Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mike's Job

Mike's Job
(A Histological Fairy Tale)
"The body has many members..." (St. Paul)

(devised July 30, 2006 by Doctor Thursday at the suggestion of Candlestring.)

Once upon a time, in a very small world, very close by...

There was someone named Mike. And on the day our story starts, Mike was small, though he was not a baby. And because he was still small, he didn't have a job to do.

Mike lived in a crowded place, but it was tidy and very clean. He had lots of neighbors. I will tell you just a few of their names: George, Greg, Gary, Gilbert, and Gus. Just below them lived Andy, Albert, Ben, Brian, Blake, Brad, Barry, Brandon, Harry, and Henry. And still lower lived even more: Roger, Rob, Ron, Ralph, Rick, Randy, Raul, Ray, and Roy; and also Charlie, Chuck, Clarence, Carl and Cyril. That's not all - there were lots more besides, but it would take too long to tell all the rest. No, I can't tell you all their last names now, but I can tell you they were all related. All these had work to do, which they did as long as there was any light, and sometimes even when there wasn't.

What kind of work did they do? Roger and Ralph decided whether there was any light, and how much there was. Charlie watched for reds, Chuck for greens, and Carl for blues. The job of Blake and Brandon was to put together the information from Ron or Roger or Carl or Clarence and send it on to Gary or Greg. Sometimes Harry or Henry might get in the way of a message. Other times Andy would butt in with a new message from Rick about a change in light. But sooner or later Gus or Greg or Gilbert would get the message... Nobody knew what happened after that, but everyone knew their jobs were important. They didn't get bored, because doing the job was even more fun than playing, and everyone knew how important their jobs were.

And when they worked, they talked. In fact, most of the work they did was talk. About the only time they talked when they weren't working was when they were eating, and then everybody was very polite and friendly, and nobody cared about what shape or job one had. But in that busy neighborhood, everybody had a job, so nobody just sat around just eating.

Strange to say, even though just about everyone was related to everyone else, and even though they were neighbors, most of the talking was only between one floor and another. And nobody talked to Mike, because he was little, and because he didn't have a job yet. They knew he wasn't going to do any of the usual jobs - they could tell just by looking at him that they weren't related. He was not fat, but he had a kind of plumpness, and just about all of his neighbors were thin - some were longer, some short, and some had rather funny shapes - but none of them looked much like Mike.

Close to Mike, on the level next to Greg and Gus, lived some neighbors from a different family. Their names were Pat, Paul, Phil, and Pete. They lived by a kind of hallway. At first, Mike thought the hallway was empty, because he couldn't really see anything in it. But every so often, someone went down the hallway. As he passed, Mike felt something good, like a breath of fresh air, flow over him. It was such a pleasant feeling, he almost felt that he got a tiny bit bigger.

Mike tried to see who it was, and he asked his nearest neighbors who it was. Rick and Carl were busy talking with Barry about their work, Barry and Brad were talking with George. They were too busy so they would not talk to him. "If you had a job, we would talk to you. You do nothing all day and we have work to do."

So while everyone was eating, Mike asked Phil. Phil was nice to everyone.
Phil said, "That's the Red Pilgrim."
"Do you know him?" Mike asked.
"No, I never saw him before," replied Phil, "and chances are we'll never see him again."
Mike was sad. "What a good feeling I had when he came."
Phil laughed, and Mike was surprised to hear his neighbors chuckling as well. "No, but one of his brothers will come by soon enough - and when he comes, it will be just as nice."
"Maybe I could do his job."
"Can you swim through the hallway?" asked Phil.
"No, I'm stuck here, I can't go travelling," moaned Mike.
Phil was sad too. "Then you can't be a Pilgrim. Besides, you're not the right color - and you have to be empty inside."
"Why?" ask Mike, patting his plumpness.
"How else can you bring that fresh air feeling as you pass by?"
"Oh. Well, could I do your job?"
"Well," said Phil, "Do you know how to deliver food and pick up trash?"
"I don't think so," answered Mike glumly.
"Then I don't think you can handle the hallway maintenance." Phil felt sorry for Mike, so he said, "Let's see what else there is. You're not a pilgrim. Hmm. I bet you're strong, but you're nowhere near as strong as a security guard. And you don't look like one of those pulling types I've heard about from further down the hallway. You're here, so your job ought to be something nearby. Did you ask around?"
"No," replied Mike, with a hopeful tone. "Say, Greg - do you think I can do your job?"
Greg finished eating and frowned at Mike. "Can you talk synaptic?"
Mike shrugged. "I don't know. I never tried."
"If you don't have synapses, it's not worth discussing further. And no way you're long enough. Look, I gotta go, I have work to do."
Mike turned to Harry, Albert, and Barry. "Hey guys, any of you know what kind of job I should try?"
Barry giggled, "Gotta talk synaptic, fast, and accurate."
Harry added, "And be ready to get somebody to shut up before he makes a mistake."
"And react to changes when they happen," added Albert.
"But if you can't talk synaptic, forget it, Mike - you're friendly, but that won't help with our jobs."
Mike was even more disappointed, but there were still some other to ask. "Hey, Charlie, Ron, Carl, Roger, Chuck - can I help you guys with your work?"
"Is it blue?" asked Carl.
"Look, Mike," asked Ron. "Is it day or night?"
"Is it green?" asked Chuck.
"Is it more bright or less bright?" asked Roger.
"Is it red?" asked Charlie.
"I don't even know what you guys are talking about," Mike said. " I can't help you if I've never even seen those things."
"And don't forget," Ben told him, "Even if you knew what they were talking about, you would have to know synaptic to tell me about it. I may be right next door, and we can talk all we want while we're eating, but their work is telling me about all those things - and they use synaptic to do it. Otherwise, I can't do my own job."
"Just remember," Phil broke in, "I don't know a thing about synaptic. And I've heard that the pilgrims don't either. So there's other jobs around..."
"Yeah, added Gilbert. "You won't catch me swimming down that hallway, or delivering food, or those other things. I don't know the first thing about that." He shrugged, and looked at Mike kindly - he was Mike's closest neighbor "Say, Phil, thanks for the dinner."
"My pleasure," replied Phil. "Look Mike, when you grow some more, maybe you'll find out what you're supposed to do."

In the hallway, another Red Pilgrim went by, and everyone smiled at the pleasant breeze he had brought.

So Mike ate, and talked, and ate and grew, and ate, and every so often Red Pilgrims came past, and made everyone happy. He ate and talked with his neighbors, even though they had nothing new to say about his job. Slowly, Mike got bigger - well, actually he got taller, though he didn't get all that much bigger around, so he wasn't nearly as plump as he had been.

Soon he found that he was big enough to be neighbors with Harry and Cyril and Andy.
"Hey guys," Mike asked, "I'm lots bigger now - you see any synapses yet?"
"No, Mike, " Andy told him. "Besides, Harry's big, but he's all spread out on our level, you're just getting taller."
"But it's sure nice to be neighbors," Harry said. "Sometimes I'm not sure the others like when I have to interfere with their work, but that's what my job is."
"You know better," explained Brian. "I can't talk to Brad, or Randy, or Ron, even with synaptic. I don't want to tell Greg the wrong thing."
"Wow," said Mike. "That sounds confusing."
"It's just work," Greg explained. "We do our jobs. If you were supposed to do synaptic, I'm sure you'd be good at it."
"But what do you think I'm supposed to do?" asked Mike.
"Right now, just be a good neighbor," replied Greg. "You'll know soon."

More time went by. Mike ate, and talked, and ate and grew, and ate. Red Pilgrims came past, and made everyone happy.
Soon Mike was so tall he was neighbors with Carl and Ron and Chuck and Rick and Charlie.
As they ate, Mike asked, "Hey, guys, do you think I can try doing your job now?"
"Uh, Mike, sorry," Ron told him, "But you're the wrong shape."
"Definitely the wrong shape," added Rick.
"Nope," said Carl. "No way," said Charlie. "Negative," said Chuck.
"And no synapses, either," chorused Brian and Ben and Andy and Henry and Greg.

"But .." started Mike.
"You've got a job, Mike," Phil told him. "Seeing how big you've grown, maybe it's just a bigger job than some."
"Perhaps it's too big to be seen," added Gilbert.

"But if you don't stop growing, you're going to get down into the dark place," said Randy.
"What's that?" asked Mike.
"Just another kind of job," Carl explained. "You'd be small and dark-colored if that was your job."

Finally Mike stopped growing taller. Slowly he spread out a fringe, kind of like hair. It wove between his lowest-level neighbors.
"What's going on?" asked Carl while they ate.
"I don't know," replied Mike. "It's what I'm supposed to do."
"Don't go blocking my view, I won't... " Carl started to say. Then he went on. "You know, I don't wiggle as much as I used to. Ah! This is much better - and I can still see what I'm supposed to see."
"You're right," said Rick, who lived next to Carl. "I don't bump into you any more, either."
"Light still seems to be the same for me," added Randy. "But life seems a lot better to me without bumping into people all the time."
"Sure is better, not being squashed by Ron and Ralph," said Chuck.
"What's that you're doing?" asked Greg.
"Just weaving some nice strong fibers," explained Mike. "I've been doing it behind your back, too."
"You're right!" said Gary. "No flopping back and forth,. getting wires crossed and messages confused."
"You mean you're spreading out fibers on both ends?" asked Carl.
"Yes," answered Mike. "Is there something wrong?"
"If it's your job, I guess it's OK," Rick said. "We can still do our jobs, and things are better than they were before.'
"But what do you call this?" Mike asked. "I'm doing something. But what is it?"
"Long enough and strong enough to reach past three levels of neighbors, and spreading out stability," Gilbert grunted. "Looks to me like you're helping to hold us all together. No wonder we had no idea what your job was."
"Really? asked Mike? "It's that simple?"
"You couldn't do it until you were big enough," Phil reminded him. "But you're important, you're needed."

A Red Pilgrim went down along the hallway, and everyone smiled.

The End.

PS: I said I was not going to tell you last names. Except one.

The hero of our story is Mike Müller.

If you want to know more, look up "Müller cells" in a biology book, and you will find out more about the little world where Mike and his friends live.


At 06 August, 2006 15:53, Blogger electroblogster said...

Have you "A Wind in the Door" by Madeline L'Engle. This personifies mitochondria and even invents farandolae - - - which are to mitochondria what mitochondria are to our cells. They are individuals who actually have personhood. She breaks down some thought barriers by having a team of people join a cherubim inside a mitochondria in a battle to "save" a farandola. She even has some thought provoking details such as the people losing most of their (5) senses since those are meaningless in this context. Ria had read it on her own and the others enjoyed it too.


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