Author Topic: EP568: Dr. Mbalu and the Butcher’s Daughter  (Read 5226 times)


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on: March 26, 2017, 04:23:06 PM
EP568: Dr. Mbalu and the Butcher’s Daughter

AUTHOR: Megan Chaudhuri
NARRATOR: Laurice White
HOST: Caron J.


With a raspy pop, the cell sprayer in Rebecca’s hand sputtered one last drop of fur progenitor cells. Ignoring her stiff back, she leaned over the culture vat and daubed the cells onto the pink, gel-sculpted contours of a cheetah’s back muscles. The gel rippled; Rebecca held her breath as the reflexive shiver splashed the surrounding nutrient broth.

“Go in,” Rebecca whispered, her eyes hot and dry behind her goggles. Please, she prayed, conscious of the crucifix’s weight at her neck. Another reflex rippled the gel, as if the nerve matrix suddenly sensed the truth: It grew inside an old Gates Foundation lab trailer on the cheapest hook-up in Little Nairobi, rather than in the hide of an adult cheetah.

But the droplet disappeared slowly, the cells sinking into the gelatinous stew of serum and growth factors that—God willing—would ripen them into a furred skin.

“It’s ready for the fresh growth medium and antibacterials, Ming!” Rebecca called out. She palmed the vat’s control pad; the motor vibrated against her legs as she carefully lowered the cheetah’s contours beneath the broth. The pink fluid bubbled as it swallowed their unceasing work of the past months. Past years. Past one-point-three decades, actually, since the Tuesday when her mother’s partner had brought home an empty Kenya Wildlife Service uniform and a tiny, worn crucifix. The blood had been washed off its bone surface, but no one could repair the chip left by the poacher’s bullet.

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!


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Reply #1 on: March 27, 2017, 01:41:50 AM
I registered to comment on this story. Loved that it was set in Kenya; so few stories portray life in Africa, and especially a female scientist's life in Africa. The juxtaposition of Rebecca's grief, desperation and pragmatic forgiveness was fascinating against the backdrop of a world that we only get limited information about, but get the strong sense of the need for creative, nimble thinking in order to survive. I'm not sure that I would call it sci-fi, but I highly enjoyed this story. The ending, with its guarded feeling of hope, made the story feel relateable, and the narrator's voice really complemented the story.


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Reply #2 on: March 30, 2017, 03:27:25 PM
I listened to this at the end of a very, very long day. I had trouble focusing on the words, but the story was engaging enough that I ended up sitting on the floor, half asleep, fighting my brain to focus on it. I love that Rebecca's bitterness, while understandable, isn't shown as right. The widow of her mother's killer had reasonable fears, and the daughter was caught in a crossfire. I love that the butcher's daughter is the crux of the ceasefire, even though she as a character isn't present in a lot of the story (as opposed to her as an idea)


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Reply #3 on: April 04, 2017, 10:41:00 PM
I was pleased with how this story wound up.  It's good to see understanding, if not forgiveness.  You just don't know how things are for someone, unless you've really walked in their shoes.

Failure is an event, not a person.

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Reply #4 on: April 06, 2017, 03:30:52 PM
Solid storytelling.


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Reply #5 on: April 10, 2017, 01:53:43 AM
Great story.


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Reply #6 on: April 13, 2017, 04:01:57 AM
Terrific story.


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Reply #7 on: April 19, 2017, 02:14:27 PM
As a bio grad student, this wasn't my favorite. I use these stories to think less about lab work, not more! I did like how the resolution was a struggle, and would continue to be a struggle.
The arguments for and against conservation of the cheetahs are ones I've thought about often. I know if I had to choose between the life of an animal and the life of a family member, I would choose my family. Demonizing poachers is not the answer, as those of us who do not live in poverty don't know the lengths we would go to in order to escape it. But objectivity, the life of a human individual is not worth more than entire species and ecosystems. The buyers of the skins are more deserving of punishment than any of the people in this story.


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Reply #8 on: July 24, 2017, 03:21:31 PM
Good chewy complicated story. And always love narrations by Laurice White.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


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Reply #9 on: July 26, 2017, 04:13:56 PM
The buyers of the skins are more deserving of punishment than any of the people in this story.

And, I would add, are probably the least-seen players within this story... but also apparently the least affected. They'll still get their damn "authentic" cheetah skin clothing, won't they?


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Reply #10 on: July 28, 2017, 12:23:37 PM
I didn't like it.
Maybe it was all the talk of blood and clinical procedures, maybe it was narrator's a bit bland voice.
Low on Sci-Fi elements as well.


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Reply #11 on: December 05, 2017, 02:18:25 PM
I too liked the non-standard setting for this story. But I feel the author missed an opportunity to use the setting to full advantage when Dr. Mbalu went to the hospital to ask for serum-based medium. The banality of her standing there, amid someone's blood from a recent gunshot wound, and asking for a rare resource to develop a *luxury* item just struck me as insane! I think it struck Dr. Mbalu too, for one second. But then she blithely continues on with her request, never once questioning whether she is using valuable resources (including her brain) in the best possible way to help her country. I wanted her to switch research topics right then and there. After that, I had a lot of trouble caring whether or not she developed a fake cheetah skin.