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A Short Story by Robbin D. Knapp
"Hey, just like a superball!" Soon the Biology lab was full of large, white, bouncing superballs and children chasing them. Fred was pleased that the children had finally made a discovery by themselves, but was also afraid that the specimens in question would become damaged.
"Okay, children, that's enough, sit down again, please. So, now we know that the cow eyeball is elastic. Let's find out what makes it elastic. Take your scalpels now, and carefully dissect your eyeballs."
Just then the bell rang, and 23 pupils ran through the door with 69 eyeballs, 46 of which were in the heads of the pupils and 23 of which were bouncing against floors, walls, ceilings and children. These super eyeballs were better than the normal superballs one got from gumball machines because they bounced crazily in all directions, not just straight.
Fighting against this stream came an angry young woman into the lab.
"Fred! The school nurse just told me Tommy swallowed a sea urchin!" she yelled.
"Hmm, that must be from the unit on ocean fauna that we studied last year," replied Fred distractedly.
"What was a sea urchin doing in our refrigerator?" Doris, Fred's wife, was still hysterical. Tommy was their son.
"How do you know it was in the icebox?" asked Fred, his scientist's inquisitive mind working.
"Where else would Tommy find a sea urchin in Iowa?!" she almost exploded.
"Yes, you have a point, Doris, but please calm down. Is Tommy all right?"
"Yes, but, Fred, you have to stop putting strange things in the fridge."
He stopped listening now. He had heard it all before. But what could he do? A Biology teacher had to store specimens somewhere. At the moment he had something like 18 or 19 specimens in there, so that Doris didn't know where to put the family's groceries any more. There were butterfly cocoons and mice hibernating in the produce section. There was a liver-like mass in an old margarine tub. In the freezer section were two dozen round ice cubes in small balloons set in plastic egg containers. Fred couldn't help it if he forgot some projects in his effort to cover the prescribed curriculum. But Doris had long since given up trying to clean out the Frigidaire. Fred would invariably miss something he needed for class the next day. Sometimes Doris thought she should have listened more closely to her future mother-in-law's stories about Fred's youth before they were married. Now she would think almost daily of the 43 turtles he had kept in the garage and the garter snakes crawling under the living room chairs during dinner parties.
That was the last period of the day, so Fred and Doris drove home. Tommy and Fred, Jr., always took the bus home. ("What?! We wouldn't be caught dead in a car with our parents, especially when they're both teachers!") The silence was thick in the family station wagon, with Doris fuming and Fred wondering why she always made such a fuss.
The situation didn't change much when they got home. The boys in the front yard began preparing for a snowball war, Fred in the den began preparing classes, and Doris in the kitchen began preparing supper.
At five, Doris called her offspring, "Come in for dinner, boys, and be sure to wash your hands with plenty of soap and hot water." She was almost fanatic about cleanliness.
After they were seated and Doris had examined all twenty young fingers, Fred said the blessing. "Dear Lord, thank you for the food we are about to eat...."
After Tommy and Fred, Jr., had said "Amen" like good little boys, they all dug in. The dinner was immediately a hit. Fred complimented, "Delicious, hon, what is it?"
Fred, Jr., agreed, "Yeah, great, Mom." Tommy just shoveled it into his greedy mouth.
Doris was modest, "Oh, it's just something I found in the fridge."
Half an hour later, there was no more praise or talking of any kind, just four faces lying in four plates on the dining room table. In the kitchen, the refrigerator door was wide open, nothing in it except empty containers and a strange reddish brown slime everywhere. Something had obviously found its way out of the fridge, as this same slime continued like a snail trail onto the floor and out of the kitchen into the dining room, where little Tommy, like the food in the fridge, starting at the right-hand fingertips, began disappearing...bite by bite.
Mar. 1986, Kirchdorf an der Krems, Austria
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