Monday, November 7, 2016

Sins of the Father





Alex Stewart


I didn’t go to the funeral. I couldn’t. I thought about it as I stepped up to the front door of the house in which I’d grown up. I couldn’t go there and act like I really mourned that bastard. The only regret I had was that it didn’t happen much sooner.

I fished the key from my pocket and unlocked the door, entering with mixed feelings. I promised myself I’d never come back here. I wouldn't have, while he was still alive. I wish I could say I had some good memories of the place, but any that might have existed were so few and so long ago, they'd ceased to matter.

The letter I'd received from the lawyer representing his estate said I was his sole heir. Everything had been left to me. Still, I was surprised. I'd always assumed he'd leave it all to strangers before he'd leave it to his only child, the son who had been such a disappointment to him.

I looked around the foyer. Nothing had changed. I ran my hand along the banister at the bottom of the staircase. Except maybe the dust. The old germophobe would have a stroke if he could see that.

I went to the old man’s study. There were two walls of bookshelves--mostly related to his work. There were framed documents, all recognitions of his accomplishments. There were no personal mementos, no family photographs. It wasn't Joseph Sadowski's style.  The only thing that ever mattered to the old bastard was his work.

I pushed the familiar feelings of resentment aside. I hadn’t come back here to revisit the past. That was the last thing I wanted. The old man was gone now, and truth be told, I was glad.  I would take what I wanted, then instruct the lawyer to dispose of whatever remained and sell the house. The sooner I could leave here, the better. There were no happy memories for me here. I'd grown up with a father who treated me like one of his experiments and a mother who had abandoned me.

Not the sort of thing one wants to remember.

The old SOB always had cash in the safe. That made about as much sense as everything else he did. I paused to recall the combination, then opened the safe and found an envelope that contained a stack of large bills. I tucked it into my backpack and turned my attention back to the safe. You owe me, Joseph. This won’t begin to cover the debt, but I’ll take it anyway. Maybe the sale of the house will compensate me for a lifetime of hell.

There was also a small case containing half a dozen flash drives and memory cards, several DVDs and some handwritten journals. Funny that he'd continued to keep handwritten notes and journals. It was one of his many quirks.

I took out one of the videos and read the label. Boston In Focus. It was a local TV news program. Curious, I slipped it into the DVD player and hit Play. It was the old man, being interviewed by Emma Scott, a well-known Boston TV journalist. He was his usual arrogant, boring self, droning on about himself and his work, until....

"We have the technology to clone Jesus Christ."

Emma Scott was speechless. "I'm not sure I heard you correctly," she said aloud, trying in vain to cover her uneasiness.

"I said, Ms. Scott, that if the Shroud of Turin is authentic, a blood sample taken from it could be used to clone Jesus Christ." He made the statement as matter-of-factly as if he were discussing plans for the weekend.

“Do you believe in God, Dr. Sadowski?” she asked.

"I'm a man of science, Ms. Scott," he answered. "I believe what I can see, what can be proven."

"And by cloning Jesus Christ—"

"Perhaps then, we would have proof."


***


I leafed through the journals. They were predictable accounts of his inability to understand how mere mortals could not see the magnitude of his genius, of all he had to offer mankind....

My statements have caused a furor that have sent shock waves throughout a cynical world in which claims of cloning human beings have become as commonplace as tales of alien abduction. I am genuinely surprised by the overwhelming—and all too often angry—response. Can’t they see how my work would eventually benefit mankind? Are they really so narrow-minded?

I wasn’t prepared for how the public outcry would impact my life and my work, however. The small-mindedness of the general population always amazes me....

That was just the beginning.  Within forty-eight hours, all but one of my private benefactors have withdrawn their research funding, and I’ve learned that I am being investigated by the FDA. The FDA has left me alone for years, thanks to the large contributions certain congressmen have received from the corporations that bankroll my research. But now, because of one statement I made in a TV interview…I’d forgotten how foolishly sentimental human beings can be when it comes to religion.

Then came the call from my attorney….

I’m a laughingstock.

Less than forty-eight hours have passed since the airing of the World Focus interview.  In forty-eight hours, I’ve gone from being one of the most respected scientists in my field to being the butt of stand-up comics’ jokes and the target of every religious fanatic in the free world.  My entire future is in jeopardy. I’m getting death threats. And now, as if that weren’t enough, the government is investigating me.

I can't believe it. I’m going to lose everything.  Everything I’ve spent my life working to achieve is about to be taken from me, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.  Even my teaching position is lost to me now.

I will never understand how intelligent, educated human beings can allow themselves to be bullied by those right-wing religious zealots.  I hadn’t even said I intended to clone Christ—only that it could be done.  How foolish would it have been for me to state such intentions publicly? And they reacted as if I’d committed a capital crime! I don’t know which I resent more, the criticism or the jokes.

They wouldn’t laugh if they knew the truth, if they knew just what I and my team have actually accomplished.


***


I was going to dispose of the flash drives and memory cards, but had second thoughts as I took aim on the wastebasket next to the desk. I'd never cared about his precious work, but one of the memory cards had my name on it. I wondered why.

I turned on the computer, the one I'd never been allowed to touch while the old man was alive, then removed that card from the case and put it into the appropriate port on the computer. The files appeared on the monitor almost immediately. I opened them, one by one. It was all gibberish to me. Notes from the old man‘s work. Hard to believe that SOB was a genius, I thought. What does this have to do with me?

Then something caught my eye. One of the files did bear my name. I clicked on it and opened it. At first, it made no sense. Then I saw the words that in seconds turned my entire life into a lie….


***


I couldn't even stay in the house overnight. Too many ghosts. Too many secrets. Too many lies. Especially now. Instead, I checked into a hotel downtown—but even there, sleep was impossible. I lay awake all night, thinking, unable to stop thinking about what I'd seen on the old man's computer. Had I misunderstood? I'm no scientist. I don't understand the technical language. But one word kept jumping out at me, a word with enormous implications for me. That one word changed everything. If it was true, I was little more than Frankenstein's monster.

It felt like a cruel joke. But Joseph Sadowski didn't have a sense of humor, not even a perverse one. He was an arrogant man who believed himself to be above ordinary human beings, a man who did not have to respect the law or the rights of others. He had made a marriage of convenience with a woman in whom he had no interest, physical or emotional, while maintaining an apartment he used for sexual encounters with young women he coerced into bed. He thought anyone who opposed his unorthodox experiments was stupid and should stay out of matters they couldn't possibly understand.

Me? I felt like I was trapped in a bad sci-fi movie. None of it felt real....




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