Dr. Xiang is five feet deep in a cemetery. One more foot, a few more calluses, and he’ll have the mouth he’s looking for, the mouth that will end world hunger, the mouth that will win him the Nobel Prize.
Once the cadaver is exhumed, he hauls it home to his basement and loads it onto a Formica-topped table. Dr. Xiang pulls out the corpse’s tongue, examines it with a pencil. This one will do nicely. He looks at the teeth. No, those won’t do. Too much plaque. Too much decay.
He grabs his grocery list and adds denture cream.
A copy of Business Week is clipped behind the list. A headline is highlighted: The High-Efficiency World Requires Efficient People. That quote inspired him. It led to his big idea.
Cars get fifty miles to a gallon. CFL light bulbs use little wattage. Electricity is generated from renewable energy. The world is taking on a go-green, help-the-environment, Captain Planet, Six Sigma, solar-powered, high-efficiency expansion, and it’s ready for his big idea.
Dr. Xiang wants to add a mouth to everyone’s stomach.
He promises it will end world hunger, at least in theory. It will end it with efficiency. Why send food down a long esophagus, wasting energy pushing it with smooth muscle, just to arrive at where digestion occurs? The umbilical cord had the right idea. Put the food directly where it needs to be. Put it there by adding a mouth to the belly button. Complete with teeth and tongue, it will be the first Energy Star Certified improvement for your body.
It really is genius. If the body spends less energy it will require less energy, which means it won’t require as much food. Once everyone has a mouth in their stomach, food consumption will go down on a grand scale. This means more food to go around, which will end world hunger.
There are other benefits too. Choking deaths will be eliminated. If you eat through your stomach, you can’t get a blocked windpipe. And once God sees Dr. Xiang’s invention, adaptation will occur and babies will be born with mouths at the end of their umbilical cords. Then, during delivery, they will bite through the cord themselves, making labor in third-world countries more successful, saving thousands of lives. He’ll win another Nobel Prize!
The door to his basement opens, and Dr. Xiang’s mother yells down in Chinese, “Chao, what is that awful smell? Did you forget to bring your dirty dishes up last night?”
He shouts back in English, “You leave me alone. You address me as doctor. That is my title.”
She closes the door.
Dr. Xiang scales the stairs and joins his mother in the kitchen. He wants her to be the first to get a new mouth. It will bring her great prestige and honor.
She is still speaking Chinese. “Did you bring me those dirty plates?”
“No, Mother,” he says. “You must join me in the basement. I’m about to perform a medical miracle.”
“On you, of course.” He explains how he is going to put a mouth in her stomach.
She tells him in English, “Ideas like that reason you never get medical license.”
Dr. Xiang’s shoulders slump. Once he gets the Nobel Prize, his medical license won’t matter. He’ll be a hero! He gathers his grocery list and goes to the store.
While driving his Prius, Dr. Xiang daydreams about his childhood. He remembers asking his mother where babies come from. She told him in Chinese, “The navel hole.”
At the grocery store, Dr. Xiang sees a redneck with a large beer belly. He is the perfect candidate for surgery. His gut is so thick, navel so deep. There’s tons of room for a tongue and teeth. When Dr. Xiang offers to make the man into a medical miracle, the redneck knocks Dr. Xiang’s incisor out, yelling, “Go back to Japan, you squinty-eyed freak.”
Dr. Xiang scrambles away, finds a ribeye steak and holds it to his mouth. The meat reminds him of a middle school field trip where his class visited a research farm of fistulated cows. A fistula is a hole that opens directly into the cow’s stomach, where scientists reach in and view how foods are digested. On his turn to reach in, Chao Xiang snuck a Milky Way inside. He thought the cow deserved a delicious treat.
At the dentist’s office, Dr. Xiang fixates on a poster illustrating the human pharynx. This reminds him of anatomy class with his first girlfriend. She had a navel piercing, and he cheated off her on every exam.
During the root canal, Dr. Xiang plays with his abdomen. He flexes, then releases. He pretends to make his belly button chew. Yes, it can. It can chew! The muscles are already there. Once his tooth is reattached, Dr. Xiang tells the dentist of his plan to cure world hunger and how it will double the dental industry’s demand. The dentist checks to make sure Dr. Xiang’s oxygen was not connected to laughing gas.
Arriving home, Dr. Xiang tiptoes into his mother’s bedroom and finds her asleep. Her dentures are submersed in a glass of Polident. There are the teeth he needs. Rushing back to the smelly basement, Dr. Xiang sits the glass of Polident on the cadaver’s chest and surgically removes the cadaver’s tongue. He’s sad people fear adding a mouth to their stomachs. They must not understand how great it will be. No more food in your smile. No more garlic breath. No more aftertaste. Imagine breathing and eating at the same time. Imagine kissing the same person in two places at the same time!
Dr. Xiang must show them. He’ll be like other historic scientists and perform the procedure on himself. He pulls up his shirt and holds a scalpel against his skin. Yes, he’ll be his own guinea pig.
As this story is published, Adam Lucas is in Italy, celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the day he met his amazing wife. Buon giorno! When he’s not traveling around the world, Adam spends his time searching for a brilliant literary agent for his redneck thriller, The Highway-Song Holy-Roller Lovesick Rebellion.