Dan Smolding had a medical disorder that inactivated his fight-or-flight mechanism, so that when danger approached or he was threatened in some way, he simply stood there and let whatever was going to happen, happen.
There was no name for this medical disorder, although the 14 medical specialists that his parents took him to in his teens had actually gotten together once in one of those “collaborative care” things that you hear so much about but nobody actually does, and they decided to call this new disorder “Smolding Syndrome” even though they weren’t sure what the syndrome was, and apparently there was nobody else who had it. Not yet anyway.
So far they thought it had something to do with his adrenal medulla. Dan went through a lot of tests where he was supposed to remember a string of numbers and recite them backwards. Then they put him in a dark room with a few bats and watched from behind a one-way mirror. Dan sat there reading a book while one of the bats made a nest in his hair. One of the doctors, Dr. Janet Mustcran, wrote an award-winning paper about it that was featured in the January 2008 issue of the Journal of the National Society of the Infirm, and she immediately was offered a better job at Princeton, which she took.
Now Dan Smolding was 32 and he was living in a basement apartment with no locks in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn with a meth addict roommate (Josh) and four Komodo dragons. And he felt pretty okay about that. After all, meth addicts and komodo dragons were just a part of this world, they were things that existed, and what is the point in resisting things that exist, thought Dan Smolding, eating a bowl of cereal with borderline-expired milk while one of the komodo dragons crouched just inside what for other people would have been a comfortable distance.
After breakfast Dan Smolding put a gun in his pants-he was taking shooting lessons in Chelsea after work–and got on his three-speed bike which desperately needed a tune-up but it was okay for now, at least he thought it would be, and as he rode over the ragged pot-holed street just inches from speeding cabs, he wondered if he had put the safety lock on his gun. He wondered, but then he thought, yeah, I probably did, because I always do, right? I’m sure it’s fine.
He got to work and locked his bike up at a fire hydrant and on his way into the building, shook hands with a homeless man and crossed the street, nearly getting hit by a bus.