When your best friend is a scientific genius you get used to phone calls at three in the morning. That's when they make their greatest discoveries, in the moonlight.
So when my phone rang at three this morning I just picked it up and said, "Hi, Polly, what did you discover?"
Polly's voice boomed triumphantly from the phone. "EUREKA! Life is full of imperfection!"
And then she hung up.
"Oh, dear," I thought. "Maybe Polly is finally losing it." Poor Polly. She was always under a lot of stress. It isn't easy being a scientific genius when all of your greatest discoveries turn out to be incompatible with reality.
But even though people laughed at her and called her stupid, Polly would not compromise her personal vision. Or take a science class.
"Science is like the Blues," she would proclaim. "It can't be learned in school. You can only learn it by living it."
Well, the next day I went over to Polly's apartment to discuss our upcoming vacation. I already knew where I wanted to go, the coast of New England. I usually hate touring because new places make me feel unsafe. Unless they're a quaint little coastal town. It's just hard to feel menaced when you're near so much salt water taffy.
But Polly had her own ideas, and she always got her way because she was pushy and I was a pushover. I suppose that's why I felt so connected to Polly. You see, I'm really a very powerful person. I just know I am. But most of my strength is incompatible with reality.
"Picture this vacation," Polly cried as I walked in the door. "We are going to climb aboard a spaceship and tour the very planets of our solar system."
"But, Polly," I said reasonably, "spaceships cost a billion dollars. We could save a lot of money by going to Rockport, Massachusetts."
Polly just laughed. "Don't you worry about money. Thanks to a discovery that I made late last night while eating a hot fudge sundae, we will be able to build and launch our own spaceship for only $9.95.
"You see," continued Polly, "as I sat down to eat my sundae I was struck by a thought, just as Newton was once struck by an apple. I thought, "NOTHING IS MORE PERFECT THAN A HOT FUDGE SUNDAE."
"But as I neared the bottom of the sundae, I started to notice some new scientific data that was at first disturbing and then alarming. There wasn't enough syrup to go with the vanilla ice cream. A hot fudge sundae was not perfect!
"I quickly made a brilliant deductive leap to my next conclusion: If a hot fudge sundae is not perfect, than neither is anything else in the universe, including the very gravity which keeps us on our planet. So all we have to do is compile everything we know about imperfection with everything we know about gravity and we're off to the stars!"
"Stop!" I wailed. "Oh, Polly, you've finally lost it. You can't get anywhere on imperfection. Your idea is crazy...it's absurd...it's..."
"Imperfect?", said Polly. "Great, we can use it. Quickly now, let's download my imperfect plan into the computer and see what comes up."
Well, pretty soon her Macintosh was brimming with imperfection. A map of the planet Earth began to form on the computer screen with lots of little 'X's on it. One 'X' seemed awfully close to home.
"Good Goddess!" cried Polly. "According to this directory there is a gravity imperfection in my very apartment."
She grabbed an apple and jumped onto a chair and reached out the hand with the apple. And let go. The apple did not fall. Instead it began to bump gently against the ceiling.
"Eureka," said Polly smugly. "Which planet should we visit first? Mars I think."
And then something happened that was even more amazing than one of Polly's discoveries working. I refused to push over.
"We're going to the moon," I said.
"The moon?" laughed Polly. "But it's not even a planet."
But I remained firm. "Listen, Polly, if we were Italians touring Italians on vacation in Europe we'd go see Rome. If we were French we'd want to visit Paris. But we're women. So we must go to the moon."
"Oh, all right," grumbled Polly. "I suppose we could make a quick lunar pit stop." She turned back to the computer screen. "Aha. There is a huge gravity imperfection not one hour's drive from here. And it's big enough for you, me, and our spaceship."
"What spaceship?" I said.
Twenty four hours later we were standing in the middle of a forest clearing.
"Behold," announced Polly, "our spaceship!" And she pointed to a tree.
"But, Polly," I said, "It's a tree."
"Ha! It's no ordinary tree," said Polly. "Look at how it is growing."
I looked and saw that Polly was right. Instead of growing straight up, it's branches puffed out in all directions, making the tree look like a giant, emerald dandelion.
"It's the gravity imperfection," whispered Polly. "The top part of this tree is growing in an independent gravity field. Once we dig up the roots this baby is gonna shoot straight off into space. Ha, ha."
She produced a shovel and began digging wildly.
"But Polly," I said. "What about life support?"
"No problem," she puffed. "Last night while you were packing I slipped over here and spliced some genes from an espresso bean plant onto the DNA of this tree. It is now on a permanent oxygen producing caffeine rush!"
Polly's frantic digging had reached the bottom of the roots. The tree began to creak and sway alarmingly.
"Quick!" yelled Polly. "Aim her at the moon and jump aboard!"
So we threw on our knapsacks and jumped up the trunk. That is to say that as soon as we jumped we entered the independent gravity field and just kept on rising until we reached the dandelion branches. I grabbed a branch and looked down. Below me, getting smaller and smaller was the planet Earth. Somebody whispered, "eureka."
When I'd asked Polly what I should pack, she had told me that outer space was a lot like camping at a folk festival, only with twice as many pistachio nuts.
I soon understood her logic because once we had set up our hammocks among the dandelion branches, there wasn't anything much we had to do. Except swing lazily and watch the stars go by and the moon get bigger while we cracked pistachio nuts between our teeth. It was just like sitting around an all night campfire.
Well, I must have just drifted off to sleep, because the next thing I knew Polly was shaking me awake. "We're here," she announced. "Behold, the moon. Ha."
I rubbed my eyes. And opened them to disappointment.
This was the moon? Stretching all around us was an ugly barren plane filled with ugly barren rocks. How could this be the same moon that glowed so beautifully in the night sky. That always filled me with a wistful longing. With homesickness.
"I told you," said Polly smugly. "I mean what did you expect? Coral reefs and twilight palaces?"
I was too embarrassed to admit that I had. Or at least something magical. Not this ugly, lumpy place. It was making me depressed.
Suddenly I realized why I was feeling so depressed as I felt a cramp. And then another.
"Oh, pooh," I moaned. "It's hard enough getting my period when there's a full moon. Just my luck to be getting my period on the moon."
I was so miserable that I jumped out of the tree and started running, in awkward, bouncy moon steps.
"Wait!" cried Polly. "You have to stay near our tree so you can breath!"
But the strangest thing happened when my feet touched lunar soil. Every time I got a cramp it felt like a surge of power was traveling through my body. And when it reached my mind it turned into a thought. A very powerful thought. My thoughts became so strong that when I imagined air I could breathe them.
Brave Polly jumped out of the tree and bounced after me. Her eyes widened in amazement as she felt it too.
"Eureka," she gasped. "Suddenly it seems like all my scientific discoveries make sense. Suddenly I feel...in tune."
"In tune with the moon," I laughed. And then all the powerful thoughts inside my head got together and turned into a story, which I told to Polly.
"Long ago the moon used to belong to the sea. It was a floating island that floated under the water, halfway between the ocean floor and the skin of the waves. For thousands of years powerful women and harmonious men would swim around the moon like mermaids, letting it guide them. These women and men were the leaders of the planet.
"But one day, twin sisters were born. They were perfectly identical, but that just made them more competitive. And between the two of them they didn't even have as much wisdom as one woman.
"A day came when they both got drunk on sea wine and moon power and they started challenging each other.
"'I'm so strong,' said one, 'that I can lift the moon like it was a boulder and raise it out of the sea.'
"'Ha, that's nothing,' said her sister. 'For I am so strong that I could pick up the moon like it was an apple and throw it into the sky.'
"'No way,' said Aedam.
"'Way,' said Eve.
"And before anyone could stop her she did just that.
"'Aedam! Eve!' cried all the leaders. 'What have you done! You've thrown away our greatest natural resource!'
"'Don't get mad,' said the twins. 'We'll bring it back with moon power.'
"And they tried. Everyone tried. But when they reached inside themselves for moon power all they could feel was an empty achiness. And a crabby frustration.
"And to this very day, whenever women look at the moon they can feel it calling to them, wanting to help them guide the Earth back towards balance. And once a month they reach out with their extra spark of power and try to make the ocean rise up and pull it back. But it's always too far away."
"Eureka," whispered Polly. "I just had another brilliant thought. Women swimming around the moon and running the planet makes total scientific sense. Help me point the moon at the ocean. We're bringing her home."
"Oh, Polly," I laughed. "Eureka!"
And then Polly and I aimed the moon at her own reflection and headed for home.