Larry's Kidney

By DANIEL ASA ROSE  |  July 22, 2009

“You’re not putting me out, exactly, Larry, it’s just — ”

“We go there, we grab a kidney, we come back. Couldn’t be simpler. Only one glitch, Dan, which honesty bids me report, because I want to start a new slate with you and be on the up-and-up about everything: they’ve made it somewhat illegal.”

“They’ve made what somewhat illegal?”

“Certain select transplants.”

“What are you talking about?” I say. “You’re telling me — ”

“Not for everyone! Most of the world can still come to China for transplants, exactly like I said. Everything I told you is correct down to the last letter of the law. It’s just that the Chinese have made it illegal for certain select persons to get a transplant there.”

“Which persons?”

“Western persons.”

* * *

1) Familially, you and he aren’t that close. You didn’t see each other all that much growing up, and, in fact, have been estranged for two decades.
2) Morally, what he’s suggesting is murky. C’mon, are we just another couple of arrogant First Worlders who think they can snatch an organ from the Third?
3) Medically, it’s even murkier. Take him away from his American doctors to find a foreign organ that may or may not be up to snuff?
4) Legally — let’s not even go there. Even Larry admits it’s illegal.
5) For all these reasons, and countless more that flood the brain, it’s clearly a fool’s errand.

* * *

On the next Sunday, I’m being driven from the Beijing airport through the sweltering smogshine that feels like a moist anvil on my head. I’ve managed to hustle an assignment from a magazine to report on the changes in Beijing since I was here 25 years ago — airfare and all expenses paid for one week. The hotel package comes complete for six days with this Red Flag limo, mercifully air-conditioned, and a fetching tour guide. Very fetching . . . 

Daniel Asa Rose has won an O. Henry Prize, two PEN Fiction Awards, and an NEA Fellowship. He is the former arts and culture editor of the Forward and is currently an editor of the international literary magazine The Reading Room. He lives in Rehoboth, Massachusetts.

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