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Minnie Schultz 2009







From: The Crowded Earth

When Frank came home, Minnie met him at the door. She didn't say a
word, just handed him the envelope containing the notice.

"What's the matter?" Frank asked, trying to take her in his arms. "You
been crying."

"Never mind." Minnie freed herself. "Just read what it says there."

Frank read slowly, determinedly, his features contorted in
concentration. Vocational Apt had terminated his schooling at the old
grade-school level, and while like all students he had been taught
enough so that he could read the necessary advertising commercials,
any printed message of this sort provided a definite challenge.

Halfway through the notice he started to scowl. "What kind of monkey
business is this?"

"No monkey business. It's the new law. Everybody that gets married in
Angelisco takes the shots, from now on. Fella from State Hall, he told
me when he delivered this."

"We'll see about this," Frank muttered. "No damn government's gonna
tell me how to run my life. Sa free country, ain't so?"

Minnie's mouth began to twitch. "They're coming back tomorra morning,
the fella said. To give me the first shots. Gee, honey, I'm scared,
like. I don't want 'em."

"That settles it," Frank said. "We're getting out of this place,
fast."

"Where'd we go?"

"Dunno. Someplace. Texas, maybe. I was listening to the 'casts at work
today. They don't have this law in Texas. Not yet, anyway. Come on,
start packing."

"Packing? But how'll we get there?"

"Fly. We'll jet right out."

"You got prior'ty reservations or something?"

"No." The scowl returned to Frank's forehead. "But maybe if I pitch
'em a sob story, tell 'em it's our honeymoon, you know, then we
could--"

Minnie shook her head. "It won't work, honey. You know that. Takes six
months to get a prior'ty clearance or whatever they call it. Besides,
your job and all--what'll you do in Texas? They've got your number
listed here. Why, we couldn't even land, like. I bet Texas is even
more crowded than Angelisco these days, in the cities. And all the
rest of it is Ag Culture project, isn't it?"

Frank was leaning against the sink, listening. Now he took three steps
forward and sat down on the bed. He didn't look at her as he spoke.

"Well, we gotta do something," he said. "You don't want those shots
and that's for sure. Maybe I can have one of those other things
instead, those whaddya-call-'ems."

"You mean where they operate you, like?"

"That's right. A vas-something. You know, sterilize you. Then we won't
have to worry."

Minnie took a deep breath. Then she sat down and put her arm around
Frank.

"But you wanted kids," she murmured. "You told me, when we got
married, you always wanted to have a son--"

Frank pulled away.

"Sure I do," he said. "A son. That's what I want. A real son. Not a
freak. Not a damned little monster that has to go to the Clinic every
month and take injections so it won't grow. And what happens to you if
you take your shots now? What if they drive you crazy or something?"

Minnie put her arm around Frank again and made him look at her.
"That's not true," she told him. "That's just a lot of Naturalist
talk. I know."

"Hell you do."

"But I do, honey! Honest, like! May Stebbins, she took the shots last
year, when they asked for volunteers. And she's all right. You seen
her baby yourself, remember? It's the sweetest little thing, and awful
smart! So maybe it wouldn't be so bad."

"I'll ask about being operated tomorrow," Frank said. "Forget it. It
don't matter."

"Of course it matters." Minnie looked straight at him. "Don't you
think I know what you been going through? Sweating it out on that job
day after day, going nuts in the traffic, saving up the ration coupons
so's we'd have extra food for the honeymoon and all?

"You didn't have to marry me, you know that. It was just like we could
have a place of our own together, and kids. Well, we're gonna have
'em, honey. I'll take the shots."

Frank shook his head but said nothing.

"It won't be so bad," Minnie went on. "The shots don't hurt at all,
and they make it easier, carrying the baby. They say you don't even
get morning sickness or anything. And just think, when we have a kid,
we get a chance for a bigger place. We go right on the housing lists.
We can have two rooms. A real bedroom, maybe."

Frank stared at her. "Is that all you can think about?" he asked. "A
real bedroom?"

"But honey--"

"What about the kid?" he muttered. "How you suppose it's gonna feel?
How'd you like to grow up and not grow up? How'd you like to be a
midget three feet high in a world where everybody else is bigger? What
kind of a life you call that? I want my son to have a decent
chance."

"He will have."

Minnie stared back at him, but she wasn't seeing his face. "Don't you
understand, honey? This isn't just something happening to us. We're
not special. It's happening to everybody, all over the country, all
over the world. You seen it in the 'casts, haven't you? Most states,
they adopted the laws. And in a couple more years it'll be the only
way anyone will ever have kids. Ten, twenty years from now, the kids
will be growing up. Ours won't be different then, because from now on
all the kids will be just like he is. The same size."

"I thought you was afraid of the shots," Frank said.

Minnie was still staring. "I was, honey. Only, I dunno. I keep
thinking about Grandma."

"What's the old lady got to do with it?"

"Well, I remember when I was a little girl, like. How my Grandma
always used to tell me about her Grandma, when she was a little
girl.

"She was saying about how in the old days, before there even was an
Angelisco--when her Grandma came out here in a covered wagon. Just
think, honey, she was younger than I am, and she come thousands and
thousands of miles in a wagon! With real horses, like! Wasn't any
houses, no people or nothing. Except Indians that shot at them. And
they climbed up the mountains and they crossed over the deserts and
went hungry and thirsty and had fights with those Indians all the
way. But they never stopped until they got here. Because they was the
pioneers."

"Pioneers?"

"That's what Grandma said her Grandma called herself. A pioneer. She
was real proud of it, too. Because it means having the courage to cut
loose from all the old things and try something new when you need to.
Start a whole new world, a whole new kind of life."

She sighed. "I always wanted to be a pioneer, like, but I never
thought I'd get the chance."

"What are you talking about? What's all this got to do with us, or
having a kid?"

"Don't you see? Taking these shots, having a baby this new way--it's
sort of being a pioneer, too. Gonna help bring a new kind of people
into a new kind of world. And if that's not being a pioneer, like,
it's the closest I can come to it. It sounds right to me now."

Minnie smiled and nodded. "I guess I made up my mind just now. I'm
taking the shots."

"Hell you are!" Frank told her. "We'll talk about it some more in the
morning."

But Minnie continued to smile.

And that night, as she lay in the utility bed, the squeaking of the
springs became the sound of turning wheels. The plastic walls and
ceiling of the eightieth-floor apartment turned to billowing canvas,
and the thunder of the passing jets transformed itself into the
drumming hoofbeats of a million buffalo.

Let Frank talk to her again in the morning if he liked, Minnie
thought. It wouldn't make any difference now. Because you can't stop
us pioneers.





Next: Harry Collins 2012

Previous: Harry Collins 2000



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