Bacterium Finds A Home
incubator was warm and dark. In the middle of a flat, round
glass dish, a tiny white spot was growing larger each hour.
The white spot was made up of bacteria -- millions of them.
A scientist was growing them for an experiment.
When the spot was just a wee bit larger than the head of a
pin, the scientist looked inside the incubator. "That's just
fine," he said, and he took out the dish. At that very moment,
one of the bacteria, which looked like a tiny rod, divided
in half. Each half looked like a tiny copy of its parent,
and there was nothing to tell them apart. But one was soon
to have some unusual adventures. Let us call him Coley.
As the scientist was carrying the dish to his desk, he tripped.
The dish went flying through the air and crashed on the floor.
Bits of glass were scattered all over. The round little spot
of growing bacteria was now a hundred little specks.
The scientist quickly cleaned up the mess. But he missed Coley.
This little bacterium, together with a bit of food and a drop
of water, had been thrown into a crack in the comer.
Soon Coley began to get worried. His water was drying up.
So he did a strange thing. He formed a tough little coat around
his body and curled up tightly inside. Now he was like an
astronaut inside a space capsule. But he would be able to
do without food and water until he found just the right home.
Coley was so tiny that he was very light. The next time someone
opened the door, the draft of air whisked him up into the
room. Around and around he whirled, then settled down -- right
onto the scientist's shoe.
The scientist did not know he had a little capsule on his
shoe. For he could not have seen Coley without a microscope.
The little bacterium was still on the scientist's shoe when
he finished work. He stayed there through the drive home.
But then, when the scientist walked across the lawn, Coley's
capsule fell off onto the ground.
There was plenty of water on the soil. And there were bacteria
there, too, feeding and multiplying. But none of them looked
like Coley. And somehow he knew that this was not the right
home for him. So he stayed inside his capsule. There were
bigger creatures in the soil, too. They would look like just
a speck to you, but to the bacteria they were giant monsters.
These were protozoa. Some of them swam with lashing tails.
Others were jellylike blobs that crept along. One of them
was creeping toward Coley now.
It was eating bacteria. It seemed to flow right over them
and swallow them in. It was just about to eat Coley!
Suddenly there was an earthquake -- at least it seemed like
an earthquake to the tiny soil creatures. A mosquito had landed
on the ground, and one of her legs was right in the tiny drop
of water where Coley was about to be eaten by the protozoan
monster. The tiny waves that washed back and forth swished
Coley onto the mosquito's leg. He was still clinging there
when she took off again a moment later.
Up, up the mosquito flew. She zoomed around, looking for something.
She found the scientist's son, playing with his dog in the
yard. She landed on his arm and bit him.
Smack! With a slap the boy squashed the mosquito. Coley was
knocked off onto the boy's skin. The boy scratched the bite,
and he pushed Coley right into the tiny cut in his arm. Now
the blood carried the little bacterium deep into the boy's
There was plenty of food and water in the boy's blood. There
were bacteria there, too. These were disease germs. They would
make the boy sick if they got a chance. But white blood cells
were swarming about. They were eating up the disease bacteria.
Why didn't they eat Coley? Perhaps it was because he was still
inside his capsule. Somehow he knew that this was not the
right home for him.
Round the boy's body Coley went, through the long tubes of
the blood stream. He went through the boy's heart, and through
his brain. And then he came back to the boy's arm. The hole
that the mosquito made was almost closed, now. A sticky clot
was covering it. But Coley was carried out with the last drop
of blood that flowed out through the mosquito bite.
The drop of blood splashed down onto the grass. Then the scientist's
son ripped off the blade of grass and started to chew on it.
Before Coley knew it, he went sliding down the boy's throat
and into his stomach. There his tough little capsule protected
him from the acid that was killing other bacteria. Soon Coley
was being pushed further, into the boy's intestines.
There were bacteria here, too. And many of them looked just
like Coley. They were eating and growing, and helping the
boy by making vitamins for him. Suddenly Coley stretched,
and his tough little coat burst to let him out. The little
bacterium had found a home.
2013 The Silversteins