13. The fairy disrupted chem lab at school

          I don’t know how the fairy managed to sneak into my car, totally unnoticed by Westley and me?  I don’t know how we missed seeing her on the drive to school or walking in to class?  I don’t know how she got into my backpack?  I didn’t hear a peep out of her.  I didn’t feel a thing.  I had no idea she was anywhere but safely back home in my bedroom, engrossed in the TV, or some magazine, or spying on my mom, or some other innocent activity.  I didn’t discover she was with me until well into first period class, chemistry lab, after the bell had run and Ms. Weaverspell had launched into her lecture.
        “In this experiment each of you will use scientific methodology to determine the number of ionizable H+’s in an acid.”  Ms. Weaverspell droned, hardly waiting for bell to finish ringing.  She had a laser pointer which she flashed at the spot on the blackboard where she had written, the equation OH-(aq) + H+(aq) =>  H2O(I).  She arched her eyebrows at the class with obvious excitement.  “You will use scientific methodology.  You will write a hypotheses based on your results.  You will use your lab notebooks.  You will be precise and write down all factors and observations.  Now take out your notebooks.”
        I reached for the backpack at my feet and pulled out my lab notebook, and that was when I saw the fairy.  The little pixie waved at me and flew out of the backpack and latched onto the inside seam of my jeans, just below the knee of my right leg.  I suppressed a gasp of surprise but dropped the backpack and banged my knees into the lab bench behind which I was seated, causing the fairy to lose her grasp on my jeans and fall to the floor, landing on her rump.
        The noise caused everyone in class to turn and stare at me.  I froze, not daring to look down and check on the fairy.  Ms. Weaverspell started down the aisle toward me, nothing ever goes unnoticed by her, at least nothing normal.  I hoped the fairy was hiding.  “Michael Rigdon,” Ms. Weaverspell chided as she stopped in front of my station.  “Do you have something in your backpack that you find more interesting than my experiment?”
        I felt sweat on my forehead.  “Ahhh, no Ms. Weaverspell,” I responded quickly.
        Normally I enjoy chem lab.  It’s not as boring as most classes, Madison Renard’s in the class, and I like Ms. Weaverspell, although she is a bit eccentric, which tends to make her interesting.  She likes to interact with the students in her class and has no qualms about embarrassing those that aren’t cooperating.  She’s not very old for a teacher, couldn’t be more than a few years out of college, newly married, a member of my church, one of only two teachers in the high school that are, is hardly over 5 foot tall, and has red frizzy hair and freckles all over her face and arms, and is often mistaken for a student.  We call her Raggedy-Ann, but not to her face.  She loves, absolutely loves, chemistry and is kind of an odd cross between a female nerd and a nature freak.  Today she had on a lab coat that looked like it came out of some old 60's mad scientist movie, complimented with khaki pants, combat boots, and a black t-shirt that sported a picture of an Erlenmeyer flask and the words, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate!”  She had a campaign button on her coat lapel that proclaimed, “Vote for Madame Curie”.
        “May I see your backpack?” Ms. Weaverspell demanded, holding her arm out to me.  She was standing across the lab bench.
        In chem lab there are five rows of lab benches with four sinks and eight work-stations each.  Every sink is shared by two stations, one on either side, all facing towards the front of the class and the chalkboard.  We sat on stools behind our respective stations with a workspace before us and a sink to the right or left.  I had a nice spot in the back corner of the lab.  On my right was my lab partner, Marie Vasquez, a Hispanic girl that likes to wear short skirts and is big on Tae-Kwon-Do.
        “I asked to see your backpack,” Ms. Weaverspell said again, growing impatient.
        Suddenly I felt the fairy climb onto one of my shoes and crawl up under the cuff of my jeans, so I hauled the backpack up onto the bench and opened it for Ms. Weaverspell’s perusal.  I’m sure she was expecting to see an iPod or iPhone or a Tablet or something, but was disappointed.  Nothing there but school books, a graphic novel, and a hot rod magazine.
        Snorting her disappointment, Ms. Weaverspell spun around in dismissal, turning her back to me, and marched primly back to her spot in front of the class.  She spun around to face the class.  “Michael,” she said.  “Perhaps you can tell us the basic characteristics of an acid.  You did read your lesson for today, I assume?”
        I hadn’t, but this was something we had covered before and I know all the characteristics of acids.  I smiled and said, “Something that tastes sour?”
        That produced a substantial set of laughs around the lab, and even won a smile from Ms. Weaverspell.  “An acid does usually have a sour taste,” she conceded.  “It also has several other properties, such as turning blue litmus paper red and reacting with bases to forms salts; in addition, the characteristic we care about today, is the ability to yield hydrogen ions when dissolved in water.”
        As she waxed eloquent on hydrogen ions, I took the opportunity to check on the fairy.  Pretending to tie my shoe, I slid down from my stool and crouched.  Pulling up the leg to my jeans, revealed the fairy balanced nonchalantly on the edge of my sock, holding on to the calf of my leg for balance.  “What are you doing here, I told you to stay home?” I whispered.
        The fairy only grinned at me.
        “Michael Rigdon, are you part of this class or not?” Ms. Weaverspell interrupted herself.
        I shot back onto my stool and parroted back the last thing she said.  “I’m listening, we’re going to titrate acids to determine how many ions they have.”
        “Somewhat,” she nodded, again conceding I was right.  Madison was up on the front row shaking her head at me.  Madison had chosen a station right in front of the teacher’s desk.
        Ms. Weaverspell continued.  “Everyone wash your berets, rinse with distilled water, and bring your berets to my station, where you will fill your berets with 0.25 sodium hydroxide solution.”
        There was a general commotion in the class as everyone took up their long pointy berets and began washing them in the sinks.  With two students per sink, one on each side, it made for some confusion as to who would go first.  This was my change to grab the fairy and pluck her back in the backpack. 
        I slid off my stool and squatted down again, but was dismayed to see the fairy under Marie Vasquez’s stool.  The fairy was staring at the back of Marie’s calf, obviously fascinated by the nylon stockings on Marie’s legs.  The fairy reached up as if to touch the stocking fabric, so I lunged for her, but she dodged by my grasp and instead I grabbed the back of Marie’s high heel shoe.  Marie yelped and jumped out of her seat.  She saw me down there and turned suddenly scarlet red and was looking totally scandalized.
        “Sorry, sorry,” I chuckled.  “I just dropped my pencil.
        The fairy took advantage of the added distraction and took flight.  I watched in disapproval as she rose straight up into the air, all the way to the ceiling, and disappeared from sight behind one of the overhead florescent light fixtures.  The ceiling in chem lab has rows of these fixtures hanging from chains like in a shop or something.  I watched, helpless to stop her, as the fairy traversed the lab, flying right below the ceiling, and caught glimpses of the fairy as she passed over gaps between the light fixtures.  She stopped at the final florescent light, just above the teacher’s station, and alighted out of sight.  I knew she was there though, for I could see the reflection of her shadow through the light.
        Everyone was starting to line up at the teachers station, getting their berets filled with sodium hydroxide, so I had no choice but to take up my pointy burette, wash and rinse, and join them at the end of the line.
        Madison had been first in line and was already back at her station, patiently waiting the next set of instructions.  I jumped when something small fell from the ceiling and plopped down on the bench right in front of Madison.  It looked like a dead fly.  Madison looked about in bewilderment.  I looked up in time to see the fairy launch another dead fly in Madison’s direction, this one hitting her on the nose.  Madison looked up and the little fairy waved to Madison like she was greeting some lost friend.  Madison’s mouth went open in astonishment.  Then Madison turned a glare on me.
        As the line worked its way down and I was finally able to return back to my station, Ms. Weaverspell said, “I want each of you to put 50 mL of distilled water in one of your 250 mL flasks and form up at my station again.  Add five drops of phenolphthalein to your solution and take one of the samples I’ve laid out,” she pointed to slips of paper laid out on her station with little grains of unknown substance on each.  “These are all acids in solid form.  You’re assignment is to identify the acid.”
        I kept a close watch on the ceiling as I joined the group of students at the teacher’s station once more.  Knowing the fairy, she would not be sitting still for long.  Madison kept glancing upwards also, and sure enough, just as Madison was about to add some phenolphthalein to her flask, the fairy made a dash across the ceiling for the cabinets along the wall where all the chemicals were stored.  Normally the cabinets are kept locked, but the one where all the solid acid compounds had come from was wide opened.  The fairy touched down at the top edge of the cabinet and swung herself down and onto the top row, where she disappeared among the shadows.
        Madison saw her do it too, and was so disconcerted she picked up her flask and returned to her station without getting any of the phenolphthalein.  I tried to get Madison’s attention by waving at her, but she glared at me again, so I let her alone.
        Once we were all back to our stations, Ms. Weaverspell clapped her hands, “Now, we are ready to start.  Put 0.5 to 0.8 grams of your acid in the flask and dissolve.”  I did so, being careful, but keeping an eye on the cabinets nonetheless.  “Did you all mark the amount down in your notebooks?” Ms. Weaverspell cautioned, causing us all to do so.
        As heads bent down, the fairy emerged from the cabinets and made a dash for the top of the lights again.  She had a small test tube of some gray mineral or compound clutched in her hands and between her legs.  She flew along the ceiling again, mostly hidden by the light fixtures, and when she was directly over my station, she dropped the test tube at me.  I caught her stolen booty, only fumbled it a little, and then hurried to deposit it in my backpack before anyone could see.  As I bent to the floor, Marie shifted uncomfortably on her stool and tugged her skirt down, but otherwise no one seemed to notice.
        I watched in fascination as the fairy made her way back to the cabinets again.
        “Mister Rigdon,” Mrs. Weaverspell startled me.  She was standing right in front of my station and I hadn’t even seen her come up.  “Are you participating today, or just daydreaming?”
        “Sorry,” I mumbled.  I picked up my flask and swirled it around to facilitate dissolution of the acid into the water.
        “Okay,” Ms. Weaverspell addressed the class again, but remained standing just across my lab bench in front of my station.  “Now everyone start adding sodium hydroxide.”  I positioned my flask under my buret.  “Slowly,” Ms. Weaverspell cautioned, eyeing me warily. 
        I was starting to sweat again.  Ms. Weaverspell was watching me like a hawk now, and the fairy was on her way back with a second stolen test tube.  Carefully I turned the stopcock on my buret until a drop fell into the flask.
        “Swirl your flask as you add the sodium hydroxide,” Ms. Weaverspell said to the class.  “When your solution turns pink, then stop and record your results.”  She looked around the lab to see if everyone understood and if she was being obeyed.
        That’s when the fairy dropped the second test tube to me.  I grabbed it out of mid-air and quickly stuffed it into my shirt pocket.
        Ms. Weaverspell turned back to me and bent over my bench to watch as I carefully worked the stopcock and added drops to my flask until suddenly and miraculously, it turned a pink.  “There you go,” Ms. Weaverspell exclaimed excitedly.  Then she turned her attention to Marie and watched her add the stuff to her flask.
        I was struggling for an idea on how to get out from under Ms. Weaverspell’s scrutiny and possibly get her to step away from my corner of the lab.  The fairy was on her way to the cabinets for a third test tube.  Fortunately Madison came to my rescue, but not intentionally.  The fairy flew into the cabinets and Madison raised her hand and began to call out in alarm, “Ms. Weaverspell, my acid’s still not reacting with the sodium hydroxide and my buret is almost empty.”  Ms. Weaverspell sighed and immediately went to Madison’s assistance.  Madison’s like a teacher’s pet to her.  I had to smile.  Madison hadn’t put any phenolphthalein in her flask when she got distracted by the fairy.  What a dummy.
        Suddenly a blur in front of my face caused me to look up.  I saw a flash of glass dropping by and then a test tube went smashing onto my station desktop, where it shattered into shards.  I had to react fast.  Instantly I upended my buret and slapped my flask into the sink where it too shattered, spewing mixture all over Marie Vasquez's desk, who immediately jumped back, upending her stool, and shrieked at the top of her lungs.  The boy next to her dropped his flask now too, spilling its contents all over his workstation.
        “Acid, acid, acid!!” Marie Vasquez cried, tears running down her face, wiping frantically at the drops that had splattered on her blouse and skirt.
        Ms. Weaverspell came racing back to us.  “What happened?  What happened?  Calm down.  It’s not the type of acid that will burn you.”
        Meanwhile I retrieved a trashcan over to my station and was throwing in the broken glass, and wiping at the spill with paper towels, frantically trying to hide any evidence of the broken test tube and its chemical contents, whatever it was.
        Once Ms. Weaverspell had poor Marie calmed down, who was actually more worried about getting burn holes in her clothes than she was about getting physically burned, Ms. Weaverspell turned her attention to me.  Ms. Weaverspell was all red in the face now, more than normal even.  And the pupils in her eyes had shrunk to pin points.  “What is going on?” she shrieked.  I had never seen her mad before, which seemed so odd for someone I was used to seeing all reverent and quiet at church every Sunday.  “Michael, you seem bent on disrupting my lab today!” she berated me.  “What had gotten into you?  Are you doing this on purpose?”
        “No, no, I assure you I am not.”
        She spun on the class.  “What is everyone staring at?  Back to your experiments!  Repeat the experiment five times to make sure of your results.  Madison!”
        Madison jumped to her feet.  “Yes, Ms. Weaverspell.”
        “Dump your flask out and start over!”
        “Yes, Ms. Weaverspell,” Madison was all read in the face too, aghast at being blamed for contributing to the chaos that had caught up Ms. Weaverspell’s class.
        “And you!” Ms. Weaverspell turned on me.  “You will stay after class and further clean and then sterilize your entire lab row.”  She fumed at me for a moment.  “Then I want you to draw a Lewis diagram on the blackboard showing the molecular structure of your acid!”
        “Okay,” I said calmly.  I was trying to be agreeable.
        “Ten times!”
        “Sure thing Ms. Weaverspell.”
        Ms. Weaverspell went back to her desk and sat down with a plop and buried her head in her hands.
        I looked up at the light fixture to see the fairy watching Ms. Weaverspell.  The fairy was looking angry and I could tell she didn’t like Ms. Weaverspell yelling at me.  The fairy made a circular waving and then punching motion with her index and pinky fingers, like maybe she was putting a hex on Ms. Weaverspell or something, or maybe it was just an obscene fairy gesture.  I buried my head in my hands too.
        I couldn’t stay self-engrossed for long though, for my mischievous little fairy immediately went back to work collecting more chemicals.  Ms. Weaverspell stayed at her desk sulking for the remainder of the class, so the fairy was unconstrained, and by the time the bell rang to signal the close of class, I must have had over a dozen test tubes in my backpack and at least two or three stuffed in every pocket.  At least I didn’t drop any more, but I felt like a walking chemical bomb and hoped no one lit a match around me.
        As soon as students started filing out of the classroom, I hurried to get some rags and more paper towels, and began wiping down the lab bench with distilled water and alcohol.  Ms. Weaverspell was watching silently, glaring at me malevolently.  I had ruined her precious lab experiment.  Madison came to join me and voluntarily helped with the clean up.  She didn’t speak to me, but I could tell she was concerned and she kept looking up at the ceiling lights hoping to see the fairy.
        Worried that the fairy might be stuck somewhere, I opened up my backpack and slid it out from under the bench so she would have a straight shot for a landing.  Then I hurried to the furthest blackboard and begin writing out those stupid Lewis diagrams for Ms. Weaverspell.
        I took my time, watching for the fairy to make a dive for my backpack, but was disappointed and soon done and had no choice but to return to my desk.  I was hoping to find the fairy had made it back without my noticing, but no, she has not there.  Ms. Weaverspell was watching us like a hawk.  “That will be all,” Ms. Weaverspell sniffed at Madison and me.  “I hope your behavior will not be such a disappointment next time.”
        Madison looked consumed with shame.  I felt a little bad too.  “Sorry about the mess, Ms. Weaverspell.  It was a fun experiment though.”
        She pointed at the door, and I had no choice but to gather up my things and follow Madison out of the classroom, without the fairy.
     One out in the halls, Madison pinned me up against the lockers.  She waved her finger in my face.  “I cannot believe anyone could be so irresponsible and stupid too.”
        “Hey, don’t blame me.  You try taking care of a fairy sometime.  They can be very insistent”
        “Why did you bring her to school?  You need to take her home now!”
        “Can’t, I don’t have her.”
        Madison’s blue eyes went wide.   “What, where is she …” she didn’t finish the sentence, instead looked back at the classroom, as she realized the fairy had been left behind.
        Just then we heard a shriek coming from the classroom.  We raced back into the lab to see Mr. Weaverspell totally engulfed in a cloud of white power.  She was covered from head to foot and it was still raining down upon her from above.  We stood gaping at her in amazement from the doorway, when I noticed a blur of motion down at our feet.  Something flew between Madison’s legs causing her to shriek.  I opened my backpack and the fairy dove inside.  She tumbled and rolled to the bottom where she laid panting and heaving.  I closed the backpack and hurried out into the hall and left Madison to look after Ms. Weaverspell.
        That was a close one.  I put my face down to the backpack, “Hey little pixie, you okay?”
        “Yes,” the fairy wheezed, struggling to catch her breath.
        “Anyone see you?”
        “No way,” the fairy grinned.
        “I’m putting every one of these chemicals back,” I told her.  She made a face at me, so I said, “These belong to the school.  It’s stealing and I’m taking them all back.”  Then I closed the backpack and zippered her shut inside.  I took her straight home, put her in my room, told her she was grounded, and shut the bedroom door. 

      November 15, 2012
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