Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Superfluous Drosophila

Dave worked in the college lab. He was somewhat over qualified for his post as a lab assistant but lacked the confidence and drive to push himself into something more challenging. So he spent his days washing out test tubes, checking that gas taps were turned off properly, taking instructions from teachers who were much younger and less qualified than he was and generally avoiding getting into any sort of conversation with the college’s pupils.

With his bald head and glasses, he could have passed for any big company boss but had always been far too shy to rise above what he felt was his most comfortable station. He wasn’t completely bald, merely lacking growth on top. He would never be trendy, shaven bald because he didn’t have a clue what to ask for when he steeled himself for his half-term haircut. He knew the meek would eventually inherit the earth (provided nobody else wanted it at the time) but doubted it would happen in is lifetime.

His attitudes had changed a little bit since he first started working in the lab. He used to find the callous treatment and disposal of living creatures utterly abhorrent but had become hardened to the processes over the years. Bulls’ eyes, rats, frogs…he had handled them all (dead and alive), dissected them all, seen them mistreated by endless streams of so-called students, cleaned up the messes and disposed of all the bits and pieces.

Last Friday had seen him struggle to successfully dispose of a large number of dead mice. This week he had an extraordinary number of deceased drosophila to deal with. ‘Time flies like an arrow but fruit flies like a banana’ he used to joke to his colleagues but he didn’t bother anymore. Nobody ever really seemed interested in his occasional moments of levity these days.

As drosophila are very small, a huge number can be fitted easily into a small space. Dave had already carried the glass container to his car and was going to do something, that was (for him) quite rebellious (but not entirely unprecedented). He wasn’t going to bother with the proper disposal bins. It was dark as he left school and he knew a small patch of wasteland just around the corner from his home. Nobody would see or care if he just tipped out the contents of the container.

Nevertheless, he was having guilty feelings as he parked his car. He picked up the glass container and peered into it. Thousands of tiny, broken bodies. They were born and then they died, with very little in the way of time or experience in between. It used to bother him a lot more than it did now.

He was just about to upend the container when he saw something and stopped dead. Gripped by a fear of being caught out, he hastily abandoned his plan and returned his car. As the car swung around to leave the waste ground, the headlights seemed to linger for a few extra seconds on the sign that had shamed him into curtailing his nefarious activity.

There, picked out in dazzling brightness for the whole world to see, was the legend:

‘No Fly Tipping’

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