Drama Fiction

It had barely begun to drizzle when Sarah and Maria walked from the laboratory to their supervisor’s office. Maria had to slow her pace because of Sarah, who sandwiched their record file between her singlet and sweater – hiding it from the rain, and plodded towards Dr. Ade's office. Sarah entered his office, and Maria followed. His office was tiny because he had demarcated it. He used the inner room which was larger for his private research, and the remaining little space, for his paper works. His table and chair occupied one-third of the space, his students’ continuous assessment books on the floor were neatly arranged in stacks according to their departments. His shelf contained voluminous textbooks which were coated with dust, but well arranged.

“Good evening, sir,” Sarah and Maria greeted.

With his eyes focused on his laptop, he responded with a deep, somewhat angry tone, “Fatima, how are you?” He fondly called Sarah, Fatima because she was fat. And Maria's name had always skipped his memory. He looked at Maria with a stolid countenance, “good evening.” This response was meant for Maria and she knew it. He bent and continued interpreting an NMR spectra. There was silence for a few seconds when Sarah stepped outside, because his office was getting hotter. Maria stood there, just beside the pile of books on the floor, waiting for him to say, as usual, “what do you have for today?” And she would then call Sarah to explain things to him. He was deeply immersed in what he was doing, and Maria decided to wait for him at the corridor where Sarah was. Just immediately, he called, “Fatima,” in a more friendly tone now.

“Sir?” She rushed into his office, and used her face towel to wipe her oily face which had caused a film between the oil and droplets of water that fell on it. 

“What do you have for today?” He asked disapprovingly because he hadn’t seen their file, and one would even barely notice that Sarah had hidden the file from rain under her sweater. She brought out the file, and motioned to show him what they had done for that day, and her arms shifted a mountain of books on the upper shelf, which fell and scattered the books on the floor.

“Sorry sir,” she bent to pick the books to arrange them.

“Don’t worry Sarah, I’ll do it. Just…” Maria said and bent to arrange the books, their heads almost collided.

“Thank you.” Sarah understood while Maria had rushed to help her: Maria didn’t want to be the one to explain to Dr. Ade how long they had dried their compound in a desiccator, and how they had calculated their theoretical and practical yield. She was just Sarah’s partner, who saw movies with her laptop in the laboratory, and kept her company, too – preventing Sarah from being bored while waiting for reactions that took hours. “Sir, it was drizzling, so I had to keep it away from rain.” He handed the file over to him. He looked at her and wanted to smile, but he controlled it, then he coughed, wore his glasses, and perused through what they had recorded. 

“98.3 percentage yield?” He asked in astonishment and bewilderment, staring at Sarah.

“Yes sir. Is there any problem with it, sir?” Sarah asked. Maria didn’t want to join what was seeming to be like an argument or what was seeming to need more explanations. She scattered the books she had arranged earlier on the floor, and started arranging them again.

“The yield is much, almost perfect. Something is wrong somewhere.” He now talked slowly, and sententiously, with more gesticulation.. “Even after recrystallization? Upon you complained of the difficulty of the compounds crystallizing out?” Sarah focused her gaze on his laptop charger. “Hope the samples were dried?”

“Yes sir.” Maria answered the question she understood well. She had hurriedly said “yes sir” before Sarah, at least, to show Dr. Ade that she, too was engaged in the project.

“And you weighed it well”?

“Yes sir. We used the electronic weighing balance.” What Maria really liked about Sarah was that she always added, “we” when she spoke to their supervisor about their project practical.

He stood with his tiny legs and shrunken buttocks, entered his small laboratory, and shut the small wooden door behind him. After a few seconds, he called, “Fatima, come and carry this thing.” He kept the door ajar.

Before Sarah prepared to raise a foot and walk into his lab, Maria, who had arranged the books she had scattered, entered the room and said, “what, sir?” 

He pointed at the Fischer John's Melting Point Apparatus, “hope you can carry it?” 

She lifted it and said, “It’s not even heavy sir.”

He reached out for the cable, wrapped it and gave it to her. “Be careful with that o.” We only have a few of this in this our wonderful department.” Sarah admired his gap-tooth when he smiled and stressed “wonderful”, and he seemed more friendly when he smiled. She carried it away and waited at the corridor. “Go and check the melting point now, call me as soon as you check it.”

Sarah collected their file, and they both walked to the laboratory. It had stopped drizzling, and the atmosphere smelled of rain and dust. Maria walked slowly, it seemed she had added more load to her front; her huge breasts had already given her body additional many kilograms, and the apparatus she was carrying unbalanced her weight. 

The melting point wasn’t so sharp, For a random minute sample she collected, she Looked through the magnifier and found out that it had melted in two batches – the first one, which was like a tenth of the sample she collected melted from 134 to 135 degrees Celsius, and the other at 206 to 207 degree Celsius. Of course, she knew that they were expecting something of a high molecular mass; she called Dr. Ade and put it on speaker, “the melting point is a sharp 206 to 207 degrees Celsius.”

“Okay. Later. You can continue, anyway.” He hung up.

“Thank God, there’s no problem.” Maria said happily.

“There is o. Remember, we poured water into the mixture which made the crystals to come out quick.” Sarah said with lack of confidence, troubled and unhappy countenance.

“Remember when Prof. Dike came here, and told his students who had mistakenly poured water into theirs that it would still give them their expected compound, just that it might contain impurities. He said that the water won’t react with organic compounds.” 

“You won’t understand. I just think your own contains much impurities.”

“Sarah, forget that thing. You can’t have it hundred per cent pure. So, you want to redo this five-hour practical again and wait for like five days before it will start crystallizing out.” She got up from the stool which she was sitting, put her laptop in her bag, and waited for Sarah near the entrance, so that they could leave the lab together. Sarah locked their apparatuses in their cupboard, and they both left.

They continued adding water to quicken the crystallization process of all compounds they had synthesized. Earlier, for each one they synthesized, Sarah always took out minute samples, kept them in small beakers, and monitored how long they took to crystallize out of ethanol which Dr. Ade had told them to use. Actually, Sarah had wanted to try other organic solvents, but she knew that Dr. Ade often got exasperated with other people’s suggestions, especially from his students. They took at least, three days to crystallize out unlike other students' who carried out project in organic chemistry. She thought Maria could be right: they needed not to spend the whole semester in the lab doing practical.

They sent their samples to U.S. and Turkey, to be characterized differently and their results arrived after three weeks, being almost exact. Dr. Ade had called them in his office, demanding explanations on the funny and phony-like spectral results that they obtained: All the UV Spectra showed three different absorptions, the IR-spectra showed a strong presence of a functional group that was not meant to be there, the NMR-spectra showed many other functional groups, too, and the Mass-spectra was complex.

They kept mute, and looked oblivious of what had happened. He thought to himself that it was his research, and he had failed to decipher what the problem was when they were getting a great percentage yield. “Anyway, prepare for your project defense in about a month's time. Just impress the external supervisor.” They had almost exited his office when he said, “I will send you these results, interpret them and conclude.”

As they were walking towards to the canteen to buy some snacks, Sarah asked Maria if they could tell Dr. Ade what they had done, at least, he'd suggest something. “How can we interpret those results? “For me,” she used her neatly polished fingers and hit her cleavage, “I don’t think I can o” Maria shuddered and didn’t utter a word. “Ade can help us. At least, he could make adjustments in his next research, and include us in his publications. And I really need to be published.”

Maria took her by her arms, “Calm down, Dr. Ade knows that we worked hard, he has sixty per cent of our grade, and the other has fourty. Even if our results are flop, there’s no way we can’t get at least, twenty marks out of fourty from the external supervisor.”

“I know, but we can’t be so sure, Maria.” She looked at Maria now, “Dr. Ade publishes his students, I need to be published, at least, in two years time. It'll help me in a programme.”

“Sarah, please, the most important thing for me is to graduate.” Sarah’s hands were akimbo, while Maria bought meat pie and soy milk. “You’re talking about being published. He might not even give you a recommendation letter as your project supervisor if you told him the mistake we both did, she chuckled.

“I’m confused.” Sarah rested her head a little on Maria's body. She almost fell, but she found support on a wooden table.

December 04, 2020 22:11

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