A Few Short Stories

“An Addendum to the Origin of the Species”

 by Jay Rehak

             When his ribosome research proved Darwin wrong, Edwin Cogswell instantly recognized the magnitude of the moment.  He knew the discovery meant he’d be vilified by large numbers of both scientists who grew up tirelessly defending Darwin’s conclusions and folks who’d never believed or would believe Darwin in the first place.  In short, Cogswell realized that by discovering the truth about the origin of the human species, he had placed himself on a very small island, surrounded by billions, who would angrily denounce him, including a statistically significant percentage of those who would be willing to kill him for such views. At that moment of epiphany, Edwin Cogswell broke into a heavy, cold sweat and began to write.

            Upon publication, his seminal work,  An addendum to the Origin of the Species was immediately rejected by countless well intentioned people throughout the world who had not read it, and death threats became terrifyingly routine.  In defense of humanity and the scientist, there were a small yet significant number of colleagues in the scientific community who pored over his research and ultimately concluded Cogswell’s thesis was well supported and incontrovertible.  The brave souls who stood behind Cogswell were also quickly marked for public censure, but, in the end, after a contentious period of some years, Cogswell’s work moved  into the canon of recognized science. Although problematic for everyone involved,  Cogswell had painted a compelling argument: humans had evolved from an incredibly wide variety of species.

            Cogswell survived the initial death threats through the help of friends and relatives who protected him long enough for the first wave of furor to die down  and an increasing number of the more sensible to evolve into an understanding of their own origins and circumstances.  Although the number of such people was still pitifully small in comparison to those who would never accept Cogswell’s incontrovertible research, that small number increased each day to the point that the Swedish Academy and by extension, humanity, honored  Cogswell’s work with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  Because it was impossible to guarantee his safety, Cogswell did not attend the ceremony inOslo, and remained under virtual house arrest until his murder.

            But back to his discovery: at the moment he recognized the genes of each person varied and yet could be matched to various fauna on the planet, he did not shout, but instead squeaked, “Oh, no!”  Anxious not to be categorized a fool or condemned to a heretic’s end, Cogswell repeated his experiments countless times, and put his data through the most rigorous computer models he and his amazed colleagues could create.  In a further attempt to disprove the conclusion he had stumbled upon, he approached the greatest computer scientists of his time and asked that they create independent models that could run extensive and complex algorithms that might offer a different explanation.  In the end, Cogswell and the scientific community were forced to accept the findings of his studies: each person on the planet was linked in a profoundly foundational manner to a specific animal specie.   In his case, Cogswell discovered that he shared the chromosomes of a Sloth Bear, such as can be found inSri LankaandNepal.  At once intrigued, amused and disappointed, Cogswell wondered if such a connection accounted for his outsized nose and the short black hair on much of his skin.  It did.

            Once Cogswell’s work was more widely disseminated, and initial reactions died down, people started to use his work to help them more fully discover their “roots.” At the same time that most dismissed his work as so much conjecture, his incontrovertible conclusions became an internet amusement.  People would send in DNA samples (most often a hair follicle) to a certified lab, and compare the results to “Cogswell’s  Wheel” on the internet.  “Cogswell’s Wheel” was a simplified chart which placed chromosomal patterns and differentiations alongside the names of various animals found on the planet.

            While an amusing pastime for millions of people, Cogswell’s Wheel inadvertently added to the empiric evidence of the scientist’s discovery.  Data aggregated by the website helped scientists throughout the world map the migration patterns of people and animals.  Psychologists and sociologists studied those  patterns of human behavior and tried mightily to link them to the actions of the masses.  Often, but not always, very clear connections were observable. Additionally, and perhaps not surprisingly, the number of people related to specific animals correlated directly to the number of animals in each phylum.  Many more millions of people were descended from the Norway Rat than the Sloth Bear, for example, and quite understandably this did not sit well with the general public.

            Some argued that Cogswell had deliberately created a paradigm in which the largest percentage of humanity was descended from rats, but this was not the case. At the time of his discovery, Cogswell incorrectly assumed that there would be little statistical variation among species and people.  He assumed that time and generational integration would level the human playing field. When he discovered that he had direct DNA connections to Sri Lankan Sloth Bears, he assumed a large percentage of the planet shared his DNA.  He was wrong.  Over a period of time, he came to understand how truly isolated he was.

            After the anger and humor of the situation subsided, the scientific reality of the situation created a new dynamic.  People began to construct electronic social networks in search of other members of their new found “family.”  In a short period of time, large groups of people began to operate in “packs” mirroring some of the attributes of their particular animal origin.   Those who discovered their roots were more “rare” than others, initially attempted to flaunt their “superior” genes over the masses, until they subsequently discovered the disadvantage of being in the minority.
            “Cogswell’s Wheel” became the starting point for many relationships, and the death knell for many more.  When couples discovered their common origins, they rejoiced in the commonality and the wisdom of their respective selection of one another.  On the other hand, when couples were informed of their profound genetic differences, relationships often shattered.  Still others, ready to call it quits with one another, used the newfound information as an excuse for there respective behaviors.

            “Of course we broke up. I’m descended from Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog, and he’s Whitetail Deer. No wonder I was always the initiator and he was always so shy.”

            “I don’t even want to get started with her.  She’s Japanese Bobtail cat, I’m Cleveland Bay Horse. How could it work? We don’t even share the same phylum for God’s sake.”

            Even as “Cogswell’s Wheel” was dismissed as unproven science, and simply “one man’s opinion,” it became de rigor to consult the wheel before moving forward with any meaningful relationship.  Did it make sense to continue if the “roots” of a person were so profoundly different from one’s own?  Why take a chance? Did anyone really want to marry a Norway Rat if it weren’t a shared characteristic?

            After his discovery, Cogswell had his own problem.  He was a married man, after all, and although his marriage was not perfect, he hoped it would continue regardless of his discovery.  Although his wife did not initially understand the magnitude of his discovery, when she finally did get swept into the mania of “Cogswell’s Wheel” she excitedly asked her husband  to analyze her DNA. 

            Cogswell well understood what was at stake.  In a moment of foresight, he asked his wife what animal she hoped to be a direct descendant of.  She, already feeling the  pressure and downside of being married to a “genius,” was deeply concerned that she herself might be of ordinary stock.  This, despite the fact that her family was, by comparison to Cogswell’s family, quite well to do.

             But by this time, Cogswell’s kinship to the Sloth Bear had been established, and as a consequence his wife only wanted assurances that she was not a Norway Rat.  Of course, she hoped for more, but she would settle for something, anything, distinctly superior to the masses. 

            Before taking a sample hair follicle from her head, he assured her that no matter the results, he loved her.  Her background was irrelevant to him.  He loved her for who she was in the moment, not from whence she came.  She did not believe him.

            Privately, he was concerned.  He did not want his discovery to become problematic for his relationship.  He had enough to deal with, as the rest of the world, he instinctively knew, would soon place his life under perpetual siege.  He needed his home to be his refuge. 

            The tests revealed she was Bengal Tiger through and through.  Amazingly, conclusively, undeniably Bengal Tiger.  He couldn’t tell her, as he knew she would spend hours surfing the internet to learn more of her genetic past.   He would lie to protect her. To protect them both.  He would also learn to be careful around her. 

            “So?” she asked with a tone that suddenly sounded like a bit of a gentle roar. 
            “Well, it’s interesting.”

            “Interesting?”

            He realized that to have her match his phylum would never play.  Their relationship was far from ideal, and to create an ideal situation would ring false to her; she might ask some other scientist to rerun the test.  He needed to mildly disappoint her, so she wouldn’t suspect he was fudging the truth.   He decided to blurt it out, as if the results were tragic, in the hopes that when his “truth” was revealed to her, she would be relieved.  He also desperately wanted to put her curiosity to an end.  “You’re not Sloth Bear, darling.  For the most part,  you’re Ferruginous Hawk.”

            “Forgiveness what?”

            “Ferruginous Hawk.  They’re indigenous to the Central andWestern United States.”

            “Is that bad?”

            “No, darling.  Not at all.  I don’t think any species is bad.”

            “I know, I know. Enough with your deep sense of egalitarianism.  Can we get along?”

            “Sure we can.  We’re not even from the same continent.  We’ve got a lifetime to learn all about each other.”

            Momentarily contented, Cogswell’s wife sighed in relief, and feelings of love and admiration for her husband once more  flowed within her. Then the thought occurred to her, as it subsequently did to all prospective parents.  What kind of children might she have?

            “Darling, are you sure that Ferrig-whatever hawks and Sloth Bears can have normal children?”

            “Oh, yes, cross-breeding is a historical and biological certainty.  Don’t let the abstract of my work confuse you.  Trust me.  No one is 100 percent anything.  We’re all a  mixture of thousands of different animals.  It just so happens that the largest concentration of my DNA is Sloth Bear, and yours is Ferruginous Hawk. It’s all good.”

            Briefly relieved, Cogswell’s wife temporarily let it go.  As time went on, however, she, like millions of others would later do, began to research and study her animal background.

            The information she garnered about her animal ancestry pleased her.  She liked the idea of being a predator, as it vindicated many of her past actions.  Everything she learned about her animal “roots” pleased her and validated her, save one. She could not understand why she hated flying so much. How was it possible?  Not being a scientist, she posed the seeming paradox to her husband.

            “Darling, are you sure I’m Ferruginous Hawk?”

            “Yes.  I am.  Why do you ask?”

            “I don’t like flying. How can I be descended from a bird, if I don’t like airplanes.”

            Cogswell answered uncertainly. “You know, I don’t think that the animal we evolved from necessarily impacts all of our perceptions of the world.  It’s very possible other animals within your ancestry have had a larger influence in shaping your world view.  Of course, there’s also your own perception of flying.  Maybe when you were younger you liked to fly and then you experienced a plane ride full of turbulence and you changed your mind.  Remember, darling, our perceptions of the world are based on both nature and nurture. It’s not all hereditary.”

            “I always hated to fly, even when I was a little girl.  Ever since I can remember I’ve  hated airplanes.”

            “Then I don’t have a better answer for you. Just remember, it’s not all about nature.”

            Not fully convinced, but not wanting to trouble her husband with her doubts, she determined to let it go.  Meanwhile, Cogswell’s life became increasingly full of both praise and condemnation.  His phone never stopped ringing, his computer was forever overloaded with email requests, and he could not leave his house without someone letting him know that he was  “a sick man” or “the greatest genius of our generation.”

            As time went on, he came to believe he was both.  Exhausted from trying to defend the neutrality of the science of his discovery, Cogswell longed for quiet refuge.  He was not alone.  His wife was exhausted as well, but hers was a harder lot.  Without the scientific understanding to explain her husband’s work, she was still regularly called upon to defend it.  Many of her friends had divorced and blamed her husband for it, and those who remained in relationships became doubtful, even as they pronounced  Cogswell’s work to be so much quackery.  How could she defend what she didn’t understand?  Why did she have to defend it?  It was his work, not hers, after all.

            In a fit of despair, she resolved to divorce him.  The abuse from the community wasn’t worth it.  Cogswell was a nice enough man, but his discovery had made him fabulously famous and infamous, and the pressure of being married to a Nobel laureate was overwhelming.  She didn’t feel smart enough to be with him. She would start over, and begin by finding other predatory birds. She didn’t know how to tell him, but somehow hoped he’d understand.  How could he not?  Since his discovery, they had spent little romantic time together.  Through his work they had become estranged.  His DNA and hers had proved prescient.  They were irreconcilably from different parts of the world.  They had no business being together.

            She resolved to tell him but wanted to find the “right moment.”  After days of vacillation and pacing back and forth, she determined she would tell him on the weekend, then fly to her mother’s home in Florida the following Monday.  Yes, she would fly.  Since her ancestry was revealed to her, she had taken it upon herself to learn to stop fearing airplanes.

Cogswell  would not be shocked, she assumed, because the signs were already present in their marriage.  Since his discovery he had kept his distance, busying himself with his professional obligations, increasingly neglecting her.  Although he used her as a source of stability and a sounding board for his thoughts and anxieties, she was through.

            Two days before she was to tell him, she became violently ill.  After eating her breakfast, she had unexpectedly vomited.  Feeling queasy for the rest of the day, she was unable to eat. 

            The following day she woke up, still resolute as to the conversation to come, and not queasy at all.  In fact, she woke up ravenous; ravenous for red meat.   She assumed it was the Ferruginous Hawk in her.  After running to the store and satisfying her yen, she sat down and mapped out the talking points she would use to give her husband the news.

            Realizing he might try to convince her not to leave, she placed the talking points into her side pocket and reread them throughout the day of what she hoped would be their first and final discussion of this.

            She made him steak and they drank wine.  She tried to place him at ease.  She could not.  Perhaps he felt the tension in the room, or perhaps the overwhelming sense of impending doom was too great for anyone to have avoided.

            “I can’t do this anymore.” She said as she poured the last of  the Chateau Bousquette Presige.

            He instinctively curled up and clenched his body.  He knew she was right, and he had long suspected the moment might come.

            “It’s my fault, darling.  I can’t keep up with you.  You’re a Nobel Prize winner, and what am I?  A hawk.  All I do is circle around you, watching as you impress the world with your insights.”

            “You’re not a hawk, Bridge.  You’re a great, wonderful woman.”

            “No, I’m not, Edwin.  I’m a nondescript hawk. It’s not my fault I can’t keep up with you.   And it’s not your fault, Edwin. It’s in my genes.”

            “I’ve made it hard on both of us, Brigid.  Very hard.  That was never my intention, you know.  Sometimes I think if I could un-discover my work, I would.  But then again, I know, in time, someone else would have recognized our chromosomal links to other animals.”

            “Still. I want to own this Edwin.  I’m the one who is initiating the dissolution.  I take full responsibility…” She suddenly stopped speaking and quite unexpectedly vomited.  He jumped out of his seat and went to her.

            “Are you all right, Bridge?  Is it the wine?”

            “I’m fine.  I think it’s just a physical response to an emotional situation.”

            “We don’t have to decide this tonight.”

            “Yes. Edwin, we do.” She vomited again as she felt a sudden light-headedness. It appeared she would faint.  He quickly dialed his phone.

            When the ambulance arrived, he repeatedly asked to ride in the ambulance with her. She insisted she would be fine.  The pair of ambulance technicians with whom he was negotiating recognized him immediately and flatly refused his request. Evidently “The Wheel” had not been kind to either of them.

            “What’d you to her?”

            “Nothing.  I think it must be something she ate.”

            “When you look at me, do you see a Rat?”

            “No.  I don’t see anything. I’m concerned about my wife.”

            “I’m African Lion, man, so don’t mess with me.”

            “How you doing,  Bridge?”

            “I’m fine, Edwin, fine. I’ll meet you at the hospital.”

            When she arrived at the hospital, Cogswell’s wife felt foolish.  She had completely recovered from her mild fainting spell, and her nausea had subsided.  The emergency doctor who examined her seemed unimpressed with the severity of her illness. 

            “Have you been drinking?”

            “Yes.”

            “How much?”

            “My husband and I shared one bottle of wine between us.  That’s all.”

            “Is there any chance you’re pregnant?”

            “Not likely, but I suppose it’s possible.”

            “You’re Edwin Cogswell’s wife, aren’t you?

            “Yes.”

            “So what are you?”    

            “Excuse me?”  She knew exactly what he had meant; although rude, it was almost always the first question she was asked when meeting someone new.

            “We’re going to find out in a few minutes anyway, not that I fully believe in it, you understand.”

Since Cogswell’s discovery, hospitals had added a DNA review of all women who were tested for pregnancy.  The government assumed it would help people decide whether or not to take a pregnancy to term.  It was yet another reason yet another large segment of the population hated Cogswell. 

            By the time the lab report came back indicating she was seven weeks pregnant, Cogswell’s wife still hadn’t been joined by Cogswell himself.  She sat on a gurney considering her options.  She wanted out of the marriage; the question was: did she want out of the child?  What kind of a child is a cross between a hawk and a bear, she wondered.

            “So  am I pregnant?” she repeated, trying to conceptualize a manageable future.

            “Yes.  Congratulations.  Would you like to know your fetus’s dominant gene as it relates to ancestry?”

            “Yes.”

            “Ben…” his words were interrupted by the sudden frenzy of emergency room nurses scurrying through the hallway.  He turned and raced to the gunshot victim who had just been brought into the emergency room.  Instinctively, she knew who it was.

            Cogswell had been shot 8 times by at least three unknown assassins who had ambushed him almost immediately after the ambulance had driven his wife away.  Although he was dead on arrival, surgeons worked on the poor scientist for an hour, out of respect for the man he was and the honor he had attained.

            His son was born nine months later, his DNA quite clearly indicating a cross between a Bengal Tiger and a Sloth Bear. He and his mother spent the rest of their lives defending Cogswell’s work, understanding more personally than others the paradox of providing insight to the world.          

 

 

“An Addendum to the Origin of the Species”

By

Jay Rehak

 

 

            When his ribosome research provedDarwinwrong, Edwin Cogswell instantly recognized the magnitude of the moment.  He knew the discovery meant he’d be vilified by large numbers of both scientists who grew up tirelessly defendingDarwin’s conclusions and folks who’d never believed or would believeDarwinin the first place.  In short, Cogswell realized that by discovering the truth about the origin of the human species, he had placed himself on a very small island, surrounded by billions, who would angrily denounce him, including a statistically significant percentage of those who would be willing to kill him for such views. At that moment of epiphany, Edwin Cogswell broke into a heavy, cold sweat and began to write.

            Upon publication, his seminal work,  An addendum to the Origin of the Species was immediately rejected countless well intentioned people throughout the world who had not read it, and death threats became terrifyingly routine.  In defense of humanity and the scientist, there were a small yet significant number of colleagues in the scientific community who pored over his research and ultimately concluded Cogswell’s thesis was well supported and incontrovertible.  The brave souls who stood behind Cogswell were also quickly marked for public censure, but, in the end, after a contentious period of some years, Cogswell’s work moved  into the canon of recognized science. Although problematic for everyone involved,  Cogswell had painted a compelling argument: humans had evolved from an incredibly wide variety of species.

            Cogswell survived the initial death threats through the help of friends and relatives who protected him long enough for the first wave of furor to die down  and an increasing number of the more sensible to evolve into an understanding of their own origins and circumstances.  Although the number of such people was still pitifully small in comparison to those who would never accept Cogswell’s incontrovertible research, that small number increased each day to the point that the Swedish Academy and by extension, humanity, honored  Cogswell’s work with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  Because it was impossible to guarantee his safety, Cogswell did not attend the ceremony inOslo, and remained under virtual house arrest until his murder.

            But back to his discovery: at the moment he recognized the genes of each person varied and yet could be matched to various fauna on the planet, he did not shout, but instead squeaked, “Oh, no!”  Anxious not to be categorized a fool or condemned to a heretic’s end, Cogswell repeated his experiments countless times, and put his data through the most rigorous computer models he and his amazed colleagues could create.  In a further attempt to disprove the conclusion he had stumbled upon, he approached the greatest computer scientists of his time and asked that they create independent models that could run extensive and complex algorithms that might offer a different explanation.  In the end, Cogswell and the scientific community were forced to accept the findings of his studies: each person on the planet was linked in a profoundly foundational manner to a specific animal specie.   In his case, Cogswell discovered that he shared the chromosomes of a Sloth Bear, such as can be found inSri LankaandNepal.  At once intrigued, amused and disappointed, Cogswell wondered if such a connection accounted for his outsized nose and the short black hair on much of his skin.  It did.

            Once Cogswell’s work was more widely disseminated, and initial reactions died down, people started to use his work to help them more fully discover their “roots.” At the same time that most dismissed his work as so much conjecture, his incontrovertible conclusions became an internet amusement.  People would send in DNA samples (most often a hair follicle) to a certified lab, and compare the results to “Cogswell’s  Wheel” on the internet.  “Cogswell’s Wheel” was a simplified chart which placed chromosomal patterns and differentiations alongside the names of various animals found on the planet.

            While an amusing pastime for millions of people, Cogswell’s Wheel inadvertently added to the empiric evidence of the scientist’s discovery.  Data aggregated by the website helped scientists throughout the world map the migration patterns of people and animals.  Psychologists and sociologists studied those  patterns of human behavior and tried mightily to link them to the actions of the masses.  Often, but not always, very clear connections were observable. Additionally, and perhaps not surprisingly, the number of people related to specific animals correlated directly to the number of animals in each phylum.  Many more millions of people were descended from the Norway Rat than the Sloth Bear, for example, and quite understandably this did not sit well with the general public.

            Some argued that Cogswell had deliberately created a paradigm in which the largest percentage of humanity was descended from rats, but this was not the case. At the time of his discovery, Cogswell incorrectly assumed that there would be little statistical variation among species and people.  He assumed that time and generational integration would level the human playing field. When he discovered that he had direct DNA connections to Sri Lankan Sloth Bears, he assumed a large percentage of the planet shared his DNA.  He was wrong.  Over a period of time, he came to understand how truly isolated he was.

            After the anger and humor of the situation subsided, the scientific reality of the situation created a new dynamic.  People began to construct electronic social networks in search of other members of their new found “family.”  In a short period of time, large groups of people began to operate in “packs” mirroring some of the attributes of their particular animal origin.   Those who discovered their roots were more “rare” than others, initially attempted to flaunt their “superior” genes over the masses, until they subsequently discovered the disadvantage of being in the minority.
            “Cogswell’s Wheel” became the starting point for many relationships, and the death knell for many more.  When couples discovered their common origins, they rejoiced in the commonality and the wisdom of their respective selection of one another.  On the other hand, when couples were informed of their profound genetic differences, relationships often shattered.  Still others, ready to call it quits with one another, used the newfound information as an excuse for there respective behaviors.

            “Of course we broke up. I’m descended from Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog, and he’s Whitetail Deer. No wonder I was always the initiator and he was always so shy.”

            “I don’t even want to get started with her.  She’s Japanese Bobtail cat, I’m Cleveland Bay Horse. How could it work? We don’t even share the same phylum for God’s sake.”

            Even as “Cogswell’s Wheel” was dismissed as unproven science, and simply “one man’s opinion,” it became de rigor to consult the wheel before moving forward with any meaningful relationship.  Did it make sense to continue if the “roots” of a person were so profoundly different from one’s own?  Why take a chance? Did anyone really want to marry a Norway Rat if it weren’t a shared characteristic?

            After his discovery, Cogswell had his own problem.  He was a married man, after all, and although his marriage was not perfect, he hoped it would continue regardless of his discovery.  Although his wife did not initially understand the magnitude of his discovery, when she finally did get swept into the mania of “Cogswell’s Wheel” she excitedly asked her husband  to analyze her DNA. 

            Cogswell well understood what was at stake.  In a moment of foresight, he asked his wife what animal she hoped to be a direct descendant of.  She, already feeling the  pressure and downside of being married to a “genius,” was deeply concerned that she herself might be of ordinary stock.  This, despite the fact that her family was, by comparison to Cogswell’s family, quite well to do.

But by this time, Cogswell’s kinship to the Sloth Bear had been established, and as a consequence his wife only wanted assurances that she was not a Norway Rat.  Of course, she hoped for more, but she would settle for something, anything, distinctly superior to the masses. 

            Before taking a sample hair follicle from her head, he assured her that no matter the results, he loved her.  Her background was irrelevant to him.  He loved her for who she was in the moment, not from whence she came.  She did not believe him.

            Privately, he was concerned.  He did not want his discovery to become problematic for his relationship.  He had enough to deal with, as the rest of the world, he instinctively knew, would soon place his life under perpetual siege.  He needed his home to be his refuge. 

            The tests revealed she was Bengal Tiger through and through.  Amazingly, conclusively, undeniably Bengal Tiger.  He couldn’t tell her, as he knew she would spend hours surfing the internet to learn more of her genetic past.   He would lie to protect her. To protect them both.  He would also learn to be careful around her. 

            “So?” she asked with a tone that suddenly sounded like a bit of a gentle roar. 
            “Well, it’s interesting.”

            “Interesting?”

            He realized that to have her match his phylum would never play.  Their relationship was far from ideal, and to create an ideal situation would ring false to her; she might ask some other scientist to rerun the test.  He needed to mildly disappoint her, so she wouldn’t suspect he was fudging the truth.   He decided to blurt it out, as if the results were tragic, in the hopes that when his “truth” was revealed to her, she would be relieved.  He also desperately wanted to put her curiosity to an end.  “You’re not Sloth Bear, darling.  For the most part,  you’re Ferruginous Hawk.”

            “Forgiveness what?”

            “Ferruginous Hawk.  They’re indigenous to the Central andWestern United States.”

            “Is that bad?”

            “No, darling.  Not at all.  I don’t think any species is bad.”

            “I know, I know. Enough with your deep sense of egalitarianism.  Can we get along?”

            “Sure we can.  We’re not even from the same continent.  We’ve got a lifetime to learn all about each other.”

            Momentarily contented, Cogswell’s wife sighed in relief, and feelings of love and admiration for her husband once more  flowed within her. Then the thought occurred to her, as it subsequently did to all prospective parents.  What kind of children might she have?

            “Darling, are you sure that Ferrig-whatever hawks and Sloth Bears can have normal children?”

            “Oh, yes, cross-breeding is a historical and biological certainty.  Don’t let the abstract of my work confuse you.  Trust me.  No one is 100 percent anything.  We’re all a  mixture of thousands of different animals.  It just so happens that the largest concentration of my DNA is Sloth Bear, and yours is Ferruginous Hawk. It’s all good.”

            Briefly relieved, Cogswell’s wife temporarily let it go.  As time went on, however, she, like millions of others would later do, began to research and study her animal background.

            The information she garnered about her animal ancestry pleased her.  She liked the idea of being a predator, as it vindicated many of her past actions.  Everything she learned about her animal “roots” pleased her and validated her, save one. She could not understand why she hated flying so much. How was it possible?  Not being a scientist, she posed the seeming paradox to her husband.

            “Darling, are you sure I’m Ferruginous Hawk?”

            “Yes.  I am.  Why do you ask?”

            “I don’t like flying. How can I be descended from a bird, if I don’t like airplanes.”

            Cogswell answered uncertainly. “You know, I don’t think that the animal we evolved from necessarily impacts all of our perceptions of the world.  It’s very possible other animals within your ancestry have had a larger influence in shaping your world view.  Of course, there’s also your own perception of flying.  Maybe when you were younger you liked to fly and then you experienced a plane ride full of turbulence and you changed your mind.  Remember, darling, our perceptions of the world are based on both nature and nurture. It’s not all hereditary.”

            “I always hated to fly, even when I was a little girl.  Ever since I can remember I’ve  hated airplanes.”

            “Then I don’t have a better answer for you. Just remember, it’s not all about nature.”

            Not fully convinced, but not wanting to trouble her husband with her doubts, she determined to let it go.  Meanwhile, Cogswell’s life became increasingly full of both praise and condemnation.  His phone never stopped ringing, his computer was forever overloaded with email requests, and he could not leave his house without someone letting him know that he was  “a sick man” or “the greatest genius of our generation.”

            As time went on, he came to believe he was both.  Exhausted from trying to defend the neutrality of the science of his discovery, Cogswell longed for quiet refuge.  He was not alone.  His wife was exhausted as well, but hers was a harder lot.  Without the scientific understanding to explain her husband’s work, she was still regularly called upon to defend it.  Many of her friends had divorced and blamed her husband for it, and those who remained in relationships became doubtful, even as they pronounced  Cogswell’s work to be so much quackery.  How could she defend what she didn’t understand?  Why did she have to defend it?  It was his work, not hers, after all.

            In a fit of despair, she resolved to divorce him.  The abuse from the community wasn’t worth it.  Cogswell was a nice enough man, but his discovery had made him fabulously famous and infamous, and the pressure of being married to a Nobel laureate was overwhelming.  She didn’t feel smart enough to be with him. She would start over, and begin by finding other predatory birds. She didn’t know how to tell him, but somehow hoped he’d understand.  How could he not?  Since his discovery, they had spent little romantic time together.  Through his work they had become estranged.  His DNA and hers had proved prescient.  They were irreconcilably from different parts of the world.  They had no business being together.

            She resolved to tell him but wanted to find the “right moment.”  After days of vacillation and pacing back and forth, she determined she would tell him on the weekend, then fly to her mother’s home in Florida the following Monday.  Yes, she would fly.  Since her ancestry was revealed to her, she had taken it upon herself to learn to stop fearing airplanes.

Cogswell  would not be shocked, she assumed, because the signs were already present in their marriage.  Since his discovery he had kept his distance, busying himself with his professional obligations, increasingly neglecting her.  Although he used her as a source of stability and a sounding board for his thoughts and anxieties, she was through.

            Two days before she was to tell him, she became violently ill.  After eating her breakfast, she had unexpectedly vomited.  Feeling queasy for the rest of the day, she was unable to eat. 

            The following day she woke up, still resolute as to the conversation to come, and not queasy at all.  In fact, she woke up ravenous; ravenous for red meat.   She assumed it was the Ferruginous Hawk in her.  After running to the store and satisfying her yen, she sat down and mapped out the talking points she would use to give her husband the news.

            Realizing he might try to convince her not to leave, she placed the talking points into her side pocket and reread them throughout the day of what she hoped would be their first and final discussion of this.

            She made him steak and they drank wine.  She tried to place him at ease.  She could not.  Perhaps he felt the tension in the room, or perhaps the overwhelming sense of impending doom was too great for anyone to have avoided.

            “I can’t do this anymore.” She said as she poured the last of  the Chateau Bousquette Presige.

            He instinctively curled up and clenched his body.  He knew she was right, and he had long suspected the moment might come.

            “It’s my fault, darling.  I can’t keep up with you.  You’re a Nobel Prize winner, and what am I?  A hawk.  All I do is circle around you, watching as you impress the world with your insights.”

            “You’re not a hawk, Bridge.  You’re a great, wonderful woman.”

            “No, I’m not, Edwin.  I’m a nondescript hawk. It’s not my fault I can’t keep up with you.   And it’s not your fault, Edwin. It’s in my genes.”

            “I’ve made it hard on both of us, Brigid.  Very hard.  That was never my intention, you know.  Sometimes I think if I could un-discover my work, I would.  But then again, I know, in time, someone else would have recognized our chromosomal links to other animals.”

            “Still. I want to own this Edwin.  I’m the one who is initiating the dissolution.  I take full responsibility…” She suddenly stopped speaking and quite unexpectedly vomited.  He jumped out of his seat and went to her.

            “Are you all right, Bridge?  Is it the wine?”

            “I’m fine.  I think it’s just a physical response to an emotional situation.”

            “We don’t have to decide this tonight.”

            “Yes. Edwin, we do.” She vomited again as she felt a sudden light-headedness. It appeared she would faint.  He quickly dialed his phone.

            When the ambulance arrived, he repeatedly asked to ride in the ambulance with her. She insisted she would be fine.  The pair of ambulance technicians with whom he was negotiating recognized him immediately and flatly refused his request. Evidently “The Wheel” had not been kind to either of them.

            “What’d you to her?”

            “Nothing.  I think it must be something she ate.”

            “When you look at me, do you see a Rat?”

            “No.  I don’t see anything. I’m concerned about my wife.”

            “I’m African Lion, man, so don’t mess with me.”

            “How you doing,  Bridge?”

            “I’m fine, Edwin, fine. I’ll meet you at the hospital.”

            When she arrived at the hospital, Cogswell’s wife felt foolish.  She had completely recovered from her mild fainting spell, and her nausea had subsided.  The emergency doctor who examined her seemed unimpressed with the severity of her illness. 

            “Have you been drinking?”

            “Yes.”

            “How much?”

            “My husband and I shared one bottle of wine between us.  That’s all.”

            “Is there any chance you’re pregnant?”

            “Not likely, but I suppose it’s possible.”

            “You’re Edwin Cogswell’s wife, aren’t you?

            “Yes.”

            “So what are you?”    

            “Excuse me?”  She knew exactly what he had meant; although rude, it was almost always the first question she was asked when meeting someone new.

            “We’re going to find out in a few minutes anyway, not that I fully believe in it, you understand.”

Since Cogswell’s discovery, hospitals had added a DNA review of all women who were tested for pregnancy.  The government assumed it would help people decide whether or not to take a pregnancy to term.  It was yet another reason yet another large segment of the population hated Cogswell. 

            By the time the lab report came back indicating she was seven weeks pregnant, Cogswell’s wife still hadn’t been joined by Cogswell himself.  She sat on a gurney considering her options.  She wanted out of the marriage; the question was: did she want out of the child?  What kind of a child is a cross between a hawk and a bear, she wondered.

            “So  am I pregnant?” she repeated, trying to conceptualize a manageable future.

            “Yes.  Congratulations.  Would you like to know your fetus’s dominant gene as it relates to ancestry?”

            “Yes.”

            “Ben…” his words were interrupted by the sudden frenzy of emergency room nurses scurrying through the hallway.  He turned and raced to the gunshot victim who had just been brought into the emergency room.  Instinctively, she knew who it was.

            Cogswell had been shot 8 times by at least three unknown assassins who had ambushed him almost immediately after the ambulance had driven his wife away.  Although he was dead on arrival, surgeons worked on the poor scientist for an hour, out of respect for the man he was and the honor he had attained.

            His son was born nine months later, his DNA quite clearly indicating a cross between a Bengal Tiger and a Sloth Bear. He and his mother spent the rest of their lives defending Cogswell’s work, understanding more personally than others the paradox of providing insight to the world.          

his Conversation is Over  A teacher learns the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.