Gene Therapy for Nice Women in Love with Lunatics

The gene therapy comes later. Gene therapy is never a first resort!

First comes ice cream. The nice women meet once a week at a parlor, while their husbands are skinning rabbits or practicing to be magicians or whatever it is that they do in/down/up/out there. Ice cream seems an appropriate response; ice cream is both an antidote to lunacy and also a kind of lunacy itself, which allows the nice women to view their plight with some degree of irony. They cry about their plight, laugh about their plight. Plight, ice cream. Laugh, cry. Go home and love their husbands some more. Their husbands are lunatics but what else can these nice women do? They love them, back/nose/ear hair and all.

Word of marital dissatisfaction gets out—their town is not that big—and suitors show up at the parlor. Studs, young kids with earrings who have read that a woman peaks sexually in her forties. They wear muscle shirts ripped at the neck and they take long licks of their cones and let ice cream drip down their pecs.

The women are flattered but annoyed. They switch to a different parlor, where the cookie dough is more cancerous and there are no sugar-free options. They lose the studs but the divorce lawyers find them. The divorce lawyers have shiny cards and foreheads. Their mustaches looked better on the billboards, where the hairs were bigger but farther away and could be viewed at fast speeds through the protective filter of the windshield.

The nice women nicely explain that the problem is not that they are married to lunatics. The problem is that they are in love with the lunatics.

This befuddles the lawyers. They are not lunatics and they still can’t get a woman, nice or not, to love them. The lawyers order hot fudge sundaes to disperse in their mustaches. They say, call us if you stop loving them and we can help you with the next part. You have our cards.

This is when the man at the next table who has been eavesdropping says, Sorry to eavesdrop but I think I can help.

He is a doctor of sorts. What sort? He does gene therapy, which sounds suspicious, but he has not been unlicensed or sued in this state, or in the majority of states. You could get from sea to sea travelling through states he can still practice in, assuming you choose your route wisely, pack plenty of sandwiches, and do not care about seeing the Badlands.

The women are dubious. They have seen this movie before.

This is not like that, says the doctor. This will have a happy ending.

What if it doesn’t, the women ask.

It can be reversed! Money-back guarantee!

He makes a joke about lawyers, which the women find endearing. Also he will give them a group rate.

Shall we draw it out, show the nice women debating over ice cream, growing more desperate, doing Internet research while their husbands track blood on the Persian rug or do cannonballs in the bathtub? We shall not. You already know what the women decide. Have you ever met a nice woman at the end of her rope? Have you ever been one?


The day of the procedure the women are all jitters and hugs, like they are leaving on a long trip to a dangerous land. The procedure itself is hard to explain, owing to a preponderance of overly technical terms. Does a zinc-finger nuclease mean anything to you, reader? Despite their research the women don’t understand it. One woman has a vision of her head and hands being transplanted onto another nice woman’s body, and she screams through the anesthetic, even though this other nice woman has, by both society’s standards and her own reckoning, a better body, because that is not the point.

But when she wakes she seems as much like herself as always. Her body is still her body. Still love handles. Still that awful tattoo. Still scars where the child was lost.

The nice women experience the usual side effects, plus some others: they are scared to sit; they smell like they are burning.

I thought you were just getting a crown replaced, their husbands say.

The next morning, the sight of their husbands makes the women nauseous. It is the realization that they have been having a one-night stand with a repulsive stranger every night for years.


The women leave their husbands. The divorce lawyers get involved. The nice women fall in love with other men who in the next act are also revealed to be lunatics.

I did not promise you would not be in love with lunatics, the doctor protests over the phone. I said you would not be in love with specific lunatics.

The women are angry. They want the procedure reversed. But when they visit his office, the doctor is gone. In fact his office is gone. There is only a sushi restaurant.


A final count: For three women the effects wear off and they go back to loving their lunatic husbands, having learned a trite but valuable lesson about the relative colors of grass. Four women meet for ice cream to complain about their new lunatics, though this town is running out of parlors. Two women become lunatics themselves. One is institutionalized for a brief period, though it is unclear whether it is voluntary or not.

One nice woman gets away. She moves to a mountaintop. She never thinks of her husband, or any man, again. She lives in the fog, which carries her from task to task—the drawing of water! the tilling of soil!—and she owns a winged mountain llama and an asthmatic spiritual clarity, neither of which can be found at lower altitudes, where the rest of us love.  

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