Bug Nights 2016, Chapter 8, March 23
Henry Finds a New Family
by Liz Garlo
It was a cold and drizzly night, but inside the St. Paul’s School biological lab, it was warm and the brightly lit aquaria bubbled cheerfully as people began arriving. An air of intimacy developed as the program manager and sampling supervisor and a dozen or so citizen scientists began setting up microscopes so we could start the night’s work. Tonight we would finish the “rough sorting” of the macroinvertebrate samples taken from the Merrimack River. Since there were only two samples left, all agreed to work cooperatively in order to finish them and instead of sitting in the usual two rooms, we all sat in the same room, thereby making sure no one missed any of the lively conversation.
Michele, the woman in the white lab coat, busily hawked raffle tickets for the up and coming river festival, and noted that Henry was wearing pajamas which had no pockets, so he would be forgiven for not being able to buy any tickets. No such reprieves were given to anyone else. Henry, by far the youngest member of the group, explained that the reason he was wearing pajamas was because it was “Wear your Pajamas to School Day,” and besides, they were comfortable. Someone suggested that maybe we could try it too for the next Bug Night, since most of us had missed that ritual in high school. Henry only lamented that his Mother had eaten his (pre) Easter candy, and Michele promptly started doling out little KitKats from a big bag.
Soon, Henry raised his had with a question… he had begun the identification of the aquatic organisms removed from the sample he had just finished. He had recognized that one was new and different. Since Michele was near by, he asked her to come take a look. Quickly, Michele called to Steve, the big taxonomic cahoona, and said, “Bring the keys.” After much shuffling and flipping of pages, the three agreed on the identification. It was a new family. Now to understand the importance of this, you must realize the volunteer program has been repeated annually for over twenty years, and new families are now a rare occurrence. Michele announced that Henry had gotten the taxonomy spot-on as far as our local guide goes, and would be duly recognized by putting his name on a new page for the guide that would appear next year. Wow, does it get any better than that?
Steve needed a break after all that taxonomy, and left the room. Michele told us that she had taken Owen, one of her four rescue cats, to be shaved. Owen is an orange male with six-inch long hair. The problem is that he gets full of static electricity in the winter, so he needed a trim. It was at this time that Michele, being impressed with Henry’s taxonomic prowess, stated that she would be happy to adopt him too. After all, his own mother had eaten his pre-Easter candy. It was at that point that Steve returned to the room to hear Michele promoting her offer of adoption to Henry. A slight look of concern passed quickly over his face. Henry, however, managed to save the day by stating that he thought he might die of cat allergies, preventing the need for further discussion between the husband and wife. Henry passed on the chance of setting a record, getting two new families in one night.
A few days later, Liz, one of the least deserving volunteer citizen scientists who bought raffle tickets, received a text on her cell phone. She had won “The Big Basket” at the river fest. It is truly a fabulous basket. So, yes, it does get better than that.