Topic: Southern Pine Beetles"(4)
Frodo would raise his eyes from the page before him, and watch rings of smoke blossom against the darkness outside the window. Before long Paul would come in the room, and they would share cigarettes and beer while the turntable warbled about Kawliga or Cheating Hearts. These moments of interruption are what Frodo remembers best about those days and the guy with the quirkiest habits and the best GPA in the College of the Shire.
The behavioral sciences do their absolute best to emulate the true sciences. Frodo's friends, many of whom studied chemistry, physics, biology, or some other pathway into wealth and respect in later years, queried him frequently about current events. They assumed that Frodo had a scientific appreciation for the world before them, and that he could provide definitive answers as a result. Paul knew better.
Paul knew that natural laws applied to everyday life with increasing regularity, but that it still must be concluded that some things happen just because they are meant to happen. He studied more and longer than anyone else at the College of the Shire, and he got top grades in things called "Organic Chemistry," when every prospective doctor and dentist alongside him lamented the potential of possible failure. Paul would be there, nearly every night, living on potato chips, beer, and cigarettes, and listening to the Hank Williams on his record player while he computed theorems.
He also had a car, if you could call it that. He paid $100 for it when he bought it, and he sold it for $110 three years later. He considered that a significant financial gain, since the total represented what was almost surely his caloric budget for any given semester. Frodo needs to mention that Paul was always quite slender.
Paul studied bugs. Specifically, he centered upon the Southern Pine Beetle, something then unknown to his friend Frodo. From him however, Frodo learned about the plague that falls upon the forests when these unstoppable vermin attack trees from Maine down to the very end of the Appalachians. Only coal appears as a more formidable representative of God's hand in the affairs of Man in these mountains.
For many years thereafter, when Frodo wanders into his beloved mountains, he finds a grove of pinewood scarred and stripped of life. Not unlike an Ansel Adams photograph, the stark nature of light against darkness, and the death so encompassed, Frodo stops and studies the artistry of what was, and wonders about what will eventuially be. Paul taught Frodo that life will emerge, first from the forest floor, and then to fill in anew. Frodo always thinks of his friend at these times.
Paul became the Chairman of the Department of Entomolgy at the University of New Hampshire. He home-schooled his offspring, and he even served a full term as an elected County Commissioner (Frodo is pretty sure he was not re-elected). Frodo knows this from the Christmas Cards that came for over thirty years, then, inexplicably, silenced.
Paul notified Frodo that he will return, for the very first time, to this the Reunion at the College of the Shire. Frodo asked if Paul had Hank Williams on CD's, and he was answered in the affirmative. Somehow Frodo was not surprised.