Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I'm sorry, madam, it seems you won't make quite good enough a mother…

¶ How could a clinic in this day and age still be using linoleum? Linoleum! Even the word tasted like petrified wood. The same spattering of dull gray-gold dots on white. She stifled the urge to glance outwards, in jest, at the candid camera behind the plant, or up on the bookshelf to the right. For all that, though, she couldn't refrain from patting the table, then rubbing ever so gently, expecting unseen cracks to betray its age and––
¶ "Mrs. Wommel," asked the clinician, over his olive green glass frames, "is something the matter?"
¶ She retracted her hand into the anonymous security of her other, open palm, hoping it looked more like she had been stretching than fondling linoleum.
¶ "You seem... preoccupied," continued the clinician.
¶ "No, I," began Marylin Wommel, "I merely thought your desk had a tiny floral pattern on it." No! She had been stretching! How embarrassing!
¶ "I see," the clinician replied, leaning forward out of his beige swivel chair and wobbling his glasses on his nose as he inspected the tiny floral pattern that was not there. He seemed satisfied that there was no such pattern, or at least that he could not see it, and leaned back into his chair. His long, thin hand arced up and gently landed on a manila folder Mrs. Wommel had not seen behind the potted plant, and slid it across the linoleum. Mrs. Wommel leaned to her left so she could have a better look at the surprise folder, compelling her eyes not to dip down for a peek at the linoleum trembling with faux flora under her chin.
¶ "You are not comfortable in clinics, are you Mrs. Wommel?" inquired the clinician, as he covered the folder, like a man would on a bus if he had soiled himself.
¶ "Me? No, I'm fine. I'm fine," replied Mrs. Wommel, peering through the clinician's diffident hands at the possible words in the folder. When would her husband be here? She thought he'd said 3:30, but why had set the appointment for 4:00, then? Maybe he'd said 4:30.
¶ "Mrs. Wommel, it's nearly 4 o'clock, and Dr. Buser will be in in a few minutes," said the clinician, stumbling over two in's in a row, "Will your husband be here soon?"
¶ "Yes, he's on his way," she answered, glancing up at the bookshelf.
¶ As if on cue, as if watching from next door via the bookshelf's nonexistent camera, her husband, Mr. Aphan Wommel, knocked on the office door as he pushed it open.
¶ "Sorry I'm early," he chortled. He was a wit without pause.
¶ "Aphan, I knew you'd make it on time," Marylin chirped, glancing at the clinician before giving her husband a slow hug. His hands warbled over the folder when she glanced at him and he strained to look intent on the page while they hugged.
¶ The Wommels took their seats at the linoleum office desk, Aphan on the right, Marylin on the left.

… … …

¶ Dr. Buser thanked Perry for the glass of water and drank it in two steady, concerted nodding gulps. "Congratulations on wanting to be parents!" he said, his lips glistening with water, his eyes flushed from the effort of downing so much of it so fast.
¶ "It's what I was made to do," Aphan answered, laughing at his own wit. His wife tilted her head towards Aphan and laughed, as if to show Dr. Buser how it was done.
¶ "Well, yes," Dr. Buser proceeded, "if you mean biologically, you're right. But of course in our day and age––" Marylin eyed the linoleum "––there is so much to it than mere biology."
¶ "Wel, Doc, that's why we came to you, right, babe?" Apham said, rubbing his hand with vigorous affection around his wife's always erect back. "So how's it look, Doc?"
¶ "Well, that all depends, as you know, on just what we think is worth looking at," answered Dr. Buser. He secretly thought of himself as a poet, nay, a bard, trapped, nay, sequestered in a physician's body. That perspective had, he firmly averred, bestowed upon his otherwise menial clinical tasks, a psychic sensibility that other doctors lacked. To see in himself a sequestered muse enabled him to see in his patients prisoners of a different sort to their body's rebellious convulsions. Or should he say perturbations?
¶ "Well, Dr. Buser," interjected Marylin, "we are just interested in our child's best interests."
¶ Dr. Buser failed to mask his displeasure at hearing the Wommels' were "interested in" their child's best "interests." Ghastly prose.
¶ "I'm sure you are interested in your child's best interests," he replied, deciding to have a little fun, "and I find that very inspiring, but what we first need to investigate at this instant, is how well you two seem to be suited for investing in your child's interests in the long run."

… … … 

[It's late and I need to sleep, but the above belongs in a story in which science is so well developed that doctors can actually predict with great certainty how a couple's child(ren) will turn out. And with this prescience, they can counsel couples out of being fertilized with the sperm to make that child. Fertilization is, in this world, clinically administered. Each family has its own private sperm bank. If it is clear that the parents will fail, or abuse, etc. their child(ren), child services can step in to prevent some fertilizations. Less drastically, parents can be forewarned of the difficulties they will have in raising this or that child. Do they really want to have the guilt of stifling a great artist's native instinct for music, just so he can be a doctor? Etc. Parents are also expected to sign a contract of culpability for the future if some of the worst projections do occur in their child's life.

It is, I admit, an unabashed variation on Philip K. Dick's idea in The Minority Report, but I also think it affords enough comical gravitas to stand on its own legs. I'm still not sure where the crisis will arise, but I think it will be enough for us to see this society through the life of one couple, say, the Wommels. The 'idea' is that this society now allows children to, as it were, abort their parents. If a projected child is seen to bitterly resent having been born of certain parents, under certain conditions, he can prosecute them in the future and revoke his own (in the past, still merely potential) fertilization. The 'idea' is to ponder the logic of pro-choice rhetoric when turned inside out in favor of the fetuses. I suspect this is a long gestated, much milder version of a surrealist-expressionist tale I came up with years ago about a gigantic fetus that stalks the city like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, seeking either vengeance on or acceptance from the mother than tried to abort him.]

1 comment:

Mr Understood said...

This one is interesting. In fact sperm counts are dropping quite suddenly in these generations. 40% last year. Look around and check out how much plastic is around you. Just think about how often and how much plastic has been in touch with your food. And that lovely sticky glad wrap stuff that keeps your microwave clean while u heat up your food. Oestrogen! its everywhere!