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The Bovine Syndrome Paul Appsin was a happy man, a very happy man.

His boat had come in and it was full steam ahead to the Nobel Prize. He could hear the accolades and was reading the headlines now. He was feeling really good. Unable to contain his excitement, he chanted and danced around his office, pounding doors, walls, and his desk, shouting a mantra of “Yes, Yes!” interrupted by intermittent eruptions of, “We did it. We did it. I knew we would. Paul and Ivan did it, woo hoo.” Finally, exhausted from his frenzied recitals, he plopped into a laboratory chair. Folding over his knees, and cradling his head in his hands, he rocked back and forth, periodically placing his hands on his mouth to suppress a giddy giggle. He looked and sounded like a man overdosed on ecstasy. In fact, that was what he was: Drunk with ecstasy, but not from a pill, from success. Paul’s longish, hair, wet from his feverish recitals, clung to his face. And, from where sat rocking with delight in his chair, he couldn’t see his research partner’s face, even he had thought about it. Ivan Pawdoski was not interested in his colleague either. He was lost in thought; eyes unfocused; elbow locked on the table; one hand worrying his lips and cheeks, as he also swayed in his chair. Ivan did not share in Paul’s frenzied celebrations. Paul was often described as a man who bled passion and fed on his obsessions to save things – people, animals, plants, fleas, you name it. He was also a driven and brilliant biologist. Ivan pondered his partner. What better job for a man, like Paul Appsin, than heading a highlevel research team at the World Health Organization? Ivan, a senior researcher at WHO, on the other hand, knew people considered him steely, cold and suspect of anything and everything dark --a man to avoid. Even though the two had been mates and research partners for more than eight years, they knew almost nothing about each other’s personal lives and had never met outside of their work. “We’re lab rats,” Paul often joked, “Destined to be our own experiments.” Well, thought, Ivan, he had that right. Fingering a red file folder on his desk, he stopped to push up his glasses, which were dangling precariously on his nose, and plucked a piece of paper from the file. The paper had “Confidential” in large letters scored across it. Yes, he frowned. We really did it. They had proved beyond a doubt the existence of the BOVINE SYNDROME, a research project, the two had worked on, seemingly for an eternity. Ivan carelessly dismissed the paper and ran his hand through his hair again for at least the fiftieth time in the last 30 minutes. His hair, what there was of it, peaked in various angles, like waves raising and crashing in a sea storm.


Here it was, the reward, the final results of years of feverish research, based on nothing but a bad joke that had once caught his attention, following leads and making up tests that any sane scientist would have avoided. Was it something about their chemistry, a collective insanity, perversity? He wondered. Their success was not going to feed the hungry in a getting hungrier planet, in fact, just the opposite. Nor was it going to produce the energy the planet needed. But it would make a difference with people, and maybe, the world. Ivan thought about all those poor, sad cow people. The “cow people,” that’s what he and Paul called them. Sometimes, they cynically referred to them as “Bessie’s Bloaties.” Now they could prove that generations of humans fed on diary milk were, indeed, taking on the characteristics of dairy cows. The forced lactation of another species, milk designed to be fed only to calves, carried hormones and chemistry that had infiltrated the human genome. Cow fatty cells – cytoplasm changes -- were creating generations of skitterish, dull witted people, lacking in curiosity, or aggression. Even hard-wired instincts, like fear and flight responses, had gone haywire. Humans, they proved, were adopting bovine behavior and characteristics: big, swollen udders and bloated prostrates. The cow milk had mutated and was changing humans. Morose by nature, Ivan was haunted by visions of the poor pathetic simple creatures, stuffed in metal sanitized stalls, fed --God, knows what-- and milked and milked until their udders hurt. Something had to give, all actions have consequences, he reminded himself. The revenge of the dairy cow; even cows will have their day; he choked back an ironic snicker. At least, as Paul always said, they weren’t researching smelly stockyards where the soon to be butchered for consumption, pissed, shit, and sweated fear. Maybe, another day to study what meat so tainted was doing to the human body. Ivan was startled from his musings by Paul, bursting from his chair, pumping his arms over his head, preparing for another round of victory aerobics. It was at that moment that Paul realized his partner had said nothing--nothing, since the final lab results had been delivered. Shaking his shoulders to contain his exuberant celebrations, and landing back into real time, he walked to where Ivan sat and placed his face in his, eyeball to eyeball. “What’s with you? Don’t you realize we are celebrating? We have made one of the most unique and important health discoveries in fifty years. We can cure diabetes, and other obesity related diseases and deaths. We can kick start brains turned milky and murky. We can stop the slow mutation of people into herds of insipid cows. We have done a great thing. Where’s you head, man?” Ivan raised his eyes from the red file and looked out the dirty, barred window. He squinted at the few bright rays of sunlight that filtered through. He pursed his lips and tapped his fingers on his desk for what seemed an eternity to Paul. Then after chewing on his lips a number of times, he began to speak.


“Do you have any idea what this means for us?” “Sure I do, our names will be in the annals of great health discoveries. We’ll be right there with legends, like Robert Hooke, Jonas Salk, and Louie Pasteur. Maybe, we’ll get the Nobel Prize. We should get the Nobel Prize. Why, don’t we start preparing our remarks right now,” Paul smiled his happy idiot grin. “Yeah, sure,” Ivan’s voice held a bitter note. “No. Paul. Get real. Here’s what happens. Ever followed the careers of corporate whistle blowers? Shall I give you the list of fine scientists ruined because they weren’t politically in sync? “We could start with Galileo and end with Paul Appsin and Ivan Pawdoski. “Hey man, I don’t get you,” Paul was confused by the direction the conversation was taking. “And, no, I don’t need the names, I know them too well.” “So, Paul, how do you think a huge industry that owes it existence to dairy milk is going to take the news? Do you think they are just going to say, ‘Oops my bad’ and give up the billions they make? Do you think farmers, breeders, food suppliers, equipment manufactures, the truckers, the grocery clerks, all the little people, whose livelihood depends on milk, will be singing our praises? “Here’s the deal, my friend. They will destroy our careers and discredit our research. They will do everything short of killing us. And maybe, even that, before they will give up the money and jobs that come from milk. How can you make chocolate without milk? How about ice cream, butter? You name it, milk is everywhere; it creates jobs and makes money. Count the people sucking at that teat, can you? Damn, Ivan made a pun, imagine that. Paul almost laughed at the idea. Ivan locked into Paul’s eyes. “Do you think they can, or will want to believe we are right? Do you think that human beings are more important than the bottom line? “My god, Ivan, are you serious? What are you saying?” “I am saying, we are ruined, screwed. We can’t win against big business. What if, they, along with governments bought and sold by corporations, decide they can’t afford the controversy or the loss of jobs and campaign money? What scientist do you know that ill sacrifice their special projects, their research grants, their careers for ours?” Paul stood up, dumbfounded and wordless. From the best of all worlds to the worst of all worlds was not an easy transition for his positive constitution. But he was also an unusually intelligent man, a quick study. Like a dangerous, cruel creature, lurking in dark waters, something deadly was rising to the surface. A new, and ugly reality was quickly invading his world. Voices in his head--the same strong voices that had always


advised him about things like fair, and good, and the rewards for both, rose to the challenge. No this was sick, not right, not true, how could it be? Paul’s moral arbitrators screamed. A product dealing death and brain damage couldn’t be more important than the survival and health of the human species? But Ivan’s logic, stuck like melted gum on a hot sidewalk. Deep from within Paul’s keen sense of reality, bad things began to stir. “… What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” W.B. Yeats’ words were broadcasting in high decibels within his head. Paul took a deep breath, and headed to the coffee machine. The coffee was old, cold and dank. Fitting, he thought, pouring a cup and slowly sipping the rank drink. He was aware of the clock ticking, and Ivan’s indifferent silence. Minutes, maybe hours passed before he roused from the dark void and suspended the battle going on in his mind, to ask the appropriate question. “So what do we do now?” Ivan had obviously been thinking through the situation and was prepared, more than prepared, to answer. “Well, as I see it, the only way we win, is to offer a compromise to the dairy industry.” How can you compromise the health of people, indeed, a species? Paul’s conscience shrilled. Finding the dreaded words, he asked, “What kind of compromise?” “Actually, I was thinking of more like a sell out,” Ivan responded This stunned Paul, but he listened. “The only way we win, is to show them the study, and offer to sell it to the industry. Leave it to their consciences as to how to handle it. We are only scientists, not moral arbitrators. “We ask for big bucks; take our money; and run to Tahiti, or to another project,” Ivan stopped, and added, “If we can get one.” The discussion was over in Ivan’s mind. However, he persisted. “So what’s your druthers, Paul Appsin? Ruined careers, our reputations and credibility lost in a battle with big business, and big politics, from which we are definitely not prepared to defend ourselves. Or take the money and run? “We will still have our pride and a victory of sorts. Sorry, that’s the best I can do.” Paul’s mind raced ahead. “There must be a better solution, take the study to the president of the United States, or the UN, or make it public.” 4

“And how do we do that. Is the president, or any politician, going to choose our study over millions of jobs and dollars? I don’t know much about politics, but I don’t see that as a winning hand. “Besides, it may be that the politicians and corporate big brains, might believe that our mutating milk is doing them a favor, creating a nation of mindless cows.” Ivan made a sound that could have been a laugh, had it not held a rumble of deep disgust. That thought had never crossed Paul’s mind, but now it seemed to block out every argument his better half was struggling to make. Ivan recognized the war going on in his partner’s soul and decided to push the envelope. “Think about it man. It’s all I have been doing for the past hour while you have been fantasying about the Nobel Prize.” Ivan turned his head away and resumed his window gazing. He wasn’t really expecting an answer from his stunned partner. After a long silence between them, Ivan spoke again. “Hey, buddy, I think there’s some left over milk in the fridge, we can drink to our future.”