Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chapter 5, Death Angel, NaNoWriMo 2011

This morning, between 7:30 and 9:30 Am, I worked on Chapter 5. It’s still very rough draft (DRAFTY!)  I may decide to shorten and summarize some of the mushroom information.  I may want to divide the chapter, it’s kind of long.  But right now, I have to plod onward for two more days in hopes of reaching the goal of 50,000 words. 
I went from 35,849 words at 7:30 to 36,881 words at 9:30 AM.  That’s my current count.  I have to stop now to do my yoga and exercises and eat breakfast.

Chapter 5:  Day Two, Morels and The Horse and Pony Show, Part II
Flyleaf illo:  Morels
Tasting of the sweet damp woods and of the rain one inch above the meadow . . . like feasting upon air.    William Jay Smith

“Morels are one of the best eating mushrooms available,” Dr. McHaggerty said. The left-side screen had a view of morels growing in leaves under a tree, the center screen showed a basket of morels, and the right screen showed plate of cooked morels garnished with parsley on the red and white checkered tablecloth.
The quote, “Tasting of the sweet damp woods and of the rain one inch above the meadow . . . like feasting upon air.    William Jay Smith,” ran across the top of all three screens. 
Morchella esculenta, the yellow morel, is also known as the Common Morel, Spongy, and Land Fish.”  A new set of pictures showed different morels in the wild, labeled Morchella esculenta, on the left and right.  The center panel showed a fanciful fish constructed of a morel.  There was a titter of laughter among the students.
 “Unfortunately, we will have only greenhouse-cellar specimens to view because they only come out for a brief period in the spring.  You will have to go to lab at some point during the week on your own time to see them.  Fred Wheeler will have them available after class today and for the rest of this week including Saturday and Sunday, and yes, someone will have the lab open, and Monday and Tuesday next week.  Please make an effort to get in to the lab to see the actual specimens.
“Those of you who sign up for the class second semester will hopefully see them in the field.  Anyone signed up for the class this semester can preregister ahead for next semester, because the class fills up quickly and we want you to have the first opportunity if you’re interested, so that there will be better continuity.
“Morels are in your textbooks, as you all know, since you’ve been doing your homework, including the first one we’ll use, Start Mushrooming by Stan Tekiela and Karen Shanberg.  Please reread the section on morels.”
The center picture on the screen changed.  The new one, in the center, had a red border around it.  “The reason morels are generally safe to collect and eat is because there are few species that are easily mixed up with it.  That mushroom in the center panel is one of the "False Morels" of genus Gyromitra.  As you can clearly see, the resemblance is not very close.  Who would like to describe the differences?”
A smattering of hands went up, including Melanie Simmons and Aaron Weiner, who were back in the same places in the front row.  “Mr. Morano?” McHaggerty called, pointing to a boy near the center of the auditorium.
Larry ran to the side of the row and passed a wireless mic down the row.
“Stand up, Mr. Morano.”
The boy stood.  “Ralph.” Peter whispered, and the TAs all nodded.
The boy spoke slowly and clearly, as if he had put careful thought into his aswer, almost as if he had written it down.  “The False morel or Gyromitra has a different shape and color.  Instead of being essentially cylindrical and symmetrical, the Gyromitra is irregular, asymmetrical and squashed looking.  I am not sure about the range of color variations in the two species, but these two look definitely different.  And the pattern of ridges and holes in the Morchella is regular, whereas those of the Gyromitra are irregular. Their structures are actually quite different.”
“Excellent, Mr. Morano.  Very very good.”  Spontaneous applause rose from the room.  Ralph Morano sounded like a teacher, not a student. 
“There are two other kinds of morels in North America, the Black Morel, Morchella elata or Morchella conica or Morchella angusticeps, see the photo on the left above, and the "Half-free" Morel, Morchella semilibera, see photos, right and those are both edible too. The yellow or common morel, Morchella esculenta, is the one most people judge to be most tasty.
“Morels often show up in early spring after a good rain.  They are usually associated with trees, especially, in the East, deciduous trees such as dead or dying elms, oaks, poplars, and others.  We have a saying here that the morels are ready to be harvested when oak leaves are the size of squirrels ears.  Sometimes, they are large squirrel ears.  This usually happens in early May, occasionally late April.
“We’re talking about morels now because they are safe and not all you will be able to take second semester mycology.  I want you to be able to eat these.  I do have to point out that an occasional person is allergic to them and that if you eat a lot of them with alcohol, they can increase the effect of intoxication.
“This is because they contain a small amount of toxins, not enough to harm you in normal circumstances.  Did you ever think about the word intoxicate?”
The word, intoxicate, flashed on all three screens.  Then, the word toxic within the word intoxicate turned red and flashed.  “Intoxicate contains the word toxic because when you become intoxicated, you have consumed something toxic.  for example, people die of alcohol consumption, either slowly, or, occasionally, very quickly.”
The screens flashed with a newspaper clipping reading, “Student succumbs to alcohol poisoning.”  It went on to say that the student, whose name was being withheld, had gone on a drinking binge, gone into a coma, and died.
“I’m reminding you of this because I don’t want you to make a foolish mistake, especially those of you who are rushing for fraternities and sororities. Every year, there are some hazing incidents and party incidents at the fraternities, and occasionally even at the sororities.  Use your head.  And don’t let alcohol blind your intelligence—or you.
“One more thing about morels, don’t eat them raw.  Most wild mushrooms should not be eaten raw.  The parasol mushroom we mentioned last week can be eaten raw, but we haven’t covered that yet.  So don’t eat it.”
 Dr. McHaggerty asked the teaching assistants to stand up, one by one, as he introduced them to the students.  “This is Angelina, who you met yesterday. “  Angelina stood and bowed and there were some cheers and wolf whistles from the audience.  “Today, we will meet a few more of the TAs. “ Larry Thompson came up on stage with the microphone and the TAs stood up and spoke in the order they were seated.
             When Angelina sat down, Eliza stood up.  She was dressed all in white.  She too had black hair, but it was shock straight and hung as if it had been ironed.  Her skin was the color of milk and her eyes a pale but somehow bright blue.  The blue veins showing through her skin made it almost appear pale blue. She was small, short, slight, delicate looking. But she did not give the impression of being frail, in spite of her thin arms tiny hands, and delicate features.  Her skirt fell down around her ankles, where an incongruous pair of tall hiking boots with thick white wool socks peeked out under the hem of the dress.
             "I am Eliza Landon," she said, in a voice pitched slightly higher but surprisingly strong for one so small.  I am a senior/()-year graduate student, majoring in ().  My partner is Peter Schilja, and we have lab section 2.  I am looking forward to working with you, but I want you to know I may be small, but I am not a pushover.  I don't ride a Harley.  I ride a black dragon."  Across the three screen came images of a tiny girl with shining tiara astride a huge firebreathing Black Dragon.  She held a firewand in her right hand and a brilliant red mushroom in the other.  The red mushroom was the only spot of color in the otherwise monochromatic image other than the flames from the dragonmouth.  The painting ws signed in hand clear enough for all to read, Peter Schilja. Larry handed her something, she strode to the edge of the stage, and fire spurted from the end of the wand.  Real fire.  She pointed it toward Aaron Weiner, who cringed slightly in his seat. The students oohed and ahhed. Then, without a word, she turned and strode back to her seat, whirl in a swirl of skirts and petticoats, and sat.  The wand has disappeared.
             Cassie was next.  She was wearing an embroidered peasant blouse, a flowered skirt, hiking boots like Eliza's, a red bandana over her brown hair, two braids like Melanie Sampson's only brown, She stood with her hands clasped and said in a sweet but strong voice, "Hi, I'm Cassandra Sampson.  You can call me Cassie.  I am a ()-year graduate student majoring in () and my research project is on ().  My partner is () and we will have Lab and Field trip section 3.  I have no Harley and no dragon, but I do have a black belt in Aikido.  Aaron, would you please come up here.

             Aaron Weiner stood and vaulted onto the stage.  Everyone gasped.  He grabbed Cassie, tossed her over his shoulder and she landed on her back on the staged.  The students gasped again, in surprise..  Cassie stood, circled Aaron, and grabbing him suddenly, tossed him over her shoulder, picked him up, and eaved him carelessly into the audience.  But of course, it wasn't actually careless, but a move they'd practiced repeatedly during the week of training, and two boys who had been sitting behind Aaron stood up, caught him gracefully, spun him around, and deposited him in his seat.  The students cheered.  Aaron stood up again and said  in a loud, strong voice, "No, I was not a stool pigeon for that first question.  I missed that part of the training."  Everyone laughed.
             Rune was next.  She stood up slowly, making a show of it, that way Dr. McHaggerty had taught them.  With him, everything was a show.  
                   She wore a pair of faded jeans, a rust-colored T-shirt with pictures of showy lady slippers, a flannel shirt that was rust, beige and green plaid with tiny black lines weaving through, and her old shit-stomping hiking boots.  She had allowed Cassie to facepaint her with red Amanita muscarias on her left cheek and yellow ones on the right, but she had refused to dress as anyone other than herself.  Of course, Cassie often did wear skirts and peasant blouses and Angel always dressed in black.  Rune, on the other hand, always wore jeans and flannels and intended to continue that tradition ad infinitum, or as her father would say, ad nauseum..
                   "Hi, I'm Rune, Rune Carmichael.  My Lab teaching partner is Bart ().  We have section 4 of the Field Trips and Labs.  I am first year graduate student majoring in natural history with a concentration in botany and mycology.  For my thesis, I am doing a handbook of the saprophytic botanicals and mycologicals of the Greater Central NY area with an interactive digital key as well as a key in the booklet.  I've posted the first section of it online and invite you all to try it and give me some feedback for extra credit in Lab, approved by Dr. McHaggerty.  I am a photographer and will be photographing the saprophytes for Peter and Cassie to illustrate, since illustrations are usually more accurate for identification purposes than photos and often more pleasing as well.  They are both consummate artists. Meanwhile,some of the photos accompany the online key for your temporary edification.
                   "I am also a certified sorceress and shamanistic practitioner."  Rune cast her fingers toward Aaron Weiner, and bolts of lightning leaped from her hands to his hair, which stood momentarily on end.  Little sparks bounced at the tips of his hair.  George had lowered the lights at the moment, so Aaron glowed like a light-up Santa Claus.
                   "There is no such thing as a sorceress," the boy between Melanie and Aaron said.  Rune turned toward him and lit his hair an eerie green.  It glowed brighter than Aaron's hair had.  The other students gasped.  
                   "It's just some trick!" the boy insisted.  Emmet Pierce, Rune thought.  The boy's name was Emmet Pierce.  Emmet Fairchild Pierce the 4th.  His blond hair was still glowing.  As she walked back to her seat, she pulled a long scarf from her pants pocket, stuffed it in her left ear, and pulled it out the right ear.
                   "It's an illusion!  It's just a trick, a cheap parlor trick," Emmet cried.  Rune sat down without responding.  She had a small smile, she could feel it on her face, somewhere between a smirk and a satisfied grin.  She really was a Shamanistic practitioner and had studied dream shamanism with Robert Moss and several other teachers.  She had also studied sorcery, but of course, Emmet Pierce was right, the things she did on stage were just parlor tricks for effect, primarily to liven up the dull introductions.  
                   Dr. McHaggerty had required it of them.  He had poked and prodded each student until he had pried out of her or him some skill that would be fun to demonstrate on stage.
                   Bart stood up next.  He was dressed as a white chicken with a red beak, red comb, red wattles, and huge yellow feet.  He had ducked behind a curtain and changed while the lights were out for Runes demo.  
                   Bart carried 4 plastic mushrooms in his left hand and three in the right.  He tossed them all up in the air and they fell with a clatter around him.  Students laughed tentatively, here and there in the auditorium.  Bart gathered up the mushrooms and tossed one to each of the other TAs.  The girls tossed theirs back, but Peter stood up and tossed his way up into the air and caught it.  Bart sent a barrage at Peter who caught them and tossed them back.  Soon, they had all seven of them in the air between them.  They closed the distance between them, tossing the mushrooms under a leg, over a shoulder and high into the curtains.  Slowly, Bart collected all seven of the mushrooms and was juggling them alone and Peter sat down. Juggling wildly, tipping this way and that as if he were constantly about to miss, he moved to the very edge of the stage and suddenly began making high wild throws so that the mushrooms came down on Melanie, Emmet and Aaron, who tossed them back in a ragged random sort of way.  Each time, Bart seemed to nearly miss the mushrooms, and after just managing to catch them, tossed them to one of the three kids, who tossed them back.  While this was going on, Bart said,
                   "Hi, my name is Bart () and I am a second-year graduate student majoring in ().  My research is on () and, as you heard, I am Rune Carmichael's lab and field trip teaching partner.  We have sections 4a, 4b, 4c, 4 d, and 4e. A is Monday afternoons, B Tuesdays, C Wednesdays, D Thursdays, and E Fridays.  There's a makeup on Saturday if you're sick, but you have to sign up ahead, by 5:00 Friday at the latest, you can do that in person, by phone or on the internet.  Sections 1, 2 and 3 all have a-e subsections, and you should already know what days your labs and field trips are on, since you also have labs and field trips in other courses and they all have to mesh.  You will note on your schedule and additional number separated from the main number by a dash.  For example, 4a-1 and 4a-2.  The ones are with me and the twos are with Rune, but we will often work together.  However, you will turn your labs and field trip reports in to the correct teaching assistant based on your number.  I've posted a chart online that explains all this if you're distracted by flying mushrooms."
                   Everyone laughed, because it was really hard to concentrate on what he was saying when he was dodging left and right and nearly falling off the stage.  
                   "Oh, and Peter Schilja," he said, pointing at Peter," is my juggling partner and we do birthday parties, singing chicken messages and other tricks.  Dr. McHaggerty said we could leave a pile of cards and flyers by the exit doors, so pick one up on the way out in case you ever need a singing chicken or a juggler or know anyone who does. Have chicken suit, will travel. He yodeled and sang a few bars of happy birthday complete with clucking and crowing. Then he seemed to trip on his own overly large feet and fell backwards on the stage with a terrible thud. All the mushrooms rained down on top of him and he caught them in his mouth and hands and suddenly bare feet.  The students clapped and whistled, and Bart got up, crossed the stage skipping and humming and sat down.
                   Peter stood up wearing a black acrobat leotard and tights and did a series of cartwheels across the stage.   This was followed by handsprings, one and two-handed handstands, and then Eliza came out in a skimpy pink sequined acrobat outfit, and did a series of flips over Peter's outstretched arms.  George played (music) and they did a little dance and Peter held Eliza up by the heel as she first stood up straight, then bent double, touching her toes, and then did a back flip, landing neatly on her feet.  Then with Eliza riding with her feet on Peter's shoulders, Peter rode around on a unicyle that Larry had handed him and said, without missing a beat, "Hi My name is Peter Schilja, I am a third-year graduate student majoring in Environmental Communications in the subfield of Mycological, Botanical and Biological Illustration.  My media are primarily pen and ink and watercolor and I am assisting Rune Carmichael in her interactive Key project.  My own project is illustrating every stage of Dictistelium discoidium, based on the films of Dr.() and my own time-lapse photography and comparing it to the life cycle of (Franzella ibellia).  Eliza, he said, indicating the girl balanced on his shoulder, is my teaching partner for field trips and labs.  And, in case y'all were wondering, I have a stun-gun and a cattle prod for recalcitrant students.
                   Peter rode the unicycle along the very edge of the stage and at just the right moment, Eliza did a flip off his shoulders and landed with one foot on each of the armrests of Aaron Weiner's chair.  All the kids around him hooted, but Aaron shrunk deep in the chair, blushing a brilliant scarlet.

1 comment:

John said...

Excellent writing, I am so enjoying the story and the characters Mary, well done!