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“She’ll be here any minute.”
“I know. I know,” Cal responded. “Don’t worry too much, Betty.”
“But it’s the first home visit since little Sally’s dedication at the Toleration Fellowship.”
“Betty, we’ve had social coordinators over before.”
“I know, Cal, but they’re bound to be more thorough with families that have agreed to raise their children.....”
“You’d better watch those personal possessive pronouns,” Cal interrupted, “We’ve got to remember she’s just not ours alone anymore.”
“....in compliance with the wisdom of the Community, “ Betty finally got in edgewise.
“What are you so nervous about? It was your idea to join the Fellowship and to give the Community greater say over our domestic union.”
“I know. I know, Cal. It’s just that we had to join. You know that children not dedicated to the Fellowship can’t get into the better schools or qualify later on for jobs deemed essential to the Community interest.”
Cal thought she was overreacting. Sally was just a few months old. There was no rush to plan the baby’s life out for her at this very moment. There would be time for that later on, with the help and oversight of the Community of course.
The couple heard a knock at the door. Cal responded, “I’ll get it.” He figured his wife would be too much of a nervous wreck.
He opened the door. “Oh, hello,” Cal smiled, “Nice to see you again.” He figured this wouldn’t be too bad after all. “Catherine, isn’t it?” he asked, “Your Sibling Cecilia’s partner. We met at the Toleration Fellowship.”
Catherine looked up from her file folder and clipboard. “Yes, Mr. Witherspoon.” She studied her checklist. “I noticed the door was locked, so I knocked. So tell me, do you keep the doors locked all the time?”
“Uh, no. No. Old habit, I suppose.”
“Can be, sometimes.” Catherine marked her list. “Some people still have a tendency to do things as they did in the Before. But if you keep your doors locked too much, the Community might assume you have something to hide. Besides, now that you are overseeing a child, wouldn’t want to the little one to come to the conclusion that there is sometime or someplace where they are separate from the Community.”
Corrected, Cal politely nodded in compliance. “Your right. Won’t you please come in?”
The social coordinator stepped into the dwelling. Of their partnership, Cal thought Catherine must be the more serious of the two since Cecilia was more affable at least until that visitor left some old book on the pew at the Toleration Hall a few weeks ago. He had never seen someone usually as evenhanded as Cecilia get so angry in public.
But then again, Cal did not know her too well privately. He and Betty had only been attending the local Toleration Fellowship since being granted permission to move to Schauungtown about a year ago.
“Betty, the social coordinator is here.”
Betty came back into the room, having gone to get little Sally.
“Oh, hello, Catherine. Nice to see you.”
“You too, Betty.”
Cal noticed the exchange between Catherine and Betty had been a bit more amicable than his initial greeting with the social functionary. Cal guessed maybe because Betty had been spending more time at the Toleration Fellowship at a women’s group, he thought. Something about the indivisible goddess within or whatnot. He wasn’t really sure.
Most of the time, Cal didn’t get as involved with Fellowship activities as Betty usually did. He liked the services well enough. He enjoyed the sense of community they inspired and such, but he just didn’t have that much time free to dedicate to Fellowship activities.
Catherine fumbled through the papers stacked on her clipboard. “Ok. We can begin with an inspection of the offspring’s rejuvenation compartment.”
The awkwardness of the phraseology sent a shiver down Cal’s spine. Couldn’t she have called it “the baby’s room”? Cal supposed that would have denoted a degree of individuality and ownership a number thought enlightened minds had progressed beyond since the days of Before.
Of their domestic union, it was clear Catherine was by far the more clinical partner. Despite psychologically progressing beyond the perceptual confines of gender to obtain the recognition of “Sibling” within the Toleration Fellowship, at least Cecilia displayed a bit of warmth and emotion on occasion.
Betty clung to “the offspring” and said to Catherine, “This way, please.”
Catherine followed Betty and Cal in turn followed Catherine. They made their way through the dwelling to the baby’s room, er, rather the offspring’s rejuvenation compartment.
“Here we are,” Better beamed.
Catherine did not seem quite as enthusiastic. “This is unacceptable. It will simply have to be changed.”
“What?” Cal inquired.
Catherine repeated herself, “It will have to be changed.”
“Why?” Betty whined. “We worked so hard on the baby’s room. Cal spent hours panting the room and it took me weeks to finish the lace curtains.”
“Hmph.” Catherine snapped. “Sorry to inconvenience you, but this compartment is in violation of Developmental Cognition Neutrality Standards.”
“What?” Cal questioned. Betty just looked on with a confused expression across her face.
“Developmental Cognition Neutrality Standards. The room will have to be altered to comply with the aesthetic provisions of those guidelines.”
“Redecorate? Why?” Betty asked.
Catherine removed a citation from her clipboard and handed copies to Cal and Betty. “It’s a violation of Developmental Cognition Neutrality Standards to decorate an offspring’s rejuvenation compartment in any way so as to influence gender perceptions. It is stipulated in the Concord Of Universal Community that each sentient must determine the conceptual state best suited for its own existence without interference or influence without reference to sufficient community oversight.”
“And that means.....?” Cal inquired.
The rejuvenation compartment will have to be repainted in a neutral color such as gray and the drapes replaced with a non-gender suggestive fabric without the lace. Furthermore, the stuffed animals are going to have to be removed also.”
Betty and Cal just looked at each other.
Catherine continued reading from and scribbling on her clipboard. “We might think the stuffed animals are cute, especially since we all grew up in the time of Before. But we have no way of knowing how these representations impact the esteem of fellow organisms unable to express themselves in the same manner as we do. We each have a duty to prevent anthropocentrist bias. These seemingly innocent depictions may actually cause the cognitively impressionable to come to the conclusion that animals exist for humyn benefit. In the time of Before, such ideas scarred countless generations and led to unmitigated ecological disaster. Praise be to the All and the Earth Mother that the Community helped us realize this.”
“Praise be to the Earth Mother.” Cal and Betty dutifully replied.
“Now.” Catherine looked down at her list. “I need to see inside your food preservation unit.”
Betty led Catherine to the kitchen. Cal remembered in the days of Before that such devices like Catherine wanted to see had been called “refrigerators” but thought they operated somewhat differently. Instead of placing the food in a temporal suppression field, lowered temperature had been used to deter decay.
Betty opened the unit. “Here we go.”
Catherine peeked inside, carefully noting the contents. “Where is it exactly do you procure your nutritional allotment?”
“Down at the market, just outside the Schauungtown boundary.”
“Yes, I imagine so.” Catherine replied, “I don’t know how much longer that place is going to be allowed to remain open. It is an affront to everything espoused by this community and others like it. The way some people go in there and buy whatever they want off the shelves as if they were living in the days of Before. Frankly, as upstanding members of the Community and the Toleration Fellowship, I am surprised either of you would allow such gastric pollutants in your nutritional preparation area. Do you realize how close you are to violating Community Dietary Guidelines? As a signatory association to the Concord of Universal Community, Schauungtown pledges to maximize the health of its residents. Having agreed to the Schauungtown Codicils each of you as residents freely recognize that those designated as qualified social coordinators posses expertise superior to that of the individual and that residents desiring to fulfill their communal obligations must comply with directives promulgated in all matters. Do I make myself clear?”
Betty and Cal simply nodded in agreement.
“Good,” Catherine beamed, “Then we shouldn’t have any troubles.” The bureaucrat flipped through her stack of papers once more, making checkmarks and scribbling down observations.
Betty and Cal looked on.
Catherine continued, “These are your copies.” She handed Betty a copy of the report. “Just be sure to implement these guidelines by the time of my next scheduled visit and everything should be satisfactory.”
Betty and Cal looked over the stack of papers. The domestic collective escorted Catherine towards the door.
The three of them stood at the entrance of the domicile. An awkward silence came over them as none wanted to yield to the other by being the first to enunciate the desire to be excused.
As they all looked up, down, and every which way to avoid making eye contact, someone walking down the street caught each their attention. The concern the individual evoked transcended any tension that had developed between the domestic collective and intrusive social coordinator.
Betty strained her neck to get a closer look. “Hey, is that....?”
Cal quickly responded to her inquiry, “Yes, I believe it is that guy who left that book behind at the Toleration Fellowship? I think it was called a Bibl.....”
Catherine interrupted Cal’s thought before he could finish it, “It’s that intolerant malcontent that spreads discord through divisive publications.”
The three looked on as the stranger rambled by and waved.
Catherine turned to the couple. “Remember what I said about not locking your doors?”
The couple nodded in response.
“Forget I ever said it.”
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