I would never have had my DNA tested if my brother had not
died suddenly from Crobson’s Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder.
“You won’t be able to sleep if you don’t know whether
you’ll be next,” Dr. Mexta said.
Instead of the scrub suits younger physicians affect,
Mexta, M.D., was old enough to wear a white lab coat over a button-down
and tie. This gave him a certain cachet with his older patients.
thought he would appear with a silver reflector on his head and a
depressor and ask me to stick out my tongue and say, “Ah.”
“Your insurance will cover it, Mr. Sisal,” he continued,
when he saw I was wavering.
had the eager, driven look of a car salesman behind on his monthly
Things were tough for him after a series of spectacular malpractice
drove him from orthopedic surgery to geriatrics.
“I’m not so sure,” I replied.
I suspected he was getting a commission on all the tests
ordered. Besides, who wants to find an unexpected interloper in his
at the age of 64?
“We really should, Henekin,” the doctor pleaded, glancing
at his laptop for my first name to show he was simpatico.
don’t know why physicians always say “we” when talking about
or some bizarre surgical procedure about to be performed on a patient.
will Louise say if she hears you had the opportunity and failed to take
The same as she has said at every other opportunity I have
failed to take, I was about to say. Then I remembered I had signed
allowing him to share my medical information with my wife. As an
attorney I had
to admire the subtlest blackmail attempt I had encountered in years.
“Oh, I suppose we should do it then, Doctor.”
I thought he was going to high five me. Instead he rose
abruptly, shook my hand, told me to wait for his nurse, and someone
with the results. Before I could roll up my sleeve for the anticipated
work, a young woman in maroon scrubs bounced into the room with a
Q-tips, swabbed my cheek, clipped a few hairs from the side of my bald
and bounced off leaving the door ajar. They let me leave after I showed
receipt for the copay I had paid in the waiting room.
I had nearly forgotten about this descent into my genome
until Louise reminded me of it two weeks later.
I had a call from your doctor while you were at the club,” she said
with a hint
of anticipation in her voice. “They said your test results were in.”
was a still attractive woman with eager smile and beautiful eyes, when
didn’t let alcohol or arguments with her friends upset her too much.
comes a time in every long term marriage, however, when the partners
fantasize about insurance payments and long sea voyages alone.
tests are they, dear?”
testing me for Crobson’s Syndrome.”
that what your brother had?”
didn’t reply. Why get her hopes up? When I called for an appointment,
I was directed to Triglyf Loench, M.D., a specialist in genetic
medicine. I had
ten days to worry about the results until he could see me. Louise was
than I had seen her in years and insisted on accompanying me to
like the spouse of a lottery winner driving to the state capital to
prize. Getting into the car, I saw she had had her hair done for the
is a most unusual case, Mr. Sisal,” Dr. Loench began the interview. He
large man dressed in black scrubs and white gym shoes like a masseur at
upscale spas Louise favors. I was going to ask him why I was charged
until I saw Dr. Mexta was with him.
it Crobson’s Syndrome?” Louise asked excitedly.
please, Mrs. Sisal, Louise, is it? I said this is a most unusual case.
nothing to fear from Crobson’s Syndrome.”
have never seen her so deflated.
what is it?” I pressed him, fearing something even worse.
in your DNA was this,” he said, turning his lap top around to show us a
code as dense as cuneiform script.
don’t understand,” I said.
did I until we showed it to a
colleague at the Conservatory of Music, who ran it through a
it is in human readable text.” He touched the keyboard, and the code
into musical notation. “It’s the most beautiful choral symphony since
are you saying, doctor?” Louise exclaimed.
Beethoven could have written it. We’re calling it ‘Beethoven’s 10th.’”
I a descendant of Beethoven?”
It was just stored there.”
don’t get it, Doctor.”
what DNA does. It stores information. It’s being developed as a storage
for all sorts of information.”
heard about that,” Louise said. “It’s better than the cloud or a hard
ridiculous,” I snapped, feeling I had been charged a $45 copay to see a
specialist who was hopelessly mad.
is no question that it was in your DNA. The only question is how it got
Loench shook his head.
don’t have a metaphysician on the staff.”
least that saves me another copay,” I said. “Ready, dear?”
was standing up to leave when Louise said, “Can we listen to it?”
only have the music. We’re still waiting for the translation of the
from the German department.”
nodded, and I sat back down. Dr. Loench took out his phone, touched the
and the most beautiful chord I had ever heard swept over me, stopping
and making me shudder so violently I dislocated my shoulder. Before I
out I heard Louise cry, “Oh my God!” as delighted as if she had she
a new blusher.
was lying on a pink cloud staring up at a rosy sky when I heard Dr.
“I never expected a grand mal seizure to follow translation of his gene
sounded very defensive.
could have triggered it?” Dr. Mexta asked. “He doesn’t have any history
you think it could have been the music?” Louise said in that “I’ve
I knew too well.
only one way to find out,” Loench said just before I started to moan.
oh. He’s coming around,” Mexta cautioned. “I got that shoulder back in
felt like I was crawling up a huge mountain of sand, slipping back with
other step, until I reached the peak exhausted.
dear,” Louise greeted me. “You gave us all a real start.”
happened?” I said between parched lips.
been under a strain,” Dr. Mexta explained.
don’t we have the doctor play you some soothing music?” suggested
I screamed. “That chord made me feel like I was coming apart.”
part of your DNA,” Dr. Loench explained. “You have experienced a
reaction to a genetic stimulus”
didn’t you tell me before you played it?”
is a most unusual case,” Dr. Loench repeated, a common medical
euphemism for a
writing this up for a case note in The
New England Journal of Medicine,” Dr. Mexta said excitedly.
me as the first author,” Dr. Loench rounded on him. “If anyone gets a
of this, it’s going to be me.”
always liked poetry, dear” Louise said to separate them. “Don’t you
nice poetry for Henekin, Dr. Loench?”
very nice German poetry, Louise.”
know German,” I began, but already he was reading,
Ein Mittel, ohne Geld
and I shuddered back into
don’t think his insurance will pay for two shoulder dislocations in one
hospitalization,” Dr. Loench was saying as I drifted up from a black
not the one who induced the seizure,” Dr. Mexta countered.
least we know now that we have to keep him away from both the music and
libretto. Without experiment, Felix, science would go nowhere.”
have all the information I need,” Louise said happily.
was surprised to learn I had been in the hospital three weeks.
there any way to get the symphony out of my DNA?” I said weakly.
you suggesting surgery?” Dr. Loench asked.
it’s stored in my DNA, there must be some way to delete it.”
will have to consult another specialist,” Dr. Mexta cautioned. “And
another override for you, I was going to add, but I agreed. Later that
small sallow man in a gleaming white lab coat that contrasted with deep
latex gloves entered the room with the two other doctors. He was
instrument like a caliper in one hand and the modern physician’s
laptop in the other.
I present my colleague Dr. Paxton Sibelius,” began Dr. Loench.
Sibelius appeared very anxious to measure something but did not speak.
wires attaching the caliper to his laptop were twitching in
is better at gene splicing than English,” Dr. Mexta whispered.
warning, Dr. Sibelius pulled down the front of my gown and began
instrument over the ribs above my heart. Every few minutes, he entered
something on his laptop. Louise appeared distraught that my case might
positive result. Finally he wiped off his calipers and my chest with an
pad, wrote excitedly on his laptop, and showed the other doctors his
inoperable,” Dr. Loench read.
they can operate on the DNA of an embryo, why can’t they operate on
gene profile in question is wrapped around your aorta. We would have to
the aorta along with it.”
Sibelius made his computer say, “Goodbye” and left us. So ended the
unsatisfactory hospitalization of my career.
should be easy to avoid future admissions,” the discharge nurse said.
don’t listen to Beethoven’s 10th or read the
enough for me,” I agreed, but I heard Louise chortling beside me.
was humming something as an attendant pushed my wheelchair to the front
hospital. Suddenly I started to shudder again.
it!” I cried.
dear. I forgot. It’s one of those tunes you just can’t get out of your
many reporters were swarming around our condo that we couldn’t get into
you the guy who has Beethoven’s 10th in your
DNA?” one of them
shouted, while TV cameras recorded my every grimace. I was nearly at
when Louise said, “Oh, come on, Henekin. Say something nice.”
it feel to have the most beautiful symphony since Beethoven’s 9th
embedded in your DNA?” another reporter called.
I said. “It would kill me to listen to it.”
just a few notes?” she cried, holding up her phone.
opened the door and got inside just before the first fatal note
stayed outside regaling in the role of spouse to a man who would die if
heard one note or read one word of the symphony that was sweeping the
next morning I called the office to talk with Larry Sinclair, one of
intellectual property attorneys. Surely there was a way I could prevent
symphony from being played.
late for that,” Larry said. “While you were in the hospital, Louise
the symphony to the biggest music company in the country for $100
an incredible fee every time it’s performed or played or recorded.”
I’m out of the hospital now.”
retrospect, it may have been a mistake giving her that power of
hey. We have to get together.”
that? You just put me on death row by licensing the damn thing while I
on my back in the hospital.”
hospital and a Dr. Loench are claiming they own the copyright because
discovered it, and a Dr. Mexta claims he has rights in it because you
patient in the first place.”
will take years to straighten it all out, but in the meantime you can
that $100 million. Of course you’ll want to set some of it aside for
didn’t know what to say.
I always knew you’d be a rainmaker someday,” he continued. “This is the
thing to hit the firm in ages.”
you been talking to Larry?” Louise asked, entering the breakfast room
in a new
housecoat and gold lamé slippers.
sold the rights to the symphony!” I cried. “I’ll never be able to get
shouldn’t have hung up on him so fast. He would have told you about the
deal with Disney for the story of your life.”
don’t want Disney making a movie about my life.”
worry, dear. They’ll have an actor play you.” She paused. “Actors are
I pleaded, “if I hear a note or see one word it will kill me.”
can turn your study into a sound proof room. As long as you never
listen to the
radio or watch TV or go near a concert hall or a band or a restaurant
with cell phones who might play it, you should be fine.”
can’t live like that.”
say I didn’t try,” she said, taking her cell out of her pocket and
her music app.
Before I could
stop her, she pressed “play.”
Fred McGavran retired from practicing law in June 2010 and was ordained a deacon in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Black Lawrence Press published The Butterfly Collector, his award-winning collection of short stories, and Glass Lyre Press published Recycled Glass and Other Stories, his second collection, in April 2017. He is a frequent contributor to Spank the Carp. Find more about him at www.fredmcgavran.com.
This author has enabled feedback from readers. Please feel free to contact him or her and provide comments. Scroll to the bottom of the page to do so.