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John Benditt in conversation with Nancy Pearl - University Bookstore Wednesday, February 25th, 7:00pm
My son kissed a pig at the petting zoo through the wire fence. I took him to the doctor because the pig’s nose was wet, and I’m a worrier. In the waiting area, I felt a rush, a bad rush. My blood was flowing too quickly. In the observation room, I noticed the actual brightness of white for the first time, stark white walls, encompassing a crazed mother and a toddler swinging his legs over the edge of the observation table.
“Mom,” my son said. “Mom, will my legs ever be able to touch the floor?” He waited for an answer. I shrugged.
My ability to reason had been vaporized.
Humans are born with a pre-determined genetic code. XX, XY. What isn’t talked about is the chromosome you acquire, the one you weren’t born with, but that develops permanently later in life. Chromosome T. It weaves itself into the spiral of genetic information, and then it’s just there. It is a product of passion, heartbreak, rage, and so on. It does not show up on screenings because it’s smart enough to hide. It is capable of adapting. There is no cure. I know about Chromosome T. I felt it form. My lover had plucked me away from comfort, loaded me with sperm, blinked his eyelashes into mine, and calmly departed. I was left with a son who resembled this lover, and I had gone mad.
The doctor entered. His head was too big for his neck and his glasses were crooked, but he looked smart, like a doctor, quite smart. He examined my son, teasing him through the process, causing him to giggle and shake.
“So what’s the problem today?” the doctor asked.
“I kissed a pig!” my son said.
“Well, you must like animals,” he said.
“Tell me everything you know about Chromosome T,” I said. “Tell me.”
The doctor didn’t seem to hear. He shined a light into my son’s ears and twisted his face in concentration. My son was unaffected by the question, but I didn’t blame him for that, he’s young. Still, the doctor should have known better.
“You look very healthy,” he said to my son. “Very good.”
“There has to be a clinical trial,” I said, “to remove Chromosome T. Remove it, please.”
The doctor looked at me and straightened his glasses. He asked if I was feeling okay. Said I looked a little rough. I told him I had lost my ability to reason.
“Your son checks out,” he said, fidgeting with his stethoscope. “You can’t get sick from kissing a pig. I’m not going to charge you for this visit.”
He wiped sweat from his brow and said to take care.
And he left.
I picked up my son. He extended his arms over my shoulders and made whoosh-whoosh sounds like he was flying. He aimed his hands at patients in the waiting room on the way out and shot them. Boom, chickchick, boom. Most mothers would have told him to put that away or said, “We don’t shoot people, honey.” But I let him fire and reload, fire and reload.
Amy Scharmann is originally from Kansas and holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Kansas State University. She is currently working toward an MFA in fiction from the University of Florida. This is her first publication.