Pickle Panda Find Love in the Time of Robot Bees: Part 1, Ch. 2

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Part 1, Chapter 2

“Meghan Watson, Ph.D.” she said, looking into the mirror. “Doctor Meghan Watson,” she tried, again. The woman she saw in the mirror didn’t look like the other “doctors” she talked to in the hallways and in the labs. The woman in the mirror was hardly a woman at all. For starters, she didn’t have wrinkles, she had freckles. She didn’t wear glasses, because she didn’t need them. She didn’t have dark brown hair pulled-back bulled tightly back into a bun, she had fiery red hair. She had big, fiery red hair!

“I can’t be ‘Doctor Watson’,” she thought to herself. “That sounds so old!”

Meghan stopped thinking about her title as she finished getting herself ready. “Purse,” she said, to no one in particular. “Purse? Purse, purse, purse – got it!” She repeated the ritual with her phone, her keys, and her lip balm, then started making her way across the crowded campus to get her morning cup of coffee. “Coffee. coffee, coffee …”

The first day of any fall semester was, to Meghan, a harrowing experience. The peaceful Flagler College campus she’d come to know and love over the past nine years was thrown into chaos every fall with a fresh in-flux of out-of-state students who chose the school, more often than not, for its close proximity to Florida’s beaches and, of course, the local bars. Until they’d all bought their textbooks and figured out where their classes were and which ones they could skip without fear, they were simply in. Her. Way.

When the first freshman bumped into her on the sidewalk, Meghan grunted some kind of “excuse me” that wasn’t returned to her satisfaction. When it happened again, a few steps later, she almost barked “Excuse me!” When she was bumped a third time by another young man looking down at his phone, she lost it. “Look where you are going!” she screamed.

The young man looked up from his phone with an annoyed glance, and responded with a dismissive “Sorry, ma’am.”


Meghan was not impressed with being called “ma’am”. “I’m no ‘ma’am’,” she thought as she made her way into the library’s coffee shop. “I’m not that much older than he is. Who does that jerk think he is!?” That “ma’am” continued to work on her psyche as she stepped into the library and – Meghan stopped short. “Look out! There’s a freaking panda in the library!” she shouted. “Get away from it!” she shouted again, pushing two boys out of the way and knocking down the girl closest to the panda.

“Rude!” said the girl. “What’s your deal?”

Meghan was flustered, but she had enough intuition to read the social cues. No one was scared of the panda. The panda was wearing an orange vest that read “SERVICE ANIMAL – DO NOT PET” in a black, stenciled font, the boys were upset that they’d been shoved, the girl was livid, everyone was looking at her like she was a lunatic, and (worst of all) she was convinced that the freaking panda was looking at her like she was a lunatic.

“OK, Meghan,” she thought to herself. “If you think the panda is looking at you like you’re a lunatic then you’re probably a lunatic.” She turned to help the girl up.

“Is everything OK?” she heard from behind her.

“Nothing,” Meghan said, apologetically, “I mean, it’s fine. I just freaked out when I saw the panda. I haven’t had my coffee, yet, either, and there’s this zoo animal-”

As Meghan turned, she expected to see someone standing there, more or less at eye level. She didn’t see anyone there. Just as she began to truly question her sanity, she heard the same voice, again.

“Down here,” the voice said.

She looked down, and saw the panda, sitting peacefully in the coffee line and looking up at her in a way that seemed – expectant? Was that the right word?

“Are you going to get in line like a human being now, or what?” asked the panda.

Meghan was about to respond. She’d really meant to say something clever and apologetic that would make the whole episode seem A-OK, really – but she passed out before she could.


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