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Parts For Sale

Parts For Sale

A Story by Ted Lambert

A possible end scenario of the single-payer medical system.......


Parts For Sale



            If you can see another way, honey, I’ll be glad to listen.  But I don’t.  So I’m going.”

            “Barry, please.  Don’t do this.  We’ll make it somehow, you know we will.  We always have, we always do.  You’ve got to let us keep trying!”

            “Not this time, I don’t think, Dee.”  Barry was tired.  Tired of it all.  “We have too many bills and not enough money to pay them.  We’re drowning in debt and I don’t see any money coming in.”  He spread his arms in an expansive gesture.  “If nothing else, you’ll have this place, and the kids.  Tyrone’ll be drafted by a company soon, but not soon enough to pay off your mother’s MediWorld bills.  She wanted the new heart, and by damn she got it, and now we have to pay for it...”  he broke off bitterly, old rage fisting his hands and tightening his chest.

            “How can you think we’ll be better off if you do this?  So what that you’re not working now?  Someone’ll pick you up soon.”  The false bravado in her voice won a quick, sad glance from her husband.  “For God’s sake, let’s do an arm or a lung first, and pick up another one on the street.  Don’t do the whole thing at once!  Please!”

“Dee, you know something like that won’t cover your mom’s heart.  No way.  It’s all or nothing.  I won’t have a crip-don raising my kids.  Forget it.”  Barry barely heard her say something about the kids not caring how many lungs their daddy had as he asked the terminal for BioGenet’s phone number.


“How much longer on S170B, man?”

            “Specimen 170, Boy -- which one....oh yeah.  Oh, I don’t know.  He’s hanging in there pretty good.  My guess is another day or so,” Mangelson replied, rounding the corner and entering the cafeteria.  It was mostly full.  He shouldn’t have been surprised, though.  Noon was prime feeding time at BioGenet’s main facility. 

            Zaccary Krikorian estimated at least a fifteen minute wait, and took his companion’s arm.  “Let’s do Chinese, man.  This gonna be awhile.”

            “Works for me, Zac.  Let’s go.”


            Curt Mangelson started work for BioGenet straight out of his Ph.D.program in Bio-Engineering at UC-Berkeley.  A strong believer in better living through science, his prize-winning and widely published doctoral thesis on tissue compatibility forced the medical community into considerable soul searching.  His methods of tricking the body into accepting organ transplants, from cornea to heart, with a ninety-nine percent success rate, were considered by some revolutionary, and by others madness.  His methods required treating the donor organs while still in the donor.  He liked to tell his friends that BioGenet had hunted him down like a dog.  They’d offered him an employment package he could not realistically have refused.

            Zaccary Krikorian’s background differed.  He’d grown up stealing radios and food, disrupting and then breaking out of youth homes.  Curt had made a few strange demands upon BioGenet, contingent with his acceptance of the job (BioGenet was ever-so-quick to acquiesce):  access to prison records, exemptions from recently passed human ethics testing requirements, and the freedom to hire around BioGenet’s employee standards board.  Zaccary Krikorian fit Curt’s bill nicely.


            At Cho-Sin’s place, after ordering lunch, Zac picked up the conversation where it’d been dropped in the cafeteria.

            “Can’t you hurry him up?  I got three more numbers out there waiting to happen, but I can’t watch them forever, man.  They free to leave when they want.  One, though, he on the edge.  If I bring him in now, man, he ours, but we wait and his wife goan talk him outta it.  He big and healthy, too.”  He paused.  “You know what they callin the half-ways on the street?”  Curt shook his head no.  “Crip-dons.  What the hell that mean?”

            ‘Crippled-donors,’ Curt thought.  How original.  “No, Zaccary, I can’t hurry him up,” he said patiently.  Zac was good at what he did, but couldn’t see the big picture.  “Fear, hope, and shame must all play their parts, in order.  Each elicits its own particular blend of chemicals, and must be delicately balanced, in order to properly saturate the...” he cut himself off, seeing he was losing Zac’s interest rapidly.

            “I need the money, man.”

            “Why, Zac?  You did a good job with, what, S170B, was it?  He only came in a few days ago, and you got paid, didn’t you?”

            “Yeah, man, but I’m tapped now.”

            Curt tapped his chopsticks absentmindedly against his water glass, thinking about space management in his production area.  “All right, Zac, bring him in.”


            Later, thinking about S170B, Curt departed his corner office for a stroll down to the production cubes.  He quickly found S170B, and punched up the viewing screen.  It flickered to life, bringing with it a view of a smallish room about ten feet by ten, its floor inlaid in red brick.  A cubical cage about six feet to a side sat centered in the room and dominated the view.

            S170B sat scrunched into one corner of his cage, his face red, his hands raw.  Curt could see some blood on the vertical bars of the cage, and made a mental note to make sure the lab technicians kept a close watch of S170B’s blood levels.  Some loss was unavoidable, but it never hurt to double check.

            Eight days so far, and, to Curt’s experienced eye, nearly ready.  For the hundredth time he glanced at the blank screens covering completely all sides of the room, wondering what S170B saw there.  The control pad told him the Shame sequence was running.  No keybox appeared to be visible, which a disassociated part of Curt’s mind found interesting.  Most donors’ shame sequence usually included a reachable, but impotent escape option, which tended to manifest as a key in a box outside the cell bars.  Fascinating, he thought; S170B could be suffering from low self-esteem.

            As a matter of fact, Curt thought, S170B looked ready right now.  He picked up the extension and dialed operating room two, remembering that number one was busy with a different harvest that afternoon.  He also placed three other calls.  The first went to Sales, a reminder to get a sales order ready for the items that could go out that very evening.  The second went to BioG’s on-site storage to prepare for the remainder.  The third went to Zac to bring in his new prospect.

            Orderlies entered the cubicle quickly and efficiently, not startling S170B.  Curt smiled.  He continued watching the monitor as they opened the cage.  S170B barely reacted as they shackled his arms and legs to the gurney.  As they rolled him past Curt, he decided to watch this one through finished goods.  He fell in step behind the orderlies and trailed them down two floors and into operating room two.

            Operating room 2 contained a motley collection of equipment, each piece a Mangelson original, specifically designed to keep a particular organ alive and healthy.  S170B was rolled in, transferred to the operating table.  A mask was put in place, the limbs covered.  As the surgeon raised his knife to S170B’s exposed hip joint, a nurse stood ready with a large clamp, and Curt thought back to his Doctoral Thesis -- first the limbs, then the organs, then the brain.


            Barry put the phone back in its cradle and stared at it, unmoving, for a long, long time.  Finally he stood, turned, and found Dee there, hands on her face, white-eyed with terror.  He kissed her and left.

            BioGenet was only four blocks away.  He walked.  The receptionist greeted him warmly and introduced him to a contracts advisor, who took him through security and into a small room.  He was given a document to sign, which he barely read, but did ask when his wife would receive the money.  He was told it would be electronically transferred to her account when he signed the contract, which he did.  The contracts advisor left, a nurse entered.  She led him down a hall and into another small room, this one inlaid with red brick.  “Take off all your clothes,” she said, “and step into the cage.”

© 2010 Ted Lambert

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oh yes. this is project #2 in the works, about where a single-payer system could realistically end up. There are lots of 2nd and 3rd level consequences i don't think anyone has thought through, that would radically change corporate, family, and neighbor interaction. I am going to finish Structural Defect first, though. Thanks for asking!!!

Posted 12 Years Ago

this is a very interesting story, are you going to do more with it?

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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2 Reviews
Added on September 21, 2010
Last Updated on November 30, 2010


Ted Lambert
Ted Lambert

Salt Lake City, UT

45 year old, C-Level Executive, published author, with stories inside me that need to come out or I will implode into them...... more..