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The Greer Agency

Harris Tobias

Timothy O. Goyette
The Wizard's House

Jeromy Henry
A Fisherman's Guide to Bottomdwellers

Michele Dutcher


by Branden Szabo


The Organization loves us.  It manages our lives with unfaltering precision; like the clocks I so enjoy watching when I’m bored.  I find comfort in knowing that my life will never stop ticking as long as the Organization is there.

The hiss and clang of steam-driven trolleys fills the opulent lobby of the orphanage day and night.  I have lived here my whole life in the safe bosom of The International – the greatest city in the world, or so the Organization says.  I never met my parents, for all I know I don’t have any parents.  Even so, I like my home, though I often get lost wandering its vapid and confusing halls.  I’ve been told the orphanage used to be a bank until the Organization decided to turn it into something more beneficial to society. 

All of the children here are alike in both situation and appearance.  Our hair is short and our robes are long.  We walk single file towards our daily destinations marching to the strict cadence of the clocks.  We never need to know ‘how’.  We never need to ask ‘why’.  There is a locked room in the west wing.  We aren’t allowed inside.

People in rich clothes visit us often and swoon over how cute we are.  They sign their names on donation checks and say: “Doesn’t it feel good to help these poor children?  Our society is so wonderful.”

Someone with long hair kneels down beside me while I play with my Organization-approved toys.  “Aw, look at you.  Aren’t you the cutest little girl - ”

Another one with long hair intervenes: “No, you mustn’t say that word here.  The children of this orphanage are all equal.”

I stop playing with my toys.  I had never heard that word before.  Girl.  What is a girl?  Why would she call me one?  For a second, I fail to hear the ticking hands of the clock.

That night, one of the children broke into the locked west wing door.  A brave assortment of us rushed to see what was inside; we eagerly clear the darkness with our oil-powered torches.  We found prosaic odds and ends scattered about without purpose, but soon my eyes catch sight of two towering statues covered in cloth.  Pulling the cloth away, we see the likeness of people captured in marble. 

One was tall and broad-shouldered with skin that rippled over deep muscles.  The other was fair and curvy with long hair that came down to the thighs.  It is the long-haired one that captures my attention.  I open my robes and see two gentle protrusions rising up from my chest just like the statue.  And at that moment I remember what the woman had called me: “girl”.  I was a girl.

Our transgression did not go unnoticed.  House Mother was a stout, portly creature who I now understood was a woman.  She regularly complained that no one saw her ‘inner beauty’ and often criticized children she thought were too attractive.  When she found out what we had done, she quickly locked the doors and muttered to herself: “Should have thrown those statues out as soon as the bank closed.”

“I’m just like that statue aren’t I?” I ask her, “I’m a girl.”

“Nobody in this orphanage is a boy or a girl,” House Mother explains with lips curled in anger, “Gender does not exist.  It’s an accident – a way for society to oppress women.  Girls are no different than boys.”

“But I am different.  My body looks different than the others.”

House Mother shakes her head back and forth as if to ward off my words. “You are just like all the others.  The Organization has worked hard to eradicate gender roles from our city – I won’t let that silly, sexist statue destroy all that.”

She kept her promise; the statues were destroyed the next day. 

I carried what I had learned throughout the days.  Up until now I had been told there was no such thing as man and woman, boy and girl, just one indivisible “person”, but now I know that was wrong.  It was strange, in a world where all my questions were answered, I felt confusion.  In a world where my life was managed by the organization, I felt dissatisfaction.  The clock I so loved to listen to made no sound in my ear.

I know the cure for my apprehension lay somewhere beyond the orphanage walls.  I heard tell of another world beyond the city, a world The Organization did not control where people managed their own lives and expressed themselves in ways they saw fit.

I want to escape to that place.  I had learned my true gender - who knew what else I could learn, but as I climb out the window of my room, I hesitate.  There was no one to help me out there, what if I made a mistake?  What if The Organization wasn’t around to help me? 

I fall back into my bed with a loud thump.  I was too angry to stay at the orphanage but too scared to leave it.  The clock would be my master forever.  It was then I realize:  House mother was right, the Organization loves me.

It loves me to death.

2015-05-04 09:05:19
micheledutcher - As Henry Thoreau once said, "Most men" (or girls for that matter) "lead lives of quiet desperation. I think this flash story captures some of that desperation quite nicely. Well done.

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