What Happened to Tom
a novella by Peg Tittle

Print: 978-1-77133-293-4
ePub: 978-1-77133-294-1
PDF: 978-1-77133-296-5

130 Pages
May 25, 2016
New Fiction All Titles Novella

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What Happened to Tom a novella by Peg Tittle

Inspired by Judith Jarvis Thomson’s philosophical thought experiment “The Violinist,” What Happened to Tom is a psychological and philosophical thriller, a horror story that any one of millions of people could, at any moment, experience. Tom, like many men, assumes that since pregnancy is a natural part of being a woman, it’s no big deal: a woman finds herself pregnant, she does or does not go through with it, end of story. But then Tom wakes up to find his body’s been hijacked and turned into a human kidney dialysis machine. For nine months he has to stay connected to Simon, a famous violinist, or Simon will die. Tom finds he is powerless to take legal or medical action to deal with the situation. He loses his girlfriend, his car, his apartment, and eventually his job as an architect. At the end of the novel, he has lost almost everything he holds dear and his life is completely, and irrevocably, derailed, and entwined with that of a violinist who no longer wants to work. Considering this situation analogous to an unwanted pregnancy, What Happened to Tom is ultimately a feminist allegory about women’s reproductive rights.

"Peg Tittle’s What Happened to Tomtakes a four-decades-old thought experiment and develops it into a philosophical novella of extraordinary depth and imagination. Tittle uses Judith Jarvis Thompson’s famous violinist illustration from her 1971 essay "A Defense of Abortion" as the inspiration for this story of Tom who is kidnapped and surgically attached to a famous violinist. Tittle adds multiple nuances to Thomson’s original scenario, and the novel takes dark, unexpected turns as Tom desperately tries to extract himself from his dire situation. Part allegory, part suspense (perhaps horror) novel, part defense of bodily autonomy rights (especially women’s), Tittle’s book will give philosophers and the philosophically minded much to discuss.”

—Ron Cooper, author of Hume’s Fork and other philosophical novels as well as Heidegger and Whitehead: A Phenomenological Examination into the Intelligibility of Experience; Professor, College of Central Florida

“This powerful book plays with the gender gap to throw into high relief the infuriating havoc unwanted pregnancy can wreak on a woman’s life.  Once you’ve read What Happened to Tom, you’ll never forget it.”

—Elizabeth Greene, author of Understories and Moving

What Happened to Tom?

 

Peg Tittle, feminist, writer, philosopher, is the author of What If…Collected Thought Experiments in Philosophy (2004) and Critical Thinking: An Appeal to Reason (2011). She is also the editor of Should Parents be Licensed? Debating the Issues (2004). Her articles and essays have been published in a number of North American magazines and journals and she has been a columnist for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, The Philosophers’ Magazine, and Philosophy Now. She is also the author of six screenplays. What Happened to Tom is her first novella. She lives in Sundridge, Ontario.

What Happened to Tom
reviewed by The Miramichi Reader - July 1, 2016
http://miramichireader.ca/2016/07/happened-tom-fallen-angelas/

You'll notice that the title is not a question, but a statement. Inspired by a philosophical thought experiment, Ms. Tittle has written a novella that poses the "what if" questions: What if men got pregnant? More to the point, What if they found themselves pregnant against their wishes? Well, that's what happened to Tom Wagner. Out for a few drinks with friends after work, he next wakes up in a type of hospital room, but it's not a hospital, it's a clinic run by Dr. Anders, the woman who approached Tom the night before and had one drink with him.

    "One day he was living his life. He was a bright, young thing, one of many,
    with a loft in the city.
    And the next day, he woke up—in a bed that wasn’t his own. Feeling…
    heavy. As if gravity had not just doubled, but tripled. And groggy. Not hung
    over exactly. It was more like a drugged fog. But that didn’t make sense….
    When he came to the second time, he was conscious just long enough to
    realize his mouth was dry and the room was white. Very white…"

But Tom is not pregnant in the female sense, he is though, physically attached to another human by a cord. A cord that is saving another man's life, and one that must remain attached to the two men for - you guessed it - nine months. It is a variation on the pro-choice/pro-life debate from a different angle, one that is thought-provoking, educating, and at times, humorous since there are some traditional role-reversals playing out, such as Tom's girlfriend Beth telling him "He's no fun anymore" since the 'connection' and his best friend and co-worker Steve brushing him off saying "he has a life too". Tom's whole life is falling apart, but he's saving a life, isn't he? It's only for nine months, right? Or is it?

     One day he was living his life. He was a bright, young thing, one of many,
with a loft in the city.
     And the next day, he woke up—in a bed that wasn’t his own. Feeling…
heavy. As if gravity had not just doubled, but tripled. And groggy. Not hung
over exactly. It was more like a drugged fog. But that didn’t make sense….
     When he came to the second time, he was conscious just long enough to
realize his mouth was dry and the room was white. Very white…
     The third time, consciousness wavered, flickered precariously, just out of
reach. He struggled to hold onto it, and tried, despite his mental fuzziness, to
review his past, thinking he could figure out where he was from where he had
been. Which assumed, of course, logic and linearity, reasonable cause and effect.
     He and the guys had gone to Mister’s, a popular after-work place for the
upscale young professionals crowd. He’d finally paid off the last of his student
loans. It had taken him five years, on a junior architect’s salary, but from now
on, he was free and clear. Still had the car to pay off, but the snappy Corvette
was worth it. Even if it was used. So they’d gone to the bar to celebrate.
     “Hey, did you guys hear about Cheryl?” Kevin had asked Tom and Steve.
They’d gotten their drinks and were lingering at the polished bar, ostensibly
waiting for a free table. They place was, as always, busy.
     “No, what about Cheryl?” Tom dutifully replied, loosening his tie. Kevin
was okay, but, truthfully, he was a little boring. Unimaginative.
     “She’s pregnant.”
     Tom continued to scan the room. Not that he was a hound dog, but it wasn’t
really news, was it. Women got pregnant. Big deal.
    “Did you see the game last night?” Steve asked, also scanning the room.
Now, he was a hound dog.
     “You call that a game?” Tom laughed.
     “Hey, that’s my team you’re disrespecting,” Steve protested, but laughed as
well. It had been a dismal game. “Check out the blonde,” he added, nodding
to the corner then making his way over.
     But no, this wasn’t someone’s bedroom, Tom realized as things started
coming into focus. It was too…stark. Almost institutional. It looked like a
hospital room, actually.

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