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Chapter 8
Alternate Lives

Lives Unlived -
Poncho Margaret Hatrack Devilliers Santo Domingo Harris

Fashion model, brain surgeon, comic book hero, public intellectual, pinup heartthrob, mother figure, mystery. Conceived September 25, in the back of a 67 Chevy. Aborted, December 12, aged minus six and a half months.

Poncho was a beautiful child. Well, not a child, exactly. More like a...zygote. A beautiful zygote, that grew into a beautiful fetus, that would have grown into a beautiful child if her life hadn't been cut short by...


In my mind's eye, I can see Poncho at the age of six, dancing around a living room in just the most adorable tutu. She dances up to a microscope and says, "Look, daddy, I can see the veins in the leaf!" These are the two poles around which her life will revolve: striking feminine beauty and a mind like a steel trap.

Soon after, she stars in a series of television and print advertisements. You've seen them: ads for chewing gum, aspirin and, in an especial irony, baby clothes. To her credit, after a year of this, Poncho sits her parents down and tells them that, while she was grateful for the attention and income, she didn't want to be judged solely on her looks, and was already contemplating a career in medicine. What could they say?

What would you say?

Poncho is a solid student, always in the stacks reading the latest research on obscure diseases of the spleen. Except when she is editing the student newspaper, leading the debating team to national championships or volunteering at local old age homes. Uhh...you could say that she has boundless energy.

Although Poncho has many suitors in university, she doesn't really date. In her memoirs, she would argue that she just didn't have the time, but several of her biographers pointed out that she had an active sex life until well into her seventies, that she just didn't seem to form a permanent attachment to any one man. That makes sense: if you're Poncho Margaret Hatrack Devilliers Santo Domingo Harris, what one man could possibly satisfy you?

After residency at Mount Sinai Hospital, she settles into a position at Sick Children's Hospital, where she would work for the rest of her life. Although she did not have any children of her own, the children she did brain surgery on at the hospital would go on to live full lives as poets, painters and Ottawa lobbyists for foreign governments. "All of my children make me proud," Poncho would always say. "Even those who try to convince the government to give tax breaks to foreign corporations are doing what they truly believe in, bless them, and following your heart can never be wrong."

The woman would have been a saint.

In her 40s, Poncho is approached by Stan Lee, who wants to use her likeness in a comic book about a children's brain surgeon who fights evil villains by shooting laser rays out of her eyeballs. At first, Poncho resists Lee's overtures. When he explains to her that the comic book would feature the theme of avoiding head injuries, and she negotiates a clause in their contract to the effect that 1,000 copies would be distributed free to children's hospitals across North America, Poncho reluctantly agrees. The Adventures of Doctor Laser would not, I'm sorry to have to report, set the world on fire. Still, it's a nice keepsake for those of us whose lives were touched by Poncho's dedication to brightening the days of afflicted children.

By her 70s, a time when most people would be contemplating nothing more serious than whether or not to put in their teeth to eat their morning oatmeal, Poncho would be training for a climb up Mount Everest. I like to think that she would die in her sleep, dreams of future triumphs accompanying her to her final rest. Being shot by a jealous lover would be good, too.

Poncho's was not a life tragically cut short - it never truly began. But, as she herself would have undoubtedly reminded us, this was part of the Divine Plan, since Poncho was spontaneously aborted. Her parents, John and Loretta Harris, had no idea that she ever existed, and never will. Still, what a glorious life it would have been!

Inferior Detritus John Smithsonian Fructus Harris

Inferior Harris is the sperm that beat its head against the egg that would eventually become Poncho. Although he wasn't strong enough to fertilize the egg, he is proud to have known her for however brief a time in Loretta Harris' uterus.

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