by Fredric Brown
“Walter, what’s a Jaycee?” Mrs. Ralston asked her husband, Dr. Ralston, across the breakfast table.
“Why—I believe it used to be a member of what they called a Junior Chamber of Commerce. I don’t know if they still have them or not. Why?”
“Martha said Henry was muttering something yesterday about Jaycees, fifty million Jaycees. And swore at her when she asked what he meant.” Martha was Mrs. Graham and Henry her husband, Dr. Graham. They lived next door and the two doctors and their wives were close friends.
“Fifty million,” said Dr. Ralston musingly. “That’s how many parthies there are.”
He should have known; he and Dr. Graham together were responsible for parthies—parthenogenetic births. Twenty years ago, in 1980, they had together engineered the first experiment in human parthenogenesis, the fertilization of a female cell without the help of a male one. The offspring of that experiment, named John, was now twenty years old and lived with Dr. and Mrs. Graham next door; he had been adopted by them after the death of his mother in an accident some years before.
No other parthie was more than half John’s age. Not until John was ten, and obviously healthy and normal, had the authorities let down bars and permitted any woman who wanted a child and who was either single or married to a sterile husband to have a child parthenogenetically. Due to the shortage of men—the disastrous testerosis epidemic of the 1970s had just killed off almost a third of the male population of the world—over fifty million women had applied for parthenogenetic children and borne them. Luckily for redressing the balance of the sexes, it had turned out that all parthenogenetically conceived children were males.
“Martha thinks,” said Mrs. Ralston, “that Henry’s worrying about John, but she can’t think why. He’s such a good boy.”
Dr. Graham suddenly and without knocking burst into the room. His face was white and his eyes wide as he stared at his colleague. “I was right,” he said.
“Right about what?”
“About John. I didn’t tell anyone, but do you know what he did when we ran out of drinks at the party last night?”
Dr. Ralston frowned. “Changed water into wine?”
“Into gin; we were having martinis. And just now he left to go water skiing—and he isn’t taking any water skis. Told me that with faith he wouldn’t need them.”
“Oh, no,” said Dr. Ralston. He dropped his head into his hands.
Once before in history there’d been a virgin birth. Now fifty million virgin-born boys were growing up. In ten more years there’d be fifty million—Jaycees.
“No,” sobbed Dr. Ralston, “no!”