In 2010, I entered the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest for the second time. We were given a genre and a subject: sic-fi and a day care center.

I was living in Oman at the time. I remember coming home from work (1 1/2 hours away) and trying to figure out a hook to the story. I could not. Then, on Thursday, I came up with an idea: a television program running a puff piece on a day care center. As you can see, I wrote it in script (or, rather, teleplay) format. One of the criticism of the piece was that it was written mostly in dialogue. In my defense, so was Hamlet.

‘USE IT’ by Edward Eaton SYNOPSIS – A government-sanctioned news program investigates a privately run Child Care Center in 2141 – a Center that is dedicated to making the children useful to society.

For the record, I have tweaked it a little since then. The original version probably exists somewhere in cyberspace. The datight revisit it. The dates (years) are different. The title is better now. In any case, here is a sample of my writing or a teaser of what is to come.

__________

93

The Canamerexican News Program

Int. The 93 Studio – EVENING

The camera fades in on Martin Ryle, the Anchor for 93.  Martin is a respectable looking man in his early 50s.

MARTIN

Good evening, Canamerexicans.  Welcome to 93 — the official news show for Canamerexica that brings you all the truth worth knowing to make for a better tomorrow.

Good evening, I am Martin Ryle your host for the evening.

Later this evening, I will be speaking with Minister of Public Opinion Rodham about the recent talks in Beijing with Greater Chinese Commonwealth Foreign Minister Chen-Wu on opening Hawaii to visiting CAM warships for next month’s 100th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

Former Deputy Chief of Staff Heather McAllister is also here to give us some insight into the Colonial Secretary’s recent negotiations with the European Dictate over payments for exports from the Gulf Colonies.

But first, here is Special Correspondent, Anjelica Juarez, who recently paid a visit to the Archangel Children’s Center in Baja California.

Anjelica!

The camera picks up on Anjelica Juarez, a strikingly pretty young woman in her late 20s.

ANJELICA

Good evening, Martin.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Archangel Children’s Center with a camera crew.  The administration was most helpful.

MARTIN

Archangel Children’s Center.  That’s one of the new private care centers…

ANJELICA

Yes it is.

Even though the Mandatory Child Care Act of 2033 set up centers in all 93 states, the number of children being born, especially in the mid-latitude states, was beginning to overwhelm the state-supported centers.

The 2038 Presidential Amendment to the Act allowed for Private Organizations to set up centers to try and relieve some of the congestion.

MARTIN

Hasn’t there been some concern that private centers would simply exacerbate preexisting socio-economic disparities?

ANJELICA

The current counter argument is that with the population of Canamerexico poised to break 1.5 Billion in the next year, trying to find a life track for members of the younger generation will do more to promote comparability than imposing social programs on the more mature generations.

Remember, the 2034 class at the state centers, will be voting in ten years…

MARTIN

If they are passed as Eligible by the Ministry of Voting and Civil Privileges…

ANJELICA

Remember, the Act of ’33 does not guarantee equal rights; it mandates that all children be made useful.

MARTIN

I am looking forward to your report.

ANJELICA

Thank you, Martin.

EXT. The Archangel Children’s Center, Baja California

The ACC is located on Isla Ángel de la Guarda in the Sea of Cortez.  The main building, in front of which Anjelica Juarez is standing, is a large building built somewhat in the style of a hacienda.

ANJELICA (V.O.)

We were flown over to Isla Ángel de la Guarda by helicopters owned by the Valentine Trust, the main benefactor of the ACC.  There we were met by Miriam Beauchamps, the Administrative Director for the ACC and the government liaison from Mexicali, and Frank Speer, the Head Teacher.

Miriam Beauchamps is an attractive but over-dressed woman in her mid 30s; she clearly considers herself to be important.  Frank Speers is slightly overweight and clearly uncomfortable in front of the camera.

ANJELICA

Good afternoon, Ms. Beauchamps.  Doctor Speer.

MIRIAM

Good afternoon, Anjelica.

FRANK

Hey—

ANJELICA

Am I right is seeing that your compound is fortified?

MIRIAM

All part of letting the children grow up in a realistic and practical atmosphere.

ANJELICA

I do not recall ever seeing anything more than local security at the public centers.

MIRIAM

One of the many areas where the private sector is far in advance of the public sector.  When the Act of ’33 was passed, the state governments had done almost no preparation.  There was no bureaucracy.  There was no organization to speak of.

The private sector lobbied and prepared for the ’38 Amendment.
Frank here was part of the team that developed the curriculum.

FRANK

Yes, that’s right.

MIRIAM

“All children must be made useful.”  That was the rallying cry that got the Act of ’33 passed.  That is also our motto.

ANJELICA

But as a private organization, aren’t you just catering to children of an elite few?

FRANK

Not…

MIRIAM

…at all, Anjelica.

To begin with, and to set the record straight, 75% of our children are supplied by the state.  We have no say in how they are selected.  They arrive when they are three and stay until they reach seven, at which time they are processed into, perhaps, the private elementary schools.

We do not concern ourselves with where they come from or where they are going.

Our role is to determine and develop their greatest potential.

ANJELICA

How can you determine that without the input from the state?

MIRIAM

That is one of the problems with the state run system.

Frank will explain it to you.

The state makes training decisions based only on the information gathered through genetic testing.

Objectivity has its value, but raising a child that way is almost as bad as having its parents raise the child.

ANJELICA

I was raised by my parents.  I think they did a pretty good job.

MIRIAM

I was raised by my parents, too.  Frank was raised by his parents.

FRANK

My Aunt Rose, actually.

MIRIAM

Research has shown that parents are precisely the last sort of person who should raise their children.

For one reason, the lack of consistency.  Generosity conflicting with stinginess on a daily basis.  Extreme forms of discipline and affection alternating by the hour. Emotional extortion.  Instead of being punished for being naughty, a child is condemned to hating his mother or father simply for misbehaving.  That is certainly unhealthy for the child as well as for the parent.

Of course, I’m not a doctor, but research has shown that since children started being sent to the state-run care centers in late ’34, the heart-attack rate among parents under 50 has dropped a staggering 17%.

Parents also have a completely unrealistic towards their children’s potentials.  Would you believe that my parents wanted me to be a ballerina?  My mother had me in dance classes for years.  She was clearly projecting her own dreams and inadequacies on me.  No one in my family had been a dancer of any sort; we were not genetically inclined towards any kind of athleticism — at least professionally so.  Furthermore, I hated the ballet; resented going.

What was she thinking?

I went into the law, something all my aptitude tests indicated I would thrive at and something several members of my extended family had done quite successfully.  I’m sure you went through quite a similar upbringing.

ANJELICA

My parents expected me to be a farmer like they were.  I would’ve hated it.

FRANK

My father wanted me to go into—

MIRIAM

So, you see, parents are little concerned with their children’s wants and needs; rather, they are obsessed with their own.

They are also completely blind to their children’s faults.  No doubt you have met many parents during your life who barraged you with glowing descriptions of children whom anyone with a modicum of objectivity could tell were stupid, ugly, and obnoxious.  Useless.

Parents are clearly the last people who should raise children.

However, unlike the state-run schools, we do care about the family relationship and regularly send reports on the children to their parents on the approved request of the parents.

Anyway, we study the genetic testing and use that as a leap-off point.  The new students are then given a battery of aptitude tests to try and weed out those who will certainly be unable to function in the modern world.

You asked why we have fortifications.  I suppose that is because you see the machine guns. With wars happening on four continents as well as government- and privately-driven paramilitary and terrorist groups all over the place, a little military presence serves to remind the children of some of the realities of life today.  Many of these children will leave here for service elementary schools.  The government’s need for a capable and educated military is well documented and a high priority even in the private sector.

Stuffing the ranks—all ranks—of the military with offal from the lower classes simply increases the need and cost of coffins.  It does not make the army a stronger force or the conscripts useful.

“All children must be made useful.”

ANJELICA

So, you a feeder system for the military?

MIRIAM

Not at all.  The ACC is a strong supporter of the arts and encouraging and training children to participate in all levels of society.  We have well-born and well-connected children who we have determined are capable of little more than manual labor.  We will send them to the appropriate school to train them for a useful future.

ANJELICA

Surely their parents can afford–

MIRIAM

Their parents can give them as much money as they want.  We do not care if a child becomes the richest convenience store clerk in the world.  We are concerned that they are prepared to be useful.  No doubt you have read about the slew of ‘celebutants’ in the first two decades of the century. That type of person interferes with the development of society just as much, perhaps even more so, than homeless children or drug addicts.

In fact, one little boy here is the son of a drug addict from Los Angeles.  He was a significant disciplinary problem in L.A.  We put him through a battery of tests which suggested he would be perfect as a human crew member on the Colonial Explorer Space Flight scheduled for 2055.  Indeed, the Government testing took account of his personality issues and labeled him as “Probably Not Useful.”

ANJELICA

Personality disorders strike me as de rigueur for the CAM Space Force.

MIRIAM

Of course.

The three walk through several rooms in the hacienda.

MIRIAM (CONT’D)

As you can see, we encourage music…

A group of children plays a multi-key discordant version of Beethoven’s 9th.

MIRIAM (CONT’D)

Art…

The camera shows a gallery filled with scribbles and splotches.

MIRIAM (CONT’D)

Commerce…

Two four-year-olds sit at a small desk dispensing “money” to little children.

Two little children sell snacks and juice to other children.

MIRIAM (CONT’D)

And fiscal responsibility.

One five-year-old holds a little girl while another beats her up and takes her ‘money.’

MIRIAM (CONT’D)

Part of being useful to society is being prepared to cope with society.

ANJELICA

But there is a focus on the military….

MIRIAM

To some degree, yes.  Most of us served our country somehow in the last few decades.  My father died when I was a child during the War of European Aggression in 2012 and my husband served several years on the Russian Coalition Frontier in the Iranian Colony.

If the CAM needs to defend itself, it needs to develop the most capable and intelligent force we can.  It is no secret that we don’t have the numbers of the Chinese or the Russians or the militarism of the Europeans. But we have the brains and the talent.

Take a look at these two children.

We see Johnny and Manal.  Johnny is a little blond boy, while Manal is clearly of Middle-Eastern descent.  They are about five years old and are sitting together on a bench holding hands.

ANJELICA

Hello, young man.

JOHNNY

Hi!

ANJELICA

What’s your name?

JOHNNY

Johnny.

ANJELICA

Who’s your friend?

JOHNNY

Manal.

ANJELICA

She’s very pretty.

JOHNNY

I’m gonna marry her.

ANJELICA
(laughs)

You want to marry him?

MANAL

Yeah.  But he is a devil-worshipping heathen, so I might kill him instead.

MIRIAM

You two run along and play.

They skip off holding hands.

MIRIAM (CONT’D)

Sometimes the genetic testing gets it wrong.  If you recall, the Nobel Prize for Physics a few years ago was won by someone the government had labeled a laborer.

Johnny there scored off the charts for creativity.  His mother is a dancer.  His father a writer.  He plays the violin as well as anyone I’ve ever heard. According to his genetics and aptitude, he should….

ANJELICA

His training will focus on the arts.

MIRIAM

That was the plan…until the field test.

ANJELICA

Field test?

MIRIAM

We do have to look to the needs of the state, so we have set up a field test to determine if there is any inherent inclination for military duty.  Johnny was able to eliminate four rivals well inside the three-day limit.

ANJELICA

What sorts of weapons are used.  Laser tagging?  Paint guns?

MIRIAM

Fake weaponry would invalidate the results.

Manal was also a star of the games.  She was able to make a bomb using the supplies we left and even set it to explode when one of the first aid teams was trying to bring in an injured child.  She was caught, but we were pleased enough to forward her record to the Espionage and Reconnaissance elementary school run by the Harvard Corporation.  Actually, it was Johnny who captured her.

ANJELICA

She seemed to have survived the interrogation.

MIRIAM

We aren’t barbarians, Angelica.  There are no torture exercises until junior high school.  The program wants to minimize the psychological damage.  Not much use for a girl who didn’t pass torture—unless she can get hired as stand in for someone drafted by the military brothels.

ANJELICA
(laughs)

I could have used one of them.  Worst two years of my life.

MIRIAM
(laughs sympathetically)

Anyway, the students who pass the aptitude tests are educated as well as possible.  They are taught the basics in at least four different languages; some sort of creative art, even if it is cooking; basic math; and any child who cannot read by the time he or she is old enough to leave is placed in the lower 25%.

ANJELICA

What happens to them?

MIRIAM

Fatten them up and sell them to abattoir on Tiburon.

FRANK

“All children must be made useful.”

INT. tHE 93 STUDIO – EVENING

MARTIN

A very interesting report, Anjelica.

ANJELICA

We had the opportunity to spend the whole day at the ACC and watch part of one of the field tests.  Videos of the rest of my stay can be found on http://www.93newsshow.gov.

MARTIN

I will certainly check that out.

ANJELICA

It is nice that the private sector is working well with the government on important issues like childcare.

MARTIN

Certainly.

And now a word from the good people at Smith and Wesson.  The makers of truly useful gifts.

THE END

If you enjoyed this story, please check out my other posts and follow the links for more information about some of my published books.

Advertisements