'The Caring Gene' by Olivia Fitzsimons
‘I heard they smell differently afterwards, a side effect.’
‘No madam,’ She has a slippy smile. It registers. ‘That’s just gossip, scaremongering from Pro Social Way to steal our customers.’
‘I heard it from Adrienne,’ I say. The whole room turns to us. Waiting.
‘But you’re still here’, she pauses, surveying my response.
‘I am, I guess.’ I sigh, exasperated. ‘I just want him to help out a bit more, don’t get me wrong, he’s great at lots of things, but…’
‘Not perfect.’ She finishes with a flourish, ‘and he agreed didn’t he.’
Posters line the walls with info on government grants that make procedures accessible for everyone. Smiling families, easy slogans; Create the Caring Gene!
I watch his blank face through the screen, one of many. He agreed I say. I don’t add reluctantly, distressed, disenfranchised. I don’t add they made him do it, divorce, disobedience, death.
Later I kiss his freckled forehead. ‘Love you,’ I say as I smooth his crisp white gown. He doesn’t say it back, just smiles feebly. ‘Lets get this over with,’ he glosses round my guilt. ‘See you and the boys in a few days.’
I stand alone in the long corridor as he glides off to be finessed. Fixed. Spliced with the GG genotype, enhancing the ventral striatum and septal areas of his brain. Rewiring my husband.
He helps at home more now but stares out the window just as often. Stoic, listless, compliant. It’s everything I want and don’t. I gaze at him and then at my sons and say c’mere to me, and I teach them how to wash the dishes. I dab bubbles on their noses, our giggles run away with us, taking us far away from here, no reward needed.