Hank, Unedited

Hank, Unedited

By MT Cozolla

On June 3, 2019, MT Cozolla participated Chicago’s BUGHOUSE!. Her topic was “Genetics: Modify your kids or leave them to nature?” Facing off against Kari Castor, MT was assigned the argument that science should give the fetus/child every opportunity. MT won the debate. Here is her argument.


Hank, Unedited — A Play

It's an early morning in September, twenty years in the future. MOM is driving her son HANK to school. Hank is an ordinary-looking child of 10 who suffers from a rare genetic disorder, Brittanicus Affectavus Horribulis.

HANK
But Mummy, I cahn't go back.

MOM
You'll be fine, Hank. Just give it time.

HANK
Nay. I shall never return to the sixth form.

MOM
It's perfectly normal to feel this way at first. I'm sure all the kids do.

HANK
Not Bethany.

MOM
How nice, Bethany's in your class this year.

HANK
She's quite civil. Always gives me a cheerio even when the other normal children turn away.

MOM
I'll talk to Bethany's mom about carpooling. You'd like that.

HANK
But Bethany sprints to school. Look, she just went past.

MOM
Wow, she's fast.

HANK
Her sprinting gene was enhanced in vitro. She shan't even break a sweat.

MOM
It's perfectly normal to break a sweat when you run, Hank.

HANK
It makes me smell rank. In gym class yesterday, I broke a sweat and the other children desensitized their olfactory function until I was downwind.

MOM
Nonsense. I'm sure every other child's DNA doesn't allow them to adjust their olfactory function.

HANK
It does if their parents have a CRISPR subscription. All they need is a decent WiFi connection. One little chap got a whiff of me and texted his daddy crying, and his olfactory gene was tweaked by the time we were done playing dodgeball.

MOM
Dodgeball, who won?

HANK
I don't wish to speak of it. Indeed, I don't wish to speak at all.

MOM
You speak just fine.

HANK
You've got to think that, you're my mummy.

MOM
Your mom, Hank. I'm your mom.

HANK
(really tries)
M...um.

MOM
That's it. I'm calling the insurance company again. We're going to get you more treatment.

HANK
Can you, Mummy? Even if our policy doesn't cover Britannicus Affectavus Horribulis?

MOM
I'll take them to court if I have to. I pay my premiums like everyone else.

HANK
But now that embryo selection is affordable for everyone, it's not quite cricket to expect others to share the cost of a condition you chose not to prevent.

MOM
What I chose, Hank, was to conceive the natural way, as people have done for thousands of years.

HANK
In comparison with sex-ual congress, medical insurance has only been around for two hundred years, so it must be insurance that is unnatural.

MOM
Don't be so logical.

HANK
Sorry, Mummy, it's the Britannicus.

MOM
Then own it, Hank. Speak out loud and proud.

HANK
I tried to, yesterday, in French class. The vocabulary was "Thank you very much," so I said, "Mercy BOW-coop." I said it quite loudly, but Ma'amzelle kept telling me to try again. She expected one to make an ass of oneself, trying to be all Frenchie when one isn't.

MOM
Oh, my poor Hank. Those kids had no right to laugh at you.

HANK
That's the worst part. They didn't even snicker. They've all been genetically modified to feel extra compassion. Tommy Beardmore raised his hand and said, "Hank is saying it as best he can."

MOM
You should make friends with Tommy. I packed an extra vegan Gogurt in your lunch. You can share it with him.

HANK
But Tommy doesn't need dairy alternatives. His Daddies even edited his germ line, so neither he nor his offspring shall ever know the indignity of soy products.

MOM
It's just a gesture.

HANK
An empty one, I tell you. It's school physical day.

 MOM
Then we better hurry. There's a huge line at the drop-off.

HANK
Mummy, cease the car!

MOM
It's STOP! You know how to say stop, Hank. Sometimes I wonder if you even try.

HANK
I wonder too, Mummy. I muse upon it, asking myself if I had been born without this dreaded—

MOM
Do not say dreaded. My grandmother lived with Britannicus Horribilus, and she had a full, long life.

HANK
But in my quiet moments I ask myself, if I had been conceived the modern way, and you had edited out just this one abnormality — and perhaps made me a hair taller...

MOM
And given you a little backbone— Oh, no, I don't mean that.

HANK
It's alright, and given me a little more of a stiff upper lip. If I had come into the world like that, I wonder if I'd be invited to sit with the normal children at lunch, enthusiastically beckoned rather than simply tolerated out of their pre-programmed excellent manners. I wonder if I too would speak the "lingua franca" fluidly enough to do a semester abroad next year, like Tommy's doing after he finishes his PhD in Honduras.

MOM
Hank, I thought biological conception was the natural thing. But I see now that my idea of "natural" was based simply on what I was used to. I'm going to fix this.

HANK
It's too late.

MOM
No, it's not. I'm coming in with you today to the school physical.

HANK
But Mummy—

MOM
I won't embarrass you. I'm going to ask the doctor if there's CRISPR for pre-teens. We can decide together just exactly what qualities you want. And we'll edit that bad British accent right out of you. You won't be able to say "bumbershoot" without guffawing. We'll talk to the doctor and get started.

HANK
But there shan't be a doctor. All the normal children see a wellness practitioner, because they haven't any medical issues to check for. The school was bringing in the sickness doctor just for me, the last biologically-conceived child in the world. Here's the note, telling you I'm no longer cost-effective to educate.

MOM
Oh Hank.

HANK
I tried to give it to you yesterday, but you looked so jolly tucking into the bangers and mash, I just couldn't.

MOM
That's the last school that accepted natural-born kids. Our only option now is...

HANK
I know. Homeschooling.

MOM
I'm sorry, Hank, I know you dreamed of going to boarding school one day.

HANK
Chin up, old bean. We'll be like Bronte sisters. Let's go home and have a nice cuppa, and begin. 

End of play. 


MT Cozzola is an award-winning Chicago playwright and storyteller. Her work has been published by Applause Books, Hippocampus Magazine, After Hours, and Original Works, and she’s represented by The Robert A. Freedman Dramatic Agency. More at mtcozzola.com.

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