A dramatization of some actual, some probable and some made-up-for-kicks-but-could-be-true-events that comprise one of the most horrifying human rights abuses of all time: Lyme disease.
It was a dark and stormy night. In Valhalla, the black clouds hung so low they resembled an evil whipped topping above the pillars of the ironically named Sunshine Cottage of New York Medical College. In between ear-splitting cracks of lightning could be heard the unmistakable shrill cackle of the Entrepreneurial Trio of Fish, Wormser and Connolly.
These three entrepreneurs, so described by fellow mad scientist Arthur Weinstein definitely were up to no good. One could jump to such conclusions simply by making word associations with their names–Fish, with a stench of four-days-dead smelt; Wormser, with a coating of slime so slimy as to repel dirt itself; and Connolly, well, I’m about to tell you a story about a con so terrifying you may never be able to eat whipped topping again.
“We’ll form a not-for-profit!”
“Yes, YES! A not-for-profit!”
(Cackle, cackle, cackle)
“We’ll call it the American Lyme Disease Foundation, and use it to control our tick-borne disease empire!”
The cacophonous trio nearly drowned out the crashing thunder with their hideous laughter.
Meanwhile, at the National Institutes of Health, Eddie McSweegan sat reminiscing about his recent coup involving government funding of research into tick-borne diseases. His expression was so smug that he almost felt like slapping himself, as he “vogued” into his deskside mirror.
“Ha! What business does the Navy have studying ticks, anyway? It’s not like ticks can swim onto the boats and offer themselves up for dissection-by sailor.”
“Hmmmm….” he pondered, “Maybe if the captain puts ticks in the beds…” He seemed distracted, between roguish winks and nods to his mirror, and the plotting of storylines for cheesy science fiction novels that he’d write on the government’s dime. But make no mistake, nothing could distract Sweeg from the task of rubber-stamping grants for his associates at the ALDF, Yale, and–“Oh, Ed. You’re just such a handsome fellow! How can you not kiss yourself?”
And here I must truncate that part of the story, for it becomes quite gruesome, indeed.
Now, the storm has subsided. We hear the gentle chirping of birds in springtime.
What is that hum in the distance? Could it be angels’ harps, the melody fragrantly wafting past, on the arms of warm spring breezes?
‘Tis violins in Allen’s head, filling the void of unscientific, unintellectual malaise. Allen Steere, violinist by imagination and scientist by accident, was in Germany to supervise little Frankie Dressler in the publication of something that was going to make him very, very wealthy. He swayed to and fro, the violins seducing his every thought back to the piles of money, the rich vein of gold…”
“Allen! …..Allen! Are you there?”
He jolted back to reality, exclaiming “Yes, Mother!”
But it was not his mother. It was far worse. Worser than worse. It was Barbara Johnson, head of the vector-borne diseases branch of the CDC, on the speaker phone.
“If I were your mother I’d have kicked your behind out the door to play with the bugs instead of that silly violin! No wonder you never could properly cut up a tick, you pansy!”
“Uh-I-um-I’m sorry, Barbara,” he stammered.
“How many times do I have to tell you, it’s DOCTOR BARBIE?”
“Um, I’m terribly sorry, Dr. Barbie. What can I do to please you, Dr. Barbie, ma’am?”
“Tell me what you’re wearing.”
“Uh….Barbara—Dr. Johnson—Frank’s here, and the other assistants, and the janitor, and the phone, well, it’s on speak–“
“ALLEN, HAVE YOU BEEN SNIFFING FORMALDEHYDE AGAIN?”
“Allen, I hope I am making myself perfectly clear. We can’t sell a vaccine if its actual failure rate is known. If the testing adequately diagnoses the disease, it will expose the vaccine failure rate, and all of our work will go down the toilet along with your musical career aspirations. I need those reports published ASAP. It’s almost October of 1994 and if I don’t have that research fraud, I can’t hold a fake consensus conference in Dearborn. And do you know what that means?”
“It means I lose my deposit on the hotel, you dipshit! And I GUARANTEE you do not want that to happen!”
Allen most certainly did not want that to happen. With the swiftness of a child escaping the terror of the haunted house at the end of the street, he published that research fraud and never looked back.
Stay tuned for the next installment, in which we learn from whence they came….MUAH-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!