Monday, September 19, 2011

148/365 -- Playlist Story -- inspired by "Such Great Heights" by The Postal Service

"Well, you see it uses Bluetooth--" said doctor Bess, his hands animated in wide loops.

"Can't you just tell me in English?" Elaine Farber was growing angry.

Doctor Bess chuckled under his breath, and quickly snuck a look at his wrist watch.

"It's perfectly safe," he said.

"Once the surgery is done," said Elaine.

"Well, yes, but it's fairly low risk--"

"You're going to go into his brain to implant this thing--"

"Mrs. Farber--"


"Ms Farber, let me be blunt. Your son is a severe depressive. He's been institutionalized on and off since he was twelve. He's made three, legitimate attempts to take his life. Compared to the risk that he will eventually succeed, the risk of this surgery is very minimal."

Elaine stared at him, refusing to shrink back into her chair. Doctor Bess was used to getting his way--he was somewhat of a celebrity in his field, and if he had not been so famous and self aggrandizing, complete with a daily blog that extolled his own accomplishments and virtues (ranging from making perfectly browned toast, to growing replacement neurons from stem cells and repairing brain tissue in coma patients, and to his current invention which he intended to test for the first time on her son), she would never have found out about him.

"Doctor, let me be blunt. If you hurt him, if you cause a stroke on his right side or just a persistent eyelid twitch, I will hold you accountable. I might have signed a waiver, but that only protects you from legal action."

"Are you threatening me?" Bess leaned back in his chair, and let his hands drape over the arm rests.

"You think about it a bit," said Elaine, clutching her purse a little too tightly.

Bess leaned forward, smirking at her.

"Anyway," he said dismissively, "the implant attaches to the vagus nerve, deep inside the brain. The implant will receive a blood supply, and it uses glucose for energy so there will never be any need to go back into his skull to change batteries. The implant is capable of electrically stimulating the nerve, which will spur the rest of his brain to produce what I call, happy amounts of neurotransmitters."

"Happy amounts?"

"Yes," said doctor Bess. "That would be the layperson's term for it."

"Don't patronize--"

"Are you a medical professional? No, you are not. Let's stick with 'happy amounts' so I don't have to waste twenty minutes trying to explain how brain chemistry works."

"You know you're asking a lot of people to participate in these experiments--"


"Experiments. You could put in the effort to be nice. To be grateful."

"But I'm helping you."

"Are you so confident?"

Doctor Bess looked at the door, both hoping someone would open it and that Mrs. Farber would leave. She crossed her arms.

"Well," said Bess, pausing to gain a warm demeanor, "I am confident. I'm one of the best surgeons in the world, and I and my team will not give you any room for any non-legal retribution, so let's just leave it at 'mutually assisting one another'. Your son will get better."

"Fine," said Elaine after a moment.

"Now, this device," he said, pointing to a small object resting on his desk, "is the key to this working effectively. If the implant were to just give periodic pulses to the nerve, it feels a bit unnatural for the patient. This will be yours. Click the button, and it will send a signal to the implant if you are within a few feet of your son. Do it when you are feeling happy yourself, or find yourself in a situation that makes you happy. This will help train your son to feel pleasure, satisfaction, and happiness in pleasurable circumstances. He will be more likely to seek out those situations on his own. Whatever you do, don't click it during stressful, displeasurable, or painful situations."

"Why not?" asked Elaine. "That seems like it would be the ideal time to do this."

"It's confusing, good grief. Have you no common sense?"


"I'm sorry," said doctor Bess, moving his hands over his desk like he was smoothing out a bed sheet. "We can't be happy all the time. It wouldn't be special then, would it?"

Elaine stared at his eyes, then looked down at her hands, still strangling the top of her purse.

"I'm always stressed out, or unhappy, or in pain," said Elaine slowly. "It's something I passed on to Jimmy--but he got it harder than me. I would give anything to get rid of it. I've had enough, and so has Jimmy."

"Mrs. Farber--"

"No, but I understand what you're saying." She slowly released her grip on the purse, and red surged back into her fingers. "I think I can fake it." She reached to the object on the desk and picked it up. She brought it back to her chest and examined it. She clicked the button a few times. She smiled wanly. "Too bad it won't work on me."

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