Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Meat Trees

"Mr. Junewald, I'm glad that you could make it to my estate for my soiree," said Professor Feldt as they strolled amongst a grove of lemon trees on the professor's west lawn.

"My pleasure, my dear," James Junewald replied. "And please, James. You've had no reason to call me mister since the first time that you walked out of my board room." He swirled his after-dinner glass of brandy. "You deserve every damn inch of this place. I've never once regretted my investment in your laboratory."

"Please, that's only because it's made you filthy rich."

"No, I was already rich. And filthy. In my soul. Investing in your lab has only made me a little cleaner, as far as things go."

Professor Feldt blushed in the blue twilight.

Your laboratory's the most philanthropic venture that I've ever been associated with, and for that I thank you. I'm an old man, my dear. I'm not going to live forever.

"But the gene therapy-" Professor Feldt began.

"-is for the young, my dear. My liver's too far gone, for one," James said, taking a deep swig of his brandy. "And to be honest, my brain's not far behind it. My doctor tells me that it's turning into swiss cheese. I'm not long for this world, but I hope that the devil will have mercy on my soul for my part in lightening the load of souls coming into hell."

Professor Feldt felt tears sting her eyes.

"Come now, don't talk of such things."

"When you're as old as I am, you can't dodge the facts, and you're not really scared of them anymore. But you're right. Tonight should be a celebration! I've raised my glass to you before, and I hope to do so many more times before...well, let me take a drink!"

James took a swig of his glass, then spit it out into the night.

"Are you okay?" Professor Feldt asked.

"Um, yes, I think so. My brandy just tasted funny. Like somebody had boiled a piece of bacon in it."

Professor Feldt laughed.

"What's the joke?" James said, smiling in the night.

"It's not a public announcement yet..." Professor Feldt began.

"Not a word will leak from my lips."

"Well...we've been walking through the lemon grove."

"Yes," James said.

"And I've developed a new genetic prototype that needed to be tested in the wild. Not in the greenhouses at my lab. So it seemed natural to plant them on my estate."

"Of course, of course. But what's that have to do with my tainted drink?"

"What do you smell?"

James sniffed the air.

"The faint odor of bacon."

"Reach above you," Professor Feldt said.

James couldn't see his hand in front of his face, but he could see the black outline of the tree against the very last indigo line of twilight. He reached up into the leaves. They weren't leaves. Instead of the sharp, yielding edges of the leaves, his hand felt as if he'd plunged it straight into a bucket of offal. He pulled it back to him. A spatter of dew from the trees splashed across his face. He wiped at it with his hand. It felt greasy.

"What is this?" James asked.

Professor Feldt laughed again.

"One of the great problems facing our age is industrial meat production. It taxes our labor, our capital and the animals themselves. And problems need to be solved. Behold, a meat tree. Instead of apples and oranges it grows briskets and drumsticks," Professor Feldt said.

James didn't reply. His silence joined the chirp of crickets in the west lawn.

"What do you think?" Professor Feldt asked.

The only sound that interrupted the crickets was the intermittent plop of meat grease dripping out of the trees.

"Tell me that you're joking," James said.

"What? No, I'm not. The process took a long time to-"

"

Your funding is revoked."

"What? You must be joking. Revoking my funding because, because of a minor genetic experiment?" Professor Feldt stammered.

"Minor! You've hawked a loogie straight into god's eye! All of the goodwill for my soul from your gene therapy, gone in a flash of hubris! You'll burn in hell for this, as will I unless I can stop it!"

"No!"

James stomped off across the field towards the distant lights of the manor house.

"You can't do this! You're over seventy-five percent of my funding, and the rest of it will dry up if you pull out!" Professor Feldt replied. "Nobody would back a project that James Junewald has abandoned! You'll ruin me!"

"You ruined yourself," James said, his voice gruff. Tears streamed down his face, but he only allowed them because nobody could see in the dark.

"You're crying," Professor Feldt said.

"How do you know?"

"Gene therapy. Accidents due to poor night vision have dropped over sixty-three and a third percent since I released it to the market last year. Of course, I tested it on myself first."

"What else can you do with your abominable gene therapies?" James asked.

Professor Feldt didn't reply. She hated where this was going, but knew that she couldn't prevent it. Stopping it would be as futile as standing in front of a freight train.

"I can see the future," she said.

James opened his mouth to express his disbelief. He never said a word, however, as one of the super-alligators in the moat that Professor Feldt had placed in her lawn had opened its mouth, and it swallowed James in one gulp. The superalligator enjoyed the smoky addition of meat grease from a tree.

The Moral: the only way to defeat the future is to burn your watches on a pyre made of calendars.

Prev # Next