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THE GUINEA PIGS

    Once a guinea pig couple received a shocking letter from their fertility clinic.
    The letter began: “We regret to inform you that an error appears to have occurred in egg/sperm pairing. With our exhaustive safety procedures, unfortunate mishaps of this type occur very rarely in our laboratories, and we continue to exercise every precaution against precisely this kind of irregularity. Rest assured that a generous compensation will be accorded you in recognition of the seriousness with which we take this matter.”
    The guinea pigs looked at each other in consternation. What could have happened? Everything seemed to have been going so smoothly. They’d passed the battery of tests for psychological and emotional balance, provided both egg and semen samples for storage just in case one of them might pair up with an exceptional donor better than the other, completed the workshops for prospective parents of guaranteed gifted guinea pigs, and spent many hours studying computer lists of available donor traits to be mixed and matched with theirs.
    It had been time-consuming, but both guinea pigs were convinced that the whole business had been worthwhile. What guinea pig wouldn’t wish the best for its children? Why shouldn’t one’s offspring have a better shot at fame and fortune than one had been given at birth oneself? That was the dream of all guinea pigs, wasn’t it, children whose lives would outshine the rest and be an inspiration to lesser lights? But with the world so competitive these days, getting ahead and staying ahead would be no easy matter.
    For that reason, the guinea pigs had not begrudged the many hours they’d spent trying to select traits that would guarantee the brightest future. The prospects touted in the computer lists had been very encouraging: potential Nobel Laureates, business tycoons, gorgeous models, star athletes, creative geniuses. With such donors to choose from, why not go for the best? Why not go for them all, even, and guarantee that one’s line would be among the elites for generations to come? 
    In principle, the guinea pigs were against this kind of genetic manipulation on ethical grounds. All should have an equal chance at the good life and claiming its top prizes, they maintained. To think otherwise struck them as morally suspect and undemocratic, akin to Nazi eugenics in some slippery-slope sort of way, and the guinea pigs prided themselves on being firmly opposed to any of that. They were only seeking the best for their own descendants. They certainly weren’t advocating wholesale attempts to create a super-guinea pig. And besides, if you could afford it, who had the right to tell you that you shouldn’t go ahead just this once? It was a free country, wasn’t it?
    But now, to suffer such a setback! “It’s so unfair!” the guinea pigs exclaimed as they clung to each other for support. “Despite all our good intentions, to be dealt a blow like this!” Through their tears of dejection, they could barely see the final line of the letter, though they’d read it many times by now:
    “Therefore, please accept our sincerest apologies for the mistaken pairing of your own egg and sperm.”