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Fermentation

Albert sat at the bar and ordered a beer. Beside him, a bearded fellow yelled at the bartender.
"And bring me two more shots of bread while you're at it!"
The man sprayed crumbs with the shout, then turned toward Albert with the unfocused gaze of the inebriated. Albert, however, spotted no sign of alcohol near the man, just a half-eaten slice of French bread and crumbs everywhere.
Albert couldn't control his curiosity. "Two doses of bread?"
"You don't know?" asked the man. "Stop wasting your money on beer, my friend! Scientists have discovered a fungus that ferments carbohydrates in the intestine. With just a month of treatment, I turned my stomach into a walking brewery." He raised his piece of bread in the air. "A toast to Saccharomyces cerevisiae!
Albert didn't have the least idea what "sack a Rome ices, Sir Buzzy Eyes" meant, and his beer hadn't yet arrived, but he didn't want to disappoint the exuberant man so he raised a sympathetic fist. The man shoved the remaining bread into his mouth and gnawed on it like a starving dog.
From the other side of the bar, a red-faced man came charging at them in a half-run, half-skip. Gasping, he choked out between breaths, "I installed a designer fungus too! Mine releases beta endorphins."
"You don't have to eat bread?" asked the first man.
"I don't have to do anything! Eternal happiness, twenty-four seven."
The first man gazed sadly at his plate, obviously disappointed with his second-class fungus. However, an unexpected burp caused his smile to return.
"Long live fungus!" he shouted.
"Long live science!" replied the other.
The bartender slammed Albert's beer on the bar and scurried away. Albert paid it no mind. Instead, he watched, fascinated, as the two men threw their arms over each other's shoulders and started singing: each one a different tune. Their unbridled enthusiasm disturbed him.
He left without saying goodbye, but neither man seemed to notice. When he arrived home, he found his wife Sylvia having a smoke on the couch.
"Have you heard about those fungi that make people happy?"
She paused between drags on the cigarette to respond, "Sure, haven't you? They're all the rage. I'm thinking about getting one myself."
"Do you think it actually resolves anything?"
Sylvia shrugged her shoulders and paused for another drag.
"Maybe I could quit smoking," she said.
"Maybe," said Albert. "You know, I've been kind of depressed lately. I think I could use a dose of fungus myself."
Albert went to the basement and sorted through a forgotten pile of books. He opened one and the stench of fungi invaded his respiratory system, making him sneeze. He took the book back upstairs, sat on the sofa, and his brain, intoxicated by fungi, began the process of transforming words into happiness.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, February 24th, 2014


This story was based on the article "A Case Study of Gut Fermentation Syndrome (Auto-Brewery) with Saccharomyces cerevisiae as the Causative Organism" published in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine (http://file.scirp.org/Html/1-2100535_33912.htm). In cases of Gut Fermentation Syndrome (or Auto-Brewery), a fungus (yeast) installs itself in the patient's intestine, where it ferments carbohydrates into ethanol. This is a serious health issue, but who knows how many people would gladly inflict this phenomenon upon themselves?

- Christopher Kastensmidt

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