Monday, 20 July 2009

Calorie counted

The woman with the disapproving voice wielded a ballpoint pen like a scalpel, slicing blue lines onto the paper she had pinned tightly to a clipboard. The small girl in front of her swallowed hard, wondering why the woman disliked people having names, and said,
"Calorie, miss."
"Valerie? There are no Valeries on my list. I do not tolerate liars in my class."
"No miss, not Valerie. Calorie. With a C."
The woman raised an eyebrow, arching it until it threatened to vanish beneath her fringe, and made a show reading carefully through her list. Then, as she found Calorie's name on the list, her face pinched as though she were sucking a lemon, and the pen slashed at the page twice. The tick sat beside Calorie's name and she was gestured through the door. Keeping her head down and being as meek as she could, Calorie scuttled through.

More children were admitted to the classroom, and though Calorie watched avidly, hoping that someone else would fall foul of the teacher, they all apparantly had names that were less to disapprove of. The room filled up steadily, some children sitting alone and others forming small groups, chatting quietly. Calorie knew no-one else attending the class, but she had taken a desk near the vivarium which had attracted some of the other isolated children, so she would have looked popular had any of them been talking to each other.
Finally the room was full, all the desks were taken, and the woman with the disapproving voice stood at the front of the room, her clipboard held protectively before her breast and her pen gripped dagger-like in her other hand.
"You are here," she said, "because you have failed. You have failed to be disciplined. You have failed to listen when you were told to listen, and to repeat back what has been told to you. You are here, because you have dared to think for yourselves."
"This cannot be encouraged," she continued, "but is nonetheless essential. The sheeple -- the rest of the population, the people who act like sheep -- need people to look after them. They need laws made for them and enforced for their own good. They need people like us; people like you. If you succeed in your new education."

The class sat silently, watching the teacher with bright, inquisitive eyes. They all understood what she was saying, though none of them had expected it. Now they wanted to know where the new education would take them. What this unexpected difference in the system would do. Calorie shifted in her seat, eager to get started on learning something worthwhile, something real.
"You do not have to accept this education," said the woman sounding slightly tired. "Mistakes are made more often than anyone would like to think, and you being here might be a mistake. If you wish to go back to where you were before, now is the time to say so. Stand up and be counted."
'Not for me,' thought Calorie, gripping the sides of her desk tightly so that she couldn't stand up even by accident. 'I want to go on and be someone. Not standing here, being Calorie counted.'

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