Breaking Bad, The DNA Files

One day I was a mild-mannered high school biology teacher, content to share my love of all things genetic with the mumble-mouthed, underwhelmed adolescent cretins known as the Class of 2035. Most of my students wouldn’t know Watson and Crick from Abercrombie and Fitch, but that didn’t stop me from extolling daily the virtues of genetic modification. Still, I was sure that even my brother-in-law, the head of the regional office of the Food Bioprocessing Agency (FBA), would never suspect me when I became the GMO Confection King of the entire Southwest.

My name is Shecky Schmipes, but you may know me by my street name: Nirenberg.

It started innocently enough. I noticed an especially moronic student, Jesse Pigman, was showing up at class with a sparkly blue streak smeared above his mouth. His typical morose torpor was even more pronounced than usual, he barely raised his head even when we spliced genes from a mole rat into Todd DiLaMuca. I approached him as class was ending.

“Pigman,” I said, handing him an alcohol swab, “Wipe that smear off your face.  What is that anyway?”

He avoided my glare but answered quietly, “Yo, it’s just marshmallow, what’s it to you anyway, yo?”

Blue marshmallows? The mythical blue food (don’t give me blueberries: blue on the vine, purple on the plate)is the Holy Grail food bioprocessors have long dreamed of, so it seemed impossible that this half-wit would have the solved a problem that Monsanto’s finest gene-enriched minds couldn’t crack. Warily, I asked “What gives it that glowing blue hue?”

“There’s these squid, ya’know,” he said, “And they got this bluish stuff on them. We just dive down and scrape some off, then dip our marshmallows in it. See?” He pulled a blue mossy looking mess of a marshmallow from his pocket. “Dudes pay top dollar for smores that glow even before you get close to the fire.”

It turned out I was right – he hadn’t crossed the blue-gene barrier, but unbeknownst to him this idiot-savant was part way there.

“You’re talking about Bobtail squid bacteria? Smearing it on regular marshmallows is so 20th century, dude.” To win his confidence I allowed his street patois to sully my lips. “How much do you think dudes would pay for marshmallows that glow blue from within, without that smeary crust?”

As I calculated, his eyes grew wide, and I knew this was the answer to my problem. You see, I’d recently been diagnosed with a rare disorder, a type of Munchausen’s by proxy that compels me to put my family through horrendously stressful situations while rationalizing that I’m doing it for their own good. I needed money for treatment and I needed it now, or my wife and kids would be completely unhinged from acute exogenous anxiety in 6 months.

“Dude, how are we going to get them to glow from inside?” Pigman complained.

“If you’d been paying attention in class you’d know. We’ll genetically engineer the blue-glowing genes from the bacteria into chickens, creating egg “whites” that glow blue. The rest is as easy as, well, easy as lemon meringue pie. Without the lemon. Or the pie.”

“Yo, awesome idea, yo.” His way with words was eclipsed only by his narcoleptic pallor.

I knew we’d need a partner. “Do you know the Matzo Brothers Soup to Nuts House?”

“Sure, that’s the fast food discount deli on 3rd Street. What about it?”

“The owner’s an old friend, Gussy Fringenbergerstein. We’ll need his help.”

“How’s an alta kocker soup maker going to help us?,” Jesse asked. “I’m pretty sure GMO marshmallows wouldn’t be kosher.”

“When you want matzo ball soup, what’s the first thing you need?” I asked the little twit.

“I dunno – a paranoid dread of a rare, unnatural malady?”

“No,” I said cautiously, wondering about his inchoate keenness. “You need chickens. For the soup. And if you have chickens, you know what else you have?”

“I’m guessing it’s not a bad case of avian flu….?”

“That’s right, it’s not. It’s eggs.”

Before you could say “Holy Halvah” we were up and running. I concentrated on the gene splicing, Jesse procured the source DNA from the squid and separated eggs . He may have been dim, but he had a knack for keeping the yolk from smearing our glowing blue albumin.

Marshmallows_in_soft_yellow_and_blue_lightSoon our product was the market standard. When kids saw the glowing marshmallows we made, they couldn’t get enough. And no one could make the eggs glow bluer or purer than yours truly. No sweet-tooth worth his salt would be caught dead eating the mushy off-blue marshmallows made by hypoxic, addle-brained free divers who don’t know a V. fischeri from an e. coli, if you know what I mean.

Jesse and I were in business. And since the silky blue pillows weren’t labeled GMO, parents never new that their little darlings were getting hooked on anything but smores of a different color.

But then some parents’ suspicions began to grow when the blue smores-loving kids started staying up all night. At first I was able to hold them off with the usual double-speak – after all, what kid doesn’t get amped by the sugar rush of a marshmallow treat? But then I realized the awful truth: slicing the squid genes into chickens had one unanticipated effect – along with the blue color, consuming the bacteria genes upended the kids’ natural diurnal rhythms. The blue marshmallows were turning our towns’ kids into sugar-fueled sleepless zombies — it was like a cross between Wild in the Streets and Night of the Living Dead.

The little kids weren’t so bad, they just stayed up at night drawing on the walls or making 800 piece Lego kits. Victimless crimes as far as I was concerned. (I had doctor bills to pay after all.) But the teenagers were another story – it was like their minds were let loose for all kinds of mischief. The smart ones were the worst — they stayed up with their home DNA splicing kits  creating monstrous creatures and even worse foods. When one crossed a cow with some cereal to get a pastrami on rye I’d had enough.

“Pigman,” I said reluctantly, “We’ve got to shut it down. Unfortunately, now that the genie’s out of the bottle, there’s only one way.”

“No, Mr. Schmipes dude, yo, not that!” he cried, but it was too late. I had the gun in one hand, and a roll of “Contains GMOs” stickers in the other.

“Yes, Jesse, it’s time” I said, heading for the supermarket. “If only we’d done this at the start, none of this squid-spliced, bacteria botched, sugar coated mess would have happened. Why didn’t we just label it?”