Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Foundered Fathers -- A Short Story By F. J. Dagg

     [F. J. Dagg has returned with another piercing short story. James, we can’t get enough of you. Keep ‘em coming! -- FWP]

     She was plump, and though not yet thirty appeared middle-aged, and her lips moved slightly as she read “Ministry of Child Development” in great, bold letters above the immense building’s entrance--she had been here only hours earlier, yet needed to reassure herself she was at the correct location. As directed, she had dropped her twelve-year-old son here at 8 AM--a sore trial for one accustomed to lying abed late--and was now returning at 5 PM, again as directed. Upon reaching twelve years, all children were comprehensively tested in order for the State to set them on the correct path.

     “So how’d he do?” the woman asked the Ninth Assistant Deputy Coordinator to the Regional Sub-Under-Secretary to the Fifth Minister of Child Development, Northeastern Sector.

     The bureaucrat’s lips parted, but she did not immediately speak. Then she smiled and said, “Your son’s results presented us with a...a special case.”

     The woman grunted and stared dully.

     “Yes, well...the fact is his verbal scores were extraordinary.”

     The woman frowned.

     “ which I mean perfect.” The bureaucrat glanced at the monitor on her desk. “Our records show no other child having achieved a perfect verbal score. Can you tell me who the father is?”

     The woman’s face twisted in a sly grin. “Now, I ain’t one o’ them prissy kind o’ gals what keeps track o’ every...”

     “Oh, I’m sure, but we would like to know...if you can remember.”

     The woman’s face became a caricature of concentration. “Well, that woulda been...” Her eyes narrowed as she counted on her fingers. At last she looked up. “It was prob’ly the white one.” The bureaucrat made an expression the woman couldn’t read and tapped her keyboard.

     “...but I’d say the boy’s like that ‘cuz of them books, prob’ly.”


     “From that old liberry buildin’ other side o’ town. Place is fallin’ down, so’s I told him to stay clear of it, but would he listen?”

     “I see...,” said the bureaucrat.

     The woman went on. “Always goin’ on about things what happened a long time ago. All them different countries, and wars, and music, and fancy pitchers...and books. Ha ha. Readin’ books ‘bout wack is that?

     The bureaucrat began to speak, but the woman, with a sudden, vaguely guilty look, cut her off.

     “All the other kids is good, though! ‘Tween gov’m’nt school and TV, they turned out OK.”

     The Ninth Assistant Deputy Coordinator, etc., etc. nodded approvingly.

     The woman’s eyes glazed and she shook her head slowly.

     “Nobody can say I didn’t try. His teachers give me them pills...said they’d straighten him out...calm him down, ‘n’ all, but they didn’t do no good. Now I think back on it, maybe he hid ‘em an’ didn’t take ‘em at all. He’s smart, all right...too smart, maybe.” She shook her head again.

     “Anyways, it’s got so you can’t make him even look at the TV no more, and all I ever hear nowadays is a lotta wack ‘bout what he calls ‘floss-fee.’ Crap like ‘Sock-tease,’ and ‘Play-dough,’ and ‘Shake-speare...,’” She emitted a braying cackle. “Howzat for a dumbass name, ‘Shake-speare?’” She rolled her eyes and the plastic chair beneath her creaked as she shifted her bulk. “But mostly he gets all excited ‘bout them foundered fathers...”

     “’Foundered...?’ Oh, you mean the ‘Founding Fathers.’ Yes, I was coming to that.”

     The woman droned on. “...boy can’t shut up about it...old times when people be fightin’ over ideas...instead o’ real stuff...‘n’ talkin’ smack ‘bout the gov’m’nt...” She glanced up nervously, then plunged on, “...and...and...had to do things for theirselves...” Her lip curled and she shook her head. “Lotta crazy talk.”

     The bureaucrat folded her hands on the desk and her expression became grave.

     “Of course. But...I’m afraid there’s also, well, some not so good news.” When the woman said nothing the bureaucrat continued. “Your son’s math scores were low...quite low.”

     “No s’prise there. He hates them number shows the worst...the ones with them puppets, y’know?”

     “Yes. Well, low math ability is very serious. Scores such as his would prevent one from becoming a Programmer, or a Facilitator...even at the lowest level.” Her expression became graver still, and she repeated, “Very serious.”

     The woman stared blankly.

     “But the most troubling thing was that he insisted on talking to the Examiners about the Founding Fathers. You mentioned them, do you remember?”

     The woman shrugged and her eyes narrowed. “So how bad is it?”

     The bureaucrat drew a breath. “I’m afraid we had no choice but to euthanize him.”

     “Huh? Whassat?”

     “Um, ‘put down.’ The law required that he be, ah, put down.”

     The woman squinted. “You mean, like...dead?”

     “I’m afraid so.”

     The Ninth Assistant Deputy, etc., etc. essayed a sympathetic expression, while the woman’s face reflected surprise, puzzlement, and the shadow of something like sadness.

     “Well...” the woman’s eyes went far away. Then all at once she brightened. “Well, anyways, I guess I won’t have to listen to no more wack about them foundered fathers!”

July 6, 2015 Copyright (C) F. J. Dagg


Binder Rosa said...

I had a sense of foreboding after learning about the disparity between Dagg's mother character and the description of her son.
Enjoyed reading every word! The story is frightening in its predictions and, at the same time, believable based on current trends.

Reg T said...

"The white one", indeed.

And all the boys were named "Leroy". "How do you call them when you want to talk to them?", the bureaucrat asked.

"I calls dem by dey lass name."