Matthew Warner

Rock Jelly

Rock jelly
Check out what we found in our backyard over the weekend. It’s a mostly clear, jelly-like substance that was in clumps on our landscaped rock bed. Is it:

  1. Run off from an exploded Vaseline factory?
  2. Sperm from an alien world making love to Mother Earth?

The Internet had these ideas:

  1. Fallout from excessive airplane contrails.
  2. Evidence of government experiments. (It’s a CIA black-bag program to create the perfect jelly for a bagel.)

Armed with a ziploc bag full of gloop that my 3-year-old christened “rock jelly,” I went on a mission. I was prepared to travel to the ends of the Earth to identify the source of this foul conspiracy.

I started by calling the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and then the Virginia Wildlife Center. In both cases, an impenetrable wall of voice menus designed to prevent communication with another human being stopped me cold.

So I called my city manager’s office. They referred me to the office of the adjacent county’s “extension agent” of (I guess) the Department of Agriculture. And they referred me to their master gardener, a reclusive wizard rumored to live atop the highest parapet of castle shaped like a giant sculpted shrubbery.

I described my finding to him with breathless excitement.

“Dear God, man!” the master gardener said. “Do you realize what you have? Let me write out a government check to you RIGHT NOW for the most stupendous finding in the history of the world!”

No, actually what he said was that I have a sample of a fungus byproduct created by a decaying oak tree. It’s perfectly harmless, he said, but if I spread it on toast, I might get a tummy ache.

Oh, well.