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art by Jeffrey Redmond

Overheard at The Platonic Ideal Bar and Grill

During the day, and well into the early morning on occasion, Aimee Blume is a newspaper food and features writer. She also is a chef, plays the bagpipes, and is a culinary instructor. When not cooking, browbeating students over the difference between liquid and dry ounces, or interviewing a local cheesemaker, she writes speculative fiction. She lives in the Midwest. This is her first published fiction piece.
***Editor's Warning: Brief adult language, and adult themes, in the story that follows***
"Heya, Bob! How ya feelin'?" shouted a plump, balding gentleman as a young man in a baseball cap entered the bar. The young man waved and joined the table.
"Hey Martin." Bob nodded at the balding man and grinned at his companions. "Hi Jane, Tammy. Hey Pete. Monica coming tonight?"
"Up at the bar," said Martin. "So... ?" He leaned forward, eyebrows arched. Everyone was staring at the small adhesive bandage on Bob's temple. They all had a tiny dimpled scar in the same place.
Bob's grin stretched wider. "I've never felt better," he announced; Pete applauded and the whole group beamed. "There's nothing left," he said, signaling for a beer. "I don't care about her. I don't care!" He looked around and took a deep breath. "God! All these women, and I don't care! I'm not thinking about them naked, am I man enough for them, do the other guys have something I don't... nothing. God, it's such a relief. Martin, I can't tell you how thankful I am you convinced me. It's the best thing that's ever happened to me."
Martin clapped him on the shoulder and petite, dark-skinned Tammy leaned over to give him a chaste hug. "We're so happy for you," she said. "The Romantex, it's amazing, huh? And the fiber's so small you can't even feel it going in!"
"Now you understand, yeah, Bob?" said Monica, handing him a beer as she retook her seat and slurped foam from her mug. "Ugh, imagine; thirty years ago, before Fiberlobotics, we'd have been slaves to our hormones, desperate to find a mate." She shuddered. "I don't get why some people still haven't had a Romantex. Who wants heartbreak after heartbreak, feeling like shit all the time, worrying about being cheated o--" She stopped herself. "Oh! Bob, I didn't mean... I just meant, you can have any part of your brain altered, I don't know why anybody would deal with that."
Bob sipped. "Don't worry about it. I couldn't tell you why. I was so damn crazy for her; I guess my brain thought I needed a wife." He snorted.
Jane spoke up for the first time, smiling a pretty pink smile and smoothing her sweater over her bosom. "Well, that brings up something I need to tell you." She giggled. "I'm getting married!"
"What?"
Pete slopped beer down his front, Monica rocked her chair back, Bob slapped his forehead.
"Well, it's not because I'm in love, obviously, or want kids or anything," Jane said, fiddling with her glass. "But I've always kind of liked those houses over on the North Side, you know, in Appleton. They have grass. And flowers. I've been driving over there a lot, and it's... quaint, I guess. Even the kids are all right. I think we might have one, me and John. A girl. Then I can fix her hair and drive her to school." She glanced up and smiled uncertainly.
"But," said Monica, visibly pulling herself together. "But Appleton? You can have a little more work done, and you won't want any of that! Your career is so much more important-- you're a fibertech!"
"I thought so too, but I guess I just really crave the... the social construct, that's what the doctor said. I wouldn't undo my Romantex, not for a second. I wanted to get rid of those feelings. But the house and the flowers, I do want that. I was so lucky to find John; practically no men want that life, especially with someone who isn't really interested in... you know..." She wrinkled her nose.
Pete shook his head. "But it never works out. Not naturally. You know that. Are you having more work done?"
"Oh, of course." Jane nodded. "Friday we're getting pheromone-producing implants and receptors. For me it'll partially override the Romantex--only for John of course--so I'll be at least a little physically attracted to him. He's doing it too, so it'll be mutual. So no worries. Our daughter will always have two loving parents. I mean, if we have one."
"So, you mean John's had a Romantex?" asked Martin.
"No, not a Romantex...."
"But he has had work?" Tammy's eyes went wide. "Come on, girl, tell us! No, wait, let me guess. Was he an underachiever? Couldn't get a promotion until he got himself turned into an alpha-type?"
Pete guffawed. "I heard they go in through the top for that one," he said. "Gotta shave a spot in your hair, looks like, whosit, Friar Tuck!"
"No, let me guess!" insisted Monica. "Um... He was an impulsive spender-- expensive guy stuff like cars and tools...."
Martin chortled and pointed at himself.
"Yeah," Tammy said, "but you got a good job and you don't want a wife." She flapped her hand at him. "Get away. You can have that stuff. But, right, Jane, so you told him no way were you gonna watch your couple cash go for a bunch of bullshit, so you got him some sense put in there! Right?"
Jane shook her head, smiling. "No, no, none of that. It was a rehab job at the State, before I met him. A few years ago... he had some problems and they didn't catch it. He killed some people. Women. Raped and killed them. I think there were seven or eight."
Faces went blank. Silence fell, hard and heavy.
"What? What's the matter?" Jane blinked at her friends. "He's not that person any more. They took all those things out and he's really nice. He even takes extra enhancers for thoughtfulness. Yesterday he washed my car, just to be nice!"
"But... " Pete stared at Jane, his fists clenched on the tabletop. "How can you not think about it? How can you not imagine what he... are you saying you don't care?"
"Oh, no, not anymore," said Jane, scratching at a tiny scab just over her ear.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, August 29th, 2012


Everyone has sworn, surrounded by the smoking shrapnel of one relationship or another, to "never love again." Until next time. I've long wondered what would happen if, with further studies on brain chemistry and a few advances in surgery, it became possible to have a selective lobotomy and destroy the urge for romantic interaction forever.

How many people would do it? Would it become so popular that platonic bars would spring up alongside gay bars and singles bars? What about people who wanted to be parents but not romantically involved? And most of all, I wonder if it would really work, or if the body would find a way to circumvent sexual attraction while still demanding the subject "nest."

- Aimee Vanessa Blume

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