Chapter Description: Clark is taken to his first ever meeting of the Oakshire chapter of Little Voices; a group that claims to "help" adopted Littles.
I’d never before been to the Oakshire Community Center. It wasn’t because it was a known Amazon hangout or anything; everything in Oakshire was a known Amazon hangout. Almost every space in Oakshire, if not the entire world, was built with Amazon customs, dimensions, and desires in mind. Amazon was treated as the default. Everything that wasn’t Amazon was the variation.
I’d just never been. The O.C.C. could have been a historic city landmark or open only a year or two as part of some city betterment program that I missed. Prior to my adoption, it could have been the place to be on a Thursday night, or it could have been a dump coasting off of taxpayer money and generous donations. I had had my community, and this wasn’t it.
I only knew two things about the Oakshire Community Center. It could be reached, in part, by taking the bus, and it hosted the local budding chapter of Little Voices.
I don’t know what I expected that night when Janet took me through the thick double doors and flashed her brand new membership card at the Center’s check in counter. It wasn’t the heavy bouncing of basketballs and the squeak of sneakers in the gymnasium. It wasn’t the electronic 8-bit booping of old-ass arcade, pinball machines, and fighting games that were only in 3-D instead of Virtual Reality scrambled with the muffled swearing as teenagers tried to win at foosball.
It certainly wasn’t the chanting affirmation from not-quite-closed-enough doors going, “Today I am an alcoholic. Tomorrow will be no different. My alcoholism lives within me now and forever. I must never forget what I am…”
The door opened and Janet slipped us inside the reserved room with the Little Voices poster unfurled over it. The tables in the room had already been folded and shoved to the periphery with a mish-mash of low-backed steel and plastic chairs forming a circle in the center. Purses, backpacks and diaper bags were slung lazily over the backs or put neatly to their occupants sides, and the steady churning rumble of childish squeals mixed with polite conversation stopped for all of three seconds as the not quite two dozen giant faces paused long enough to regard us before going back to whatever it was they were doing.
And in those faces I saw...
That’s when I realized…
The assembled group of tyrannical crazies were…
Kind of boring all things considered.
Honestly, it was stupid of me to expect it, but when one reads about Little Voices, and sees the commercials and propaganda, one expects a certain level of pomp and grandiosity: figures in dark hooded robes, burning incense candles over a pentagram, the chanting in a long dead tongue. I at least expected something like the conservative haircuts and white button up shirts with black ties and matching slacks that were the hallmark of half a dozen cults or cult-like political groups.
As the door closed behind us, I didn’t get that impression, but something so much worse instead. The Little Voices meeting was just made up of...people?
They were still baby crazy Amazons, obviously, but just...people. Helena Madra and her Little Native Amy were there, obviously. Amy leaned back, cradled in her Mommy’s arms, nursed from a bottle of milk with her eyes closed, looking somehow more immature than I remembered in the dark pink footie pajamas. Someone was going straight into the crib as soon as they got home.
But I also remember seeing a balding man with glasses and a thin sweater, with a Little boy sitting shyly at his feet, occasionally hugging the man’s shins when he wasn’t bouncing a teddy bear in his lap. I remember there being a girl with blue highlights bouncing a diapered woman with pink bangs on her knee. Every time the Amazon stopped, the Little would whine behind her pacifier and look up with puppy dog eyes. This got her another thirty to forty more seconds of bouncing. Pink Hair had to be old enough to be Blue Hair’s mother. Somewhere in the back of my brain, I remembered my sister-in-law jokingly asking ‘who was really in charge’ when my nephew was first born.
A couple, a Tweener and her giant husband in their forties, checked their fake son’s diaper and then passed him between them for a round of giggly hugs. A dark-skinned woman in a loose fitting dress took tablets away from the man and woman sitting at her feet and mumbled something about not wanting too much screen time. The ‘twins’- dressed in nearly identical outfits of the same teal and pink, save for the fact that one had a skirt and the other had shorts- frowned for a moment and started playing rock-paper-scissors with each other instead.
Oh god...what if they’d known each other before this life? What if I was staring at an ex-married couple? I chased that thought away and unfocused my vision, just taking in the whole room.
By virtue of my size, paranoia, and profession, I’ve always been something of a people watcher. In ten years of teaching I’d had to attend an uncountable number of I.E.P. meetings and parent teacher conferences (with Tracy or someone bigger acting as a buffer just in case). Close behind that number was all of the times accidentally eavesdropping on colleagues complaining and complimenting about parents in the lull before faculty meetings began: ‘Too involved’; ‘not involved enough’; ‘obviously doing their child’s homework’; ‘makes delicious cupcakes’; ‘finally a parent who disciplines at home’.
I’d also attended dozens of quasi-mandatory after-school functions like school carnivals, fundraisers, and open houses. The names get lost to the march of time and piles of paperwork, but patterns emerge. There’s the parents who only show up to school functions if there’s free pizza or a giveaway of some kind. There’s the parents who volunteer at every opportunity to the point where I’ve had to remind myself that they don’t actually get paid to work at Oakshire Elementary. And obviously, there were the involved parents who still quite obviously have lives of their own, and the overworked parents that were just doing their best.
There were the parents carrying babies on their hips or pushing them in strollers, real babies, and I’d feel a surge of relief because that felt like at least another two or three years before their crazy clock would reset. There were Amazons with Littles who I’d feel tremendous pity for and then relief, because better them than me.
To her credit, for lack of a better term, I couldn’t always tell which parent with a second grader had their newest forever-one-year-old in Beouf’s class, but I could almost always tell which Amazons hadn’t even tried. There was always a guarded, almost angry and definitely cruel glint in that so-called parent’s eyes; a prison guard looking for an excuse to abuse and humiliate. People who Raine Forrest or Brollish would have gotten along fine with, or even approved of.
Point being, that like I’ve said before, Amazons can be charming, friendly, helpful, absolutely wonderful people provided you weren’t a Little and around them when their particular brand of crazy went off. I’d seen awful tyrants bullying people smaller than them into playing a part. Yet I’d also seen plenty of parents, actual parents, who were good, well meaning people wanting what was best for the actual children in their lives.
And as much as I despised it, the gathered Amazons demonstrated more and more of the positive behaviors I’d heard about through gossip, or seen from afar during an open house, or witnessed first hand at conferences and I.E.P. meetings when a student of mine had a younger sibling and the mother or father couldn’t get a sitter.
For all intents and purposes, the roles were all represented: mothers and fathers making time after work and connections for future playdates. Kids by turns clinging to their parents or commingling on the floor in the center. It was almost disturbingly normal. There was even the slight boredom and anticipation for the start of a routine from people of all sizes in the reserved room. Stowed in Janet’s lap, my eyes and ears picked up snippets of conversation as over a dozen social interactions and relationships played themselves out before order was called.
“Can I have a cookie?” A Little aked.
“Not right now,” their warden replied patiently.
“Can I have a cookie?”
“No cookies till after the meeting. Ask me one more time and it’ll be no cookies at all.”
An over dramatic gasp. “Ever…?”
A cheeky smile. “Yes…” It was a lie and both knew it.
“Just try it and find out.”
A pouty lip and a sheepish blush “No, thank you.” I’d seen that kind of scene play out plenty of times; the only difference was the ‘kid’ hadn’t needed a laser bath to prevent them from shaving. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have seen nature and not conditioned artifice.
I did know better.
“Evening, Carl,” A childless man with a five o’clock shadow and slightly rumpled business attire leaned over and asked the silver fox sitting next to Janet. Damn, it would have been nice to have some stubble.
“Hullo, Frank,” the silver-haired man replied. “How’s work?”
“Good enough. Good enough. Say, where’s Joanie?”
“She’s with her Papa Don over in the KidZone.”
“Oh, that’s good! Last time she was looking kinda restless.”
Turned out Mr. Five-O’Clock-Shadow wasn’t ‘childless’ at all. “Daddy! Daddy! Upsie-downsies!” a Little girl in a rainbow polka dotted dress crinkled up from the middle of the floor.
“You want upsie-downsies?” Shadow asked. “Can you wait, sweetcake? Daddy’s talking to a friend.” The Little whined quietly and started moving her foot around the floor like she could stir it. “Sorry, you were saying?”
“Oh just the challenges of being a modern parent,” Silver went on. “You know how some kids are,” the man’s voice went a little higher. ‘Daddy...it’s called Little Voices, not Tweener Voices. I’m tired of hanging out with all the babies!” He stopped the impression. “So Don’s watching her play while me and Kylie come here.” The Little girl who must have been Kylie stretched and leaned back into her Daddy’s lap.
“Joanie’s such a good big sister.” Shadow mused.
Silver nodded, sagely. “She is. Which is why she deserves some of her own fun.”
“Different expressions of Maturosis. Different needs.”
“Hold on a second, Carl,” Shadow scooped the Little in the polka dot dress up. “Someone here needs upsie-downsies.” He then casually dangled her by her ankles like a fish, and her giggles turned into squeals while her too loose dress folded and fell right off of her. “Whelp, that’s what I get for putting her in that dress.” Other than to acknowledge the squeak, nobody so much as blinked. “How’s Donald been, will you two be taking turns with Kylie and Joanie, or am I only gonna get to talk sports via messenger from now on?”
Parents talking and multitasking while kids played around them and begged for attention. Rough housing and playing and cuddling ensue while more mature conversations continue. If I hadn’t known any better…
But I did…
“Ms. Hopkins at Daycare said Angie gets two gold stars for putting away all the blocks, but she didn’t even help.” A Little man older than me said to a friend on the floor loud enough for me to overhear. “It’s only ‘cause she was a Helper before and used to bring people to the daycare” I held my breath. What were these idiots doing saying our codewords in front of the giants? No one seemed to notice, though. “She’s not even a good stacker at blocks, she can only go four high before they fall over!”
“Blocks are really fun,” his companion agreed. “but I don’t like having to put them away. They should invent self-putting-away blocks.”
“That’ll never happen. The Grown-Ups will put themselves out of a job if they go that far..” They both laughed and high-fived one another. Two daycare residents in shortalls talking about blocks and teacher’s pets with the same serious fervor, whimsy, and knowing weariness that Beouf and I used to talk like just before school. If I hadn’t known any better…
But I did…
I knew exactly what was going on.
Natives. I was surrounded by Littles who had gone Full Native and completely bought into the propaganda. They’d been broken to the point where they now saw in themselves and their captors exactly what their captors wanted to see.
It was enough to want to vomit up perfectly serviceable chicken nuggets. Come to think of it, I kind of wanted to do that anyway.
The bald man sitting directly across the circle from Janet looked at his phone. “Alright folks, it’s about that time. Weeeeeeeeee’re-”
The room sprang into chorus and my pants rustled beneath me while Janet grabbed me by the wrists and bobbed me on her lap.
“-All together again,
We’re here! We’re here!
We’re all together again,
We’re here! We’re here!
And who knows when,
We’ll be all together again,
Singing we’re all together again,
Littles who had been talking about cartoons and daycare politics by the proverbial water cooler rushed to empty laps with arms outstretched like they’d found the winning lottery ticket in their non-existent pockets. Their captors didn’t stop singing, just smiled wider and brought them up.
The second verse was the same as the first.
So was the third.
It was about that time that I sorely wished Janet had sprung for a sitter again. I would have preferred another round of hide and seek with booze foul enough to double as gasoline to this.
From the looks on literally everyone else’s faces, I was in the minority. It was a small mercy that Janet released my wrists and chose to hug me instead of forcing me to clap for this inane idiocy.
“So now that we’re all together again,” the balding Amazon said. “We have some new, and new-ish, faces. Please, introduce yourself.”
Janet spoke first. “Hi. I’m Janet.”
“HI JANET!” The circle shouted and smiled at us.
There. There was that cult feeling I’d been expecting; oddly refreshing in a way.
“And this is Clark.”
“I came here last week on the recommendation of his teacher. Made some friends.” Helena waved at Janet. Amy waved at me. I felt my blood pressure rise. “I liked what I saw and heard, and I like you all and wanted to participate more. So...yeah. We’re back.” A quiet, knowing laughter came in reply.
“Clark,” the group leader said. “Is there anything you’d like to say?”
Caught in a train’s headlightsI There were things I wanted to say, all right, but for my own long term health I merely mouthed “no”.
“He’s going through something of a shy phase,” Janet said. “Kind of withdrawn.” As far as she would admit to herself, that was the truth. I’d said next to nothing to her beyond robotic answers or requests. “His teacher and some of the therapists say...” she stopped herself and gave me another hug from behind. “You know what, I’ll get into that after lap time.”
“Thank you, Janet. Next?”
Blue Hair stood up and dangled the pink-haired Little by the armpits. “Hi guys. I’m um...Cindy.”
“And you already know Mary, I’m guessing.”
Pink Hair blushed and giggled like she was in on some grand joke; the veteran getting introduced like she was the new guy.
Blue Hair kept talking. “Um...Mary’s my sis--”
“You’re younger.” Pink Hair interrupted, wearing a Cheshire grin.
“Ugh...fine. I’m Mary’s big, but younger, and much, much, more mature sister.” By way of reply Pink Hair tilted her head back and stuck her tongue out. Blue Hair mirrored the act, briefly. “My Mom and Dad are on vacation and I’m babysitting till they get back.”
“Mommy and Daddy don’t want Sissy getting preggers or adoptin’ ‘fore she’s ready!”
A comically serious expression came over Blue Hair. “It’s working…”
The assembly barked laughter and gave a smattering of applause as Blue Hair sat down and plopped her ‘sister’ in her lap.
At mine and Janet’s three-o’clock, a tall, skinny, and oddly Littleless man with glasses and curly dark brown hair stood up. “Hello, everyone. I’m Mark.”
“I don’t have a Little, yet” He paused for gasps and questions. None came. He continued. “I moved here for work, and I’m looking to adopt a Little, start a family and start giving someone who needs it my love and care. But I want to do it right. Little Voices is pretty big where I’m from so when I found out Oakshire had started a chapter, I signed up.” The maternal monsters in the room might have been part bobblehead.
Don’t ask me why, but I immediately hated Mark. I held back a full blown snarl and stared at him long after he sat down and the group leader picked up the proceedings.
“So for our newbies, the way a meeting typically works is first we do about fifteen to twenty minutes of Lap Time with our babies. We teach them and one another fun little games and songs and chants to do whenever or wherever might be appropriate and fun. It might be during a change, or tubby time, or in the car, or bed time, or just when they’re sitting in our laps like this at home.”
“Two little men in a flying saucer…!”
“Amy. Shush, baby.” Amy finished the bottle and then lodged two fingers in the gap between her remaining teeth.
The man leading went on like he didn’t even notice Amy’s blurting. He probably didn’t. “Then we spend the rest of the time swapping stories, teaching tricks, sharing successes, supporting one another, and reviewing the literature while our Little Ones play in the nursery down the hall.”
Reviewing the literature? I stood corrected. This was totally a cult and I was the only one who hadn’t bought in. I was the only Adult Little in a room full of Beouf, Zoge, and Ivy clones.
Closing my eyes, I breathed deep and exhaled. This. Was Going. To Be. Annoying. I wasn’t going to win this one. Not even a draw. This was going to be so annoying. I didn’t have my posse and was hopelessly outnumbered by people who were more like Amy than like Chaz. If I fought this, I was going to lose worse than usual. This was going to be so damn annoying!
I wasn’t going to grin. I would, however, manage to bear it. Doing any kind of satisfying damage here would take time.. It was just a matter of remaining quiet and looking for individual or group pain points to apply pressure to, just like with Sosa I didn’t know any of these people half as well as I thought I’d known Sosa. This would take time. I considered it a practice run for Beouf.
As is the case with so many rituals in life, I don’t accurately recall that first round of ‘Lap Time’ exercises. Unlike Beouf’s Circle Time, it wasn’t the same musical pablum every visit. More like hymns- there wasn’t a predictable rotation as much as there was a steady list of favorites that were experimented with, expanded upon, or shrank depending on any given curator’s preferences until there was a kind of communal repertoire that could be drawn upon.
1...2...3...Baby’s on my Knee.
Sweet Potatoes in the Pot
Boom Chicka Boom.
Miss Mary Mack.
The list went and goes on...
Patterned call and response songs that required no thought but lots of volume. Littles being used as props and puppets and delighting in it. That sort of thing. I sat in silence, contributing nothing; not even physical resistance.
“Whose turn is it to watch the nursery?” someone asked when it was done.
The Amazon husband with the Tweener wife raised his hand. “I’ll do it!”
“Howard likes playing in the nursery almost as much as the kids,” his wife joked.
Someone added, “As long as none of us has to change him.” More proof in the form of laughter that the giants didn’t really consider smaller folk as equals.
Much like Beouf’s class, we held hands and walked out of the reserved room and to the Community Center’s nursery. Janet stayed behind but several other giants accompanied us; carrying crawlers and making sure stragglers didn’t fall behind or distractables didn’t wander off. As near as I could tell, I was the only potential runner. Neither links in my chain had a grip anywhere near resembling Ivy’s.
The nursery was slightly bigger than Beouf’s room but lacked most of the classroom amenities: No bathroom. No sink. No projector or whiteboard. Only two cribs pushed up against a wall. A changing table out in the open against another wall. No high chairs or food storage or prep areas. No crafts. No tables or chairs save for a single rocker.
Based on the sign outside the door, the nursery attendant was only on duty four days a week with a shift that ended at five pm. In short, it wasn’t supposed to be a daycare or classroom; just a short term sitting service while parents worked out or attended a meeting.
Wasting no time, I let go of my link in the chain and found the nicest, darkest corner to brood in. My plan was simple. Do my time. Don’t talk to anybody I didn’t have to. Go home and dream up ways to torment pseudo-science spewing teachers when the ratio of sane to mindfucked Little was slightly more in my favor. So simple even a baby could do it.
It wasn’t quite six minutes in before Amy Madra found me and crawled up.
I copied what I’d been doing with Janet. I looked past Amy, gritted my jaw, and said nothing.
“How are you liking it how’s Jessinia are you feeling better you started acting reeeeal weeeird at the zoo last time did you eat something funny oh! maybe you’re gluten free like me you really need to tell your mommy if you are it’s really super important I really hope they’ll teach us some uppey throwy songs where our mommies and daddies toss us in the air but just a lil bit I don’t like heights does Jessinia miss me why do you think he still has his fancy accent after all these years living abroad does he still have his fanciful accent?”
I did nothing. I was going to ignore her and eventually she’d get bored and go away.
That had been the plan. “Oh, sorry,” Amy said. “ Forgot you’re still new and not used to talking efficient. Let me slow down. Howwwwwww issssss Jessinniaaaaa? Purple Octopussss? Pip-piiiiiip? Cheeeeeriooooo?”
I gave her nothing. Amy had the mind of a child and like any child, if I ignored her long enough she might increase the behavior before it went extinct, but eventually she’d stop. A small gasp came from her. “Oh, no,” she covered her mouth. “You’re in a corner, does that mean you’re in time out I didn’t see you do anything bad and there’s no naughty stool or some Little in a cheap suit wagging his finger in this room so it’s hard to tell if you’re in trouble or not am I gonna get in trouble for talking to you while you’re in time out or did you put yourself in time out ‘cause I thought you did a really good job for a beginner so you don’t need to feel bad.”
Time out? Fuck it. If it meant that the crawling gap toothed nutter would leave me alone I’d let her think that.
“Oh wait, are you pooping?”
“WHAT?!” I accidentally blurted out. That was a mistake. “No! I’m not-!”
“If you are,” she verbally overran me, “I think that corner over there is better, it’s the least interesting corner and most people don’t look over there if you’re trying to do that thing where you hide and pretend you’re sitting on the potty while you poop. Kinda like that spot with the bookcase in Mrs. Beouf’s room….? Do new kids like you still do that before they’re finally unpotty trained?”
The sound of plastic ripping lured my eyes over to the changing table, presently in use for all who cared to see. I looked down and shielded my eyes, accidentally making eye contact with Amy in the process.
“Hmmm?” she had to rotate to glance back over her shoulder. “Oh yeah, I guess you wouldn’t be too used to seeing that cause of Beouf’s room, either, huh? It’s okay, bud. You’ll get there.” If the living embodiment of my own worst case scenario knew how much that sentiment disturbed me she didn’t show it.
A new voice decided it’d be a good time to just ruin my day. “Hey Amy!” Yet another strange Little waddled up to the corner. Like Amy, the outfit his Amazon had dressed him in indicated that he likely.was being put straight into a crib after his Mommy or Daddy finished the cult meeting. The only difference being the grippies on the soles of his feet served a useful purpose for him.
I couldn’t quite place him, or his unnaturally white hair. Too many unfamiliar faces, not enough time and they all had the same basic fucking brain so what was the point?
“You’re Clark, right? I’m-”
“I really don’t care right now.” I interrupted. He went almost as pale as his hair.
“Clark’s a new kid,” Amy said as if that explained anything.
Evidently, it did. “Ooooooh,” the intruder said. “That’s why he’s in the corner. I didn’t see a Grown-Up put him in time out.”
“Oh yeah, right, that’s not Caleb’s Daddy’s style.” Amy looked relieved. “I hadn’t thought of it like that. See Clark? You’re not in trouble.”
Despite myself I looked over at the giant with messy hair and an untucked shirt. Whoever he’d been changing was clean and off the table and far enough away from it that I couldn’t pick them out of the overcrowded nursery. ‘Howard’ was squirting sanitizer on his hands before starting to blow up a balloon.
“Do you think he’s pooping or pouting?” The ghost boy asked Amy.
“I think he’s just pouting. He does that. Like a lot. Hasn’t even told me about Jessinnia.”
They were just as damned and diapered as me, but talked over me like they were the devils. Janet and Beouf I could tolerate, for some reason. This was a straw that was close to breaking my back.
I cleared my throat. The guy who’d had way too much peroxide dumped on his dome looked at me. “Oh. Yeah. Rude. Sorry. My bad. I’m-”
“I don’t care,” I repeated. “Just go away. Please.” My breath was starting to become shallow; labored. If they wouldn’t listen to me, my mind decided, my body would scream at them.
“Consent is key…” Amy crawled away.
“Okay. That’s fair. But can I just say something?” This latest mosquito I was about to swat didn’t give me a chance to answer. “It’s going to be okay. I’ve been adopted for almost two and a half years and it gets better. Your Mommy is here because she wants to fix herself and the other Grown-Ups are all here to help her. It’s going to be okay.”
He walked away before I could curse him out. I shook as if he’d just invoked a voodoo ritual on me.
‘It’s going to be okay.’
It was going to be okay.
My chest hurt and my throat tightened up with that kind, gentle, condescending reassurance. None of this was okay. None of it was supposed to be okay. Perhaps I was having a heart attack just then. Wouldn’t that have been wonderful?
Like a Robo-Nanny, I imagined my vision going into black and white, and little boxes framing potential targets in the classroom. Mission Objective: Make Things Not Okay.
The lone supervisor had finished blowing up his balloon. “Keepy Uppies!” he announced. He sent that bit of thin rubber and carbon dioxide into the air. “Don’t let it touch the ground!”
Mindfucked Littles chased the balloon’s warbling trajectory, smacking it over and over again. “Don’t let it land! Don’t let it land! Gotta get to a billion!” There was no teamwork involved, just scrambling and the wild thrashing of arms sending the balloon up and around in a chaotic, nigh unpredictable arc.
If they’d been smart and gentle, two to three of them could have controlled the trajectory and barely moved, instead of sending the thing wafting like a leaf on the wind. These weren’t smart Littles. Not anymore.
I came out of the corner. Target Acquired.
“I got it!” I yelled. “I got it!” The red balloon, bigger than my head, tumbled down. Down, down, down, towards my outstretched and waiting arms. “I got it!” I sidestepped out of the way at the last second. The balloon nestled itself on the floor.
“Awwww….” came a chorus of disappointed Natives. “Not even close to a record.”
“You have to keep it up,” someone said. “That’s why it’s called Keepy Uppies!”
I’d keep it up, all right. If the throng hadn’t picked up the balloon and sent it back up I might have jumped on it. No matter. There were other things I could do. Time for some A.L.L.-style harsh truths.
I found Pink Hair. I walked up to her and told her, “Your fake sister is taking care of you because your fake parents are regretting adoption now that they’re getting old. That’s why they left you here.”
“Hey…!” I walked away, not looking at her reaction. I did my best not to smile at the tremble of her voice.
The girl who’d been given the trout treatment had her polka dot dress back on when I came up. “Everyone saw your tits when that stranger dangled you upside down.” Then for added salt I shoved in a “Thank you.”
“What?!” Unlike earlier, she covered her chest with the palms of her hands.
I found the two guys who were complaining about blocks and a supervisor playing favorites. Unsurprisingly, both of them were stacking plastic cubes with letters molded into them, congratulating each other on getting six whole blocks high. It was fun kicking them down.
“HEY!” They shouted at me, still seated on the floor. “What was that fo-?”
“Blocks are stupid and you only care about them because you’ve lost everything else of value in your lives.”
The barest hint of a smirk found its way to me.
“MR. CALEB’S DADDY! MR. CALEB’S DADDY-!”
“Won’t be long now,” I whispered to myself. I marched up to Amy. “You look ridiculous with those missing teeth, you wasted years of your life because you wanted to work in a zoo and you lost your freedom and identity because of it.”
Amy looked like the insult didn’t register. She was so far gone it might not have. “Oh, yeah,” she said. “I know. What’s your point? Oh wait! Do you feel like talking now because you still haven’t told me about a ceeeeertain octopus and-”
I didn’t get to hear the rest of her ramblings. “I think someone should be by themselves,” the Amazon Daddy told me as he lifted me off the floor. “Must be overstimulated, or just got a case of the grumps.”
No one else talked to me for the rest of the time.
Janet found me stashed in the crib. Alone. Like I’d wanted to be.
“Oh Clark,” she sighed. “What am I gonna do with you, bubba?”