The Human Genre Project

One of the ten plagues will fall on this house

Taste receptor genes on chromosome 12 affect our perception of bitter tastes

It’s Passover and tonight is the Seder. You’re the youngest, so it’s your duty to ask the questions. You’ve practiced them all week.

“Why is this night different from all other nights?” Your mother turns away from you to plunge her hands into the kitchen sink. You admire the way she can wash the dishes without looking at them.

“Why is this night different from all other nights?” The cat tucks his head under his paws.

“Why is this night different from all other nights?” Your sister looks in the mirror as she attempts to put on mascara.

“Why is this night different from all other nights?” Your father hides his face in his newspaper.

As your mother grates the horseradish for the seder plate, the hot sharp smell spreads through the house and makes tears run down your face.

You manage to ask all the questions and your father answers them. Your grandmother tells your sister off for wearing lipstick. One of your cousins breaks a crystal glass but your mother stays calm.

You’re allowed to open the front door for the angel, but then you have to go to bed.

The next morning the front door is still open, and your mother isn’t at breakfast. Your father burns the toast. When you leave for school, the cat runs outside and is never seen again.

At breaktime you go outside into the playground and stare into the sky. You wait for it to rain frogs or locusts, but nothing happens.

Your mother isn’t at home after school. Your father cooks spaghetti that night but you can’t eat it.

The next night you hear him whispering into the phone. “Please,” he says, “please.”
You hear him doing this every night, but he never tells you why.

You get a goldfish. You start to eat again. Your sister goes out with a boy from down the road.

The next year you go to your grandmother’s for the Seder. You’re not the youngest there, you don’t have to ask any questions. You don’t eat the horseradish. You remember how bitter it was, last year.

Pippa Goldschmidt