by Sandra M. Odell
A poster on the far wall of the crowded cafeteria chamber shows an identical man and woman in coveralls and happy smiles with their hands on the woman’s pregnant belly. The caption at the bottom reads: A REPRODUCTIVE WORKER IS A HAPPY WORKER. MED CALL TO SCHEDULE YOUR NEXT SEXTIME TODAY.
Ollie puts her hands to her belly, her empty belly. Three miscarriages in the last eleven cycles. Only two more chances for a live baby before the overseers stuff her in a containment suit and ship her to processing half a kilometer below the meat farm. No one comes back from processing. “My baby won’t look like everybody else’s. It’ll be different. Better. Everyone will know it’s my baby.”
Across the table, Charlie shrugs and keeps shoveling meat porridge into his mouth. Like everyone else in the meat farm.
She looks around the cafeteria. The same faces, the same voices. Sluggo. Mary. Abner. Patty. Gwen pulling her hair out one strand at a time. The woman who eats rats. The bald boy who constantly bangs his head against the wall until he passes out. All crazyheads.
Ollie picks at a few of the darker lumps in the center of her bowl, takes a bite, says to Charlie, “How many babies do you have now? Five? Six?” When he doesn’t answer, she continues, “I went to the nursery before shift. You have six crib babies and two in the walker room. Do you ever go to the nursery?”
Charlie shakes his head and keeps eating.
Ollie pushes her bowl away. “What’s your fertility rating? Nine? Nine-point-five?”
Charlie scrapes the last bits from the side of his bowl. “Don’t care.”
Ollie stares at him. “How can you not care? I don’t have one baby and I care.”
Charlie taps the side of her bowl with his spoon. “You gonna finish that?” (Continue Reading…)