By December, four girls are pregnant. Some believe it to be the pay phone on the third floor, whose faulty wiring peels and penetrates its metal coil-like guts, but most people assume it’s the glazing kiln in the art room; three of the four students who are now with child—one of them a ninth-grader—are art precepts and spend hours in the studio room. They are the ones who aren’t afraid of the machine.
The kiln is stainless steel. First purchased for the advanced ceramics class with student union funds, it looks like an ancient microwave, shimmery from all the glaze it lets out of its vents. Sometimes it spews varnish. This is likely how it happened. If you don’t wear gloves and a mask when operating it, the stuff can enter you through your mouth, your pores, your privates, and come alive in your interiors. You forget how females of that age are so fertile.
It is a scary time to be alive. Teenage sex is down, teenage motherhood up. Eco-fertility studies said the Standard Virility Units of previously innocuous—even inanimate—objects were skyrocketing. Last year, scientists at Oregon State announced their finding that certain combinations of organic and inorganic materials boost the SV readings of each: a rhizome vegetable paired with an electromagnetic item, for instance. It’s like radiation, they explained, when they explained it to the public. Everything has just a bit of it. Some things have more of it than others. Situations people used to attribute to broken condoms and swimming pools, to lying teens, came under new scrutiny. Some people cried GMOs and hormones. Some people said, “I’m no scientist,” and then delivered their scientific theories. To those who believed in science and those who didn’t, it was clear: the potential for life was everywhere.