Dr. Goodman listened to the voice on the other end of
the line. It was not good news. In fact it was the worst possible news, or so
he thought. He’d gone way out on a limb with Bastek. Way over leveraged. He
should have sold weeks ago when the company still had a future. Shoulda,
woulda, coulda. That just about summed up his investment strategy. Had to be
the big player. Wanted a commanding position in the company. Insider
information. Ground floor opportunity. Once in a lifetime chance to make a
killing. What was it Samuelson said? “It’s a sure thing.” Geeze how gullible
can a man be?
What was it they made again? Oh right, a home test kit for Alzheimer's disease.
Sounded like a sure thing. God, what was he thinking? Who really wants to know
if they’re going to get Alzheimer's anyway? Well he was ruined. Simple as that.
How was he going to break the news to the wife? They’d have to sell the house.
It was too big anyway now that the kids were grown and gone. What was it that
idiot Samuelson said? “Our investment banker pulled the plug. They’re not
taking us public. We need more cash.”
Well they weren’t going to get any cash from him. He’d already given them
everything. This was supposed to be a sure thing. Famous last words. There was
a lesson to be learned. He should have stuck with what he knew. He knew a lot
about sleep disorders. That’s what he understood. Not venture capital; not
investment banking and certainly not god damn Alzheimer test kits.
When it came to sleep therapy, he was the man. He ran the National Sleep
Research Clinic. He was funded, respected, consulted. When it came to sleep
therapy, Doctor Dick Goodman was the go to guy. Insomnia? Call Goodman. That
was what he understood. This investment shit, that was something else altogether.
This was what you got when you thought you were smart. “Too big for his
britches,” his mother would say.
He really didn’t want to be thinking about his mother just then but there was
no helping it. Poor mom. A shriveled husk of her old nagging self. Well she put
him through medical school so maybe she had a right to nag. Too bad she wasn’t
doing any nagging these days lying there in that assisted care facility only
dimly aware what was going on. That reminded him that he owed her a visit. Not
that she even knew he was there. But if he didn’t visit once a month, he felt
He believed in Bastek. Their science was sound. Samuelson had forty years in
the field. They were even colleagues once. They both worked together on a
research grant just after med school. They both knew their way around the human
brain. Samuelson knew his stuff. Bastek was no fly by night scam. So why would
the bank pull out at the last minute? He was so stunned by the news, he’d
forgotten to ask. He’d call Samuelson back and ask him right now what went
wrong. Goodman reached for the phone. As soon as he touched it, it started to
ring. It was as if his touch had given it life.
“Dr. Goodman,” he said into the receiver. It was the head nurse at the assisted
care facility. “Your mother had a stroke,” she said. “I’m very sorry. She’s on
her way to the hospital as we speak.” Sweet Jesus, he thought. What a day.
By the time he arrived at the hospital, his mother was already hooked up to a
half a dozen monitors and IV’s. There were a multitude of wires on her head.
The old woman looked peaceful, either asleep or comatose, he couldn’t tell
which. He sat by her bed and stroked her hand, there was no response. After a
while he got up and went in search of the attending physician, a Dr. Morton. He
found the young doctor in the hospital cafeteria having a coffee and cruller.
Goodman introduced himself and Morton gave him the news.
“Massive stroke. Probably paralyzed. Not sure she’ll live. I have her scheduled
for a CT scan in a couple of hours. Then we’ll know more.” There wasn’t
anything Goodman could do but sit with the old woman and wait. He saw that she
was hooked up to an encephalograph which was tracing out a brain-wave pattern
on a long strip of paper. An expert in such matters, Dr. Goodman couldn’t help
looking at it. What he saw was the brain pattern of someone in a profound
sleep. After a while Dr, Morton came in and when he looked at the tracings he
tut tutted and shook his head. “Not much going on in there,” he said. “We’ll
get a better picture in a few minutes.” And he had his patient wheeled away to
the imaging department. Left alone in the room, Goodman tore off several feet
of the recording and put it in his pocket. The germ of an idea was beginning to
take shape in his mind.
At home there was a wrenching scene with his wife, Gloria. Mrs. Goodman would
have none of it. “We’re not losing the house. Sell your stupid stocks,” she
“You don’t understand,” he demurred, “the stocks are all sold, the house is
mortgaged up to the roof. If Bastek goes under, so do we.”
Gloria seemed unable to process the information. “We’ll sell the art,” she
“A few thousand dollars more or less won’t make any difference.”
“My God, how much did you spend?”
“You don’t even want to know.” Goodman said and went to his private study to
contemplate his predicament. He looked at the revolver he kept in his desk
drawer and thought about a quick exit from his problems. But instead of blowing
out his brains, he got to thinking about brains in general and the mysteries
they held. Consciousness. The electrical activity. The patterns of sleeping and
wakefulness. He’d spent his whole career trying to unravel those mysteries. He
had too much respect for that neurological marvel to simply blast a hole in it.
He took out his mother’s encephalogram and unrolled it on his desk. His
mother’s brain was in a deep coma. The signs were unmistakable. The alpha and
beta lines were slow, sinuous waves showing almost no activity. The way the
brain is in a profound sleep. He thought of all his insomniac patients who
would pay good money for a few hours of that kind of rest. His mother suffered
from insomnia at one time. He had an encephalogram of hers from a few years
earlier. He pulled it from the file and laid it out on the desk next to the
recent one. Her younger brain was so much more alive and vital. Wouldn’t it be
something if he could reverse the recording and play it back into her brain.
Re-program the brain to be young and healthy again. But that was impossible
with current technology, wasn’t it? What if he could somehow figure out a way
to digitize the pattern and play it into his mother’s brain. Would that restore
her? He didn’t know but he thought he saw a way to do it. If it worked, his
troubles were over. He’d patent the process. Forget the Alzheimer's test kits.
Bastek would go into production making his brain wave transmitters. He’d be
rich and famous, maybe win a Nobel Prize. He might even be able to save his
mother he added belatedly. He was getting ahead of himself. First there was a
great deal of work to be done.
The National Sleep Research Clinic was equipped with the latest in high tech
computers and specialized brain scanning equipment. Banks of monitors and
experimental machines were at his disposal along with an eager crew of grad
students, post docs and bright young researchers. Working feverishly, they
developed a crude head set that while not exactly re-programming the brain did
seem to have some effect on the behavior of rats and dogs. Human trials were
years away. Doctor Goodman didn’t want to wait that long.
During the months of research both Bastek, Goodman’s
marriage and Goodman’s mother were all on life support, quite literally hanging
by a thread. The invention showed promise but it was still only a crude
prototype. He needed to test it on an actual person and he needed to test it
soon. Also he needed to show potential investors that the device could work in
humans. It seemed like a no brainer to test it out on his mother.
He smuggled the gizmo into the hospital where his mother lay. She hadn’t moved
in three months and the hospital staff wasn’t giving her much attention.
Closing the door, he sat by her bed and fitted the head set gently over her
thin gray hair. Wires led from the head set to a box containing a CD player. He
slipped a CD of his mother’s younger and more lucid brain pattern into its
slot. The electronics in the box turned the brain patterns into electrical
signals, amplified them and sent them into the brain. It was supposed to
recreate the exact mental state of the person recorded.
Things happened rapidly as soon as Dr. Goodman pressed play. The elder
Goodman’s eyes popped open. She looked directly at her son and sat up. She
began speaking in the middle of a sentence as if interrupted in the midst of a
conversation. She said five or six words and then fell back on her pillow,
unconscious. Dr. Goodman tried it again and exactly the same thing happened. He
had recorded only about 30 seconds of a scene in his office six years before.
It was all he had. He could have his mother back just as she was for the 30
seconds when he recorded her brain waves in an effort to cure her insomnia.
He vaguely remembered the incident. Mother was her nagging self, sitting across
the table from him unhappy with something as usual. In fact the tape caught her
in mid-nag saying, “...why are you slouching? Sit up you...” Then it ended and
she collapsed back into her coma. The good news was the device worked, kind of,
but not exactly the way he expected. The bad news was it wasn’t a scene he
cared to see over and over, nor did it seem medically very useful. But the
concept worked and that was exciting. He pulled the head set off and left.
At home he kissed Gloria and told her the good news. He was giddy with success
and waltzed her around the kitchen. “Don’t worry about a thing, honey,” he
said. “We’re going to be rich after all.” Then the phone rang. It was the
hospital. His mother had expired. He felt a moment’s pang of guilt. Maybe he
put a strain on her old weakened heart. But the guilty feeling passed as fast
as it came. It was sad news but not unexpected. It hardly made a dent in Dr.
Later, he called Dr. Samuelson and told him how the test went. Samuelson was
beside himself with excitement. He saw the sales potential of the gizmo as an
entertainment device. “How long a run can you squeeze on a disc?” he asked.
“It’s very dense,” Goodman said, “About a minute, I think.”
“So you can basically control a person’s mind for a minute? What if it’s a
different person’s mind?”
“I don’t know,” Goodman said, “we haven’t tried it.”
“Well, try it man. Think of the possibilities.”
Goodman fingered the disc in his pocket. It was the disc of his mother sitting
there in his sleep lab. The one he just ran through her brain at the hospital.
He needed to see if it would have the same effect on another person’s mind. He
briefly thought of calling Gloria into his office but then re-considered. He
still had a few scruples left. He decided to test it on himself. He had all the
equipment he needed at the sleep lab. He could video himself and see if he
performed the same routine as his mother did just a few hours ago.
The lab was empty when he arrived. He let himself in and turned on the lights.
He set up a video camera in one of the sleep labs and wired himself to the
machine. He popped in the disc and just before pushing play he uttered a little
prayer into the night.
Dr. Goodman sits staring at the wall in the same assisted living facility that
once housed his mother. He is generally cranky and confused. He’s convinced
he’s an 83 year old woman with a tenuous hold on reality. It makes Gloria and
the staff at Shady Oaks uncomfortable dealing with him. But the worst part is
his nagging personality. The first time Samuelson came to visit, the first
thing Dr, Goodman said to him was, “Don’t slouch, you’ll develop a hunch.” When
Dr. Samuelson told Goodman about the progress Bastek was making, Goodman
accused him of getting “too big for his britches.”
He thought of his children as his grandchildren and insisted he was Gloria’s
mother in law. He had, in fact, become his mother. Samuelson was certain
Goodman could be fixed and he assured Gloria that Bastek was going to do
everything it could to fix him. In the meantime Bastek’s stock remained a
highly speculative investment.