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For the love of…! Janice, I go to work every morning at the same time. How could you not have my lunch ready today? Are you completely useless?!

That’s what I thought to say to my wife this morning. What I actually say is, “It’s okay, dear. Punctuality is overrated. They’ll wait for me, I’m sure.” And then I instantly feel better.

That’s how it’s been for the last few months since my elective surgery. Well, the court elected it for me. In any case, my brain now shares a skull with a brand new Deon 2.7 model ethical implant from AutoEthics Corp. Because of this new addition, it often happens that my first inclination for what to say or do in a given situation gets re-tuned and adjusted by the implant. The rude and sometimes violent impulses I once had (still have, to be honest) are tempered by that tiny Kantian ethics engine. As a result, I’m a better man now than before.

Janice doesn’t particularly like the new me. As she saunters across the kitchen holding a brown bag at arm's length and puffing a cigarette, she says, “Don’t forget, we’re going to talk about the divorce tonight when you get home.”

Oh, I won’t forget. You miserable shrew!

“Of course, dear,” is what I actually say. “I know this is important to you.”

The morning commute is as frustrating as ever — bumper to bumper with light snow just beginning to fall. A turd in a red BMW passes me on the shoulder of the highway, fishtails slightly, and then without putting his cell phone down, tries to cut me off to pull in front.

I lay on my horn and accelerate to close the gap and force him to stay over there on the shoulder while showing him the middle finger of my right hand.

Of course, that’s not what I really do. I safely brake to let him in front of me, then wave politely to his rear-view mirror. The anger and adrenaline drain away so fast I don’t even have time to miss it.

I must admit, work is a lot more pleasant now. Everybody likes me and I’m way more productive without all the scheming and steaming and politics and competition going on in my head. I can concentrate almost entirely on my job. No doubt that will pay off in the long run, although that director position I thought I would get last week ended up going to Pete Singer instead. The boss described him as “a real go-getter” when he announced the promotion.

Go get this, you obnoxious son-of-a…

…sorry, I lost my train of thought.

Driving back home after work, I pass the bar where this all started. Last Spring, I had stopped to have a few beers with my buddies when one of them, Mo Zinder from accounting, started bad-mouthing the president. I called him on it, but he didn’t have the good sense to shut up, or even to stay down after I hit him the first time. So I got mad and just kept pounding and pounding on Mozi until he stopped moving altogether.

I was convicted of first-degree battery and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Luckily, they gave me a choice — do the time or accept the implant. So that’s how I got my new brain buddy.

Janice is waiting for me when I walk in the front door. She’s pretty wound up already and starts yelling right away. I think she married me because she likes the bad boy type. Now that I’m more of a pussycat, the attraction has waned.

“I want a divorce now!” she says. “I’m seeing someone.”

From what I’ve heard, you’re sleeping with half the men in our building, you dirty slut!

“I’m sorry to hear that, Janice,” says the implant. “I don’t want you to be unhappy.”

Just then, the apartment door bursts open and someone comes running down the hallway towards us. It’s Mozi, and he has a pistol in his hand. There’s a wildness in his eyes that I haven’t seen before as he waves the gun back and forth between Janice and me. Janice is crying hysterically and she sits back on the sofa as Mozi commands her.

Then Mozi points the gun directly at me; his hand is shaking a bit, but his face is determined.

“You ruined my life!” he says. “I’ve lost everything, you miserable piece of crap. And now I want you to suffer too. Suffer as I have!”

Do it, you sniveling coward! Go ahead and shoot me if you have the balls!

The implant takes only a millisecond to weigh all the ethical implications and formulate a calmer, more appropriate response to the dilemma.

“Do it, Mozi. Just do it.”

He pulls the trigger. I see the muzzle flash and feel my heart explode at the same time. Mozi has an almost puzzled look on his face as I collapse to my knees. The ethical engine draws energy from the last remaining blood cells coursing through my dying brain to formulate a final proclamation.

“It’s okay, my friend,” it says. “We both know it was the right thing to do.” 

And then I instantly feel better.

Jim Dutton

The Best Version of Me

Autotune for life

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