Dr. Cindy Mallory was a scientist. She taught Physics and Biology at Dooley High School. She found more pride in calling herself a scientist than she did a teacher. That’s why she made her students call her Dr. Cindy Mallory.
The few things in life that were true got that way because they were proven. Science was the way that they were proven. Science was her religion and thinking things through was her holy sacrament. As Cindy saw it, teachers just gave homework. Scientists found the truth. Dr. Cindy Mallory was a scientist.
As much as she loved science, she hated the routine of her life. It was the same almost every day of the week. Teach class. Meet with parents. Go home to her son. Eat. Read. Sleep.
Jack was her son. She never married and had no contact with Jack’s father so it was just the two of them. When Jack was a baby, this wasn’t a problem. In fact, it was a badge of honor for her to wear with her feminist friends. Look at what the empowered woman can do all by herself. Who needs a husband? But, as time wore on, the pressures of parenting proved more than she could handle. Jack was in the 8th grade now. He thought that he was 21. Dr. Cindy Mallory did everything she could to remind him that he was only 13.
It wasn’t enough.
There was always something new with Jack. Children of pastors sometimes like to show the world that they are exactly the opposite of their holy fathers. Jack wanted to show the world that he was the exact opposite of his intelligent, feminist mother. It wasn’t that Jack was stupid. He was actually very smart. He just did stupid things.
Like trying to rob the ice cream truck with a water pistol.
And locking two stray dogs in some random car in the school parking lot.
The real intelligence problem came up last Monday afternoon. It was far from anything that Dr. Cindy Mallory had ever expected. It made her question everything that she had ever believed, not just about parenting but about science as well.
Jack got home from school an hour earlier than his mother. That 60 minutes of unaccompanied recreational activity usually gave Jack the occasion to create quality havoc. This particular afternoon was no different.
Jack had taken a few cans of spray paint from his art class. They had spent the day discussing graffiti. For once, Jack felt like studying the lesson further at home. And so, with a rainbow of colors at his disposal, Jack went to work. The one blank wall in his room was his canvas. As he created, he looked more like a professional painter than a prankster. His eyes were focused. His vision was certain. He knew exactly what he was creating and he was sure of how to get there.
What he was creating was vile. Some might even call the picture pornographic. Jack just thought it looked neat.
Less than an hour after he began, he was finished. He fell back on his bed and admired his obscene creation while he breathed in the remaining smells of spray paint that still lingered in the air. Jack was proud of what he had created.
As usual, he never thought about the consequences of what he had done. As soon as he heard his mother open the front door, he realized that he had a problem. He knew that Dr. Cindy Mallory, scientist and feminist, wouldn’t share his feelings for the newly created art on his bedroom wall.
Her heels tapped loudly down the tile hallway to Jack’s room. She could smell the spray paint. She stuck her head in Jack’s door and saw him kicked back on his bed with his headphones on. She motioned for him to take them off. The faint sound of Twenty One Pilots could now be heard.
“What’s up?” his mother said in her usual direct fashion as she walked in to face Jack.
“Nothing.” That was Jack’s usual response.
“How was school?”
Jack shrugged is shoulders. Another usual answer from Jack.
“What is that smell?”
Dr. Cindy Mallory, the scientist, was on the job. Whatever was causing that spray paint smell, she would find it. She never took her eyes off of Jack and she was completely unaware of the vile graffiti on the wall directly behind her.
“Jack! Are you sniffing paint? Jack, I swear to you that I will call the cops on you. Do you have any idea what that can do to your brain?”
“It’s not funny, Jack!”
She put both hands on her forehead and closed her eyes. She wanted to say something else but all that came out was a groan. She put her hands back down, opened her eyes and locked them in on Jack. She was going for one of those motherly looks that guilts the child into submission. It didn’t work. It never did.
Jack just smiled.
When Dr. Cindy Mallory turned around to leave the room, she caught something out of the corner of her eye and suddenly realized the source of that spray paint odor. She backed up to let the full picture sink in. Her hands moved back up, this time over her mouth. Tears filled her eyes. She began to shake.
There are men who spent 20 years in the Navy who would have been offended by the picture that Jack painted on his bedroom wall. Dr. Cindy Mallory was never in the Navy. She was a scientist. But she was also a feminist. Nothing could be more offensive to a feminist than the picture on Jack’s wall.
A million cuss words ran through Dr. Cindy Mallory’s scientific mind. None of them came out. Instead, one question did. Calmly, but with anger boiling inside of her, she turned around to her son.
“Where did this come from?”
Jack shrugged again.
“Jack!” She had never screamed so loud. She controlled herself before she got louder or said something she would later regret.
She asked the question again almost as if each word was it’s own sentence.
“Where did this come from?”
“Don’t know. Just got there I guess.”
The boiling emotions inside of Dr. Cindy Mallory got more intense. She was no longer a parent or an offended feminist. Now, she was a scientist searching for the truth. And she was going to find it.
“Jack, honey, things don’t just appear.”
“This one did.”
She laughed but it wasn’t a fun laugh. It was one of those angry laughs that someone does to keep from committing a felony. The scientist spoke again.
“So you’re telling me that the paint inside of those cans somehow magically escaped and, on it’s own, conspired together to fall on your bedroom wall in just the exact order to result in this… this filth?”
“Sounds like a good theory to me.” Jack’s eyes bounced back and forth between his angry mother and his beautiful work of art. His pride in what he had created grew.
Dr. Cindy Mallory sat on the corner of Jack’s bed. Now the scientist was really on the job and it was time for a lecture.
“Jack, dear, don’t be a fool!” She cringed at calling her son a fool but it was already out there. She would deal with it later. “Things don’t just happen. They have a cause. A source. Creation is evidence of a creator.”
She stopped. It was liked she had seen a ghost. She wanted to say, “And the evidence tells me that you, Jack, are that creator,” but she couldn’t. She just froze.
Dr. Cindy Mallory, sitting on the corner of her son’s bed and under the dim glow of the pornographic graffiti on his wall had just realized her hypocrisy. She had spent her entire career as a scientist teaching teenagers that they, and the world they lived in, were victims of chance. That they had just happened. Evolution was the norm for intelligent scientists like herself. Creation was a theory for weak and close-minded fools.
But now, when her teenage son used her same argument to explain away his creation, he was somehow the fool.
Dr. Cindy Mallory stood up slowly. Her expression did not change. Jack’s did. Suddenly, he was concerned.
“Mom, are you okay?”
She said nothing in response. She took one last look at the creation on Jack’s wall as she walked out of his room. Her heels tapped loudly back down the hallway, into the kitchen and to her purse.
She grabbed her phone and called Dooley High School.
“This is Cindy Mallory. I’m going to need a sub for the rest of the week. I’ve got to think through some things.”