Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Ultraviolet Incubator Part One
When my father was alive, he conducted secret experiments for the government. Growing up, I never really knew much about his line of work. I didn't become interested until he disappeared one day. I was 14 years old, and at the time, my father was just a distant bespectacled man who spent the weekends at home secluded in his study scribbling on a chalkboard. Occasionally he'd pat me on the head or mutter a succinct "Excellent" while feigning interest in the straight A's on my report card.
During the weekdays, I never saw him. After a few years of asking Mom where he was, I learned to stop asking. "Busy with work, honey. Daddy does important scientific work that takes lots of time." I grew accustomed to my father's perpetual weeklong absences, just as I got used his distracted inattentive presence on the weekends.
One weekend he didn't come home. My mother was tightlipped about this change in pattern. All weekend long she sat expressionless watching the garden window, clutching a telegram in her lap. It wasn't until years after she died that I found that telegram.
"Dear Regina Glenn,
We regret to inform you that your husband, Elmer Glenn, died on August 2nd, 1977, while under the employ of the United States National Defense Research Unit. Due to the sensitive nature of his work, we are unable to provide the details of his death. Please know that Elmer gave his life serving his country and that his sacrifice honors the freedom enjoyed by all citizens of the United States Of America.
Elmer was a gifted scientist. He was admired and respected by his peers at the USNDU, and his contributions will be sorely missed.
Please accept our sincere condolences. Financial arrangements will be made to secure the future of you and your son, Bernard.
Vice President Of Special Projects Unit
The Monday following that weekend, men wearing expensive suits, holstered guns, and dark sunglasses visited the house. One whispered quietly with my mother while the others rifled through my father's study. They emptied file cabinets, bagged stray looseleaf paper, and inspected knicknacks decorating his desk. They even held napkins up to the light to look for indentations or stains. I'm not sure which. I spied on this from my bedroom down the hallway.
When they left, I asked Mom where the quiet men took Dad's things. "Hush honey, not now."
As the offspring of an inquisitive scientific genius, it was a natural progression for me to investigate the matter myself. As a teenager, it was a natural progression for me to poke around every nook and cranny in Dad's study to satiate my curiosity about the silent scribbling and muttering pondering that he had engaged in for so many weekends while I grew up. I also wondered if the polite ransackers had left behind something important.
It didn't take long for me to find the folded sheet slipped underneath the old daguerrotype photograph of my great-grandmother. I quickly unfolded it and read the brief scribbled note.
"Incubaspora Leprose 3 ft. at Cardinal"
Mother was an amateur botanist. Since I knew all the local fauna, I realized "Cardinal" must refer to a plant in the garden outside. I scrambled out there, hunched down, and began to dig. It didn't take me long to find the strange speckled egg wrapped in the old flag.
I'll finish this later. I'm leaving work now. I'll clickety clack up the next bit late in the afternoon tomorrow. Hopefully.
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