Admissions

The letter made its instructions clear. Parents are to drop their children off at X location at Y time, in order to make Z as easy as possible for all of ϴ.

“You should consider yourself very lucky,” they said. “We pulled a lot of strings to get you into this high school, and you are going to make us proud.”

The child waited in the chair, alone, as instructed. The parents left after a brief and dispassionate kiss, which left a dry spot on the forehead still a minute after they’d gone.

“Ah yes! Hello, here you are. Can’t hide from me, now can you?”

The child said nothing as the administrator entered the room, but the man seemed to be waiting for an answer. “I cannot hide,” the child eventually said.

“That’s right! I see why we let you in here.” The man’s jocular smile shifted away as he got down to business. “Academically, you have done well. We feel confident that you will fit right in at St. Ringo’s. However, for your needs, we’re going to ask you a few questions, so you can get optimized attention for your individual learning style. Shall we begin?”

The child nodded, though the man did not look up from his paperwork to notice. “First off, name and gender.”

“Leslie Douglas. Female.”

The man shook his head. “I’m sorry, that’s not what I have here. We’re going to go with Douglas Leslie, male. Next, what are your sexual preferences?”

The child sputtered a moment before repeating, “I’d like to be female, if that’s okay.”

“Very good. ‘Forced Feminization.’ That’s more common than you might think. But I’m afraid I’m going to need more details. Top or bottom?”

The child said words, and accepted the approval they invoked, one by one. There were no wrong answers. He took his seat in a classroom designed just for him and felt proud to be accepted for all his perversions and hangups, designed just for him.

#children, #choice, #education, #gender, #power, #puberty, #self-control

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An alarm clock is ringing. The child it belongs to reaches out to stop it, and yawns herself awake. With a stretch of her arms over her head, she leans over and cartwheels out of bed.

As she skips down the stairs, she nearly slips on various wrappers and old clothes, but catches herself with cushioned giggles. Bits of lumber have fallen out of the bannister. Pictures of family that once lined the walls now line the floor. She kicks and shatters one with her last descending step, and jumps over her parents on the way to the kitchen.

Standing on a chair, she takes the last bowl from the cupboard and slams it on the counter. She fills it with bits of various cereals — Fruit Squares and Chocolate Zeros and Marshmallow Bystanders and Tiny Fiber Governments — that touch each other lightly, tenderly, in a bounded pile. She leaves the collection where it sits, and reaches into the refrigerator for an ice cold can of Coca-Cola. As she pours, the stack dissolves and condenses into a mushier stack. She scoops some into her mouth and laughs at the flavor, which isn’t real. Nothing is real. The bowl goes to the sink with the other bowls, and the girl heads out for school.

“Marisa, you’ve been wearing the same clothes all week. Is everything all right at home?”

“Yes, Mrs. Korkberkley.”

She comes home to a dark house. The only light she needs is in the refrigerator, and she opens its door. She leaves it open and sits beside it on the floor. The light reaches as far as her father’s face, and she watches his shadow as she pops the top of another Coke. “Not before dinner,” he used to say.

COCA-COLA: YOUR ONLY RESPONSIBILITY

#advertisement, #cereal, #children, #coca-cola, #disarray, #mess, #naive

Speaker

He had given enough speeches to know when he was losing the crowd. Now, for instance. While he spoke of dreams and realities, students were flirting with each other, as they do. Some teacher shushed, though hers was the voice that carried.

“Now I hear you. I know what you’re thinking. Who are you, up there, telling me how I’m supposed to live? What makes you such an expert on life?” As Roger voiced their doubts, he felt their attention return. Against some murmuring, he saw more eyes in his direction. He saw nodding.

“Why should I listen to someone, you’re saying, who makes a living spouting platitudes at bored children? Why, I hear you think, should I listen to the only bozo this miserable institution could afford? What possibly could he have to tell me that I don’t already know that I would bother to accept? I’m going to college! I’m smart. Well, you’re not as smart as me.” Real talk always won them back.

“Without any other qualifications, I have managed to maintain a career as an inspirational speaker for nearly ten years now. And if that’s not an inspiration, I don’t know what is.”

#blowhard, #bluster, #children, #depression, #jaded, #lonely, #pretention, #self-fulfilling-prophecy

Funny

Other kids on the bus sat next to each other, but Marcus always managed to have his own seat. Most days, he wore headphones, but someone had taken them from his cubby today. He had cried, but it hadn’t mattered. His friend Kira called him boring and a crybaby, and now he had nothing to do but stare out the window.

“Some people need to get killed, other people need to get raped, you know what I’m saying?” someone said in the seat behind him. Marcus didn’t know what it meant to be raped, but he had heard the word before. “You wish someone would rape you,” said another voice, and the two of them laughed. “Go rape yourself.”

They kept saying it, but Marcus was having trouble figuring out what it could possibly mean. He didn’t often start conversations with strangers, especially older kids, but he was curious enough that he turned around and asked, “What is rape?”

The two laughed. One pointed to his friend. “He’ll show you.”

“Shut up!”

“You’ll find out soon enough, kid.” They seemed to find this hysterical, and high-fived each other vigorously. Their laughter scared Marcus, and he turned away.

They seemed such close friends, perhaps because they joked around with each other. Marcus never told jokes. That’s why he was so boring.

Kira apologized to him the next day, though it seemed someone was making her do it. She didn’t want to talk to him. Marcus shrugged. “Maybe I’d be less boring if I raped you.”

She looked thoughtful as he said this. She walked away and he watched her whisper to a nearby teacher, who panicked.

When the police came to question him, he cried. “I was only joking,” he said. He plead Joking at the trial, on his epitaph.

#awkward, #children, #fitting-in, #joke, #misogyny, #sad, #upsetting

Baby

Her first few memories were of love. As soon as light hit her face, she was held in her mother’s arms. She had milk and a merciful touch across her body.

Later, she woke up in a room that was apart from everything. She looked up, the only direction her head was facing, and saw monsters, flying things that made no effort, and she had no power to get away. Someone had fenced her in when she wasn’t looking, and she screamed. Her mother came running that first time. She had milk and comfort.

Subsequently, Farah cried again, and she found that each time she raised her voice, her mother was by her side. The pauses were longer, and she felt less and less love, but her mother was always in reach.

Until once, her father came, and he did not have the same comfort. She kept screaming until her mother joined him, but she didn’t stay. Her mother came and screamed too, and she could not provide her mother with comfort or milk or any of the good things.

Farah was suddenly embarrassed that she had caused her mother such distress. The next time her diaper filled, she felt the sensation and decided it wasn’t so bad, not so bad as an upset mother. And crying did nothing on its own. She was hungry, but that discomfort was not so bad as the anger she had seen in her source, so she waited. Her mother would feed her, change her, clothe her, at a more convenient time.

Farah waited. Her mother came eventually. She picked up her daughter and hugged her tightly, and set her back in the cradle. Farah went to sleep. Her mother was happy, and that made her happy.

#baby, #children, #considerate, #discomfort, #empathy, #microfiction

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The children are outside, playing a game of rock, paper, scissors. They say the words with great concentration as they beat their fists into their palms. The little boy wins more often than the little girl does, but is more frustrated when he loses.

The girl is frightened of his emotion, and because she only wants to have a little fun with her brother, she is trying her best not to win.

“You’d do better if you threw something other than paper,” he tells her. All the same, he throws rock in their next round and loses. “God damn it! You’re not even trying!”

He slaps the air in front of her face, and she backs away.

“I’m sorry,” she says.

Kicking the ground, he mutters, “Paper shouldn’t beat anything.” He seems to get an idea, and runs to the house, and back with a pair of scissors and a sheet of eight and a half by eleven. He sets them down in front of her, and picks up a rock.

“I dare you to choose paper,” he says, winding up with the stone in his hand.

The girl crouches down, watching the boy carefully. She picks up the pair of scissors, and when the boy comes charging to break her, she swings the object toward him. It grazes his cheek, and he stands back, shocked.

“You lose,” he says, and takes the scissors from her. She turns and runs.

From inside, they look as though they’re playing a game of tag. Their parents see them running out of the corners of their various eyes and take symmetrical sips of Coca-Cola.

“It’s good to see the children playing,” the father says.

The mother doesn’t say anything, only carbonated gulps.

Coca-Cola: Your Only Responsibility

#advertisement, #anger, #children, #coca-cola, #microfiction, #misogyny, #sore-loser, #violence

Twins and Triplets

Ernie had wanted to have chocolate cake on his 8th birthday, but Bernie and Journey had voted for vanilla. “We’re not getting more than one cake,” their father said, and that was the end of the discussion. Ernie hated when they won.

His brothers were inseparable. They played together constantly, to the point of having their own language. They watched the same shows. They emulated the same ninja turtle. Any toy that belonged to one in turn belonged to the other.

Ernie had tried to be their friend, but they knew each other so well that they only spoke half of what they said. He tried to understand, but without their telepathy, he was left behind.

The three of them were supposed to blow out the candles together, but Ernie held back. If he got his wish, he’d be blowing out the candles alone, and on a chocolate cake. “Never make a wish you don’t want to come true,” their mother had said, once.

His brothers fed each other cake, like a newlywed couple. He watched them from a distance. They licked the frosting off of each other’s mouths. “Come on over!” they waved to him. “We’re genetically identical!”

#children, #codependence, #jealousy, #microfiction, #triplets, #twins