Sunday, August 19, 2007

Satire by Joe Reese

The Origin of a Pill That has Changed our Society
by Joe Reese

This is the story of a pill that has changed society, and made its creators wealthy.

It is a story untold up until now.

Here it is.

Aubrey Dill was a language teacher. He taught German at a major state university in the South. His desire to teach German had been fueled by an exchange program some years earlier. Six weeks of intensive German, spoken within the confines of a family he found engaging and supportive, had provided him the ability to think in and communicate in a second language, and the entire experience had changed his life.

Because of this, it seemed logical to become a language teacher and do the same thing for others.

Competition for jobs at colleges and universities was, though, frighteningly competitive. He spent years finding a place, and was now, having only a masters and not a doctorate degree—and no academic publications-- hired on only a one-year contract.

But all that was to change.

Because Aubrey Dill, on the evening of October 18—a fine fall evening, crispness in the air, the lights of the football stadium
ablaze even though the game was not to take place until the following Saturday afternoon—because Aubrey Dill, on this particular evening, actually at 7:05, a time he would not soon forget, had succeeded in creating a German language pill.

He had always liked biochemistry, and so the first experiments— done in the chemistry lab, after hours—had seemed simple.

“If the brain works this way—and language gets learned in this part of the brain—and language gets developed here, within this genetic pattern—and we could change the pattern this way, or that way— then a genetic altering device based on the pattern of…”

That kind of thing.

After only a few days he produced a pill that would make anyone absolutely fluent in German.

He allowed the mixture to harden in the laboratory all afternoon. Then, at five o’clock, he made a slight adjustment based
on certain observations concerning the genetic tendencies of German speakers. He was unable to test the pill on himself since he already spoke German. But at nine o’clock the following morning he met one of his students in a coffee shop near campus. The student wore shorts, sandals, and a baseball cap turned backwards. He had a name, but it did not matter.

T he student was there to complain about his mid term grade.

“I can’t believe I got a ‘D’ in this class for mid term. I really think I deserve better.”

“Take this pill.”

The student did so.

“Es ist sehr wichtig zu mir,” said the student, “passende Noten zu bekommen.”

(Translation: It’s very important to me to get good grades.)

“Bemerken Sie,” said Dill “daB du jetzt Deutsch sprichst?”

(Translation: Do you notice that you now speak German?)

“Ja, aber…werden Sie deswegen die Note verandern?”

(Translation: Yes, but will you change the grade?)

“Leider ist das jetzt unmoglich. Aber…”

(Translation: Unfortunately, that’s impossible now. But…)

The student threw a cup of coffee at Dill and stalked out of the coffee shop.

Still, Dill was not discouraged. He manufactured several of the pills, and found that he could make them in French as well as

The German pills came out blue; the French pills were pink.

Unfortunately, the human brain was not set up to respond to any other languages than German and French.

He did not know why.

Now he needed a name for the pills.

Something patriotic; something symbolizing a breakthrough.

“This is an American Revolution” he decided, “in German and In French.”


American Revolution in German And In French

They would be ARGAIF pills.

He lay awake in bed that night, imagining how famous he would be.

No more countless hours spent learning German and French.

One pill, and instant fluency.

As luck would have it, there was a meeting of the university’s foreign language department just the next day.

He would, at that meeting, unveil the pill. He might even produce a first year student, who would take one of the pills and
immediately be fluent. He might produce two students, one to take the French pill and another to take the German pill. They would both become fluent.

He hardly slept that night.

Nor was his enthusiasm too severely dampened upon learning, from the office secretary, that the agenda for the MONTHLY MEETING OF THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE DEPARTMENT had already been finalized, and that he could not present his findings in OLD BUSINESS (which it was not), nor NEW BUSINESS (which it could be next month, but not this month).

Because this month’s agenda was closed.

So he resolved to wait.

What was a month, anyway, when a revolutionary breakthrough certain to change human culture, was at hand?

He resolved to spend the month learning about the job opportunities that would open up for any student fluent in German.
(He thought he would do German first, French later, simply because of his background). He began by checking German universities. He himself loved Germany, and thought that his students would enjoy teaching English to German students, living in places like Heidelberg or Berlin, and learning another culture while they taught Germans about America.

He was disappointed to learn, though, that by law German universities could hire only German nationals to teach full time at
their universities.

He knew by his own sad experience that there were no jobs for Americans in German departments at American universities, because American universities preferred to hire native speakers: ie, Germans.

That way they could be seen as World Class Universities.

So he contacted corporations that did business around the world: Lufthansa, American Airlines, the Hilton Hotel Chain, several large restaurant chains… unfortunately it was always the same: whenever they needed someone who spoke German—which was seldom—they just hired a German.

It was easier.

Still, Dill decided, what did jobs matter? The knowledge itself was the thing.

Broadening one’s horizons.

Reading Goethe in the original.

What nineteen year old American college student would not kill to read Goethe’s Torquato Tasso in the original German?

These were in fact the arguments he made with several of his own first year students during the weeks before the departmental meeting.

“If we take this pill can we still finish first year German?”

“You won’t need first year German.”

“But what about my grade?”

“Well… you’ll just test out. You won’t have to…”

“I have an “A” in first year German now.”


“I don’t want to lose my A.”

“Wouldn’t you rather know the language?”


“Goethe’s Torquato Tasso.”

“Will I be able to get a job?”

“No. But you’ll have broader horizons.”

“I’d rather have an A.”

So none of the students would take the pill.

But that was all right.

The faculty would be impressed by the breakthrough, even if the students were not.

When the meeting finally occurred, on December 18—Dill had approached the Departmental Chairman, hoping to explain his findings in a one on one meeting, so as to expedite the process of making the entire campus bilingual, but was told the The Chairman’s calendar was full and all matters pertaining to curricula must at any rate be taken up by the entire faculty, and the Chairman was away in Montgomery at the Alabama Modern Language Association Convention and then in Atlanta
at the Southeastern Modern Language Association Convention and then in San Francisco at the National Modern Language Association Convention and then in Paris at the World Modern Language Association Convention—there was snow on the ground.

It did not matter.

The time was at hand.

The Chairman himself introduced Dill, saying:

“I believe Mr. Dill has something to say to us.”

And thus it had come, Dill’s moment.

He stood before the All of the prestigious scholars in the language department: Dr. Mollengruber, specialist in fourteenth
century literature of what was now Pomerania; Dr. Deflorio, author of sixteen books on Cardinal Vittorinani Buccocento, a religious figure of sixteenth century sub-Umbria who had at one time received support (locally only of course) to become assistant to the Pope; Professor Emeritus Andre Dujonbelie, author, in a fifty six year teaching career, of more than a thousand academic novels and seventeen thousand articles dealing with the suspected origins of a manuscript thought perhaps to be the source for L’homard du St. Terisu (The Lobster of St. William—Terisu means “William” in Old Picardian) –all of these people, most of whom hardly knew Dill existed, and seemed to look past him in the hall as though he were invisible—all of these people would congratulate him and hail his breakthrough.

Seventeen imminent scholars, all world renowned experts in languages. He paused for an instant, shaken by a thought which came to him like a revelation: even though no student on the campus actually spoke a foreign language (except or two young women from Bordeaux who had each married insurance agents in the town, and were working on masters’ degrees)—even despite this fact, the department could boast of more than eleven million pages of academic research, published in the most prestigious of the countries journals: Fourteenth Century Austrian Dialectics, The Amerasian Flaubert Monthly, St. Juxtapold of Barium Studies—the list went on and on, rendering credible the College President’s recent assertion that, due
to its immense quantity of ACADEMIC RESEARCH PRODUCED, this particular university in Alabama, could now be considered a World Class University. Harvard. Oxford. The Sorbonne. Southern Alabama State University.

“I have made two pills,” Dill said. “One is blue, and the other is red. If you take the blue pill, you will be fluent in
German. If you take the red pill, you will be fluent in French.”

Silence throughout the room.

Finally the silence was broken by Dr. Ernesto DeFlorio-Scaab

(author of Habits of Dogs in Eighth Century Gnandenfirst):

"What about Italian?”

Dill was nonplussed. Finally he said:

“I can’t do Italian.”


DeFlorio-Scaab reddened:

“May I ask why?”

“Well… the brain just doesn’t work that way.”

“I see.”

And, so saying, DeFlorio-Scaab walked out of the room.

There was more silence for a time.

No one seemed to know what to say. Finally, Felicia Brullant— a woman who, Dill thought, had always seemed genuinely nice, said:

“Why did you make them blue and pink?”

“Well, I… they just turned out that way. I didn’t really think about it.”

She nodded, sympathetically, then said:

“You do know that I am chairman of the Committee for Non Marginalization of Students With Learning Differences?”

“I’m sorry,” Dill said. “I didn’t know that.”

“Well…be that as it may…are you aware that students with certain visual learning incapacities are unable to process the colors blue and pink simultaneously?”

“I didn’t know that.”

“You didn’t know it,” Felicia Brulant went on, this time not so sympathetically, “or you didn’t care to know it?”

Silence in the room for a time.

Then Felicia Brulant walked out of the room.

Another, even more interminable, silence.

Finally the chairman said:

“Does anyone have anything to add to Mr. Dill’s presentation?”

Finally a gruff and very deep menacing voice, coming from a hulking professor in the back of the room, growled:

“He needs to run it by Curriculum Committee. I’d think he knew that.”

“Thank you Mrs. Johnson. Sorry, Dr. Johnson.”

“That’s all right.”

“When is the next Curriculum Committee meeting?”


“Can you put him on the agenda?”

“I don’t know. We’re pretty full.”

And that was all that anyone had to say to Dr. Dill.

When he got home, he found that he had a list of email to answer. All of them were from student groups or offices voicing concern. The Jewish Students Alliance wanted him to attend a series of films explaining the horrors of the Holocaust while emphasizing the role of the German language in rise of Naziism. The Drug Awareness Council voiced deep concern about forcing students to take drugs of any kind, especially colored pills. The Society of African-American Women demanded an apology from him, written in duplicate and delivered by hand to all African-American women currently living on campus. The apology was to be accompanied by a twenty-one page document outlining precisely what he had done to offend African American women, and simultaneously proposing a two year plan of sensitivity-raising which would ensure his never doing it again.

The Committee for Students with Learning Differences was enraged.

There was an email from the Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, demanding Dill’s immediate resignation.

Just as he had finished reading the last email, the phone rang.


“Is this Mr. Dill?”


“You son of a bitch!”

With that, the caller, hung up.

There was a knock on the door.

For a time Dill hid in the kitchen, in one of the small areas under the sink.

The knocking continued, however.

Finally, resigned, he answered the door.

Standing on the front porch of Dill’s house was a very attractive young woman. She introduced herself, and Dill asked her to
come in.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said.

“Why not?”

“I think the police are coming.”

“Oh God.”

“Something about giving drugs to minors.”

“Oh God.”

“Why don’t you come over to my apartment?”

“All right.”

And, one eye always looking back over his shoulder, he walked down the street with her.

As they rounded the end of the block, he thought he could hear
sirens, and then, later, bullhorns.

Finally they came to the young woman’s apartment.

She invited him in, and gave him a glass of beer.

“I’m a faculty member here too,” she said. “I teach Spanish. I was in the back of the room today, when you gave your presentation.”


“I just wanted to say, I thought you were treated very unfairly. I don’t think any of these people see the overall ramifications of what you created. This is a marvelous thing.”

“Thank you. Finally somebody sees that.”

She leaned toward him, and took his hand.

She was, he realized, really quite attractive.

“Do you realize what this discovery you’ve made could lead to?”

He moved closer to her:


“I believe… I believe this could be the basis of an article.”


“Yes! Not in a real journal; but maybe in a Graduate Journal!”

“You think so!”

“I really do. Just tell me: what work did you utilize to create the pill?”

He shook his head.

“No work at all. I just… I just thought of it.”

She moved away, and looked as though she had been struck.

“You didn’t do any research?”


“You didn’t even go to the library?”

“No. I just…thought of it.”


So saying, she got up and went to the door, which she opened for him.

“Well. That changes things. I’m sorry. I don’t think there’s an article here after all.”

“I’m sorry too,” he said.

He walked to the door and out on the porch.

He was not sure where he would go, realizing he was wanted as a drug pusher.

“Is there not,” she said, “even a side effect we could write about?”

“Well,” he said, “the pill makes you horny.”


“Yes. In addition to teaching languages, it gives males an erection.”

She reached out, took his arm, and pulled him inside.

“Oh really?”

They woke up the following morning, with sunlight filling her bedroom.

“Now that,” she said, “is an article.”

After considering the matter, they decided that the pills were much better with the language learning capacity removed. He managed to do this in a few days, avoiding police and various student action groups by going out only at night, and hiding the rest of the time in her basement.

Then they marketed the new pills, got married, and, incidentally, became quite wealthy.

Dill was never seen at the university again, and resolved never to set foot on any university, just to be safe.


Dill and his new wife also decided that, since having sex and learning languages were exact opposites in human endeavors, they would change—reverse, actually—the name of the pills.

ARGAIF would be marketed as FIAGRA.

Except the word needed a hard beginning rather than a soft beginning.

For obvious reasons.

The pill is now known around the world by its new name, and this has been the story of its creation.

Dill is living somewhere in Paris.

Never try to find him.

Author bio:

Joe Reese is a novelist/storyteller/adjunct English teacher, based in Athens, Ohio. He has two novels: Katie Dee and Katie Haw: Letters from a Texas Farm Girl and Dear Katie Dee: More Letters from a Texas Farm (website: He’s just finished a novel called TAAS: A Novel of the Standardized Examination, which deals with one day in the life of a Texas high school driven insane by the desire to be EXEMPLARY rather than just excellent. He’s also written plays, short stories, articles, etc, and put in thirty-six years of English teaching, during which time he’s been fired by almost every institution of higher learning in the country. In spite of this his wife Pam still says she loves him, as do his kids, Kate, Matthew, and Sam. (Email:

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