Wonder 45


Early mornings are my favorite time. That mockingbird sings. The air smells like salt, or if it’s a low tide, it smells like sulfur and seaweed, which, strange enough, is a scent I’ve come to love.

When I wake, my thoughts are slow and clear. Things make sense to me–later in the day, I might review these same thoughts, and I won’t see the meaning I found before the dawn, but in the early morning, my insights resonate within me.

Because of this, this is my writing time. When I’m lucky, I can draft a chapter or two before I catch the morning ferry.


The research project manager was already analyzing test results when I arrived. I was assigned to help him.


“See if you can isolate the acidic proteinbound polysaccharide from this reishi, alright, Cups?” he directed me.

“Right. APBP. Are we trying it on herpes simplex virus?”

“No,” he said. “Been done. We’re looking to see if it’s effective against varicella zoster.”


“A cure for shingles?”

“We don’t call it a cure yet,” he said. “We’re just looking for possible causality between reduction in viral colony and presence of ABPB. Don’t jump ahead. Don’t go spreading rumors. Everything in its time.”


Still, to think this might reduce suffering from shingles. Meu avô had shingles outbursts in his later years. I would give almost anything to spare others from that pain.

Thank you, I whispered.


On my afternoon rounds, I visited clients with the usual cases of common colds and flu. I still feel amazed at how quickly they recover once they take the dose of remedy.


The red-headed waitress I’d met at the diner a few days ago was there.

As she was leaving, she said, “You know, nice doctor like you. We should get together some time!”

“I’m not a doctor yet,” I told her.

“Well, if you want to pretend, anytime,” she said, “you’ve got my number.”

I’m still trying to figure out what she meant by that. But it was good to see that she felt well enough to joke.


When I got back to the island, I jogged out to the bluff, just in time for sunset.


Somewhere growing up, I heard that life is tough.

But how can that be? We live on a planet that gives us all we need: air, food, water, beauty, medicine.


It isn’t life that’s tough. People are tough, maybe, when they fight with what life’s offering. But life? Life is a gift that never stops giving.


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Wonder 44


I woke early. I love the predawn hours. A mockingbird sings from the pine at the edge of the meadow, and my thoughts feel as clear as the tones of his song.

This morning, I decided to finally write my acceptance speech for the Edgar Evans Award. Pay it forward, right? Then it doesn’t feel so awkward to accept.


I had so many people I wanted to nominate. I finally settled on Rose Hatcher, a widow who moved through grief by adopting a kitten that needed a home. She’s been a big inspiration for Tia Berry and me. It’s hard to think of grief as being part of my life–death is still something very abstract to me. But I’ve lost meus avós and Pai‘s roommate/whatever Marcus Fletch. Tia Berry’s getting older. So’s Pai. And, in my career as a doctor, I’m sure I’m going to have plenty of experiences with mortality, even though, right now, I still feel that death can’t touch us. We’re immortal, every one.

Nonetheless, nominating Rose serves as a reminder to me: when grief comes, you can move through it. And you can move through it with kindness.


I felt like a huge responsibility had been lifted when I submitted my acceptance and nomination. Oh, man. I hope I didn’t go overboard. Sometimes, I’ve noticed, when I express myself genuinely, other people look at me like I’m a nut.

Oh, well. I guess I am a bit of a nut! At least, I’m a cracked, happy nut!


My boss greeted me with good news when I arrived at the clinic.

“The Medical Board is impressed,” he said. “Full speed ahead.”

I checked the email they’d sent us. We not only had clearance to administer the remedy to adults but also to children. And they had sponsored a research grant for the project.


The news came just in time for my first client of the day. Oscar complained of sore throat and chills.

I explained that we had just the thing for him, and that it used mushroom power.

“Mushroom power?” he said. “Like toadstools?”

“Not toadstools. These are edible mushrooms. The real power comes from the mycelium, which is the thready network of roots below the soil surface.”



I gave him a small dose. We still haven’t figured out the best dosages, for children or adults, but I remember how much I took when I was little kid. Three fingers full.

“I wanna go play!” Oscar said when I went back to check on him an hour later.

“All well?”



The day passed quickly. Not every client needed the remedy, but those who did reported that their symptoms improved within an hour.

“What’s in this stuff?” asked my last client.

“Mushroom compounds,” I said.

“Ick,” she replied.

“But it works, right?”

She couldn’t argue with that.


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Wonder 39



“Charlie!” Luna pounced as soon as I arrived at the clinic. “Come! I need to talk with you!”

Immediately, I started running through everything that might have gone wrong. Was it the tests? I was sure that I’d left the incubator at the correct setting. Had I left it unplugged? Maybe I’d entered the records wrong yesterday. Oh, I bet I forgot to log out of the computer. It was the tests, I was sure of it. Something had gone horribly wrong with the samples.

“I’ll do better next time!” I said.


“The tests?”

“The tests are perfect–revolutionary. But that’s not what I wanted to talk with you about. Well, I do. Just not first thing. First thing is: Congratulations!”

Congratulations? Turns out I’d won an award, and the person who nominated me had called the clinic to notify them. The Edgar Evans Community Service award is given to those who are helping to make the world a better place.

“But why do I get it?” I asked Luna. “I mean, I’m grateful. I’m just not sure I’m worthy!”


If anyone at the clinic should get the award, Luna or Eva should. They’re the ones who’ve been serving as doctors in this community for years.

“Now about the results of your experiments,” Luna began.

Luna freed my schedule from doing rounds. She said it was more important for me to work on my tests. She’d looked at the results briefly during her break, and what she noticed was remarkable:  Agaricon, a very rare polypore, was wiping out the poxviruses. Not only that, Lentinan, PSK, and possibly a few of the other active mushroom compounds seemed to be hindering the adherence of viruses to host cells.

“This is important work, Charlie,” she said. “You stick with this, and you’re going to be earning a whole lot of other awards, too. Not to mention, preventing illnesses!”

I checked the samples. She was right! The mushroom complexes had slowed the growth of the viruses, and in some cases, completely eradicated them!

This was exciting stuff.


Before I knew it, the day was over. I wanted to stay and keep working on my report, but the last ferry waits for no one, not even a scientist hot on the trail of the antiviral fungus!

As I was leaving, the receptionist called me over. “Dr. Capricciosa left this for you,” she said. It was a typed letter. I read it quickly–I’d been promoted!

I was feeling pretty good when I got home–tired, but happy-tired. So many good things: the award, the promotion, and most of all, the exciting results from the lab.


I could hardly wait to share the lab results with Tia Berry. I wondered if she knew that it wasn’t just the echinacea and goldenseal but also the mushrooms in her remedies that had the power to knock out illness.

I wondered if I needed to tell Mãe, Tia Berry, and Pai about the award. For some reason, I felt bashful about having received it. I didn’t really feel like I’d done anything to deserve it.


I mean, I’ve got faith in myself and my abilities–especially after the results of the test. But I just don’t feel that I’ve proved myself yet. In twenty years, after I’ve had a chance to make some changes–give me an award then!

I’d looked over my nominator’s acceptance speech, which included his reasons for nominating me. He mentioned my involvement in the Wonder Child program, as well as having founded Paint! and my decision to become a doctor.

None of these things seem special. I was in the program because Mãe needed health insurance. I formed Paint! so I could meet with other artists and kindred spirits. I want to be a doctor because I don’t like for other people to feel sick. It’s none of it rocket science, which is how the award originated, recognizing an astronaut’s contributions to his community. In fact, my nominator, the famous Daddy Bear, was an astronaut, too.

“Don’t look a gift horse,” I thought, with gratitude. I’d have to write an acceptance speech and nominate the next recipient. In doing so, I could turn this fluke into something good, if I can find the right words for my speech, and if I select a recipient who’s working for a cause that needs more attention.


It’s a good thing, after all, and it came on a day that was full of good things. I crawled into bed, feeling tired and a little flushed. Unexpected success, especially when it comes in threes, can really wear a guy out!


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