Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Adventures in Science (a/k/a The Bread Mold)

2016-01-06 10.38.19

Before I get started, I created the badge for “Wednesdays for Mary” using Retype by Sumoing, which is only available for iPhones, iPods, and iPads. I think it creates a workable badge, don’t you?

For this edition of “Wednesdays for Mary,” she asked if I’d tell the Bread Mold story. I wrote this for her for Christmas, along with a number of other stories that I grouped into a collection called Shanty Irish. When I get enough of these stories written, I might put it out on Amazon and sell it. Ya never know. Anyway…


I was the smartest child ever born. That’s not me saying that, that is the thoroughly objective and totally honest opinion of my family, all of whom are experts in the field of genius. They knew that I was the smartest child ever born because, somehow, I taught myself to read the newspaper when I was about three.

We were visiting Walkie and Hicks, my grandparents, and I was sitting in the kitchen one morning as my grandmother Walkie was bustling about making coffee and preparing to feed all of her children plus her three grandchildren. That was the way Walkie moved: she bustled about. I was entertaining myself with the Chicago Daily Tribune, which she had been reading before I got up. She had left the paper open to an ad for the A&P, and I figured out, just by looking at it, that oranges were on sale at the A&P for three cents each. (This was, obviously, a long time ago.)

“Look, Walkie, oranges are on sale at the A&P for only three cents.”

She smiled, said “That’s nice dear,” and went back to bustling. She stopped in mid-bustle and said, “Where did you find that out, Johnny?”

“It’s right here in the paper, see?” I said, and pointed to the ad which declared, indeed, that oranges were in fact three cents each at the A&P.

Well, you would have thought that Christ Himself had walked through the back door of 1036 West Loyola Avenue and asked Walkie for a cup of coffee and a piece of toast. The commotion brought out everyone in the family, all of whom were thrilled to see that I was able to read. The only incredulous one was my mother. “Oh, for God’s sake, Mom, he’s three years old! He can’t read!” Of course, she was wrong, and had to admit it later.

Naturally, I had to read for everyone in the family. That was my accustomed position, being the oldest grandchild and thus on display for everyone. I actually kind of got to like it after a while, except that I couldn’t get away with doing stuff that Jim and Kip would do.

Most impressed was my dear aunt Jill, who, as my godmother, already felt that I was the greatest thing next to sliced bread. She was already forecasting great things for me, even though, at three, I was good at making a mess, and had to watch every rerun of Highway Patrol with Broderick Crawford.

Jill began to give me books and introduce me to great reading experiences, such as the Madeleine books which she had brought back from her trip to Paris, and Max und Moritz, the story of two little German boys who were nothing but trouble (the latter is still one of my favorite books; I still have the copy that Jill bought me). When I showed an interest in tying knots, Jill brought me to the library and let me get out a book on tying knots, and even let me tie her up. It would have been nice, I suppose, had the book also contained instructions on how to untie them, but that’s beside the point.

On one of our trips to the library, Jill found a book of science experiments. It was called something like Science Experiments for Young People, and I was immediately fascinated by what one could do with a little effort and a few simple materials that could be found at home. When I got the book home, however, I discovered that my home wasn’t like other homes, and couldn’t find any of the materials required to do the experiments. I spent several days with that book, getting progressively more frustrated, and then I landed on the perfect experiment:

GROW A BREAD MOLD

“You will need:
” waxed paper
” one slice of bread
” a large glass bowl”

Amazing, but true! I had, or could obtain, all of the things that I needed for the experiment! We had no waxed paper, but I figured that aluminum foil would be an all right substitute. So I continued:

“Place the waxed paper on a flat surface.”

OK, the kitchen counter. I rolled out about a square foot of aluminum foil and continued.

“Sprinkle the bread with water and shake gently to remove the excess water.”

I managed to do this without tearing the bread. The hands of a scientist.

“Lay the bread on the waxed paper and leave uncovered for a half an hour to allow mold spores to adhere to the bread.”

I followed the directions and waited the required half an hour. I had no idea what mold spores were, but I figured that was what I was doing the experiment for.

“Cover the bread with the glass bowl and observe for several days.”

This was the hard part. The next morning, the bread looked pretty much as I had left it the day before. That afternoon, pretty much the same. The next day, though, I could see that there were little fuzzy spots growing on the bread. The day after that, the fuzzy spots were growing and getting darker. It was just like in the book: the spores were being released onto the bread at a gradually more rapid rate. Day after day, the bread mold continued to grow. See, the authors of Science Experiments for Young People had left out an important direction: “After several days, throw the moldy bread out.”

One day, I came home after school, and it was gone.

“Mom! Where’s my bread mold?”

“I threw it away!” she answered indignantly. “It was disgusting! Your poor aunt came in here and saw that, and got sick! Now you call her and apologize.”

As I dialed the phone, I wondered if Edison had gotten his start this way.


And that’s Wednesdays for Mary for January 6, 2016.




from The Sound of One Hand Typing

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