The biology pond was next to the biology garden. The only scientific benefit of these parcels was that they had truly reverted to a state of nature. A colony of weeds had overrun all partitions and borders in the garden. They had moved freely past barriers into now abandoned and dusty pots. Under the watchful eye of the sun, the weeds had prospered and soared into four foot giants of old growth, hiding the cracked brown soil underneath. As the weeds were at their zenith and now protected as an endangered species, any future organized cultivation of trimming, pruning, or actual gardening had been postponed permanently. The pond was worse. At one point, it had been designed to have running water circulating through it, perhaps providing a clean environment for small fish, possibly tadpoles, or other water-dwelling creatures.
But then the pump broke. Public school funding being what it was, the pump was never replaced. The water stopped flowing. This wouldn’t have been so bad in itself, if the pool had been drained and cleaned regularly. This wasn’t the case. At some point early on, someone had decided that they really wanted no part of cleaning a four foot deep stagnant pool. So it festered. Algae began to grow on the surface. It probably started slowly. A thin layer of scum that gently and gingerly clung to the walls. Eventually, unopposed, it thickened into a green sludge of a carpet of inches deep, seeping and oozing over every exposed section of moisture. Then people began to throw things in it. A cigarette butt or two. Half eaten sandwiches, which caught on the algae and began to rot. Half consumed cans of juice, soda and Gatorade. And not to mention whatever else fell or became trapped in its decaying mass. The only thing biological about the pond now was whatever new entities were breeding in its festering mass.
It was therefore shocking when the Doctor turned the slow day into a very busy day with the proclamation that he would go into the pond himself, as a bet, for compensation. Our looks of incredulity were stripped away quickly by a bidding war. Everyone quickly dumped their bags on the hard science tables and began sorting through what change and ugly bills they possessed. The auction enthusiasm for bidding up the amount from $12.13 to $12.54 was shushed only once by the cranky comments of Bismarck who was still resolutely working alone and wanted silence. The collection rolled on, and finally, the grand amount of $50.00 was proffered to the Doctor up front, because, really, with the conditions we were about to impose, it was questionable whether he would emerge from the liquid in question.
With more fortitude and courage than I would have demonstrated in facing such a task, he cheekily stated that he would accept our offer and the conditions. He would get into the pond, and stay under the surface of water – the very water that sustained the three feet of algae - for ten seconds. With much fanfare – somehow, word had spread down the science corridor that someone was going to get into the pond, we trooped out to find a small semi-circle already expecting the Doctor, some with cameras. I thought about offering advice on navigating septic patches of liquid, but he had already handed off the valuable assets he possessed – his shoes, wallet, and car keys, and waded into the morass.
The seconds ticked by in true alligator fashion, each letter possessing a perverse and long segment of time. With a great stride, the Doctor emerged from the pond – if you could call the creature that came out of that submerged state a person. All of the algae draped his body, crawling and slithering down his hair, face, and clothes, which had turned compost brown. But what caused us to draw back from the Doctor was not his now grotesque appearance. It was the aroma.
There is a rare plant that exudes a smell of death, sweet and saturating the air with a tantalizing musk of plant and rot. That smell is alone to make some of light disposition weak at the knees and vomit. And then there is the smell of actual death. And it is nothing small or mild. The Doctor was walking death. From the moment he emerged, the radius of putrefaction spread from his every movement. It was the stench of weeks old liquefied flesh. It was corpse, pure and simple. Like extras in a bad zombie movie, we fled from the Doctor and his constant aromatic disaster. Eventually, he made it to his car, and drove home, and after many days and many washings later, was back to his normal bouquet. His car was never the same, and neither was the pond. And the legacy of our graduating class was a sign that was installed the next day beside the pond – “No wading”.