DON’T ASK WHY- In biology, being class cut-up is no fun

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DAVID VOGEL
If there’s one thing I hate looking at more than a dead animal, it’s looking inside a dead animal.

As you may have guessed, it’s Dissecting Season here at Hillsboro High, and no dead animal-ordered-out-of-a-catalog is safe!

These catalogs-which I have seen lying around the biology classroom-have covers that are photographs of dead “specimens” arranged in patterns, presumably to make them look appealing.

This marketing ploy has me confused, because no person in their right mind would say, “Hey look! That catalog has a picture of a dead frog on the cover. Let’s get one.”

There is no reason to have catalogs like this, unless you were looking for a very-low-maintenance pet. It wouldn’t have to be fed, or have its litter box cleaned, or be taken out for a walk. All it would need is a little formaldehyde, and your pet would be good to go!

However, this is beside the point.

My biology class is currently in the process of dissecting. This is a project that thousands of biology teachers across the country do each year in an effort to show their students that the entire unit on Cellular Reproduction wasn’t so bad.

I have never been good at dissecting. I found this out in seventh grade when a fist-size gray lump, with a thick, off-white layer of Jell-O brand substance coating it, was placed in front of me. It was allegedly a sheep heart, however I still wonder how in the world a sheep heart could accumulate that much vanilla pudding.

That day in science class, I spent more time trying to control my gag reflex than I actually did holding a scalpel, which was maybe a total of three minutes.

You see, I have this very strong opposition to opening anything that was ever relatively close to being alive.

For example, I had a hard enough time looking inside my computer a few months ago when I installed some new hardware. (The sight of an exposed motherboard surrounded loosely by thick masses of wire and computer chips is enough to make a grown-man faint.)

So I knew I was in trouble when it was announced that in the final three weeks of school, we would be disassembling-a nice word for “cutting apart”-a grasshopper, frog and rat.

I immediately began to form my official Dissecting Plan of Action, which is mainly to get a partner who merely smirks at the sight of blood.

The basic psychology behind this plot is to be with somebody who will gladly do all the dissecting themselves, while I calculate the shortest route to the nearest trash can.

However, my plan failed when a certain girl-not to name names, but her name starts with a “T” and ends with an “essa”-asked me to be her partner on the basis that I am a guy, therefore I automatically have a biological need, presumably powered by the obvious massive quantities of testosterone within me, to touch “gross stuff.”

I believe those were her exact words, “gross stuff.”

I tried to explain to her that I would be no more useful in dissecting animals than a can opener is for sinking the Titanic. However, she didn’t believe me, and then went on to make a cheap crack about me looking like a biologist.

I was trapped.

So, while I’m doing the dissecting, Tessa is sitting off to the corner, doing the worksheet that goes along with the organism of interest.

In certain moments when my stomach was taking a break from inhabiting my throat, I would attempt to goof off by holding up a certain piece that I had just disassembled with a tweezers, and shoving it in her face.

The general response here was for her to say, “Ew, stop it.” Then I would laugh, which would cause my stomach to return to my throat, thus starting the cycle over again.

Dissecting includes a lot of disassembling. In my opinion, if animals had been meant to be dissected, they would have come with clearly marked doors, saying things like, “Heart: two inches to the right,” or, “Liver: down this intestine and to the left.”

This is why I am such a big fan of those dummies where all the organs are made of plastic. With those, one doesn’t have to worry about cutting at the right spots. All you have to do is remove the chest piece, and there are all your major internal organs, lined up just for you. Then you can take them out, observe them, and put them right back in. No scalpels or latex gloves required!

But the animals that we get are not made out of plastic. They are, in fact, real.

So far, all we’ve done is grasshoppers. But these are not the cute, little, green grasshoppers that are native to Kansas, and that we have all come to know and love.

These are BIG grasshoppers.

You know those giant, mutant bugs you see in old sci-fi flicks? Forget about ’em. These grasshoppers make Mothra look like Mother Goose.

Besides their freakishly huge size, they are also colored black, which makes them appear to be more like crickets, an insect that I have learned to hate with a passion.

Believe it or not, I did get some educational experience out of the dissection.

When you step on a bug, you don’t get to see the intricate organ system that actually makes it tick. Or chirp, as it were.

After squishing the bug, all you see is a brown goo, whereas when you actually dissect it, you see a brown goo, but can then look at diagrams in the book to show you what SHOULD have been there.

Apparently, the reason the grasshoppers were so different from what we Kansans are used to is because they actually came from Mexico. After hearing this, I picked up our grasshopper and made it dance as I sang, “La cucaracha.”

“Ew, stop it,” Tessa said.

I laughed, which caused my stomach to jump back into my throat, thus starting the cycle once again.

***

UFO: The horseshoe crab has sky-blue blood.

Don’t ask why.

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