The events during our graduation were the top story on every news broadcast that night. The People’s Network gave the most accurate description of what happened, but many late night comedians and other newsrooms had dismissed their reporting as a type of propaganda that should be admired for its effort but should be ignored for its content. All of the other newsrooms told the story of how Jeffery Slaver entered the graduation apparently hopped up on some kind of drug and waving a pistol around madly. According to these reports, he tried to gun down his ex-wife because of the terrible way she had raised their children. According to the press, Sandy had done such a terrible job of raising the children that the twins were so out of control there was no hope of them ever recovering from this crime against them. Maxie was refusing to take the medication she needed in order to live. She was now on her deathbed and was still not getting the medical attention she needed. The tragic part of all of this, as reported by the television, was that Sandy had just finished her re-education and would have gone back to the family to give them the love and care they needed. Due to the fact Jeffery couldn’t get over the fact his ex-wife might not be the mother he had always hoped for, he refused to take her back into their household and the divorce stuck. Sandy was going to be shipped off to the Mother Mall where she could become a wonderful mother for another family in need. Because the National Caring and Loving Behavior Act was so strict about women who had been divorced by their husbands, there was no way she could return to the twins who really needed her.
The media painted a picture of Dr. Blur being the hero of the whole incident. Before the crazed husband was able to squeeze off a shot into the crowd and into his innocent ex-wife, Dr. Blur rushed over to try and calm him down by talking to him. Unfortunately, Jeffery was so whacked out on drugs that Dr. Blur was forced to restrain him through physical means. The press told of how Dr. Nancy Ann Blur was holding a pen in her hand as she went through the motions of restraining him. The pen happened to stab Jeffery Slaver in the jugular during the struggle. There was nothing anybody could do for him as his life blood spilled onto the floor. He died fifteen minutes later due to blood loss. I had always suspected Mr. Clicky-Pen was a murderer, but I never believed I would have been witness to one of his heinous crimes.
Because of the untimely demise of the evil husband, he was never able to comment on the events of that day. Sandy, on the other hand, was in such shock from the events she was sent to a mental hospital to recover from the traumatic experience. She was unavailable for comment also. By the time she was made available, the media had moved on to the next story and had forgotten about the incident completely, except for the People’s Network. They interviewed her as she sat at the Mother Mall waiting to be bought by a new husband. She told her side of the story, but the other networks once again dismissed it as a blatant attempt to try and push the ratings up in the programming of that propaganda network.
After Jeffery was swept off to the morgue, Sandy off to the funny farm, and the blood off of Dr. Blur’s face, the ceremony continued. Dr. Blur said some nice words which were overshadowed in the press by the preceding events. We all walked up on stage and a camera flashed as we shook the good doctor’s hand and received our diploma. Afterwards, they quickly funneled us out of another door and onto a bus waiting just outside the Capital Limited Re-education Center. We were barely given enough time to wave goodbye before the bus trucked off down the road to our temporary home and our new life. We were now products of the Denver Mother Mall to be sold to various consumers in order to promote the well being of the future of America, its youth.
I spent the trip staring out the window once again. I had become accustomed to the desolate landscape, and it was nice to see the reversal on my way to the Mother Mall. Before I witnessed life being taken away from the terrain; this time I was able to witness life’s return. The buildings grew in size the closer to civilization we got. The foliage went from limping and gnarled to straight and proud. Commerce grew from family style to conglomerate. Even though I was returning back to the land of my youth where my hopes and dreams resided, I still felt I had left something behind at the Capital Limited Re-education Center. Maybe it was my youth. Maybe it was my hopes. Maybe it was my dreams. Whatever it was, I didn’t have to time to think about it because I was traveling into an unknown and I didn’t know what to expect when I got there.
We needed to travel through Elbert County in order to get to the Mother Mall. My interest was piqued as I looked out the window at familiar signposts and landmarks. Nothing much had changed except I had been removed from the equation. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see my old home from the highway, but I looked out the window, anyway, when we neared the turnoff to my old residence. The thought of the new mother playing in the yard with Lindsey and Zach while wearing that golden dress scratched its vicious claws into my heart. It was too painful to even think about. I needed to turn my head away and look out the other side of the bus. This didn’t help my spirits either. On the other side of the highway was the town’s trailer park. I could see women outside as children ran around without any supervision. Laundry hung from clothes lines outside of the trailers and a collection of junk gathered in what was supposed to be their front yards. I looked down at the denim blue dress I wore and was instantly reminded of my past, my present and my future. The thought of all three together made me want to break down and cry, but the experiences of the last couple of months taught me by doing this I wouldn’t achieve anything. The best thing I could do was keep my composure and make the best of the situation I found myself in.
I started to feel better as we rolled on through the county and into Castle Rock. We passed by the Old Stone Church where my hopes, my dreams, and my innocence were crushed. I was able to handle the view of this sight much better than the one of the town I once lived in.
We turned onto the highway and headed up the hill towards Denver and the Mother Mall. Life became more civilized and my heart thumped harder as I started to question this civilization. I knew at any moment I would see the sign I dreaded the most. When the bold yellow letters stating we were nearing the MALL rose on the horizon, my heart was beating extremely fast. My breath was shortening and I knew I was coming to the end of this part of my journey.
We pulled off the highway and police were around the Mother Mall to direct the traffic so we had easy access to the building. We pulled into the parking lot of a large warehouse-style building. It was painted dark Navy blue and must have taken up three city blocks. Men milled about the entrance and I suspected they were talking about the merchandise the large building held. The bus pulled up to the back of the building. There was a small, nondescript grey door on the big blue building. We could hear the breaks sigh from the bus as it came to an end of its long journey. The grey door opened and Steven came out. He goose-stepped his way to the door of the bus. The bus driver opened it for him and he stomped his way to the front of the bus. Even though he had the attention of every woman on the bus, he thought it was his duty to shout, “Attention!”
I could see Steven counting to ten in his head before he continued. “At this time I need all of the new mothers wearing blue dresses to make their way off the bus. After you have made your way off the bus, I need you to stand in a single file line at the foot of the grey door. Do you understand me?”
When nobody responded to him, he said, “Good. Now move out.”
Around twenty women got up from their seats and slowly made their way out of the bus. I was the second to last one to exit. Getting off the bus and feeling the nice summer sun fill my pores with the vitamin D I so much craved over the past few months was amazing. Even though I knew it was only a mirage in the truth of my life, I felt freedom for the first time in a long time. The woman behind me was stuck in the shade of the bus’s entrance as I stood on the cement in front of the Mall and soaked up the freedom. She must have looked over my head to question Steven as to what she was supposed to do now because I wasn’t obeying the simple order he had given. While I let the sunshine soak into me, I heard him shout, “Move it, lady, or I’ll make sure you find yourself down in the basement with the rest of the bargains.”
It was worth the few seconds to have that feeling of freedom again. I moved to find my way to the end of the line and I stood there waiting for the next instructions. As the other woman found her place behind me, Steven goose-stepped his way to the grey door. He opened the door and I could see a black hole waiting to suck us all up. He continued with the instructions, “When I enter this door, you will follow behind me. You will stop when I stop. When I stop, I will unlock a door and open it for you. The first person in line will walk through that door. After I have shut and locked that door, we will continue down the hallway. I will continue with this procedure until all of you are in your rooms. Do I make myself clear?”
We all stood there and stared at him in disbelief. He apparently didn’t like me joining the other women in their silence because he stomped his way over to my face and started to yell at me. “Do I make myself clear, Miss Enjoying-the-Sunshine?”
I inched back from him. “Yes.”
He inched closer to my face. His beady eyes squinted open just a hair more. “Yes, what?”
“Yes, sir?” I asked him, hoping whatever I was saying was right.
He turned away from me and made his way back to the front of the line. “Good. Let’s move out.”
He walked into the door and I could see the shadow of the building envelop him. Each of the women made their way into the darkness and I followed behind, making sure not to hesitate. When I made my way inside I could see it was a dark but very clean hallway. There were doors, evenly spaced all of the way down the left hand side of the hallway. Some of them had papers on the doors. As I walked by them, I could see the ones with papers on them had a name on it with a date underneath it. None of the dates was longer than three months. When we made it to the first door without a piece of paper on it, Steven stopped in front of it. He opened the door and the first lady walked to the edge of the door hesitantly. Steven must have been in a hurry because he pushed her in, shut the door and locked it. He put a piece of paper on the door and continued down the hallway.
As I passed the door, I could hear her banging on it, and a muffled voice asking to be let out. The next door we reached without a paper was opened for the next woman. She didn’t hesitate at the door like the first woman but quickly entered the door. Steven shut the door and made his way down the long hallway.
By the time we reached the end, four of the women had already made it through doors. The hallway turned left and once again stretched off into eternity. We continued down the hallway, stopping every once in awhile so Steven could usher one of the women through one of the doors. As soon as we made it to one of those doors, I wanted to peek inside to see what the inside really looked like, but Steven was so quick about shutting the door my curiosity was never satisfied.
We made it to the end of the long hallway and once again it turned left. At this time there were only two of us left. My turn was next and my heart held both anticipation and trepidation as we made our way to the next door without a piece of paper. The anticipation filled my heart because I really wanted to see what was in the rooms, but the trepidation was because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like what I saw when I got in there. Steven finally stopped in front of another door and it was my turn to walk through the threshold.
I walked through into a lighted room. The door shut behind me as I walked through and I could hear Steven lock it. I turned back to look at the door to see if I could escape in any way, but I knew this would be impossible. Instead, I turned around to see what my new environment looked like. I was in what would best be described as a small great room. There was a kitchen on one side of the room with cabinets, a small island, a refrigerator, a microwave, an oven, and a dishwasher next to the sink. This spread out into a small living room area. There was a coffee table sitting in front of a flower-patterned love seat. The table was littered with old Better Homes and Garden and Women’s Life magazines. On the far side of the room was a mop, brushes, a dust pan, cleaning supplies, and a vacuum cleaner. There was a small bathroom with a toilet, sink and shower in the corner of the room. I found myself in a smaller version of a normal living area.
All of the walls were bare expect for the one directly across from the door I had just entered. This wall was made completely of glass. I could look out the glass and see a huge showroom where men walked up and down looking at women trapped in similar rooms all over the big warehouse style room. I could see some of the women were busy keeping their little area clean or cooking dinner, whereas others were relaxing on the couch and just letting the day pass them by. There were a couple that stood in the middle of their little boxes with looks of shock on their faces as if they didn’t know what to do. Looking closer, I realized these women were the same ones I had just graduated with.
I just stood there and stared at the bright lights of the showroom as they shined into my room. I could see the husbands walking from booth to booth to see what mothers were available. I quickly learned the idea was to always be “on” as a mother. This would sell me better because a good mother was never allowed to rest. It didn’t stop the mothers from resting when there weren’t many potential husbands on the floor. It was helpful to know when to be “on” and when it didn’t really matter. It was still difficult to be put on the spot like that. Over the next couple of months while I lived in my new booth, I would try really hard to impress a husband when I saw he had made his way to my window, but it still felt as if I was acting on this stage and it wasn’t the natural way to do things. When I saw a husband make his way over to my booth, I would concentrate more on my reflection in the wall made of glass and less on who was paying attention to my skills and worth as a mother. I hated that reflection, but I concentrated on it because I believed it would get me out of the situation I found myself in.
I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. My hair was cut short in a little bob resting nicely on the back of my neck right above my shoulders. I was forced to wear a hair clip with a blue bow in it on either side in order to keep my hair out of my face. I believe the owner of the Mother Mall thought this made the mother attractive while still being able to get serious work done in what they called a household, such as laundry, cooking and cleaning.
I also made sure the dress I wore was always clean and presentable. I wanted to look my best, so I would have to spend as little time in this place as I needed to. I also made sure the apron was always tied tightly around my waist so it would accentuate it. I wanted to show perspective husbands I had a thin enough waist fro them to wrap their arms around, but my hips were strong enough to bear the burden of child birth. The apron served a second purpose as well. It kept all of the dirt and mess accumulating throughout the course of my day in this tiny box and keep it off my pretty dress.
I wandered around my cubicle making it look like I was the perfect mother. It really helped that I was placed in a room with furniture from the 1950s. It completed the whole picture. A perspective husband would see me working in this environment and start to think about his own mother and the living room and the kitchen in which he was raised. We were the spitting image of what it meant to be the perfect all-American mother.
All in all, I looked and felt like June Cleaver. The poster in my cell back at the Capital Limited Re-education Center had predicted my future and I knew the only way I could escape my fate was to get out of this place.