December 2004 | Vol. III - No. 12
I have a friend who used to think her son was a prodigy.
"You don´t have to get smashed over the head with a beaker to realize that Ralphie is going to get the Nobel Prize in Science someday," she´d brag.
It all began when Ralphie was just a wee lad. In an effort to "see the pichers inside de telebishion," he dismantled his mother´s computer monitor. Ralphie´s father was appalled.
"Now, now," my friend pacified her spouse. "The lad is exploring the boundless realms of his imagination. So she bought him a GeoSafari Laptop Computer.
"That should quench his thirst for knowledge," she thought.
But it was just the beginning. That single toy alone could not extinguish the passion for all things science that burned within her son.
Ralphie expanded his horizons. One day he took his mother´s $42 bottle of designer body lotion and mixed it with a box of foot powder and a tube of hemorrhoid cream. He then proceeded to paint the pasty mixture over the bathroom walls with his mother´s guest towels, removing wallpaper and consuming great chunks of drywall beneath. While Ralphie´s father spackled and grumbled, Ralphie´s mother incinerated the stinky towels and smiled.
"The little tike is keen on chemistry," she said proudly. And she rushed out and bought him the Smithsonian Chemistry Set 5000, a toy that enabled the ingenious Ralphie to concoct myriad chemical soups and stews. But after a large stink bomb fiasco that required an entire city block be evacuated, Ralphie tired of chemistry and cast his considerable energy in a new direction.
Curious about "what would happen", Ralphie spent one entire afternoon chucking rocks and golf balls into his own back yard, unbeknownst to his father. Unbeknownst to Ralphie, it was lawnmower day. After what became known as the "Legendary Lawnmower Massacre," Ralphie´s parents administered first aid to the fallen and the wounded. Ralphie´s father expressed concern over what he called "Ralphie´s obsession with weird science."
"Tut, tut," said Ralphie´s mother. "It´s not weird. It´s creative, and we must encourage it." And she ran right out and bought him a Rocks and Minerals Kit to appeal to his fascination with geology, as well as a Hovercraft Educational Science Kit to appease his curiosity for physics. The two kits together allowed Ralphie to concoct a flying mechanism that transported and randomly rained rocks down on the heads of unsuspecting pedestrians more than a mile away.
The police were not quite as impressed with Ralphie´s genius as his mother. Ralphie´s kits were confiscated as evidence for pending litigation and Ralphie´s mother despaired lest Ralphie become discouraged by such a negative response to his experiments.
Then, just a few weeks ago, Ralphie´s father noticed something different about his son. Ralphie had begun combing his hair and no longer had to be blackmailed into taking a shower. He started talking about girls. A lot.
Ralphie´s father turned to his wife and smiled.
"Biology?" he asked her.
"Over my dead body," said she.