Acupuncture After The Apocalypse

To Reach A Botanist

“Mason Dial? Sure, I know who he is.”

I’ve finally managed to reach a botanist at the Field Museum of Natural History. I don’t know which division Mason worked in. I never thought to ask. When he and Eve first started dating, we used to joke that he studied the mouth parts of prehistoric insects. It served as a good line to use at parties. But now that I’m thinking about it, I’m not entirely sure but that we may have made that up.

When I call the museum, I start with the division of invertebrates, but the office secretary is new and doesn’t know. He passes me to someone else who sends me to this old guy in botany, whose voice sounds like he’s been there since the Columbian Exposition.

“Do you know anything about where Mason Dial is now?” I ask.

“Not here.”

“I know—he’s my step-son-in-law, actually, and he and his wife—“

“Mason’s the guy in paleo who married a looker. His wife’s cousin was a model. Someone famous.”

“Right, that’s him.”

The man says something, but his voice sounds muffled. It seems he’s holding the receiver against his chest and chatting with someone in the office. I strain to hear. The voices are fuzzy, like the men have pulled wool sweaters over their mouths. Someone coughs, I can hear that much. A man says distinctly, in English, “here, try this” but he could be offering a recommendation for a cold remedy and not Mason’s number. This goes on for some minutes. Just as I’m considering hanging up, the botanist returns.

“Fitz says Dial moved to Recife. Last he heard, Dial had taken a shine to slime molds. Fitz gave me the name of a myxo specialist in Pernambuco. Might be a place to start.”

“But your friend—Fitz —he hasn’t heard anything from Mason recently? Since, you know, the commotion?”

“Fitz doesn’t know him like that. After work one time, he says he beat Dial in Lord of the Rings. The board game.”

“Isn’t that a cooperative game?”

“Not the way Fitz plays.”

I can hear Fitz saying something in the background, but can’t quite catch it.

“Okay,” the botanist says. “The Russian mycologists have arrived. I have to go. Do you want the contact or not?”

Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.