(The opening sentence for this story was suggested by Herb of The Haps with Herb. If you want to join in the fun of suggesting a future opening sentence for these stories, please leave your suggestion in the comments – only one suggestion per person!)
It sure wasn’t everyday that you see one, that’s for sure. Nick had returned daily for several hours to the swamp in the hope of catching sight of the critically endangered Zapata Rail (Cyanolimnas cerverai), one of the world’s most threatened waterbirds. The sighting had been by two staff members of the Natural History Museum of which Nick was in charge. He had sent them out one afternoon on a mission to “sight the Zapata Rail” as one had not been seen in over four decades.
His staff’s sighting had been reported in newspapers up and down the country. It was brilliant publicity for the museum. In fact, the two staff members were almost overnight sensations themselves. Wonderful!
Nick now knew then that there was definitely at least one of these birds in this swamp. That is why he had returned for five days in a row on his annual vacation. His vacation ended tomorrow. Today was his last chance.
Suddenly a Zapata Rail’s head protruded from the sawgrass at the side of the bank. After a few seconds the bird emerged slowly into the open and stopped.
Nick raised his gun.
The stuffed Cyanolimnas cerverai is proving to be a popular addition to the museum’s collection.
When Vernon nonchalantly picked up a largish rock at the beach he had little idea the ripples it would cause amongst the country’s paleontologists. The rock had a fossil in it. Vernon had always been interested in fossils. In fact his wife was an amateur paleontologist who worked part-time at the local museum. The museum had a fairly large collection of fossils and the collection was regarded as of major importance throughout the land.
Vernon never said much to anyone about his find. In fact, he took very little notice of it himself. The rock sat in a bucket in the cupboard with other bits of rock and bone of seeming unimportance. It wasn’t until his wife complained, that Vernon decided to “clean up the mess in the cupboard.”
Going through the buckets of stuff Vernon noticed that a couple of the rocks had interesting embedded fossils, including the rock he had found at the beach. He put them aside for his wife to take to the museum and have them checked out by Dr Faustin Hvar, the head palaeontologist at the museum. Dr Faustin Hvar was on the verge of a paleontological breakthrough. He led the world in his field and would probably know instantly if Vernon’s precious rocks were of any value.
“Take them yourself,” said Vernon’s wife. “I’ve better things to do than run around taking insignificant relics to Dr Faustin.”
What happened next would change the course of paleontology. Vernon took his bucket to the museum. “What is it you want?” asked Dr Faustin Hvar. Vernon could tell the man wasn’t interested. He was cold and aloof. He may have been the world’s leading expert but as a kindly human being he was the pits. “Hurry up,” said the doctor, “I haven’t got all day.”
Vernon saw red. He reached into his bucket and grabbed the embedded fossil rock he had found on the beach.
“This!” shouted Vernon. “This is for having a two-year affair with my wife!” He threw the rock at the palaeontologist. It hit him in the head and the world was bereft of its leading expert. Who would have guessed that such an insignificant fossil could change the course of paleontology so drastically?
Word had reached Planet Earth long before the return of the spacecraft that had visited a “neighbouring” planet: earthlings had captured three aliens and were bringing them back to Earth. The world waited in a state of huge agog-ness. It had been a three year wait.
The aliens were not regarded as being particularly clever. In fact, there was some discussion as to whether or not they were intelligent beings; perhaps more like creatures with the brain of a parrot. Once they had arrived on earth they would be toured around a bit to be viewed by the gawking multitudes before being put down and stuffed for perpetuity by eminent taxidermists.
And then disaster struck. The returning spacecraft crashed. It was a gigantic ball of flame on the cricket field where it was to land. No passenger survived – no human, no alien. The only alien fragment salvaged was a finger. It was a most unusual finger, and charred, but it took pride of place in the interactive National Museum. Crowds flocked.
It wasn’t until several decades later, when a second batch of aliens arrived, that the ogling humans realized it can’t be a finger. Those aliens had no hands.