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[Shorts] [Bond] : Fathers & Sons

Posted by tortillafactory on 2006.06.18 at 22:53
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Short:
Fathers & Sons


Happy Father's Day, CBn.

They say you get used to it, but you don't.

Growing up, I had a friend whose family life wasn't quite all it could have been. That's the diplomat in me talking - her parents hated each other. They stayed together "for her," but most of the time she wished they wouldn't; if they'd divorce, maybe she could at least garner some sympathy from her friends. Like me. I loved my parents, and they loved me - we weren't perfect, but we got on.

Once, sleeping over at her house, I peeked in her diary.

I secretly hate people who get along with their parents. They have something I never will, and I can't forgive them.

I always remember that on days like today.

This morning's case is only twelve years old. My stomach turns at the thought of it. They are old enough to understand, but you can't reach them - for all the screaming and crying I hear from the five-year-olds, the eight-year-olds, I prefer their blind acceptance to the adult denial of a twelve-year-old's soulful eyes, swimming with tears they don't want you to see. I remember twelve. It was hard enough without being orphaned.

What I do is what they call "post-trauma counseling." I'm like the doctor who comes breezing in after the surgery is done to change the bandages and switch out the catheter; it's not easy, but at least I'm not scraping the victims up off the pavement. I'm not a paramedic. I don't think I could do that. Josie is our "fetcher," as we say - she puts on her best nanny-smile and goes out to fetch the child from under his current caretaker's watchful gaze. The caretaker is informed that, due to the nature of the parent(s)' profession(s), the child needs to be taken in and relocated by the British Government, likely with the nearest stable relative. Sometimes there are protests, but most people understand.

The child is gently given the news, and is helped to pack a few things for the journey. Josie tells me they usually remain in shock for some hours after being told. In that way, maybe my job is the worst. Sometimes I see the realisation hitting for the first time. It's one of those things I'll never get used to.

Ernest.

A strong, honest name. I try to imagine what he'll look like before I pull out his photograph. As it turns out, I'm not far off; his hair is sandy-brown and his eyes are lively and clear.

According to policy, I can put off my meeting with young Ernest for a little longer - I have yet to speak with the man who saw his father die. Supposedly these meetings are supposed to put me in a better frame of mind for speaking with the child about the death, but they never do. I begin to hope that he'll never show.

But of course I can think of nothing else. Soon I'm wishing the bloody angel of death would hurry up, come breezing in and tell me the gruesome details, so I can get on with my day. I just hope he doesn't tell me he feels responsible for the death. They always do that, and I never know what to say.

The doorknob turns, and I shut my eyes as if that will make it stop.

When I look, he has laid his identification down on the desk before me. I note the name, the number. It matches. I look at his face; it matches too. It is hard and dark and quiet.

He would be handsome if it weren't for the scar, Josie once said, but I think it's what makes him handsome.

His face is set, as I know mine must be, in a mask of studied indifference. Briefly, we discuss the situation as if we were talking about the weather. I explain to him what he already knows; the information given to the child must be "controlled." This means we will lie.

He sees the file open on my desk, and asks to see it. I nod.

He takes the photograph of Ernest in his hand; his face does not change, but suddenly I feel a sadness in the air that can only come from children, the sadness that radiates from their bodies like the heat when they're feverish. Grown-ups can't do that. We're far too cunning - and too vain.

"He looks like Kendris," says Commander Bond shortly. He puts the photograph back down and shoves his hands into his pockets, waiting for a dismissal. But I know his secret now. Most people who come here are too chatty, trying to break the sad tension with too much empathy - even the most hardened agents don't want to upset a child. But the Commander is aware, acutely aware, of what is at stake here. There is something almost imploring in his eyes as he glances at me, saying, "do they want me to talk to him?"

I shake my head. It's supposed to be the child's choice, but I can see the Commander doesn't want to. He wouldn't know what to say. He has no training - only experience.

I always know an orphan when I see one.

"Thank you, sir," I say, coolly. "I think that's all I need."

He briefly rubs his forehead with his palm, then glances at me again. He doesn't want to be here, and he doesn't want to leave. His eyes dart from one side to the other. "Have them ring me if...there's anything I can do." Then suddenly he's in his shell again, realising how ridiculous it is to presume that he could do anything. His teeth are set in anger.

"Good morning, sir," I say, turning back to my computer screen.

He turns quickly to go; the breeze from his long black coat flutters Ernest's photograph to the floor. It lands facedown at my feet.

I want to pick it up, but I'm just not sure I can.

The door slams.

A baby in room four, last week's acquisition, wakes up. She is crying.

And I am crying too.

Comments:


Fenz
fenz123 at 2006-06-19 06:59 (UTC) (Link)
Thoroughly impressed by that. And moved, too.
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