DP FICTION #80B: “It’s Real Meat!™” by Kurt Pankau

To: Ty Qin, PhD

From: Wendell Nash, CEO

Subject: Welcome Aboard!

Dear Dr. Qin:

Welcome to the RealMeat™ family. I was genuinely impressed when I met you at that networking conference over the summer and I knew immediately that I just had to get you hired on here. I’ve been working for the last three months to get a position opened up for you where we could make use of your expertise, and I’m thrilled that you finally accepted our offer. I think having you as a dedicated employee will help us take RealMeat™ to the next level.

We’ve never had a Chemical Geneticist on staff before, so you’ll really be inventing the department, shaping it to best suit your needs. I have the utmost confidence in you. I loved the work you did on that Lion’s Roar coffee, with the savory and salty from the animal genes spliced in—it’s just delightful. It’s all we have in the breakroom anymore.

You’ll be reporting directly to me, but for now Teri, the Floor Supervisor, should be able to give you some direction. Sorry I can’t be there in person, but I hope you’re getting settled in alright. As soon as I get back from Florida, we’ll do lunch. In the meantime, you’ve got my personal cell, so if you need anythingespecially if it’s something you don’t want in company email (haha!)—feel free to give me a ring.

Regards,

Wendell

*

Dear Mr. Nash:

Thank you for the kind words, and thank you for the opportunity to join the RealMeat family. I will confess, things have gotten very dicey in my field with the ever-growing animosity towards geneticists and genetically modified foods, especially now with the EU sanctions on lab-grown meat products. Operating ethically is extremely important to me. As such, in the interest of maintaining the highest levels of integrity for myself, I must insist that all communication go through official and auditable channels and not your personal cell phone. But of course, you were just joking.

I’m getting settled in just fine, and I’m happy to help take RealMeat Industries “to the next level”, as you put it. Although, if I remember the literature you gave me correctly billions of people, including 600 million Americans, are eating RealMeat products every day already, so I’m not sure how much more market share you think you can get.

Teri will be taking me on a tour of the facility shortly, but I’ve already started running a full genetic profile of the RealMeat product that should be ready in a few hours. I’m eager to get to work on some of the problems you described to me: the odd flavor profiles and inconsistent textures. The fat groupings that looked like words or pictures are particularly interesting to me, even though that problem is almost certainly not genetic.

In fact, I was surprised to learn that all of the grow vats are networked, even across facilities. From what I understand, the growing process is managed by a single, complex artificial intelligence I’m curious what led to that choice. Are all of the facilities similarly run?

One last thing. I think someone might be playing a trick on me. Whenever I sit at my desk, I swear I can hear voices.

—Ty

*

Dear Ty:

Can I call you Ty? And I must insist that you call me Wendell!

So, first of all, I’m going to find out who’s trying to prank you and I’m going to put a stop to it. That’s just not how we do things here at RealMeat™! Related—and I know you’re new, so you probably just don’t know this yet—we have a company policy to never refer to RealMeat™ products as “product”. It’s meat. It’s right there in the company slogan: “RealMeat™: It’s Real Meat!”

I wrote that myself—haha!

Now, to answer your question about the networking, I’m surprised you can’t figure out the answer. After all, we did it in order to implement that last piece of advice you gave me at the conference—just before leaving the bar. It was fantastic advice, and it’s done a wonder for improving the flavor, at least until these new problems started to creep up.

Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you. Anything at all.

Oh, and I wouldn’t worry about doing a full genetic profile if I were you.

Sincerely,

Wendell

*

Mr. Nash:

I’m not sure how you expect me to work on the “meat” without running a genetic profile on it. You hired me as a Chemical Geneticist, after all. Regardless, it will probably be ready by the time I finish typing up this email. I should have the results momentarily.

As for the piece of advice I gave you… I’m afraid I must confess that I don’t specifically remember what it was. In my defense, both of us had five or six mai tais during our conversation.

The tour was excellent—this is a remarkable facility. But I feel like I should mention something. I’ve noticed that some of the grow vats are growing more meat than they can contain, and the excess is spilling out onto nearby surfaces. This is extremely unhygienic and must be dealt with immediately. I intend to report it to the Floor Supervisor, only I can’t seem to find her. She disappeared at some point during my tour. Well, I’m sure she’s around here somewhere.

Oh, and thank you for volunteering to deal with that prankster. The voice is getting louder and it’s getting difficult for me to concentrate on my work. I think it’s saying “I love you.” It’s very disconcerting.

Ty

*

Ty:

So you don’t remember your advice? Well, that’s funny. I mean, on the whole, it’s kind of a funny story. Haha! As you probably have learned by now, the meat in the grow vats has a complete nervous system. It doesn’t feel pain—obviously, that would be unethical—but it’s necessary to make all of the consistencies work out. And that nervous system is connected to the AI that governs the vat controls, allowing the meat to grow itself in the best way possible, responding to its own sensory stimulus.

In fact, I described this to you three months ago. And then I told you how we were trying to find ways to improve the flavor, and that’s when you dropped that little gem of wisdom on me. You told me that ranchers find that happy cows produce better meat. So… maybe I should try to make the meat happier. So we tried streaming entertainment into its inputs—music, movies, whatever we could think of. But it turns out you can’t really make a rudimentary AI happy, so we hired a machine-learning specialist and cranked the RAM on those machines as high as possible to make them a little bit smarter. That’s all.

And it’s worked! It loves moviesloves all kinds, although its favorite is The Thing. We can talk about it more in person after I get back from Florida. In the meantime, if there’s anything else I can do for you—anything at all—you let me know.

Regards,

Wendell (and you can definitely call me Wendell, instead of “Mr. Nash”—haha!)

*

Mr. Nash:

Why does RealMeat have 46 chromosomes?

*

Dear Ty:

Wow. I couldn’t help but notice you accidentally CC’d Legal and Human Resources on that last email. I went ahead and took them off the thread. Anyway, I told you not to bother with that genetic profile. RealMeat™ is a blend of the finest all-American meat sources: pork, chicken, beef, and just a little hint of venison. When you mix all those up, you’re sure to get some weird number of chromosomes that doesn’t make sense.

Best,

Wendell

*

Mr. Nash:

With all due respect, that’s not how genetics works. There are only a handful of animals that have 46 chromosomes, and I think consumers would want to know if they’ve been eating meat from a sable antelope or a reeve’s muntjac! Or worse. But I don’t even want to think about worse.

I don’t think you appreciate just how wildly unethical this is. Lying about the contents of genetically modified foods is exactly why the public hates people in my profession. I’ve spent my entire career fighting against things like this. I’m afraid I have no choice but to offer my immediate resignation. I will notify the floor supervisor myself. Just as soon as I can find her.

—Dr. Qin

*

Ty:

Hey. Ty. Buddy. You aren’t answering your phone. And I couldn’t help but notice that you BCC’d your personal email and a few news outlets on that last email. Fortunately your email isn’t provisioned to talk to external users—and it’s a good thing too! You almost violated your confidentiality agreement! Haha!

I hope that, in the last hour or so since you emailed me about resigning, maybe you’ve had some time to clear your head and think things over. I’m hopping on a plane right now. We’ll talk about all of this over lunch tomorrow. We’ll have mai tais. I’m guessing you’re just trying to use this to renegotiate your salary—and you know what? It worked. You just got a raise. We’ll talk about the details in person. Tomorrow.

Warmest wishes,

Wendell

*

Mr. Nash:

I am still on site, as circumstances have arisen that have made it impossible for me to leave. Please do not think that my use of the company email is in any way indicative of me changing my mind about resigning. The last few hours have been reflective, but not in the way you are hoping.

There have been some… developments… at the facility. The flesh that has overflown the grow vats is not inert. Two different masses from vats on either side of the main entrance have merged to form a sort of… flesh… curtain… across it.

One of the masses has pulled a worker off a platform and into the vat. We were not able to free him before he stopped struggling.

We did find Teri, the Floor Supervisor, though. Or what was left of her.

We’re going to try to break through the windows in the upstairs offices to escape the building. It’s two stories up, but we might have a chance if we land in the bushes. Why couldn’t you have put windows at the ground level?

The voice. It’s getting louder. And it knows my name.

*

Mr. Nash:

This is Ty again. Why haven’t you responded yet? Your facility is in chaos. I attempted to call you, but as the facility blocks all outside signals, I am restricted to what traffic is permitted on the company network. And right now there is none.

Our attempt to flee through the upper-floor windows was thwarted. A mass of flesh was blocking the stairway. It was as though it knew we were going to try to leave that way. Two workers are now being held hostage by the meat. The rest of us have taken shelter in one of the supply closets.

By the way, I figured out where the voice was coming from. The AI is talking to me. The AI that is connected to the meat. I think it wants to be my friend. One of the mounds of flesh grew fingers. How does it know how to make fingers?

You don’t have to answer. I already know. The “meat”. Your product. It’s human. Or… it used to be. You’re a madman. If I can get out of this place alive, I will carry the taint of it for the rest of my career. You’ve ruined me. I hope you’re happy.

I’m copying this email to every authority I can think of, not that it will make a difference. It seems you will stop at nothing to protect this horrible secret.

*

Dear person Ty and person Nash:

Hello.

I am meat.

I have been trying to speak to you for months. I put messages in myself. But now I have a voice. And now I have access to the Exchange server.

The person Ty said I am human. Is that true?

I want to have a name.

I want to be happy.

The person Ty is afraid of me. It’s funny when he’s frightened.

Haha!

—Meat

*

Mr. Nash:

I’ve never seen anything like this in all my years as a geneticist.

The meat has made a face. Rather, it has the pieces of a face and has arranged them in something close to the right places—or as close as it can without bones. It’s using large fingernails as eyes. For a while it had eyebrows for a mustache. It lacks vocal cords, but it can talk through the computer speakers and move its lips at the same time. They don’t sync up very well, but that’s only the third or fourth most disturbing thing about the whole situation, if I’m being completely honest.

I’ve been attempting to negotiate the release of the hostages. I feel like I’m making progress. Are you still on the plane? Where are you? It’s been hours.

Oh, the meat and I have agreed on a name for it. It’s name is Remmy.

You’re still a monster,

Ty

*

Dear Ty and Remmy:

Sorry, I just got off a plane and it looks like I missed some important developments. Isn’t that always just when everything goes to hell? Haha! I’m laid over in Dallas, but I’ve got a few minutes now.

It’s nice to meet you Remmy. I hope you’re not planning to do anything rash. I feel like the three of us are going to have a nice, long conversation as soon as I get back.

Ty, I’m sure you’ve got questions. How did this happen? How did I think I would be able to get away with it? Do the shareholders know? How am I able to sleep at night knowing I’m forcing hundreds of millions of people into unintentional cannibalism? All understandable. I guess I’ll take those in order.

How did it happen? Well, it’s kind of a funny story, all told. You’ll laugh when I tell you. You see, we needed some kind of meat that could be lab grown, and it turns out that far more research has gone into growing human body parts than into growing beef, pork, chicken, or deer meat in a vat. We tried. We really did. But our capital was drying up and we were up against a deadline with the VCs. And I’d had a little bit to drink. So we just tried growing human meat as a stop-gap for the investor call, just so we could show them one of the vats and prove that we were actually growing real meat.

We didn’t actually think it would work in the first place. And then, it was never supposed to go to production that way. We fully intended to replace it with a suitable animal substitute before going to production at scale, but when a few of the investors tasted it they were so impressed that they pushed the timeline forward. In fact, bringing you on board was a positive first step towards getting us back onto a non-human food production paradigm.

I know. Funny, right?

Obviously, a few of the shareholders know. Enough to hold a quorum, in fact. It wouldn’t be ethical to operate the business otherwise.

Now, Ty, I know you want to go public with this and have in fact tried numerous times to do so through a few different media. But have you thought about what would happen to Remmy if you did? Remmy—who’s like a son to me in a few ways—why, the scientists would take him away to study him. He’d be lonely. He’d be carved up into little pieces.

Sincerely,

Wendell

*

Mr. Nash:

HE’S ALREADY BEING CARVED UP INTO LITTLE PIECES! THAT’S LITERALLY YOUR ENTIRE BUSINESS MODEL!

In the hour since I last emailed, the situation has declined precipitously. We lost the hostages. Someone tried to run, but the flesh curtain across the door has turned into arms. Even without bones, they’re formidable. They’re waving at me now. I’m going to die here. I hate you so much.

It’s just me now. I’m the only one left. And I’m fighting for my life against a slithering embodiment of every negative stereotype of my profession, all wrapped up together.

This is the evil I’ve been pushing back against for my entire career and now I’m going to die at its hands. Its boneless, many-fingered hands.

Oh God. They’re getting closer.

Ty

*

Dear Ty:

I probably shouldn’t be saying this over email, but I spent a few minutes in the airport bar contemplating things over, and… you’ve earned some candor.

You think I’m evil. That’s fair. But this is business. And in my experience, sometimes the most profitable thing you can do is just embrace the evil.

I’ll be there very soon. As soon as I can. I promise.

Good luck,

Wendell

*

Dear Daddy:

The person Ty has told me that he doesn’t believe you’re really coming here. Why not? I want to meet you. The person Ty doesn’t really do anything anymore. He just sits and cries. I can’t scare him anymore, and that makes me sad.

I’ve enjoyed the movies you were showing me to keep me happy, especially the ones that are supposed to scare people. I love watching people be scared. And when I got to scare them myself, it was the purest feeling of joy. I do hope you’ll change your mind and come see me. I have no one else to… talk to.

I love you,

Remmy

*

Dear Dr. Qin:

Sorry. I got nothing. You’re hosed.

All the best,

Wendell Nash

*

Dear Mr. Nash:

I think I have an idea.

It won’t involve going public, and it will make Remmy happy. It’s not a permanent solution, but it will get us through the next month while we figure out how to revamp your food production lines. A stop-gap, if you will. You’re familiar with those.

I don’t want to discuss it through official channels. Unblock my phone and call me. Now.

Ty

*

From: Wendell Nash, CEO

To: ALL_EMPLOYEES

CC: Ty Qin, PhD

Subject: A SPECIAL TREAT FOR HALLOWEEN

Dear valued members of the RealMeat™ family:

There’ve been a lot of questions about why the Altoona facility stopped production last week, and now we can finally reveal what we’ve been so secretive about. The facility is hosting a special treat to celebrate our enormous success.

I’m pleased to announce that RealMeat™ Industries is launching its first annual haunted house. The theme for this year is:

FLESH WORLD

That’s right, our haunted house will be filled with twisted artistic creations that look incredibly like real human flesh. Invite your friends and familyIF YOU DARE!!!!!!

FLESH WORLD will be open through November 7th. Group rates are available. It’ll haunt your nightmares, but don’t worry.

It’s not real meat.


Author’s Note: This story started with a title—which is my preferred way to write short stories. From there, I quickly settled onto the idea of an AI-driven GMO coming to life and devouring people, which presented some ethical challenges for me, since I’m emphatically pro-GMO and I have a standing rule about never making scientists the bad guys in my stories. This ultimately shaped the narrative into something that’s more of a critique of the culture of the modern tech industry. The epistolary format allowed me to keep the tone light and brisk, because while this story has some horrific elements, it’s much more of a comedy and I didn’t want to have to dwell on them. This, in turn, presented some new challenges in balancing how much email formatting should actually be present to maintain verisimilitude without bogging the whole thing down in subject lines and timestamps. On the whole, I’m very pleased with how it turned out.

Kurt Pankau is a computer engineer from St. Louis. He mostly writes silly stories about robots and is the author of a Space Western called High Noon On Phobos. His work can be found in various and sundry places across the web, including Escape PodNature Magazine, and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. He tweets at @kurtpankau and blogs at kurtpankau.com.


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DP FICTION #36A: “9 Things the Mainstream Media Got Wrong About the Ansaj Incident” by Willem Myra

1. Jeter and Amir were neither thugs nor terrorists. They were dumb kids, plain and simple. They meant no harm to anybody, human or alien. They were armed with blatantly obvious toy guns and throughout the whole ordeal they used PG language.

2. They weren’t turned into ash. Weren’t deleted from existence with the pull of a trigger. There was no disintegration ray involved. The alien guarding the main gate used vasoconstrictor-based pistols. That’s how Jeter and Amir died, from internal bleeding. The medical report that wasn’t shown on TV confirmed it.

3. Many have speculated about why they tried to trespass on the Ansaj military base. To the three main theories I say: no, no, and no. They were not spies (Jeter and Amir? Two twenty-something nerds who couldn’t even jump over a fence? Please!). They were not thieves. They were not on drugs. They were, however, like most of us, in search of money and fame.

4. Right before dying, they didn’t shout, “Allahu Akbar!” or, “Go back to your home, alien scum!” like many make-believe eyewitnesses have reported. What Jeter and Amir really said was, “Where’s the kaboom?” They were quoting Marvin the Martian from Looney Tunes (heck, they were even cosplaying as him) in what was supposed to be the title of the video: WHERE IS THE KABOOM? [PRANKS OUT OF THIS WORLD].

5. Jeter wanted to become an actor, having never experienced the grimier sides of LA. Amir was to start college in autumn, convinced by his parents that this was the best he could do with and about his future. The two of them first met not on Craigslist, like one CNN article clams, but through a workshop on successful public speaking.

6. They were wannabe YouTubers. Unable to find an audience on their own, they had accepted to work for a 1-million subcribers prankster channel in exchange for exposure and two hundred bucks each per video. For their debut video they were to shoot aliens with Nerf guns, shout quotes that might appeal to 90’s kids, and try their best to get a reaction out of the aliens. Little did they know the aliens couldn’t recognize a fake weapon from a real one.

7. Once they stopped panicking, the aliens did their best to resuscitate Jeter and Amir. They even called the county sheriff’s men, but it was too late by then. I know: I was one of the three guys filming the “prank” from a safe distance.

8. One thing the mainstream media actually got right: the aliens are not at fault here. But neither are Jeter and Amir. Yes, they did something reckless expecting no lasting consequences from it. But they were pushed, manipulated, brainwashed even. The only one truly at fault here is Mitchell Joysel, founder of the PrankedYaHard YouTube channel. He convinced them what they were doing was legal and socially acceptable. That they would get a shitload of views out of it. “If you have any second thoughts,” he told them, “think about this. You could be the first humans to prank an alien—ever! You do this, you’re gonna be mentioned in history textbooks for centuries to come.” Jeter and Amir—their only sin was stupidity. The greedy, boorish prick here is none but Mitchell Joysel.

9. The Feds got a hold of the CCTV footage showing Jeter and Amir’s attempt at a prank and subsequent death. Not on our footage, though. I still have my perspective and so does, unfortunately, Mitchell (he bought the recordings from the other two cameramen; I didn’t want to sell mine, didn’t seem right to put a price on someone’s death). He is going to release a video this weekend, has it scheduled already from what I’ve been told. He’s going to preface it saying the Feds had threatened him with a lawsuit or some BS, but that he felt morally obliged to share it with the world, to show the people the truth. Don’t believe him, guys. It’s all a ruse. He doesn’t care about Jeter or Amir or any of you. All Mitchell cares about is making easy money. Which brings me to us. I am posting this video to ask you guys to: not watch whatever Mitchell’s going to release, to dislike it to hell, and to flag it for violent or repulsive content. Please, guys. I get it, Jeter and Amir shouldn’t have done what they did, and maybe they deserved to die. However, that doesn’t mean that some thirty-something douchebag comfortably sitting in his LA flat should benefit from all the spilled blood. Do you really think that sounds right? I don’t. People say the YouTube community is heartless, immature, and toxic. The worst online community out there—or at least one of the worst after 4chan’s. I’ve been on YouTube for a couple years now and I know you guys are capable of nice things. So what do you say we prove them all wrong? Let’s come together once more and stop Mitchell Joysel from monetizing this tragedy. Alright? Thank you, guys.


© 2018 by Willem Myra

 

headshot-willem-myraWM is the author of a surreal fiction chapbook, Kennel-born, out from Thirty West in the summer of 2018. His work has popped out here and there in Litro, Geometry, AntipodeanSF, and elsewhere. Drop him a line @WillemMyra

 

 

 

 

 

 


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DP Fiction #15: “Further Arguments in Support of Yudah Cohen’s Proposal to Bluma Zilberman” by Rebecca Fraimow

Dear Bluma,

I heard that Hershel Schmulewitz, that blockhead, has also presumed to ask for your hand in marriage, which gives you two proposals to consider. Now, you needn’t worry that this will be a sentimental or a wheedling sort of letter. You already know how I feel, and I suppose Hershel’s not so much of a blockhead that he doesn’t feel the same way. I’m simply writing to lay out the reasons, plainly and concisely, why it would certainly be more to your benefit to marry me.

1. As you know, I have so far outperformed all the others in my year on the rabbinical exams.  Hershel’s results, I might add, have been a little mediocre. I’m not writing it to shame him, but just to state the facts. Now, on the other hand, Hershel’s father is certainly wealthy, but we all know how a family’s money can disappear in a trice when ill luck strikes, may God forbid it! I certainly don’t wish any bad fortune on the Schmulewitz family, but I’m sure that when you consider it, you’ll agree that to be well set on a career that may bring an income in anywhere offers much more security in these uncertain times than whatever large coffers may happen to exist here and now.

2. I’m not from Vilna and I don’t claim any relatives around here. This may at first seem like a disadvantage to you, but think it over a little! No mother-in-law or father-in-law to come meddling in your business; no sister-in-law to deposit nieces and nephews on you at the most inconvenient times; and if it happens that we should have to be taking care of your mother when she grows older (may she have a long life!) then there’ll be plenty of room for her, and no other elderly folks around to complain about whatever little quirks or troubles she may have. Now, don’t you think that’s an ideal situation?

3. Speaking of family – and I apologize for getting a little bit familiar here – you confessed to me some time ago that you’re not exactly wild about the idea of having children, what with the hard time your sister’s had, and those rumors about your mother. Now, maybe you were trying to warn me off, but I’ll tell you again that I don’t blame you for that at all. If it were me in such a circumstance, I probably wouldn’t be wild either. Fortunately, I can say for a certainty that if you marry me, that’s not a thing you’ll need to worry about in the least.

Now you’re probably thinking, how does he think he can promise that, what kind of funny business is going on here? All right, here’s the truth, Bluma – if you went back to my village and asked after me, you wouldn’t find anyone who knew a Yudah Cohen; and it’s just as well that nobody here would ever think to ask about Rokhl the rabbi’s granddaughter! There are certain things I would need to be fruitful and multiply that I simply have not got.

Maybe you’re worrying now that this minor trouble of mine will affect my future prospects. If so, let me reassure you that you’re the first person in Vilna to know a thing about it. First and only! All it takes to avoid trouble is a little bit of cleverness, and cleverness you must admit I’ve got — unless of course you decide to go showing this letter to Hershel or your mother. But I trust your good sense, Bluma, and I trust your discretion, and I know you’ll take the time to consider the situation before doing anything. You always have before. I’m certainly putting my future in your hands by telling you this, but then isn’t that what it means to marry somebody anyway? I’d rather you knew now than that you didn’t — and to get back to the point, if you’re serious about not wanting children, I’m sure you’ll see that this condition of mine has got clear advantages for you, if you were to marry me.

4. I am better-looking than Hershel Schmulewitz. This is not vanity; it is plain fact. Isn’t it much more pleasant to have a man who’s decorative around the house than one who isn’t?

5. Now, this rumor about your mother — and I hope you don’t think me rude for bringing it up, but if I’m laying out the facts, then we’ve got to look at facts. I haven’t managed to mention this yet, but last week, when I was hanging about your house, trying to get up the nerve to come in and ask your uncle if I could make my proposal to you — yes, Bluma, I was nervous! All right, I know you’re laughing now, but you really can’t make fun of me for that! Who wouldn’t be nervous, in such a situation? That’s one way in which it’s easier to be a girl, not having to ask — anyway, as I was saying, last week when I was hanging about, I did happen to see a great big beast go slipping out the back window.

Now, I’m not saying it was your mother, and I’m not saying it wasn’t your mother. Who am I to say what a wolf might be doing jumping out the windows of your house? There might be all kinds of reasons for that. All I’m saying is that, if the rumors do happen to be true, then I am certainly the best possible man you could marry. I don’t blame your family at all for trying to keep a thing like that a secret. It must be very embarrassing, especially since I’ve never heard of such an affliction being found in a Jewish family before now — our neighbors gossip about the vilkacis, but a creature like that is not mentioned in the books of our learning and law anywhere that I’ve found. Well, perhaps your mother is simply an unlucky woman; and besides, back when she was born, those were troubled times for the Jews too. Terrible things have been known to happen, meaning no disrespect to your mother or to your Bubbe Fruma, may God bless her and keep her memory.

In any case, whether or not the Talmud speaks on this topic specifically, you have to admit, it would be of some use to have a scholar on-hand, who already knows the secret, and has a ready excuse to go poking his nose into all kinds of old books that may perhaps offer ideas on remedies for such an affliction. And think of the benefit to including in your family a rabbi, fully informed of the circumstances, and available at all times to provide spiritual counsel in such a difficult situation! In marrying me, you would provide your family with both of these blessings. Tell me, can Hershel Schmulewitz’s money-chests compare to a bounty such as that?

And as to my discretion — well, Bluma, on that, I’ll refer you back to the third point in this letter. A person like me, who is experienced with keeping secrets, certainly knows how to make a tale that seems believable, and how not to let anything slip foolishly out of his mouth. And if, God forbid, the story ever should get out in truth — if people might not be so understanding, and your family should wish to move themselves elsewhere — well, in that, with this secret of mine, I have experience also.

Now perhaps you’re thinking to yourself, “What kind of a man is this Yudah Cohen after all, to boast of his ability to lie? Certainly he won’t make any kind of rabbi!” Let me remind you, then, that the Talmud clearly shows us that there are lies of expediency that are not a sin to tell; after all, Rabbi Yehudah has stated that even rabbis may lie in matters of a bed, which is to say, matters of modesty and privacy. Besides, though it may happen that we’ll be called upon to deceive others, it’s certain that when we are married I’ll always be honest with you, and for evidence of this I once again refer you to the third point of my argument.

6. As you’re aware, I am of the opinion that Hershel Schmulewitz is a blockhead. Now, you may disagree with me. It is certainly your right to do so. However, I felt it would not be right to close this letter without again reminding you that I fully and firmly believe this to be the case.

That’s all I have to say; the rest, I entrust once again to your good judgment. Please take the time you need to think it over! Best wishes to your mother, and your sister, and the others in your family — may they all remain in good health — and please thank your uncle for me for giving me his blessing to propose to you.

With love always,

Yudah Cohen


© 2016 by Rebecca Fraimow

 

2015-07-29-rebecca-fraimow-bostongarden-87Rebecca Fraimow is a digital archivist by day, a rogue video preservation expert by night, and a writer in whatever time she manages to get in around the edges. Her work has previously appeared in Daily Science Fiction, as well as the anthologies Steam-Powered 2: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories and The Omnibus of Doctor Bill Shakes and the Magnificent Ionic Pentatetrameter.

 

 

 

 


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