Years after my damaging MK experiences I spent much of my holidays in Sydney convalescing with my cousins. They lived near the beach, which was a plus. We were all lazy and never actually went to the beach, which was a minus. After dinner out one night we were walking home and happened upon a 2-foot long Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon in one of the salt water 25-mitre swimming pools built along the shore. A nearby pirate informed us that ‘Anglers’ or ‘people who enjoy excruciatingly boring hobbies‘ as seems a more appropriate designation, use Salmon as fresh bait when beach fishing and leave them swimming in the pools until needed. At which point I assume they remove them with a giant net of some kind. Or dynamite. I won’t discount the effects of alcohol on some of our group members upon the causality of the events in the following narrative, but suffice to say we attempted to catch said Salmon by wading through the waist-deep giant pool it was swimming in and yelling at it. More accurately, yelling and desperately hoping he might somehow suffer inexplicable cardiac arrest and end up in our hands without much more fuss. Even aided by a square mitre of fencing we stole from a road construction site and a single traffic cone, the salmon still managed to evade our cunning ploy for his capture.
The point of this story of to remind you, the listener, that there are certain natural laws we aren’t ever really going to break. Sure, as a species we’ve made some limited headway against gravity, and even nerds get life-long mates sometimes, but 3 & 1/2 sober idiots against a salmon in its natural environment was just never going to happen. Even with the traffic cone, whose anticipated purpose during the confrontation still eludes me to this day.
And thus, with the laws of physics at the forefront of our collective consciousness, we come to my childhood friend Andrew from Sweden. Andrew, for some obscure cultural reason, always thought he was above the laws of physics. Perhaps it was because he descended from the Vikings, a violent people who brushed their teeth with goat’s blood and sadistically gave their offspring names like Olaf. That may be an exaggeration; I don’t actually know anyone named Olaf. Now that I think of it, I remember Andrew’s dad being at least 150 the last time I saw him, which was like 20 years ago, so that may have had some impact on his stability. Andrew was quite the scientist, and I had dabbled in chemistry somewhat, although not of the kind that involved girls. So we had at least 2 things in common, and spent a lot of time together plotting global domination. Andrew’s first foray into his rocky relationship with the otherwise generally-accepted laws of physics was after recess one day in grade 6.
Our classroom at the time had double doors, of which only one was ever open. On this particular day Andrew tried entering the classroom at speed from quite an acute angle and nearly impaled himself vertically on the edge of the closed door as he attempted to shoot through. I remember trying really hard not to laugh. Not hard enough I guess, if I’m honest. He started breathing again after half an hour or so and didn’t really talk much the rest of the day, groaning and hunched over his desk. There may have been some internal organ damage, though I’m not a doctor and am unable to comment. But that was just the beginning. One of the funniest things I ever saw in my whole entire life was Andrew running at night (that kid was ALWAYS running) across the playground. I guess he thought he had night-vision or was invincible or something. He sped along and then all of a sudden just stopped instantly in mid-stride and was flung violently onto his back. He’d forgotten about the chicken-wire fence along the edge of the basketball court. He had little criss-cross cuts on his face for ages afterwards. I remember not trying very hard not to laugh that time.
My most precious memory about Andrew though takes us back to the hallowed halls of science. In those days the science lab at school had these little car-looking things called dynamic trolleys. Perhaps on the last page of some forgotten curriculum somewhere they might have had an official purpose. We didn’t look. We didn’t care. As far as we could tell they were roller skates and no one could tell us otherwise. Except, Miss Christian could tell us otherwise. And did. I don’t remember exactly what she said, entering the lab as Andrew sailed past gleefully, arms soaring, one foot trailing in the air behind him. Miss Christian’s voice got real deep. I began to wonder if there was some inherent irony in her surname. There was a flash of light of some kind, and a strange sulfurous smell, which seems odd now as I look back. The red glow also seems curious. And it was very loud. Saying lightening appeared in the air above her may be pushing it. I still get ringing in my ears to this day. Apparently the trolleys weren’t for skating and did indeed have an official purpose. Apparently they wouldn’t work now that we’d used them for our own scientific endeavors. And no, apparently we couldn’t keep them, regardless of how ‘useless’ they were. I wouldn’t have a clue what our punishment was. I think for self-preservation my brain has pushed it to the dark recesses of my memory. Perhaps soiling oneself in the company of one’s classmates and spending the rest of the day in squidgy agonizing embarrassment was thought to have been punishment enough.
Many months later andrew sent me a letter from his native Sweden, (after the deportation,) with a hand-drawn sketch of the underside of the damaged trolley, a tiny bend in its axel clearly seen through the 10,000x magnification lens he’d drawn next to it. And with that, our scientific careers, and the possibility of ensuing nobel prizes and glory, came to an end. Science, like the Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon before it, had once again beaten man into submission.
PS Miss Christian was actually quite a good teacher and taught me all kinds of stuff I don’t remember.