden interjected. “Brookstone Brass will be very pleased.”
As they gawked at the spectacle, Cal Radi slipped one of the discarded Prime Slime tubes from the red bag into his pocket.
“I get it now,” Evo reflected. “Slime is not the bad guy. Rather, its job is to take down the bad guys.”
“Yes, it’s all about integrity.” Philmore blurted. “Prime Slime is not evil. People who make shitty plants are. That’s the real slime.”
“But GMO plants can be created to resist slime,” Ayden noted.
“Yeah, look where that’s gotten us,” Philmore rebutted: “A world full of inferior food and sick people. It’s not sustainable.”
“Perhaps we’re on the wrong track,” Evo admitted.
“Just look at the football field, Ayden,” Katey added.
Ayden Fry was undaunted: “It seems we’re left with two choices: Stop slime by turning modern agriculture on its head with this organic thing, or simply employ MIFF. I know which one will put money in our pockets.”
“Meanwhile, we allow modern agriculture to destroy arable land, increase toxic waste, fuel global warming, and burden healthcare further,” Katey rebutted.
“Corporations will exploit MIFF too,” Philmore warned. “They’ll find some way to abuse it and make bugs resistant to it.”
“Let’s get back to the experiment at hand,” Evo suggested. “Today we learned conclusively about organic plant resistance to slime, and about MIFF protection. We need ideas for future experiments.
“We’ll provide the plants,” Philmore offered.” He looked over at Cal Radi, who sported a sheepish grin. His mind was elsewhere.
“Frankly, I hate my neighbors even more,” Philmore admitted.
“Now you see their purpose for being,” Katey answered. “They make your farm look much better and the science much stronger.”
“More importantly, MIFF is the real deal,” Ayden added.
Suddenly there came a knock at the door. Dr. Honcho entered, but stopped to take in the spectacle before him. He glanced over at the longhaired strangers and pulled Evo firmly aside into the office. Behind closed doors, he let loose:
“Why are you exposing strangers to that monster of yours?”
Evo took a moment to catch his breath and find his backbone: “They provided the flowers, sir, which allowed us to conduct an important experiment. We discovered something very important today. It turns out that all organic plants are immune to Prime Slime, while conventional plants are readily killed.”
“You’re pushing it, Evo! We can’t afford to let anyone know what’s going on here, or have this bug escape again!”
“Sir, we are making great strides to improve the MIFF formula, and very carefully I may add.” Honcho noticed the lack of smell.
“Even a tiny amount of MIFF stops slime. That’s a good sign.”
Having been in medicine all these years, Honcho knew success involved great risks.
“Be careful, Lucio! Your shadow falls on us all.”
“Yes sir, I know.”
“Report to my office tomorrow with an analysis of your work. And, keep the riffraff out of here!”
Picking up the bad vibes, Philmore and Cal quickly vacated the place, but not before Katey thanked them for coming.
Before leaving, Dr. Honcho admonished Evo’s students to be careful and wished them well in their studies. Once he departed, Evo left soon thereafter, leaving the students to clean up the lab.
Katey and Ayden returned to Evo’s chilled office to analyze the data. While crunching the numbers, Ayden turned to Katey:
“You think that Mexican guy had any clue what was going on?”