A Little Bit of Me

Jottings and Writing, miscellanous misgivings

The Grizzly bear & GE (a morality tale)

The Grizzly Bear and GE

Bob Cloud, a 38-year-old lawyer, would often doze off in mid-sentence. He once fell asleep during an opposing attorney’s closing argument, and again sitting in front of a judge. Bob is a narcoleptic. He also suffers from cataplexy, in which he can collapse in a heap on the ground, conscious but essentially paralysed. Cataplexy is often brought on by intense emotion, so Bob can’t even play football with his kids. Bob is now trying to piece his life together after his wife of ten years, Denice, suddenly announced that she was going to ‘find herself’ and uplifted her Neal Diamond CD collection, all her books on needlepoint and embroidery, a complete set of Japanese Global kitchen knives, and the tin full of Northland heads that Bob kept in the back of his sock drawer.

Bob sits at the kitchen table after the two-hour ordeal that was ‘getting the kids off to school’. He had fallen asleep through narcolepsy twice, and once has faked sleep as the noise reached a level where even tolerant Bob could not cope with simultaneously arbitrating over Super Sugar Coco Pops or Extra Sugar Coco Nuts as the more suitable choice for his offspring. Denice, never one to share anything useful with Bob, has neglected to provide a list of the best way to go about these tasks so Bob is left, as the children tramp down the long pathway from door to road, as to how he will re-organise his life to cope with this new situation. As he sits, head bowed, at the nuclear blast site, that was his kitchen table, Bob’s head gently slumps forward, and lands in the remains of an open peanut butter sandwich which has failed to make its way into a lunchbox. Welcome to the world of Bob’s narcolepsy.

Meanwhile, downtown a group of scientists are huddled over a blueprint, which has been reproduced eight times and placed before them at 9 am, the nominal time for meetings to start at the Ibis Development Corporation. Dr John (PhD) Koffen is holding the floor and as he outlines the new wonder drug he would like to trial on the ten lucky narcoleptics he has chosen from the hundred or so that are on his books and lining up to do anything that will stop them from falling asleep on a regular basis. Dr Gwen (MD) Gallantry, looks up at Koffen, over her bifocal spectacles and furrows her brow.

“But this is an untried treatment.. The animal trials look promising, I’ll grant you, but its never been used on humans subjects before.”

Koffen looks at her and despite himself he can’t help giving a cynical response to her contribution.

“If Rutherford or Fleming or Curie had halted at a little ethical dilemma like that we would not be living in the enlightened time we are now,” he gruffly retorted, then looked around the table for agreement. He was met by a sea of downturned faces; faces tied to bodies and minds that largely tried to stay out of any confrontations between Drs Koffen and Gallantry for fear of being left as the drying remains on the floor of an academic battleground.

“Look. The GE debate is a dead duck. Lets face it, people have been eating GE modified food for centuries and, if anything, there are less illnesses and health complications from some of the so called organic products that we are forced to pay extra dollars for. Look at last week. That poor unfortunate woman who ate those organic strawberries then went into acute anaphylactic shock.”

Heads swivelled as Dr Koffen went on to describe the high dose of an obscure chemical that the women concerned had been exposed to and he drew a picture of irresponsible farmers who had no real idea about the intricacies of science.

“I believe this may be one of the most significant new scientific breakthroughs of the new millennium.” He went on to say. “ By splicing grizzly bear genes into common foods and isolating the gene that controls and regulates hibernation we will be able to introduce a self regulating mechanism into the unfortunate group of patients who suffer from this debilitating condition. Once we have the mechanics of that better understood, then we can move on to find ways to keep people awake for long periods of time. Just think of the implications of that for some of the service industries and I do see some military applications.”

A few necks swivelled at that. A military application was a sure-fired way to generate large amounts of research money for long periods of time. It was every researchers dream. Land a military contract and you were assured of a long and comfortable working life.

It was a long and painful process for Bob. As well as having to cope with his new family situation, the ongoing narcolepsy, and his forced separation from Denice; he was now faced with adhering to a strict diet that the scientists had concocted for him. He was given vague promises of being allocated to a control or experimental group, but really this just all dissolved as he found he was managing to get through whole days without finding himself immersed in his food or lying on a bench, or worse, waking up and having no idea of how he had got to this place. Bob actually felt quite wonderful but he couldn’t help but notice the side effects of the new treatment. True, he no longer fell asleep at embarrassing moment but his budget could not cope with the half a pound of honey he needed to eat every day to feel ‘just right’. Worse, his behaviour toward his children was starting to seriously affect his relationship with the family. On a supermarket outgoing, he would herd them into a tight circle and then rear up and growl at any passer-by’s. His hands had become large and hairy and he would occasionally swipe out at an unsuspecting passerby who he sensed had invaded the family’s territory.  But even worse were the lonely nights where he lay slumped in front of the Discovery Channel, honey pot in one hand, and masturbated furiously over young she-bears roaming around in the wild. He had been too ashamed to admit this last symptom to the good Dr Gallantry, but he could see that he was rapidly approaching a space where this would become a necessity.

Meanwhile back at the lab the increasingly irate Dr Gallantry was engaged in a heated discussion with Dr Koffen.

“Just look at Bob Cloud. He may have stopped his daytime narcolepsy but the man looks as though he hasn’t slept in years. His eyes are on stalks and his behaviour around the clinic borders on the unacceptable side of what your research protocol set out when you embarked on what is frankly becoming a joke.” She raised her eyebrows and banged her fist on the good Dr’s table as if she really needed to emphasise that she was not happy with the way things were going.  “ I have prepared a draft letter that will go to the Ethics board unless you review what you are doing with the bear injections. Koffen lowered his head and pushed his spectacles up while vigorously massaging the bridge of his nose. He wanted to grab this woman by the neck and shake her until she had some sense in her but he knew that was highly inappropriate and would only show the good Dr that he was, indeed, losing control. Thank God she didn’t know about two of the other patients who had had spectacular changes of personality and left their families to roam in the wild. But there had also been success stories. One particularly sad case who had previously been confined to one room had managed to find gainful employment as a grader at a salmon canning factory and another had resurrected his dancing career.

Morning at Bob Clouds household. The children were up, neatly dressed, and arranged around the breakfast table in an orderly boy, girl, fashion. Bob, huge, ursine, and serene moved between stove and table, munching on a morsel of bread smothered in honey. The children looked anxiously from one to another and at the huge pile of honeyed pancakes dripping in the center of the breakfast table. They knew better than to make any comment as lately Daddy had become quite demonstrative when they choose to make a point. The telephone rang. Bob fox trotted over to the buzzing instrument and, suddenly, forgot what it was, and found himself standing looking at the ridiculous thing, frantically ringing its head off. The boy child, prepared to suffer the wrath of his father if need-be, edged away from his place at the table and lifted the receiver to his ear. Bob eyed the boy, and then cocked his head to the side as if he had just witnessed a small miracle. The boy listened to the tinny voice on the other end and muttered a few things – the requisite ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘dunno’, ‘maybe’, – then handed the phone to his swaying father, indicating that he should listen. Bob put the piece to his ear the way he had seen his cub do (what was he thinking – the boy was his son), and heard the unmistakable whine of his mate – (what was he thinking – she was his wife). At first, he couldn’t make out what she was saying and then gradually he hooked into the cadence of her voice and realised that she was sobbing and pleading with him. Bob, distracted by a passing noise, placed the telephone down on the table and slowly foxtrotted to the window. Behind him, the phone emitted a fierce squawk as if it had some internal deficit. The boy, quietly and behind Bob’s back, lifted the telephone, spoke briefly into it, then hurriedly placed it back in it’s cradle.

Bob Cloud sat in the examining room as Dr Koffen finished his questions and pushed back on his swivel chair so that a good two meteres separated him from his ‘patient’. He was aware of the dry, musky, and very powerful odour that came from Bob but rather than say anything he smiled and pushed his glasses back on the bridge of his nose.

“Well! It’s all good news Bob! From what you say you haven’t experienced any of those unfortunate episodes that so plagued you in the past and I must say your physical signs are spectacular. Your heart and lung functioning has improved beyond my expectations and all your lab results are within normal limits. I think we can safely say that this whole experiment has been a spectacular success.”

Bob, momentarily distracted by a movement in the outer hall swivelled around to look at the good Dr again as he launched into a long and boring explanation that Bob neither cared about, or could understand. What he really, really wanted was to stick his hand into a huge pot of honey and smear it all over his face until it ran down and matted the hairs on his chest. He wanted to then roll around in a nice big patch of dirt and then just shake and shake. He started breathing heavily through his nose and Koffen thought this was a good time to move Bob along to the door that led to the car park. After he had ushered Bob outside he returned to be confronted by the sight of a very animated Dr Gallantry examining Bob Clouds chart.

“I see that Mr Cloud has no more narcoleptic episodes,” she said, “ but I also see that his bloods and urine are far from normal. This elevated glucose level must be a worry to you and I don’t know what to make of the discrepancies in the other chemistry.”

Dr Koffen grabbed the file from her hand and flicked through the pages.

“Excellent, excellent, good, good. All what we expected,” he muttered and, eyeballing Dr Gallantry, dared her to respond.

“Well! If that’s what you are going to settle for I am afraid I must follow through on my earlier threat to go to the Ethics board. It seems to me that there are far too many unknowns in this whole affair and it needs someone to scrutinise the processes and procedures with a neutral eye.”

Dr Koffen moved toward the door of the examining room and, behind his back, turned the key in its lock.

The high-powered rifle barked twice and the marksman looked through his scope at the man, hundreds of yards away. He had reared up from his prone posture and the bullets must have struck him at the apogee of his ascent. He staggered forward, clutched his chest, looked down in disbelief at the spreading red stain, then pitched forward into the dirt. The women at his side peered in the marksman’s direction, scanned the horizon, then turned her attention to the still figure, sprawled to the side of her. She started to say something to him and then noticed the tears in his eye and the very large holes in his chest. It was either from exhaustion or disgust but, at that moment, he decided to die. She looked at him and the look was both ghostly and terrible-a look that said-“you were a terrible disappointment to me – you never really lived up to the expectations that everybody had of you.” His eyes flickered and then closed. He went to sleep for the last time.


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