A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

My Name Is Committee 
by David Kim Burnham (Apr 2009)

            The tenure and promotion committee of the Neurobiology Department of Southwestern Medical Center voted unanimously to grant tenure to Jason Rinjin.  The committee's letter said that the only reason that Rinjin didn’t walk on water was because hydrology was not his field.  Rinjin had not ticked anyone off and his prematurely gray hair and Boston accent didn't hurt either.

            Rinjin had generated an inbred strain of mice that demonstrated depressed behavior and physiological abnormalities associated with manic depression in humans.  And he had gone so far as to show that these mice had an increased tendency toward drug addiction.  It was this later observation that attracted the support of granting agencies.  Recently, Rinjin found a small tissue within the brain of the depressed mice that was less organized than in normal subjects.  He also found that transplantation of this tissue from normal mice could reverse the depression.

            Rinjin sat in the lab, leaning back, hands clasped behind his head, gazing at Sandy his lab manager.  A large picture of a mouse hung on the door to the hallway behind him.  The mouse wore sunglasses and a royal blue sports-coat.  The caption read, "I've got those anterior caudal superficial lobular blues." 

            Sandy was seated at her desk, reading.  She was more than an assistant to Jason.  She was not good looking in the usual way.  But her deep voice and strawberry blonde hair oozed the exotic.  She was a friend and sometimes lover to Rinjin.  In truth, she was his only friend and only lover.

            "Perhaps Descartes was right," Rinjin said with a smile, sucking on his pencil as if it were a cigar.  "Perhaps the mind is more like a radio than it is a computer.  And the ACS lobe is the receiver."

            "But if that is true, then what is the transmitter?" asked Sandy, looking up. 

             "That is the sixty-four dollar question. Ah, perhaps it is the soul."

            "The tissue is much more organized in humans than in mice.  If Descartes was right, then the human tissue might be the very link between the spirit and the body."

            "More importantly," said Rinjin with a smile, flicking his pencil as if removing ashes from his imaginary cigar.  "It is most certainly the link between you and me and a pile of money."

            Rinjin leaned foreword.  The smile left his face.

            "Our mice data is convincing. Now, we've got to take this to the patient before the word gets out."

            "You're not board certified in Neurology.  You'll have to find a collaborator."

            "Screw that.  We're not sharing this.  Besides, it's not like we will be doing brain surgery.  We will be injecting it into the ear lobe."

            "But there are rules.  What will the administration do?"

            "Screw the rules.  We don't need them."

            "Where will we get the tissue?"

            "Leave that to me."

            Sandy frowned.

            "Don't worry Sandy.  It won't come from living donors."




            The first transplant patient was a thirty-eight year old man named David.  David had suffered manic depression for over twenty years.  He started out on lithium and moved on to the heavy stuff.  But none of it stayed the bouts of depression that made David a frequent flyer on Beelzebub Airways. Most of the time, David bore his cross quietly, internally, a black hole with legs.  But when the episodes peaked, he lashed out with his tongue.  The rumor was that he had contributed to his own father's suicide by convincing him with cold clear logic that life was not worth living.  At least his mother had one thing to thank him for.

            The effects of Rinjin's treatments on David were gradual.  But by six weeks, the change was remarkable.  One afternoon, he came into the lab whistling.

            "I never knew I could do it," said David.

            "What's that?" asked Sandy.


            "I'll bet you never knew you could do a lot of things," said Sandy brushing her hair from her eyes.

            She's flirting with me, thought David.  So that’s what it’s like.




            Suddenly, nine weeks into the treatment, David failed to show up for his appointment.  Rinjin and Sandy were both very disappointed, but for different reasons.  By his last weekly visit to the lab, David had appeared to be completely cured, without a care in the world.

            Rinjin was not able to find another suitable patient volunteer.  His research funds ran out.  He was afraid to release his findings.  Rinjin began to act more and more like David before his treatment.  Sandy bore the brunt of this abuse.  According to Rinjin, she was not serious enough about their work, not focused.  And he didn't like what she was doing with her hair. 

            One morning he arrived to find the door to the lab still locked. Once inside, he found a note on his desk.  It read:


Dear Jason.  I'm sorry but I just can't stay.  You've changed.  You really need to go somewhere and sort yourself out. Forgive me.  And please get some treatment.



            Rinjin picked up a pile of notes from his desk and threw them against the wall.  He kicked the filing cabinet and swore. He found a bar on the way home and didn't leave until he forgot what got him there

            One night in the neighborhood bar, inspiration arrived on the heels of his fourth drink.  I need another manic depressive.  I am depressed about it.  Bingo!!

            If Rinjin had been thinking at all clearly, he would have realized that given what he knew, he should not expect the therapy to do him any good.  But he was not thinking clearly in the least.

            Rinjin fainted the first time he had tried to give himself an injection.  But somehow he managed to do it with trembling fingers the second time.  By the third week of treatment, Rinjin noticed a considerable change in his mood.  But the tissue was running low. Rinjin found more tissue, but the next one was very small.  He procured another and then another.  In all, there were seven separate donors.  And the final donor was female.

            Rinjin felt very good.  He no longer missed Sandy nor anybody else.  He stopped worrying altogether.  It was as if he shared all of his problems with someone else.  The only time this newfound confidence eluded him was when it came time to make a decision.          

One night, at Wendy's, he stood in front of the cashier expressionless, trying to decide what to order.  The strange thing was he had always known what he wanted before.  It had always been a burger, fries and a medium diet coke.

            "May I help you?" asked the cashier after several minutes.

            It was late at night and Rinjin was the only customer in the place. 

            "Are you closing?" asked Rinjin.

            "It's okay, go ahead and order." said the cashier.  She had blonde hair tied back in a pony-tail and a prominent pimple square on the end of her nose.  She was smiling.

            "Never mind I'll come back some other time."

            "No, go ahead, really."

            "Okay - I - I'll have a frostie, a - an order of fries, make it a large, a burger with cheese, a-a baked potato with a- sour cream and chives, Oh -- no onions on the burger, a salad bar, a med- oh forget it.”

            Rinjin quickly escaped red-faced through the front door.

            That night, Rinjin had a dream. He was in a maze of office cubicles.  The color scheme was horrendous, lavender cubicles and Fuchsia carpet and the plaid curtains just didn't work.  He ran about the cubicles, stapling his earlobes and smearing his face with white out.  Suddenly, he saw two figures, dressed in white lab coats coming towards him.  Each carried a rod.  One was short and the other one tall with a receding hairline.  As they came closer, Jason could see that their names were embroidered on the pockets of their lab coats.  The name on the short one's coat read James Watson.  The name on the other read Francis Crick.  They were each carrying a plastic model of a DNA helix.

            "Torment us not, though lords of the DNA." cried Rinjin.  "What have we to do with thee?"

            "Thou art possessed by a committee," said Watson.

            "It is true that we follow Roberts Rules of Order," said Rinjin.

            "Wo, wo unto you, Robertsees, hypocrites!" said Watson.  "You are like a fancy photocopy machine.  On the outside, you look like you could collate and do two sided copying.  But inside, you are full of paper jams and toner clogs."

            "We move that this meeting be adjourned," cried Rinjin.  "And we second that motion."

            "Okay let's bring the issue to a vote, then," said Watson.  "How many votes do you have."

            “Eight ays."

            "Well," said Watson.  "We have two negative votes plus God is on our side and he as forty bazillion.”

            "Wait," said Rinjin.  "I demand a recount.  God has to be present to vote."

            "It is written in the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, God is  everywhere," said Crick.

            Watson and Crick began to wave their DNA helices.

            "Come out of him evil spirits," said Watson and Crick in unison.

            "Please lords, don't banish us.  And let us keep the office supplies."

            Watson and Crick waved their helices again.  To his horror, Rinjin saw white wisps of smoke come out of his mouth.  The seven wisps circled in the air then darted into a herd of pigs, one memo into each of the seven.  The seven pigs had been sipping coffee and eating donuts.  But they stopped eating when the memos entered.  They appeared to have lost a degree of intelligence. They sat down on their haunches in a circle and began to grunt hysterically, each of them trying to grunt louder, longer and more frequently than the rest of them.

            Rinjin awoke suddenly to find himself muttering.  He collected his thoughts.

            "Ha," he said out loud.  "It was just a dream.  I take it all back.  Crick is an atheist!"




            Rinjin did not get his funding renewed.  On a scale of one to five hundred with one being the highest, his latest proposal to the National Institutes of Health received a score of fifteen thousand.  The reviewers said the document had no focus whatsoever, and that its only resemblance to Biology was its striking similarity to a certain bodily excrement. But the associate dean of the medical college took a job elsewhere and the institution decided to promote internally.  Since Rinjin had not been making a lot of decisions, he had not ticked anyone off.  His Boston accent and his prematurely gray hair didn't hurt either.  Soon he became the new associate dean.

            As associate dean, Rinjin was utterly incapable of committing to any cause whatsoever.  However, it was often said that he had an uncanny knack for seeing all sides of a problem.  Hence, when the dean retired, he became the natural replacement. He thought about giving up administration and continuing his research but was never able to decide how to do it.  And he didn't dare submit another proposal for fear of a lawsuit.

            One day, Rinjin became chancellor of the medical center.  As such, he was no longer expected to do anything, and the less decisions he made, the better.  He also got along well with the wealthy alumni and the board of reagents.  In fact, he seemed to have a special affinity for the board of regents.

            Years later, while drinking his morning coffee, tea and hot chocolate, Rinjin found a picture of David, his old patient, in the Dallas Morning News.  A presidential committee had just appointed a new ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China.


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