Professor Higgybossy Catches a THING
Professor Higgybossy woke in the middle of the night, his eyes full of pictures.
"What on earth?" he said. He paced his room three times, then picked up the telephone and called Mary Muey, then Pelly Perkins, his young assistants.
"You must meet me at the lab," he told each them. "I believe I have in my mind a bisdovery--, a disvention--, an invenery. No, wait, wait....what!!"
Mary Muey and Pelly Perkins were quite sleepy but knew better than to argue with Professor Higgybossy when he was on the verge of an invention. They dressed themselves and caught night buses to the Professor's lab. They knew the Professor would be there waiting because he lived right above the lab.
The Professor was at the door. "Mary Muey," get me 3 rolls of spaghetti wire, 6 spools of sticky tape, every nail, nut, and loose screw in the city, and 17 toilet paper tubes."
"Pelly, bring me paper. Gigantic pieces. They must cover the wall. And super-sized pencils. One small eraser. And a confabulator or two."
The assistants scurried to assemble the Professor's necessaries. They had done this job before because this invention was not the Professor's first.
They were silent while the Professor sketched and paced, paced and stroked his chin, stroked and assembled, assembled and...finally....exclaimed.
"We have it."
"What?" queried Pelly.
"What 'it' is it ?" Mary asked gently.
"I call it a collectatorium. No--a trapezium. Wait--a contrapper. No, not at all, a ....a....CATCHER. A THING CATCHER, to be more precise."
Mary knew that the Professor favored precision in every invention he made. And his precision sometimes left her and Pelly racing around the town in search of the best parts, supplies, and manuals.
[Professor speaking] "I believe there is a Thing in the universe that no one has seen--possibly many, many of these Things exist and they are taking up space and pushing us hither and thither, possibly yon, but we do not know it because we cannot see them."
"And you will catch them?"
"My theory is this. And thus. These Things, as I call them, move very rapidly. Oh so rapidly--you cannot imagine it. But in a proper catcher, such as the one we (primarily I) have built, we can slow one to a stop, and see it! And be the first. They'll name it after us (well, me!)"
The next morning, the Professor and his assistants all arrived at the lab very excited to see what the catcher might have caught.
"It looks like a mouse," said Mary Muey.
"We should examine it closely," said the Professor.
"It's a mouse," said Pelly. "No doubt about it. I thought we had a mouse or two in the laboratory. I'd noticed some peanut butter gone missing."
"Patience," said the disappointed Professor. "Set the mouse free and re-set the trap. Tomorrow we may catch the Thing."
The day felt oh so long. They were all waiting for the night because the night seemed like the proper time for catching something long invisible. Mary wondered though if such a Thing possibly could be caught during the day. Might she go into the closet and return to find the trap full? Even more oddly, might she be staring at the catcher when suddenly something would appear, its fantastic motion stopped by the walls of the trap? There it is, she would say to Pelly and the Professor. The Thing.
They all went home at the end of the day, tired from waiting but still excited. Pelly was so distracted by anticipation of the next morning that he left the laboratory door open when he walked out behind Mary. Professor Higgybossy exited his laboratory by the back door and climbed the stairs to his apartment.
In the morning, they met outside the laboratory, at the bottom of the stairs that led up to the Professor's rooms, so that they could enter the laboratory together. The Professor could barely breathe. Mary had to take hold of his hand and squeeze it.
Pelly opened the door to the laboratory. "Ohhh," he crooned, when he got a look at the contraption. He twitched his nose involuntarily. "It's a rabbit."
"It cannot be a rabbit," said the Professor. "We have no rabbits in our lab."
"It's a rabbit," said Mary Muey, who knew a bunny when she saw one.
Professor Higgybossy stroked his chin. He began to theorize. "Could it be possible? Well...why couldn't it be possible that the Thing is a rabbit? Do you understand me, Mary? Pelly? This concept is complex."
"Of course not. I will explain. The multitude--"
"Excuse me, Professor--"
"Multitude means many, many, Muey."
"Thank you, Professor."
"The multitude of heretofore--which means up till now--invisible THINGS racing around the universe, have the appearance of cottontail rabbits."
"I get it," said Mary. "It's just like in Madeleine, where the crack in the ceiling had the habit of sometimes looking like a rabbit."
"I have no idea what you're talking about, but possibly so. The THINGS look like rabbits. I think they'll soon call them the Higgybossy bunnies. That would be splendid."
"So the universe is full of invisible rabbits moving so fast they cannot be detected?"
"Precisely. Not without a catcher, which stops them in their tracks. Or leaps. We'll sort that part out later."
"The front door is open," said Mary Muey. "I think the rabbit came in through the front door. And went into the trap through that little swinging gate. It got stuck there."
The Professor's face fell so low that it looked like his jowls might sweep the floor. "The door was open?"
"I'm sorry," said Pelly. "I was the last one out."
"Never mind," said the Professor bravely. "We'll try again tonight, with the door securely closed. If we catch another rabbit, we'll know the Thing is the Higgybossy Bunny. Or vice-versa."
Mary was not optimistic about finding another bunny in the catcher the next morning, but she hid her fears from Pelly Perkins as they approached the door together at seven the next morning, the time the Professor said to meet him in the laboratory.
She let Pelly open the door, since he had closed it so tightly she thought the handle might now be loose from his efforts.
Inside the lab, Professor Higgybossy sat on the floor, his jaw agape, his eyes locked onto the Thing Catcher. Mary saw no rabbit, but saw instead an object with more points and peaks and sharp angles, more delicate coils, vibrating strings, and rainbow reflections than any object she had ever seen.
She and Pelly plunked down onto the floor beside the Professor and stared at it.
"It's not a rabbit," Pelly said, with great seriousness. "Not a mouse." He nibbled his lip. "And it's not a woodchuck or a possum or a raccoon or a flying squirrel or an eastern mole or a vole or a newt."
"Pelly!" The Professor silenced him. "There it is before us. The Thing. The first one ever seen."
"It's beautiful," said Mary. "And we've --you've caught it in your catcher. But what is it, Professor? I mean, precisely. What is it? What does it do?"
The Professor smiled. "That, my friends, is the subject of our next investigation. What on earth does the Higgybossy Thing do? Together we will seek an answer. Won't it be wonderful!"