Is knowledge a curse or is it a gift? I believe one can argue either side. In my case, however, it was a detriment. Biology is a wonderful field, but apparently not everybody agrees. I had simplemindedly assumed that all people liked plants and animals. This was incorrect…
My first date with Ashley was a beautifully romantic experience…that is until we actually got together. My girlfriend had spent about 5 minutes leaning against her car waiting for me to show up that evening. The weather was beautiful; an early fall night, the sky clear, an occasional wisp of cloud darting across the half-crescent of the shining moon. Ashley was waiting there breathing lightly in the still-warm air; relishing the breeze caressing her hair.
When I arrived we embraced. Neither of us had planned anything for the evening, so I suggested we take a walk for a while to perhaps conjure some ideas for the night. Everything I said and did after this was disastrous.
Along the sidewalk we strolled, beside a residential area, holding hands (okay, so not everything I did was foolhardy), admiring the sleeping neighborhood and the lovely yards. I bent to pick a small rose from a flower bed beside me. Ashley’s eyes lit up. “How cute,” she was undoubtedly thinking. “He’s going to present me a rose snitched from a flowerbed at night.” This is where I made my first mistake, verifying for all those unsure that I am completely incompetent. I held it out to her, and I saw the girlish smile begin to emerge on her face. I then explained what kind of rose it was, the family and the variety, even the Latin name, and then I ran back to my car to press it in a book for later. In hindsight, her expression displayed great disappointment. But at the time I was so excited by my recent find that I hardly noticed. On we walked. The clouds were gathering…
Ashley should have left at that point, but she apparently opted to give me a second chance. This did not help. As we continued on I pointed out other plants I noticed; trees, shrubs, flowers. I’m sure I emanated a childlike exuberance at being able to identify these plants, even mentioning interesting tidbits, such as edibility or specific uses of a wood. A couple of times she tried to embark on a tangent to describe her day or to engage me in a more general topic of discussion, but I was too caught up in what I was doing to see the obvious. When I saw the interesting road kill, however, Ashley did choose to leave.
“Oh look!” I blurted. “There’s a dead raccoon in the road.” Though I’m not sure, I think that normal people overlook road kill, partly out of some strange respect to the deceased, and also because the poor creatures are generally somewhat mangled and rancid. I neglected to consider this as I dragged her into the street to poke at it with a stick. I used it to prod around and identify the gender of the poor animal.
“See, it’s a male, and pretty old too, judging by the condition of the teeth. But wow, these maggots are sure making a fine feast of it” I didn’t need open the mouth, as a sufficient quantity of flesh was missing as to allow easy viewing. Ashley turned away, swallowing hard. I didn’t notice this though, because I was too busy looking for cars that might accidentally run us over. I went on to point out little facts about the pelt, even identified a few organs. When I next turned around to confirm that Ashley had understood all I just explained, she was 100 yards away jogging towards her car.
I didn’t try to catch her, because it was slowly dawning on me that there was a rank carcass squashed into the road next to me and there were cars bearing down on me. I returned to the sidewalk to avoid traffic. On the way back to my car I picked a couple more little roses, in case the first one didn’t turn out when I pressed it. I didn’t need anymore dead raccoons in the freezer. I still had to dissect the two I already had.
Biologist SWM ISO of biologist SWF who enjoys long walks and talking about nature. We can identify plants together, maybe more…must love animals, living and dead.
Copyright © 2001, Ben Shaw
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