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Blue genes

by on March 6, 2011

Only if both parents carry the gene….

Tom Petersen slowly placed the knitted bookmark against page seventeen, closed the magazine and very carefully put it down on the table. The bookmark had been a present from his daughter, Karen, for his forty-third birthday. It was green with pretty blue polka-dots; they popped strikingly against the green background but were much less bright than Karen’s blue eyes. His wife Rachel’s eyes were almost as blue as Karen’s, but not quite. They always joked about how his own bronze-brown eyes had zapped the mist out of Rachel’s powder-blue eyes to produce Karen’s perfectly azure ones.

To the repeating mantra in his head, Tom turned off the lights in the study, took the trash outside for the Tuesday morning collection, checked that the front and back doors were locked, and started up the stairs. To the mantra, he paused outside his daughter’s bedroom, softly opened the door and silently crossed the room. And to the mantra, he picked up a discarded pillow and gently placed it over her face, so that he would never have to see those beautiful azure-blue eyes again.

Downstairs, the lights of a passing car swung past the house, briefly illuminating the scientific magazine on the table in the study. Emblazoned on its cover in brilliant yellow text, below a picture of a beautiful blue-eyed child, was the phrase: “Defined by DNA: Find out what your genes say about you.”

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5 Comments
  1. Interesting. I first thought he was going to save the world from what his daughter could, or rather, will become. But then I had another thought. Tom also has parents, what if both his parents had… Is he acting out urges he has long held in check or saving his daughter from what she will become?

  2. Tom and Rachel have a daughter, Karen. Karen has a chance of carrying a genetic disorder (although she’s possibly already got problems, but it isn’t clear if she does), and, in facing up to the possibility, Tom kills his daughter.

    I did not see the murder of his daughter coming; I thought it was a pretty good surprise, and well paced with the taking out the trash and locking up. It also made perfect sense given the mantra and the discussion about eye colour (genetics). I completely enjoyed it.

    Not sure how gently one could cover someone’s face with a pillow, though, unless the victim wasn’t able to struggle (which could be the case, I suppose).

    Also, I’m unsure if the bookmark and its colours had any significance.

    I do enjoy the twist in this 🙂

  3. parfles permalink

    OK, I have a different interpretation: Tom has figured out that it is genetically impossible for him to have fathered a blue-eyed child; ergo, Karen isn’t his, his wife has cheated on him, and he murders Karen as a result.

    I thought the context was clear, and Tom’s mantra, the whole distanced state he has put himself in, reads very well.

    The paragraph about Tom’s, Rachel’s and Karen’s eye colours is obviously very necessary but reads a bit forced. One small suggestion is to take out “his wife” from the start of the one sentence (it becomes clear in the next sentence), but still I would like to have seen the thoughts emerge more naturally somehow.

    My main problems are logical: I would have thought you can never determine paternity from eye colour – Tom could have a recessive blue gene, his wife is a double blue, there is lots of chances Karen has blue eyes (or, I am talking rubbish! I don’t know very much about it). My other slight logical problem was his decision to kill Karen – not Rachel. I see the explanation (so that he would not ahve to be reminded of the infidelity) but I can’t quite buy it.

    The tone and flow are great and the story tells itself well, I enjoyed it!

  4. Tom reads an article about genes and hereditary wotsits in a science magazine and concludes that the blue-eyed Karen can’t be his (biological) daughter as he is brown-eyed. He proceeds to pillow-kill her.
    My understanding of the story is the same as Parfles’s, and I’d be very interested to hear more from Candice and Rudy about their interpretations.

    I didn’t really have problems with the genetics bit (the logic of the story jars a little with what I remember from school, but I realise that we’re taught a simplified version), but choosing to kill the daughter, rather than the wife, seemed a little odd. Mind you, there’s plenty of room in the story for him to go kill her next! Ahem.

    I liked the completion of everyday tasks before going upstairs to perform a murder. I like the picture painted by
    “Downstairs, the lights of a passing car swung past the house, briefly illuminating the scientific magazine on the table in the study.”
    but the passing, past feels a little clunky.

    Great story!

  5. This is simple, and creepy, and compelling: a magazine article casually informs Tom that the colour of his daughter’s eyes means he cannot be her father, and he calmly smothers her. I had no difficulty believing that a parent confronted suddenly and horribly with evidence of infidelity might go off the rails into obliterating the evidence of the infidelity. The simplicity of the shocked mental state really works, and is beautifully carried in all the detail of the scene – not just the emphasis on colours in the descriptions, which really worked for me, but also the way in which details become hyper-clarified under shock.

    Where I think things don’t quite work is in the technical details. To the best of my knowledge the gene for blue eyes is recessive, which means that a brown-eyed parent can have a blue-eyed child if the partner also carries the gene, whether dominant or recessive. For Tom’s absolute certainty to work, the setup would have to be two blue-eyed parents producing a child who did not have blue eyes. Absent this degree of certainty, the implication is that Tom has misread the article or the article is simply wrong, which adds a whole new layer to the story – he’s not just reacting with near-insanity to the possibility of infidelity, he’s doing so inaccurately, and his murder of his daughter is based on a wrong assumption. If this is the interpretation you want to convey, I think it needs to be signalled in the story in some way – either his hasty reading or the magazine’s trashy and inaccurate nature – as it otherwise obscures the beautiful clarity of Tom’s moment of realisation.

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