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Lost in Translation
Spock looked through the lens of his antique microscope observing the progress of his experiment. The spores of the hybrid fungus he created were coming along nicely. He had spent weeks developing the special fungus in the little laboratory his Grandmother created for him in the spare bedroom of her home. The laboratory was a special surprise for his visit to his Grandmother.
“This way you won’t go stir crazy spending all your time with your ol’ Gammy or freeze your little butt off in a snowdrift,” his Grandmother Alease explained to him after she took him to the laboratory for the first time. “I don’t know what Mandy was thinking sending you to Chicago in December! I do appreciate having you with me for the holidays, but Chicago winters sure aren’t for Vulcans…”
Spock barely heard his grandmother as he looked about the little laboratory with wide unblinking eyes. The equipment that his grandmother purchased was outdated and primitive compared to what he had at his school on Vulcan. Test tubes, Bunsen burners, grow lights, dusty bottles of various chemical, jars of bees and tadpoles suspended in formaldehyde, butterflies pinned to boards and a variety of glass and steel instruments lined the shelves of what had been his mother’s old bedroom. While any other Vulcan child would have viewed such an arrangement with disinterest, Spock viewed the antique laboratory as a challenge. Ideas for potential experiments already raced through his little mind.
Since that day, he spent no less than three hours in his laboratory mixing chemicals, developing new compounds with useful purposes and making upgrades to his battery powered microscope. So far he had created an improved cleanser for his grandmother to use in her kitchen that was environmentally sound, hypoallergenic and 80% more effective than her old cleanser. He also created a space grade adhesive which he used to repair a few of the old wooden chairs in the dining room and a lavender scented ointment to treat his grandmother’s psoriasis. He soon moved on to experiments with organic materials with his latest endeavor being the creation of a hybrid Vulcan-Terran fungus that was suitable for consumption. When he had explained his creation to his Grandma Alease, she had been less than enthusiastic about the practical applications of his experiment.
“I prefer to take my food right out of the ground, green pea,” she replied as she carefully sliced open a spaghetti squash.
Despite his grandmother’s lack of enthusiasm, Spock pressed on. Up until recently his efforts had been less than satisfactory with the fungus he managed to produce resembling brown sludge rather than the meaty mushroom caps he envisioned. However, Spock could tell that the spores he just observed through his microscope would be a success. He carefully picked up the petri dish of spores and placed it in the incubator he built.
“Short Stuff,” his Grandmother called from the bottom of the stairs. “It’s 4:30!”
Spock quickly shut the incubator door and set the timer for 48 hours before running to the bathroom to wash his hands. Every Saturday afternoon at 1630 hours, he and his grandmother would make baked goods for the coming week. Spock looked forward to 4:30PM on Saturday with as much anticipation as his time in the lab.
Spock found his grandmother setting out dishes of pink and red candies as he stepped into the kitchen.
“Grandmother,” he began as he carefully put on his special apron. “What are we preparing this afternoon?”
“Valentines, sugar,” Alease replied as she turned towards him. She placed her hands on her hips and arched one brow. “Did you wash your hands, Little Man?”
“Yes, of course, Grandmother,” Spock replied as he held up his pristine hands for inspection. “What are Valentines?”
“You’ve never heard of Valentine’s Day?”
“No, I have not. No such day exists on Vulcan,” Spock replied.
“Hmm, well I’d think not,” Alease said as she placed Spock’s stool next to the counter. “I suppose it would be a rather illogical holiday.”
Spock stepped onto his stool and peered at the array of pink and red items on the counter. In addition to candy he found red and pink baggies, ribbon, bowls of sugar, food coloring and sprinkles.
“Valentine’s Day is a Terran holiday where we celebrate love. Couples go out for special meals. People give their loved ones gifts and handmade cards and favors we call valentines. Some people send flowers and chocolates.”
“Why do people not simply tell their loved ones that they are highly admired?” Spock asked as his grandmother measured flour.
“Do Vulcans tell people that they love one another?”
Spock blinked. “No. It is not the Vulcan way to express such sentiments. But, telepathic bonds between parents and offspring and mates are acceptable avenues to convey such emotions.”
“Well, humans don’t have telepathy,” she replied. “So we write poetry and love notes and do other special things to show someone that we care when we can’t find means to say it or words aren’t enough.”
Spock looked at his grandmother thoughtfully. He supposed he had observed his mother do such things to express her affection for himself and his father. She gave them both presents on the anniversary of their births and prepared their favorite foods when Vulcans generally did not do such things. His mother always explained that she did so because she loved them. While Spock appreciated the gifts, he always thought them unnecessary and illogical. However, he supposed that his father found such a means of expression to be logical when communicating with humans. He often gave his mother gifts on the anniversary of her birth and their bonding.
“So, we are going to make Valentine’s Day treats to pass out to your class,” his grandmother stated as she cracked an egg into the bowl of flour.
Spock’s mouth turned down into a frown. His grandmother and mother thought it necessary to enroll him in the local public school during his three month visit to Earth. He and his father had objected. The human school could not possibly meet his academic needs. But, his mother Amanda argued that it would be good for Spock to have the opportunity to interact with human children his age and that while the school would not be beneficial academically, he could learn social skills. Spock felt this argument to be spurious, but his father found it logical. As the son of Vulcan’s ambassador to Earth, it was only logical that Spock be exposed to a wider variety of humans.
“Why are we preparing treats for my classmates?” Spock asked as he began to stir the batter. “I do not ‘love’ them?”
“Perhaps not, but it is a tradition. Besides, isn’t there someone you’d like to give a Valentine to? Perhaps that little African girl,” she asked with a knowing smile as she added vanilla to the bowl.
“You are referring to Miss Uhura,” Spock stated. “I do not ‘love’ Nyota.”
“Maybe not, but you must at least want to be friends with her. You mention her often enough.”
Spock mixed the batter in silence. He had to admit that Nyota Uhura was much more interesting than his other classmates. She was intelligent…for a human and curious. She disliked snow as much as he did and also wore two to three layers of sweaters indoors. She was a foreign exchange student, much like himself, although Kenya was a lot closer to Chicago than Vulcan. Nyota was the only student in the class that did not appear to be afraid of him or intimidated by his presence. She sat by him at lunch and stood by him during recess as the other children ran screaming and laughing about the gym in an illogical fashion. After two weeks of silent observation, she even deigned to speak to him, asking him questions about his homeworld in broken Vulcan. Spock eventually began to reply and gently correct her Vulcan. Disconcertingly, this had only increased Nyota’s desire to be in his presence. Most surprising of all was that Spock began to look forward to the coming school day and conversing with her once more.
“Very well, grandmother,” Spock declared after a time. “I shall help you prepare Valentines for Nyota and the others.”
Spock lay in his bed staring up at the ceiling. Monday was the start of another school week and Valentine’s Day. Grandmother Alease had helped him make two dozen heart shaped peanut butter cookies for his classmates. They decorated them with red chocolate candies, frosting and sprinkles. Each cookie no doubt contained an unseemly amount of refined sugar. While Spock did not care about what he would give the other children, he somehow felt that the confections were inadequate for Nyota Uhura. Nyota was an exceptional human child and deserved an exceptional Valentine.
Hit with a sudden burst of inspiration, Spock slipped from his bed, donned his heavy robe and fluffy slippers and silently made his way to his laboratory.
Spock stood beside Nyota Uhura gazing out of the classroom window at the falling rain. He glanced over at his pigtailed friend. A relieved smile was spread over her full lips. The weatherman had predicted record snow but it was raining instead. While Spock did not enjoy being wet, he was also pleased that there would not be a fresh layer of uncomfortable snow. Spock fingered the special Valentine he had made for her in his pocket as he bit his lip. He felt oddly anxious that Nyota would not appreciate his gift. He had already delayed giving it to her when the other children exchanged Valentines over the lunch break. Nyota had given him an anatomically inaccurate cutout of a green heart with a picture of a Federation starship pasted to it with the words “You send my heart into orbit, Valentine.” While the workmanship of the Valentine was crude, Spock felt a peculiar pleasure whenever he looked at it.
Nyota sighed and shifted beside him. Taking a deep breath, Spock pulled his Valentine out of his pocket and thrust it out towards her, his eyes wide in expectation. Nyota turned towards him, her eyes bright as they fell on his. He watched in confusion as her brown eyes dropped to his hand and enlarged comically. She let out a shrill shriek and bolted from the room.
Spock looked down at his special Valentine—he had molded the slimy leathery green fungus he had so carefully cultivated into the shape of a human heart. Spock shrugged and turned his gaze back towards the window. Human women were very illogical.