Attending a seance by a medium specializing in making contact with dead celebrities, she conjured up an immodest proposal.
I heard that a certain medium specialized in making contact with dead celebrities, so I decided to attend one of her seances. At previous seances, she’d reputedly called up the spirits of Abraham Lincoln, Heinrich Himmler, Cary Grant, Vladimir Lenin, Ayn Rand, Rush Limbaugh, and Amelia Earhart. Who, I wondered, would she call up during my visit?
A dozen of us were seated in a circle and watching the medium close her eyes and go into her trance. In a short while, Jonathan Swift started speaking through her. He informed our group that he’d decided to update his well-known essay entitled “A Modest Proposal.” Instead of recommending that only Irish babies should be eaten, he now thought that all babies regardless of nationality, race, or creed should be placed on the menu.
“Thus, instead of raising your newborn, let me suggest that you braise it,” he told our group.
Utterances of alarm immediately went up from the seance’s attendees:
“Horrendous,” “Appalling,” and “Disgusting.” One person even shouted, “Why don’t you go back where you came from?”
As it happened, Swift’s spirit could hear these remarks. “Being dead, I seem more aware of the situation than you folks are,” he said. “Don’t you know that each new baby means more toxic waste, more carbon emissions, bigger holes in the ozone, and less food in the terrestrial larder?”
“I think you should have stuck with Gulliver’s Travels!” shouted a man who identified himself as an obstetrician.
Ignoring this suggestion, Swift went on: “A baby is among the few endlessly renewable resources on our beleaguered planet. To procure it, you needn’t spend any of your hard-earned money. All you need to do is engage in good, hearty sex. Bad, heartless sex will serve the same purpose.”
“I’m a milk-formulate magnate,” declared one of the attendees, “and I think your idea is, well, barbarous.”
“If you ever tasted roast medallions of newborn,” Swift told him, “and accompanied those medallions with a really good Beaujolais nouveau, you would become a convert to my so-called barbarity.”
“This is very upsetting,” said a young woman in our group.
“I assume you’re one of those gals who feel obliged to undergo the miracle of childbirth,” Swift informed her. “Well, I’m proposing a way you can do so and still be contributing to a cleaner, healthier environment.”
The woman got up and ran out of the room. Some of the other attendees now looked as if they wanted to punch the medium and, in doing so, punch Swift. I decided to calm things down a bit by asking Swift this question: “Please tell us, Dean Swift, how you would prepare the meat for the table?”
“Ah, I was hoping someone would ask me that,” he declared. “Most recipes — Hannibal Lecter’s, for instance — call for adult victuals, which are the stale leftovers of humanity. Fresh baby is different. Even though it might initially seem a bit watery, it’s one of the most versatile…”
Now a diaper manufacturer got up and left the room.
“…meats around. You can stir-fry it, pan-fry it, bake it, put it in a fricasse, or deep dish it in a pizza. As a fast food, baby burger (Little Mac?) is vastly superior to whatever MacDonald’s puts between its buns. Some tropical babies can be quite spicy, so you can chop them up and use them as a garnish. If your palate is somewhat discriminating, roast baby on a skewer with a tarturo bianco in its mouth will gratify your palate just as much as any dish on the menu of a French or Italian fusion restaurant.”
At this point, several more of the seance’s attendees left the room.
By now Swift’s voice was becoming a bit dim, as if speaking to us present-day individuals was a wearisome task. “The worse it gets, the more you (not me: remember, I’m dead) beget, as if you’re dedicated to the notion that too much is not enough,” he observed. “So please give baby a chance…unless you want to start looking around for another planet to inhabit.”
At last the medium was silent. Then she opened her eyes, and there was an astonished look on her face.
“Where did everyone go?” she said. For she and I were now the only people left in the room.
“They’ve probably gone off to beget,” I told her.
This article was excerpted from The Last Voyage of Baron Munchausen & Other Wayward Tales by Lawrence Millman.