Aphelion Issue 249, Volume 24
April 2020
 
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The Bequest

by Gregory Cioffi




Shinzo Oshima sat impatiently on the New York City Subway. He tapped his fingers on the metal pole while checking his surroundings. The car was relatively empty. The holographic monitor displayed an upcoming thunderstorm. A new advertisement adorned the train wall; it read: Need an Organ!? We Grow Them Now! Check your medical plans to find out if you’re eligible!

While the sign made him smirk, it did not make him feel any less eager, as his impatience had nothing to do with the subway itself; he had ridden this rapid transit system all his life. His restlessness resided in his destination, which was New York Presbyterian. Shinzo was going to see his dying father, Michio Oshima, who was 102 years old.

Shinzo’s relationship with his father had always been a complicated one. As close as they were, they were equally distant. Shinzo’s mother was never in the picture and so all they had were each other. One could say that everything Shinzo ever did was in effort to please his father, to make him proud. One could also say that everything Michio ever did to and for his son was a preparation, which to him justified the fact that growing up they barely saw one another. After all, there was a multi-million dollar business on the line.

Shinzo attended the best schools, oftentimes ranking at the top of his class. During the hottest seasons of his youth he attended summer school, not because he was behind but rather to learn the upcoming year’s curriculum.

During his adolescence, he spent, what at the time seemed like, a lifetime of listening to his father’s talks on business, progress, and the future. Michio was a meticulous man, leaving no stone unturned and no room for error; his life was a dedication to his work. As a kid, Shinzo regretted this about his father. They never played a game of catch or went to a sporting event. But as Shinzo grew older he started to respect his father’s commitment. Furthermore, he hoped to understand it if he were one day in his shoes. And that was precisely what today was about. Michio planned to divulge to his son the contents of his will. Since Shinzo was an only child, he deduced that there was a good chance he would be taking on the mantle of his father’s business. Unless of course Michio deemed him unready, in which case there existed the possibility that his father could give the company to a business associate. The anticipation of this conversation is what made Shinzo impatient. Worse case scenario, he thought to himself, he would spend some time with his dad. But truth be told - although he often wished he knew his father better, the thought of starting that kind of relationship at this point seemed daunting.


*****



Shinzo walked through the hospital corridor, his clothing wet as the storm had arrived earlier than predicted, with a pit in his stomach. He was dreading the inevitable reveal.

His father’s door was open and Shinzo could hear the heart rate monitor beating right along. He walked in to see the ailing elder, something he could never grow accustom to.

“Hey, dad.”

Michio waved his boy over while adding, “I have something for you.”

Shinzo sat on a hospital room chair and noticed a small envelope at his father’s bedside.

“Open it.”

Shinzo did just that to find a flash memory card at the bottom.

“It’s a graduation present, I know, a little late. But I always planned to give it to you when you received your M.B.A.”

Thankful, Shinzo asked, “What’s on it?”

Michio smiled and responded, “You. Or at least the blueprint of you. I had your genome fully sequenced. Therein lie the secrets to the thousands upon thousands of genes in your body.”

Shinzo, not really sure what to make of it, asked, “When did you get a chance to do that?”

“When I had my own done. Not too long ago.”

After an awkward chuckle, Shinzo remarked, “I realize we are now in the minority of people who have had their genome fully sequenced, which is great, but I don’t understand. Why did you have it done?”

“To shed light upon the dangerous diseases lurking within.”

“Okay. That seems ineffectual – you’re 102” he jested. “And mine?”

“For the same reason.”

Shinzo suddenly became uncomfortable.

“It’s a weird thing isn’t it?” asked Michio. “Holding that in your hand, knowing all it contains.”

A crack of thunder resounded outside.

Deflecting, Shinzo went back to his original thought. “Pardon my bluntness but I hardly think it matters if a particular gene of yours increases your chances of getting Alzheimer’s at this point.”

Michio grinned and answered, “Very true and good point.” He paused and then continued, “Do you remember all those years as a kid, you sitting on my lap while I lambasted you with rules to live by? You surely couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of them all at the time.”

Shinzo laughed and answered, “Yes.”

“I did that to drill into your brain the truth about the hard pills we all must swallow. How you can never let emotion and in our case bias get in the way of what must be done.”

Shinzo’s head plummeted as he quickly he deduced, “This is about the will.”

“It is,” Michio answered. “I’ve looked into your blueprint,” he continued while pointing to the envelope. “I’ll let you get to know yourself better on your own, but it has shaped my decision on this matter.”

Shinzo bolted up in anger while clamoring, “Are you kidding me!? Firstly, do you recognize how unethical it is that you went behind my back to sequence my genome in the fist place?”

“Yes.”

“And then you looked at it? And what, you found evidence of cancer or heart disease in me, making me unqualified to run the business you have been prepping me for my entire life!?”

“It’s not that you were unqualified. It’s just that you were not the best candidate. And the work we do is too important, you know this and agree with me.”

“So whose the better candidate? Bill Abe? Did you have his genome fully sequenced behind his back as well?”

“Bill is an idiot. I don’t need his genome to see that.”

“Then who? Fred?”

“Fred is an idiot too. They’re all idiots. None of them could handle this job.”

“No one except you. Is that it!?”

Michio slowly arched up, a huge smile suddenly crossing his face. He responded, “Precisely.”

Shinzo confusingly looked at his father. “Precisely what? You sure they didn’t find evidence of your insanity gene in there?”

Michio laughed and then returned to his smile.

“What!?” urged Shinzo. “Who is going to run the business!?”

Calmly but excitedly Michio answered, “I am.”

“I’m sorry?”

“I am bequeathing my company and all my assets to myself.”

“You’re going to have to explain this one to me, dad.”

“Oh come on Shinzo! Isn’t is obvious? They know and have my entire genetic makeup! And if they could grow numerous organs of the human body, don’t you think they would be able to create an exact genetic copy!?”

“You’re talking about…cloning?”

“Yes! I am going to be the first human being to be fully cloned - if the procedure is successful of course. I just got the confirmation today.”

Shinzo shook his head in disbelief. Words wanted to formulate but nothing coherent could be summoned.

“I assume you realize you’re going to have to take care of me, at least for a little. I’ll be manifested in a test-tube but will live with you after that.”

“You’re not serious.”

“Well someone has to raise me! My memories aren’t going to be cloned as well, you know. You have to teach me, make me realize who I am to become.”

“Dad!” Shinzo ordered sharply. “This is, by far, the most selfish and disturbing request I have ever heard. I’m not doing it.”

Shinzo turned and headed for the door.

“Son!”

Michio rarely used that word.

Shinzo turned to look at him.

“I want you to be cloned after me. That’s the real reason I had your genetics fully sequenced as well. We’ve always only had each other. Why not keep it that way for a little while longer? I’ll do the same for you when you are my age.”

“I thought my genes indicated that I’m screwed,” Shinzo sarcastically responded.

“No. Clean bill of health – genetically speaking, of course. Just like your old man. That’s what I meant when I said your genome shaped my decision on this matter. I wasn’t going to do this if I knew you couldn’t. You’re the only one I trust with the company during my absence. You’re the only one capable, certified, and disciplined enough.”

“But I’m still not owning the business is what you’re telling me. You’ll be a toddler and my boss.”

Michio shrugged and responded, “Technically. But I think you’ll be a great acting boss.”

Shinzo thought about leaving once again in that moment. He even had the impulse to do so. But instead he turned to his father and said, “Fine. But I’m teaching you how to play catch.”

“What?”

“And we’re going to football games.”

“Shinzo please, I-”

“Oh no!” Shinzo cut him off. “This isn’t a discussion! End of story. I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“Shinzo!”

Michio had his hands outstretched when his son left the hospital room. Shinzo walked down the corridor while looking down at the envelope in his hand. The prospect of getting to know his father better after all these years, despite the unnatural way it was going to happen, made Shinzo grin from ear to ear.



THE END


2020 Gregory Cioffi

Bio: Gregory Cioffi (SAG-AFTRA, AEA) is a professional actor and a published writer. His works have been published in The Feral Press, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Little Old Lady (LOL) Comedy, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, Fleas on the Dog, The Five-Two, Aphelion, and Allegory Ridge. Six of these stories have been archived in Yale Univeristy’s Beinecke Collection (Rare Books and Manuscript Library). Greg teaches a creative writing course and a basic acting course at Nassau Community College.

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