A young boy was brought to Beth Olah
hospital slightly after two A.M. by a woman
who claimed repeatedly to be his mother yet
clearly belonged to a different race than
The woman -- speaking feverishly, her
words clustered ungrammatically, verbiage spewing
from her mouth like smoke from a burning toaster
oven -- said that she had given birth to the boy
at City Hospital several hours earlier, but that
for reasons unknown to her security guards
expelled her from the building before the boy was
The receptionist at Beth Olah telephoned
security at City to find out if there had been
a kidnapping. A careful inventory was made of the
pediatrics ward; there was no indication of any
children missing. The receptionist asked if the
woman -- who claimed her name was Taliya Stein --
was on record as having given birth at City. No
records indicated she had ever been admitted
Nevertheless, Ms. Stein convinced a
doctor at Beth Olah -- despite the
inconsistencies in her story and her obvious
attempts to conceal the boy's origins -- that
the circumcision must be performed: the
operation had grave religious significance,
and a mother's follies, delinquencies or --
heaven forbid -- crimes should not be allowed
to destroy a child's purity in the sight of
The doctor dutifully performed the
circumcision while the putative mother sat on a
chair in the operating room. She asked him
increasingly strange questions about the his
scalpel and the experience of wielding it.
How often did he wash it?
Did he consider it a symbol of his own
Did he ever take the scalpel home with him
to show his wife and children? If so, did
he ever use it to cut his food with at dinner?
Did he ever wish his scalpel was a bit more
stylish, more decorative? Like a miniature
Samurai sword, perhaps, with abalone inlays or a
Did he ever imagine that the little boys'
foreskins were enemy troops, rushing towards him
across a muddy, reeking battlefield with weapons
Did he ever take his scalpel out between
appointments and just sit with it at his desk,
holding it, gazing at it, talking to it?
Did he think his scalpels gained magical
power with each circumcision he performed?
Had he ever missed and severely injured
a baby? Castrating it, for example?
Had he ever missed, and accidentally cut
a girl somehow? If so, how?
Had he ever tried performing a
circumcision while blind-folded, just for the hell of it?
Had he ever considered lining up many baby
boys in an attempt to set a circumcision speed
Did he collect the removed foreskins and
freeze them, to be able to one day make clones of
The doctor became increasingly impatient
with the woman and her bizarre questions. When he
completed the circumcision, he stormed out of the
operating room and proceeded to a private doctor's
lounge on another floor. There he lit a
cigarette, poured himself some bourbon, and stared
at the television set. Someone had turned the
volume down, but the doctor couldn't locate the
remote control and was too lazy to walk over to the
set. On the screen, three black women were making
puppets out of dough and berries, then ripping them
apart; then making puppets out of brown paper bags,
and setting them on fire; then making puppets out
of raw meat and throwing them at each other.
The lounge intercom buzzed; the nurse
from pediatrics was speaking slowly, exaggeratedly
careful with her words, hinting at some unspecified
urgency. In the background the doctor heard Ms.
Stein saying the same words over and over: "He was
fakin' it; he was fakin' it."
When the doctor strode from the elevator --
his vision softened by the bourbon -- the
receptionist silently gestured toward the operating
room where he had performed the circumcision.
Ms. Stein was standing beside the table
where the baby lay once more.
"It grew back, Doc, it grew back."
"His thing-skin grew back on."
The doctor looked down at the baby and,
yes, the boy had regenerated his foreskin. To
be sure the mother hadn't performed some sort
of trick, hadn't glued the skin back on, the
doctor tugged at it firmly. It did not snap
off. The doctor stared down at the baby, who
seemed to smile back ever so slightly.
"This is highly unusual, Ma'am. I'll
have to perform a second circumcision on your
This time the doctor insisted that the
woman remain silent so that he could concentrate.
Ignoring him, she suggested that he try a larger
scalpel -- perhaps borrow a carving knife from
the cafeteria. The doctor assured her his success
had nothing to do with the nature of the
Slowly, cautiously, meditatively, the
doctor re-circumcised the baby. He carefully
disinfected the baby once again, and washed
his scalpel. Its fresh blade gleamed under
the fluorescent light as he polished it dry.
"You didn't cut it."
"What? No, I cut it."
The doctor followed the woman's gaze to
"It growed back again, Doc! It's like a
The woman began babbling: She wondered
if the doctor could make this happen repeatedly,
because then she could sell the foreskins to
Italian restaurants, which could deep fry them
in batter and sell them as squid-rings.
"What if he start growin' them skin-tips
on his fingers, too?"
While the strange woman rambled, the
doctor glared at the baby. Its eyes were shut,
its body completely peaceful as its foreskin
slowly grew longer, and longer, like a pale,
peach-colored, slender hose uncoiling from
some hollow space in the baby's gut. The
doctor felt his throat constrict with rage;
his hand, once again gripping his scalpel,
trembled; he fought the urge to lean over
and cut the baby's eyelids off, then point
his blade at boy's foreskin and yell at him:
"How the hell do you explain that? What is
WRONG with you, you ghastly little sinner?
What sort of demon lies your heart, that
you can defy nature in this sickening way,
that you resist the sacred rite or
But instead of acting, the doctor
stared silently at the telescoping foreskin,
confused, defeated, hopeless. The doctor's
head sank with shame, as if he felt somehow
to blame for this obscene abnormality.
When the foreskin reached two feet long,
it began moving as if with an independent
life-force of its own: it flopped against the
operation table, rose up in an arch, poked at
the baby's face, then flopped back down on the
cushion to rest.
Then it sucked in air, and inflated a
balloon. After a moment it spewed out the
air, shaping its opening in such a way as to
make a slender piece of skin vibrate. The
result was a remarkably pleasant and melodic
whistle. The foreskin inhaled again, and
once again piped out a brief, rather
The woman was silent. Confused,
perhaps. The doctor's hands trembled so
violently that he accidentally poked himself
in the leg with his gleaming scalpel. And
that's when he got the idea to murder the
Clearly this grotesque baby, with his
obscure origins, was the warrior-offspring of
the devil, or some revolting earth-demon.
Clearly it would constitute a public danger to
allow the viper-like foreskin to continue to
grow and create music. After all, what
sinister messages might its tunes conceal?
What hypnotic powers might its alien melodies
wield over innocent listeners? The doctor
shuddered, envisioning the massive popular
appeal and -- perhaps -- political influence
a rock-star foreskin might have in America.
Gritting his teeth, his eyes flashing
wide, the doctor lunged at the baby with his
scalpel. But his assault was not quick enough:
with lightning speed the foreskin coiled up
like a snake, shot out with the force of a
titanium spring, and circled three times around
the doctor's neck.
As the doctor's eyes bulged, turned red
from their bursting blood-vessels, as his lungs
exploded inside his chest, all of the foreskins
the doctor had cut flashed before his mind's
crystal eye, and -- unable to take another
breath -- the doctor died before he could count
Backing away from the operating table,
Ms. Stein mopped sweat from her forehead. For
a moment she stammered incoherently, then
excused herself as politely as she could.
Without looking again at the foreskin she
retreated into the hallway. She bolted toward
the elevator, raced into the street, and never
touched a baby again.
Meanwhile the Asp's miraculous
foreskin was playing with more sounds. Not
just musical sounds -- pitches, durational
notes, tone-coloring -- but also alphabetic
sounds: vowels, consonants.
The nurse at the reception desk was
still staring at the closed door of the elevator
the crazed woman had launched into a couple of
minutes earlier. It was late at night and the
ward was deserted. The nurse's eyes fell shut
against her will. On the slippery threshold of
unconsciousness she shook herself awake,
determined to not fall asleep. As she reached
for the drawer where she kept her
methamphetamines, she looked up suddenly: she
heard a voice from inside the operating room
where the doctor had performed the circumcision.
But it wasn't the doctor's voice; it wasn't a
voice she recognized at all.
"Nurse!" It called to her in a clear,
high-pitched, pure tone, yet a slightly
anxious one. "Please come to me," it said,
"I... I have something for you."