Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Concentration (07/24/08)
TITLE: Fireflies and Diamonds
By Betty Castleberry
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Jeremy patted the hood of his aging car, inviting Tanya to sit next to him. The car bounced slightly in response when she hopped up to join him.
She sighed. “It’s beautiful out here.”
“It’s a great place to study Photuris pyralis. There are a large number of them here. They like the trees at the edge of the meadow.”
Tanya had become accustomed to her boyfriend’s fascination with science. He had just received dual graduate degrees in entomology and geology.
She faced him. “What is Photuris pyralis?”
“A species of fireflies, or lightning bugs. We should see some soon.”
The timing was perfect. They watched as a few miniature lights winked across the meadow. Jeremy leaned forward and pointed. “There. If we’re patient, we should see many more.”
Tanya watched him as he adjusted his thick glasses. He held his hands in his lap, alternately squeezing one fist, then the other, in his excitement.
She reached over and stroked the top of his hand. He looked at her curiously, then smiled.
They sat in silence for a few more minutes until Jeremy whispered and pointed to a grove of sycamores.
Tanya was enchanted. The night sky sparkled with twinkling winged creatures making their way out of the trees. “Oh wow, this is spectacular. I’ve never seen so many lightning bugs before. They are just gorgeous, and even a bit mysterious.”
“Yes, it’s quite a display, but there’s no mystery involved. They light up because of an organ they have which produces an enzyme called luciferase. The luciferase acts on luciferin found in that organ to stimulate light production.” Jeremy removed a handkerchief from his pocket and blew his nose. “It’s all very exciting.”
The young woman forced a smile. “I appreciate their beauty. They look like dozens of little diamonds.”
It was not the first time Tanya had deliberately dropped the word diamond in a conversation with her boyfriend. Although they often looked at things differently, she had grown to love Jeremy and his quirky scientific view of the world. He was generous and treated her with respect. She knew all he needed was a nudge in the right direction, and they could make their relationship permanent.
Blatantly, she waved her left hand near his face. “Yes, they look like diamonds. Don’t you think so?”
“I suppose. Diamonds are quite interesting. They’re actually allotropes of carbon and are deep mantle gems. The majority of them are formed at least 100 miles beneath the earth’s surface. They’re concentrated in certain areas, just like these fireflies are here.”
Tanya looked away. She was beginning to think there was no reaching him. Bravely, she spoke. “Do you ever think about diamonds in any other way? I mean, besides how far below the earth’s surface they are formed?”
The young man pursed his lips. “Can’t say I’ve given them much thought, although I agree that perhaps the fireflies do have a few diamond-like qualities to them. Speaking abstractly, of course.”
“I’m pleased you think so. Look, the fireflies just keep coming out of the bushes and trees. They’re lighting up the whole sky. How many do you think are here?”
“That’s difficult to say, but they number at least in the thousands. They’re actually quite romantic, don’t you think?”
Tanya was surprised at his statement. “Yes, I do.”
“I thought coming out here and seeing these fireflies in such great numbers would be interesting. I also thought it would be the perfect setting for this.” Jeremy jumped off the hood and fished in his back pocket for something, then dropped to one knee.
“Tanya, I don’t have a diamond for you, but I have this.” He flipped open the top of a small black jewelry box. “It’s an emerald. It’s formed from beryl in hydrothermal veins in the earth. I chose it because it matches your eyes. Will you marry me?”
Although it was what she had waited for, she was surprised, and at a loss for words. At last she managed to answer him. “Yes, I’ll marry you.”
He slipped the ring on her finger. “Excellent. Let’s consider honeymooning next spring in Nebraska.”
“Hmm, Nebraska in the spring?”
“Yes.” He beamed. “That’s the perfect time and place to observe heavy concentrations of aphids.”
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