Seattle, WA — There is nothing immediately striking about Alex Tapper. A 32-year-old sales associate at Office Depot, he’s a slight man with a growing bald patch on his crown. He likes movies, hard cider, the occasional visit to Best Buy (“I just like to see what they have”), and his wardrobe is comprised almost entirely of short sleeve button-downs and thrift store neckties. He seems content to coast through life, invisible to everyone he passes. But don’t be fooled. Alex is special.
He doesn’t like chocolate. Geneticists want to know why.
“He’s a superior human.”
“Yeah, I don’t like chocolate. Not that big of a deal,” says the spectacular marvel of hominid evolution over lunch at Dicey’s Café. While I stuff my face with chocolate-hazelnut creme pie, he sips black coffee, perfectly satisfied with the meal that came before. Since learning of Alex’s unique trait from his food review blog on WordPress, top minds in genetic research have been relentlessly pursuing him.
“Mr. Tapper may carry a human variant of the NCHO3 gene, which thus far has only been observed in cetaceans, such as dolphins and whales,” explains Dr. Andre Lowell, Professor of Molecular Biology at Cambridge University. Many in the scientific community, Lowell included, believe NCHO3 is the reason for cocoa’s absence from the cetacean diet. “With the proper funding — and Mr. Tapper’s cooperation — we could effectively put an end to chocolate cravings, so that future generations never have to feel like unrestrained fatasses anytime a coworker brings brownies to the office.”
Such a pitch would move anyone else to cooperate with the research. So why won’t Alex? “At first I was just busy, and it kind of sounded like BS anyway,” he says, the untainted crevices between his exposed teeth evoking the sense one is capturing but a small glimpse of mankind’s future. But what came after that rejection only embittered him to their cause. “They started calling at all hours of the day, following me around — I even caught them rooting through my trash a couple times. It’s really upsetting, and just creepy.”
Despite his frustration, Dr. Lowell understands the conundrum. “He has no idea what the rest of us troglodytes deal with at the grocery store, where footlong kielbasas of Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough can be purchased for just three dollars each. It’s a testament to what could be.”
Alex’s phone lights up and begins to rumble the tabletop. Unknown caller. He palms his eyes in exasperation.
“I respect his time and autonomy, but there are children right now who are building habits they will come to despise as they age. I’m talking ‘fingers in the Nutella jar’ levels of shame,” says Dr. Lowell. “He will give in eventually.”
“I thought if I ignored them long enough they would give up.” Alex stares into his empty coffee mug, perhaps reconsidering his selfish decision to withhold the next milestone in man’s journey toward perfection. “Maybe if I just send in a spit sample or something, that would get them to leave me alone.”
“Our study would be drawn-out and comprehensive,” Lowell reassures me. “If we have to rule NCHO3 out, countless more strands of DNA must be analyzed in order to determine what exactly allows Mr. Tapper the discipline to not gorge himself on M&M’s at the Christmas party that one year when I got really drunk on chocolate liqueur. It is imperative that we don’t miss anything.”
And if their study doesn’t produce the breakthrough they’re looking for? “That’s highly improbable,” says Dr. Lowell. But there’s only one way to know for sure. “All we can do is turn this man’s life inside-out and scrutinize his genes long past his breaking point. Only then can we find his source of dignity.”