High School Biology.
A few days later, in the morning, on a school day, and at breakfast, Jennifer surprised her parents. “I think I’d like to try medicine, help people.”
Her mother perked up, “A nurse?”
“No, a doctor.”
“Why the sudden change, Sweetie-pie?”
“I don’t know. It just came to me last night.”
“You know, you’ll have to take a lot more science, and math.”
“And do well at them.” Her father groused, while her annoying little brother snickered at the thought.
Jennifer said, “You’ll see.”
“I hope so,” her father, suddenly serious, continued, “if you’re willing to work hard at it, I’ll talk to the guidance counselors. Get your schedule for next year changed.”
So far, Jennifer had been put in the “nice girl” track. Enough courses to get into a junior college, and some sort of business job after that. It would let her tread water until she met the right man. Or at least a man willing to marry her. She would have been firmly cemented into the pink collar ghetto.
“I’ve never thought much of pre-algebra as a final course in mathematics, and just learning to use a word processor is not a good class in computers.” His unhappiness at his daughter studying that limited curriculum was evident in the tone of his voice. “I’ve always thought you could do better if you wanted to.”
Jennifer’s resolve survived into biology class. They were dissecting frogs today. Like most of the ‘nice girls,’ she had opted for a computer simulation instead of the real thing. It was only the boys, who sniggered and joked their way through it, and the few nerdy girls who braved the smell to see what the real insides of an animal looked like, who dissected actual animals. She started to join her friends, then stopped and walked to the teacher.
“Can I join one of the teams that is dissecting real animals?”
Mr. Jefferson did a double-take. He didn’t, as a matter of principle, approve of simulated dissections. Nonetheless, he followed the school district policy, and that was laid down by the town politicians. “You want to dissect a real frog?”
There was one team of the nerdy girls that was missing a student. There were only two students on that frog instead of the three or four that were mandated. Mr. Jefferson asked, “Mary and Amber, would you be willing to have Jennifer join you?”
“Do we have to?” Mary and Amber enjoyed working together.
“Yes, unless you have some very good reason why not.”
That Jennifer had been a ‘C’ student and they ‘A+’ students wasn’t quite a good enough reason.
Their reserve lasted all of ten minutes. Up until Jennifer had a turn with the scalpel and delicately laid open the frog. She quickly identified the liver and heart, then with Mary’s help pulled the intestines to the side to see the blood vessels behind them. Mr. Jefferson remarked that it was one of the best presentations he’d ever seen a student team do.
Amber asked, barely keeping the astonishment from her voice, “Where’d you learn that?”
Dr. Frankenstein’s lab notes would be the truth; he had worked with frogs before trying bigger things. That was so clearly unacceptable that Jennifer skirted the truth and said, “I looked it up in study hall. I wanted to be prepared for class.”
Jennifer had another advantage. She had taken art, and while her drawings were in the normal blocky badly scaled high school style, they were far better than either Mary’s or Amber’s. Some training was better than none. Thus, between the three of them, Amber and Mary turned in their normal and Jennifer her first, one hundred percent on a lab report.
Jennifer’s father proudly taped it to the refrigerator, and called the guidance counselor the next day.
Biology class was moving on to the highlight of the term, dissection of fetal pigs. This time Mary and Amber insisted that Jennifer join them. She was glad to. What had started out as an accidental seat assignment was developing into a solid friendship. The study habits Jennifer was learning from her nerdy friends were helping her grades no end.
Not that the benefits only went one way. While Jennifer wasn’t of the ‘cheerleader class’ who could make or break a girl’s social status on a whim, she was reasonably popular, and some of her popularity rubbed off on Mary and Amber. They were even invited to a party, and, for once, not invited out of pity. Not only that, but they no longer had to eat lunch alone, at the nerd’s table.
Dissecting the pigs was a two-week long dive into the smelly gross insides of a preserved animal. The smelly preservative didn’t easily wash off, and Jennifer’s little brother took to wrinkling his nose and teasing her about it at dinner time. She replied by wiping her hands in his hair. This was, if anything, even grosser, but at least the smell of little brothers washed off.
It wasn’t until halfway through the pig that Mary and Amber noticed something very unusual about Jennifer. She really knew her anatomy. There were details that even Mr. Jefferson missed when he walked around the groups brave enough to dissect, that she would point out.
“Jenny,” Mary asked, “where did you learn this, and don’t tell me study hall. We were all doing math last time.”
Amber concurred. “I was helping you with consecutive number problems.”
“I have this book, these books, at home. They’re all about anatomy, and um,” she paused, “a few other things as well.”
“Can we see them?”
Jennifer couldn’t say no to her friends. So that evening, after dinner, the doorbell rang twice. First for Mary and then a few minutes later for Amber. After a quick and perfunctory chat with Jennifer’s mother and father, they went to her room.
Jennifer pulled the shipping crate from under her bed and opened it. “These are the books. They’re very old, but”
Amber took the first one and tried to read it. “It’s in German. You don’t read German, do you?” The high school used to teach German, before budget cuts forced them to pare the foreign language program down to Spanish. They would have removed that as well, but there were enough Hispanic students in the district that they couldn’t.
“I know a little, now, but they’re mostly written in English.”
Mary carefully sounded out “Experimente in der Reanimation von abgestorbenem Gewebe,” and then said, “That doesn’t mean experiments in reanimation, does it?”
Jennifer nodded, “Yes. It does. Experiments in the reanimation of dead tissue.”
“And the name inside,” Mary continued, “That’s not really Frankenstein, I mean the Frankenstein?”
“It is. My neighbor Mrs. Jones gave them to me. She was his great-granddaughter. These are his lab-notes.”
Amber laughed, “Do you think they’d work?”
“I’d like to try. Bring back my cat Mr. Snuffles.”
“That’s not possible. Dr. Frankenstein must have been insane.”
Jennifer then sat between her friends on her bed and showed them what she’d found. An hour later, when her mother knocked on the bedroom door and said that her friend’s parents had arrived for them, they were still engrossed in the notebooks. Whatever was there, no matter how ill-conceived or incorrect, wasn’t insane. Jennifer closed the book and put it back in the crate.
Amber sat there, slightly stunned, “You know, Jenny. It might just work. We’d have to be careful with that much electricity, but it might work. Why don’t you see if you can visit my house tomorrow and we can discuss it?”
“In the lab?” Mary asked.
“Where else?” Amber’s parents were chemistry professors. As long as she promised not to blow the house up or set it on fire, they let her use the basement for her ‘laboratory’ and even found or bought her supplies. Her experiments had been pretty tame so far, but that was about to change.
Frankenkitty (c) 2015 R. Harrison
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