We were both glad and saddened when
we received the following article in the mail back in February. We were delighted to
get a humorously anecdotal article from a well-known British fan writer, but the note
attached read: "I'm sure you have heard by now that Arthur (ATom) Thomson died on 8th
February 1990, and he was cremated at Streatham, London on 15th February. Quite a
few fans attended, including Rob Hansen, Avedon Carol, Chuch Harris, Vince Clarke,
Ethel Lindsay, my wife and myself." John included two pieces of original ATom fanart,
drawn especially for the following scientific treatise...
In August 1983 I was involved in the investigation of a robbery where fur coats had been stolen. The plastic bags in which the furs were kept in the store had been dumped in a river by the villains. This necessitated the use of MD on a large scale. Therefore, I prepared a large volume of the thickish black liquid, retained in a stainless steel dish measuring one yard square and six inches high. MD lapped the top edge of the container. My colleague Martin, attired in a virgin-white overall and wearing protective rubber gloves, passed the plastic bags to me one at a time, and I carefully emersed them in the liquid. I returned the dripping bags to Martin, and he clipped them in a horizontal row in a drying cabinet. It was a matter of pride to Martin that he did not despoil his starched overall with the black sludge, and in fact, when our chore was concluded, he smiled smugly as he surveyed his nice clean overall, laundered by his wife that very morning.
"John," he smiled, "would you kindly pour the MD in the sink, as I don't want to get my overall splashed."
Personally, I do not wear an overall when performing forensic examinations, as I regard it as slackness in performance. If the examination is careful, protective over-clothing should be superfluous.
So I took a deep breath, gritted my teeth, grabbed each side of the stainless steel container with thumbs emersed, and lifted it. I moved a yard to my left and gently tilted the receptacle so that the MD would dribble from the spout and disappear down the sink outlet.
Suddenly, I was confronted by a phenomenon previously unreported in any scientific journal. Despite my powerful grip, the spout end of the receptacle started to rise and a wave of black liquid surged towards me. I shot a quick glance at Martin, and his visage will remain in my mind until my dying day. It wasn't just the tongue protruding from dry lips...it was his eyes that worried me...huge pupils...throbbing red veins shooting across the whites of his eyes...the look of a shocked and frightened man.
It is well known that I have superb initiative...quick as a flash, I lowered my left hand and raised my right hand, and the black wave, just about to engulf me, suddenly swerved to the left and returned to the spout end. I confidently expected the MD to sweep over the spout and into the sink, but even with all my considerable strength applied I could not stop the spout end from rising upwards again, and at rather an alarming speed. Once more a concerted lift to the right and the ugly rearing wave checked itself and swung viciously towards the other end.
I looked again at Martin, to see if he could add his strength to mine but he had his fingers in his mouth and his remaining hairs were splayed out like rays of the sun.
Once more towards the spout end, dear fan. But now I was a mere puny restraint in the grip of a powerful new physical force:
"Me = M. seemed scared."
In those fleeting seconds I made the obvious decision... I wasn't wearing protective clothing, but Martin was. I must also state quite frankly that his reflexes appeared somewhat lethargic for a young man.
Irresistibly the receptacle took over my body. It refused to dip to the left... the huge menacing thunderous wave reached out for me and parted my hair as I screamed, ducked, and deftly removed my black hands from the live receptacle.
Martin uttered only two words. Indeed, if it was in his mind to express himself more volubly, he did not have sufficient time to formulate the required expletives.
All he had time to say was...
The only redeeming feature of Martin catching the full impact of the murky tidal wave was that he was standing in front of a glass-fronted cabinet containing assorted chemicals, including some extremely noxious items, and Martin taking the full charge precluded the possibility of damage to the cabinet and contents. Martin sort of stiffened, and then gradually subsided to the floor, rather like Sammy Davis, jr. making an obsequious gesture of resignation.
I am currently working on another paper recommending certain physical restraints to prevent fastidious laboratory technicians from suddenly becoming homicidal maniacs.
All illustrations by ATom