Wednesday, September 15, 2010

#fridayflash: Gratitude Pill

Herr Docktor Franz Kelling, considered a genius in the pharmaceutical biochemistry world, was anything but when it came to his home life. He lived alone with his fourteen year old daughter Kara. Alone because his wife had left, fed up with both of them. Consumed with work, Franz spent little time with his daughter, and when he did, he found her increasingly angry.

"You're never here and when you are, it's 'Kara do this, Kara do that, Kara do the dishes, Kara take out the trash!' You can't be around me without telling me what to do!"

"But ... but!!" he sputtered. "I'm your father! I feed you and house you! You should be grateful. You must do as I say! You WILL do as I say!"

"OH!!" Kara stomped off to her room and refused to come out.

Being a scientist, Franz naturally started thinking about some technological fix to this drama. "I wonder. What if I make a pill that makes people grateful? I might have to slip it to her in her meal, but ...."

Within a few weeks, he had it. A small pill that lasted for a week or more. The Gratitude Pill. He couldn't resist patenting it and when he did, his institute found out. "Franz, this is brilliant work, but why did you not tell us you were working on something so fantastic? The public will claw down our doors to get this! And of course, since you did the work here, you must share the patent with us."

The institute rushed testing and approval and got the pill on the market in record time. They were right: the world was stunned: a pill to make people feel grateful? Wonderful! It would change the world! It was very possibly humanity's salvation. Who would lie or steal or kill or wage war for that matter, if they felt grateful to their neighbors? It outsold any other pill ever produced.

Then the side effects kicked in. Everyone who took the pill for more than a few weeks (most of the world) began to feel terribly guilty. Guilty for all those years they had failed to be grateful. Guilt, naturally enough, quickly became resentment. Some dealt with it by ignoring their friends and loved ones for as long as they could. When they began to feel guilty about doing this, they once again turned to the Gratitude Pill. And so the circle turned. Others dealt with their guilt by buying and showering their friends and loved ones with presents. This resulted in a world wide spending spree that so pumped up the world economy that when their friends, feeling guilty themselves, returned the gifts, or just dumped them on the doorsteps of local charities, the world economy deflated like a punctured balloon. The national economies spiraled down into recession and unemployment. When things got unbearable for people, they either killed themselves, or spent what little they had to buy Gratitude Pills. And so the circle turned.

Franz, not insensitive to all this, decided to create a solution to this problem. He promptly invented a No-Guilt pill. Predictably, there was instant world-wide demand for this. It was all the factories could do to turn them out by the billions.

Franz's institute was by this time fantastically wealthy. They showered Franz with bonuses in addition to his patent earnings. During this time, Franz learned that wealth was no solution to his problem with his daughter, who had adamantly refused to take any pills of any kind, and who sensibly inspected her meals before eating.

The side effect of the No-Guilt Pill, of course, was a world wide wave of criminality.

Franz was appalled when they came for him and charged him with masterminding and amplifying crime around the world. His institute discharged him and claimed no knowledge of his work or intent, and thus saved itself, however feebly.

Franz's daughter came to visit him in prison. "Hello father. I just wanted to tell you in person that I'm off to see the rest of the world now that you're no longer around to imprison me in our home. And to say thanks for the money I've inherited, and for going away to jail so I can lead my own life. For all of that, I'm just terribly, terribly grateful!"


  1. Ouch! The ending proved the first sentence. We are so proud and so helpless when our children prove smarter than us!

    Great, if a bit depressing, story Mike.

  2. You found my little gift to the world depressing, Peg? I'll have to send you some Gratitude Pills.

    Thanks for the comment though. ;-)

  3. I'd still distribute gratitude pills. Kids got no respect. Even when they got it, like his kid, they ain't got none!

    Typo: missing apostrophe in the second paragraph, to close his mimicry.

  4. I love how everything he tried to do to fix problems ended up being worse than it was before. An interesting read here. I guess there are no easy solutions to life's problems.

  5. John, I guess the lesson is that respect must be earned. Give it and you get it. He got it by setting his daughter free, if inadvertently.

    Rachel, simple fixes are never simple, seems to me. We just can't see the repercussions of our "solutions". Thanks for the read and feedback.

  6. What a brilliant piece if writing, full of dark humour and darker truisms.

    A fair slant on human nature too. :)

  7. When he created the no-guilt pill, I knew he was in for it. I didn't see the end coming, though. Aww. :) Poor guy!

  8. Hee hee, thanks Jen. Sometimes our actions bring us what we need instead of what we expect. What he needed was to set his daughter free. Mission accomplished.

  9. Very old-school Mike, and very well done. I know I personally mentioned at least 3 authors it reminded me of.

    Off-subject, I liked you last flash dude! Do us another fresh and gritty, one that nobody will respect!

    I think it was quite good, which I'm finding as not very surprising -- coming from you.

    I always appreciate your perspective. Don't tell anyone I said so.