I’ll Never Be a Great Alchemist Like My Father, by Zack Bornstein

You must be well familiar with my late father, the eminent Lazarus, who the Royal Alchemie Academy knighted as the greatest alchemist the world has ever known. No doubt you have marched in the parades honoring his breakthroughs in alchemy—hundreds of never-before-attempted concoctions that did not transmute lead into gold, but did give today’s young alchemists more time to attempt other mixtures that have also yet to work.

Oh my dearest father, how ever can I live up to your great name?

I have dared, oh, I have dared toeing into my father’s deep footmarks—even garnering tributes for my alchemy—but while I have revealed dozens of null results, my work will forever pale to The Greatest Alchemist of 1000 Generations—how dare I even compare?—because he found almost six times that many null results.

How could one ever dream to fail as many times as my father did?

Oft whilst I am punching mirrors, my dearest Gertrude, she will say to me, “Oh, Son of noble Lazarus, I understand your plight, but if you do wish to exist beyond your father’s shadow, why not master another honorable profession such as medicine or metalwork?”

Oh simple-minded Gertrude, how would a doctor deny the existence of new gold production methods? How do you surmise a blacksmith would demonstrate that heating lead and adding various ingredients cannot create gold?

A simple mind she has. Feh!

Likewise my youngest brother Cuthbert inherited not the heart nor the mind to even tip his felt hat into the family’s dear craft of alchemy. Instead he labors as a measly chef, earning a wage and caring for his young, temporary joys that accomplish nothing but forsake time that could be best spent saving time for future alchemists.

In dark hours of pressing my face into father’s gravestone, I take refuge in the memory of one blizzardy eve atop his windmill laboratory: ‘Twas the half-mooned night he first stirred ground ostrich egg shell into a broth of molten lead and virginal fox blood, changing alchemy forever. He turned to me, and he said—and I’ll never forget his words for it has become a mantra by which I approach the world—“My son, you see this lead?” he said, “Does it look goldish to you, a gold-tinge maybe? No? Ahhh, come on!”

And since then no one has dared or needed to attempt my father’s inspired mixture.

What could I do, what could I possibly do—other than successfully transmute lead into gold—to be known other than “Lazarus’s Son”?

Wait! I’ve got it! Gertrude, quickly now, check the grand alchemic records, I must know, has any a knighted alchemist ever dared heat lead to bright orange then add forest mushrooms chewed by an ill chambermaid? This is it! I can feel it! I will finally make my father proud, I will finally live up to–

What? No? On October 17th, you are sure? Double-check the logbook. Aughhh!

My father, he thought of it all—well not quite it all, specifically one important thought—but still he thought of quite a lot.

Zack Bornstein is a comedy writer in NYC, who’s worked with The Late Show with David Letterman, The Onion, MTV Networks, Condé Nast, Animal Planet, UCB, and Tribeca Film. His writing has been published in McSweeney’s, The Smew, Prospect, Cavalier Literary Couture, The Big Jewel, The Brown Jug, and more, but he still cannot grow the connections between his hair and sideburns.

The Humor Section features a piece of original humor writing each week. To submit, send an email to Brian Boone.

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