Common Sense and Chemistry
by Rachel Greentree
Daisy gazed with a mixture of amusement, concern and exasperation at the dripping-wet figure standing before her.
“What happened Chris?” she asked with as much sympathy as she could muster.
“Erm, I had a bit of an accident,” mumbled the downcast research assistant.
“It takes a special kind of dedication to get completely immersed in a lake before nine o’clock in the morning – even if you do work next to one,” Daisy said with a flash of impatience. “Most people wait until the ferry reaches the shore before trying to get off.”
She had spoken more sharply than she intended to and felt a small stab of remorse as the hapless Chris wilted before her glare.
“Well you’d better go and get dried off,” she added in a kinder tone. “And try not to run into Professor Brown until you’ve got cleaned up. He’s a bit uptight about the inspection by the Board of Chemical Research Inspectors today and it won’t improve his mood if he sees you looking like that.”
Daisy watched the tall, dark-haired young man wander disconsolately down the corridor leaving a trail of water behind him. She was a bit worried. Christopher Green had barely started his new job in the Chemistry department at the Institute of Freshwater Research and already he seemed to have developed a knack for getting into trouble. Although reluctant to admit it to anyone, Daisy had grown quite fond of Chris in the short time she had known him. He had a bright, humorous face and a very infectious laugh which was often heard resonating around the laboratory.
“There won’t be much laughing going on today if he screws up the inspection,” Daisy thought grimly. Professor Brown, the head of the department, didn’t suffer fools gladly at the best of times. He would be likely to erupt like Vesuvius if anyone annoyed him today.
Daisy was jerked back from her reverie by the sound of the corridor door swinging open. This was followed by the voices of Frankie and Mike who had just arrived for work.
“Did you see the splash when he hit the water?” asked Frankie.
“Yes!” replied Mike. “Honestly, I thought he’d killed himself this time. Oh, hello Daisy! Have a nice weekend?”
“Yes thanks, Mike,” replied Daisy. “What happened to Chris?”
“Oh, the young fool. You’ll never guess what happened,” replied Mike grinning from ear to ear. “You know how we’ve been having all this rain recently? The level of water in the lake has risen at least three feet overnight and the car ferry can’t land properly to offload the cars because the car ramp is too high to touch the concrete slope on the shore.
Daisy nodded and grimaced slightly. It was a source of irritation to all the staff at the Institute that the cable-winched ferry couldn’t take cars across the lake when the water level was too high. As excuses went, it had a distinctly British Rail ring to it.
“Anyway,” continued Mike, “the ferry ran with just the pedestrians and bikes and of course Chris had his bike with him.”
“So how did he end up in the lake?” asked Daisy.
“Instead of lifting his bike down to the shore from the ramp, he decided to ride over the edge of the ramp and jump the gap “Evil Knievel” style. He got to the edge of the ramp and then just vanished into the lake,” finished Mike, dissolving into laughter. “What makes it worse is that he seems quite baffled by the fact that his little stunt didn’t work. The first thing he said when he re-emerged was that he couldn’t understand why he ended up in the lake.”
Daisy groaned inwardly. Chris just didn’t seem to have the usual measure of common sense in every day matters.
“Well we’re having the inspection today so just keep an eye on him,” she said before walking into the laboratory to add the final touches to her poster display.
Half-an-hour later, the staff were sitting in the coffee room discussing final strategies for getting through the inspection smoothly.
“Right everyone,” barked Professor Brown looking at his list with a frown. “You all know what you’ve got to do. Daisy, you and Michael are doing poster presentations. Frankie, you’re showing the visitors around the department and showing them the laboratory facilities. And you, Chris, had better do some computer programming at your desk. That should be safe enough. Oh and a curious thing. Can anyone explain why there’s a pair of wet underpants hung up to dry in the laboratory oven?”
There was a long silence which was only interrupted by some stifled giggles from Mike and some strangled coughing from a blushing Chris.
Daisy felt the tension rising within her throat which was only relieved by a knock on the coffee room door which opened to reveal Miss Townsend, the secretary, who announced slightly breathlessly: “Excuse me, Professor Brown, but the visitors are at reception. Shall I show them up?”
“No, it’s alright Liz. I’ll come down and fetch them myself. Now then everyone, you know what you have to do. Get to it.”
Professor Brown threw a sharp glance in Chris’ direction before he strode out of the room with the diminutive secretary scurrying after him. The door closed behind them and the tense atmosphere dissipated as a general sigh of relief went around the room from everyone.
Two hours later the inspection was complete. The three visitors had seemed suitably impressed with their tour and no-one had committed any faux pas. It was with great relief that Daisy watched Professor Brown escort the VIPs to the front door and saw them walk down the drive towards the ferry. Chris was also watching the visitors leave from the upstairs office window. He had a clear view of the lake from his desk and could see that the ferry was about to leave the shore.
“They’re cutting it a bit fine aren’t they?” he observed to Mike who was sitting at the other desk. “You’d think the Prof. would have timed things better than that. He knows when the ferry leaves. These academics are all space-cadets.”
Chris continued to gaze out of the window at the departing visitors as they hurried down the slope towards the landing jetty. By now the ferry was pulling away from the shore. One of the visitors, however, had apparently decided not to wait for it to return. He broke into a run and attempted to jump the rapidly widening gap. It was a good try - but not good enough. Chris watched in fascination as the man missed the edge of the ramp, flailed around for a few seconds and then fell face down in the lake.
“Some people just have no common sense – do they?” he said with a grin.
~ The End ~