It was extremely unusual for a Foy to be dying on earth. They were the highest social class on their planet (which had a name that was pronounced — as nearly as earthly throats could make the sounds — Sortibackenstrete) and were virtually immortal.
Every Foy, of course, came to a voluntary death eventually, and this one had given up because of an ill-starred love affair, if you can call it a love affair where five individuals, in order to reproduce, must indulge in a yearlong mental contact. Apparently, the Foy had not fit into the contact after several months of trying, and it had broken his heart — or hearts, for he had five.
All Foys had five large hearts and there was speculation that it was this that made them virtually immortal.
Maude Briscoe, earth’s most renowned surgeon, wanted those hearts. “It can’t be just their number and size, Ray,” she said to her chief assistant. “It has to be something physiological or biochemical. I must have them.”
“I don’t know if we can manage that,” said Ray Johnson. “I’ve been speaking to him earnestly, trying to overcome the Foy taboo against dismemberment after death. I’ve had to lie to him, Maude.”
“I told him that after death, there would be a dirge sung for him by the world-famous choir led by Harold J. Gassenbaum. I told him that, by earthly belief, this would mean that his astral essence would be instantaneously wafted back, through hyperspace, to his home planet of Sortib-what’s-it’s-name — provided he would sign a release allowing you, Maude, to have his hearts for scientific investigation.”
“Don’t tell me he believed that.”
“Well, you know this modern attitude about accepting the myths and beliefs of intelligent aliens. It wouldn’t have been polite for him not to believe me. Besides, the Foys have a profound admiration for earthly science and I think this one is a little flattered that we should want his hearts. He promised to consider the suggestion and I hope he decides soon because he can’t live more than another, day or so, and we must have his permission by interstellar law, and the hearts must be fresh — Ah, his signal.”
Ray Johnson moved in with smooth and noiseless speed. “Yes?” he whispered, unobtrusively turning on the holographic recording device in case the Foy wished to grant permission.
The Foy’s large, gnarled, rather tree like body lay motionless on the bed. His bulging eyes palpitated — all five of them — as they rose, each on its stalk, and turned toward Ray. The Foy’s voice had a strange tone and the lipless edges of his open round mouth did not move, but the words formed perfectly. His eyes were making the Foyan gestures of assent as he said, “Give my big hearts to Maude, Ray. Dismember me for Harold’s choir. Tell all the Foys on Sortibackenstretethat I will soon be there.”
Isaac Asimov has long been one of my favorite writers. In addition to writing incredibly good science fiction, he could also craft nonfiction scientific essays that were just as interesting to read, a rare gift in any writer. And, of course, he had an absolutely wicked sense of humor and a great love for bad puns.
I just had to share after finding this one. :)