Chronicles of Higher Education

“Baby Lambs (School Librarian)”

by Emil DeAndreis

 

It is the buzzer-beater, the thrill of winning blackout bingo, beating rush hour traffic, finding a wad of cash on the ground.  Ask any substitute teacher— that’s how it feels to sub as school librarian.   There is no cushier assignment because in a library, the tasks are too complex and the technology too moody for a librarian to explain in a single lesson plan.  There are scanners, catalogues, barcodes, and beeping things which, if mishandled, can thrash the homeostasis of a library for good.  Thus, in the event of an absent librarian, substitute lesson plans typically err on the side of caution, reading something like: I have cancelled all classroom visits to the library today.  There will be no checking out of books.  Please stay away from computer and catalogue and scanner, as they are nearly impossible to replace.  Have a wonderful day.  Ergo, with no classes or tasks of any kind, the library substitute is almost always guaranteed the luxury of sitting in a carpeted, heated room all day, with a lunch break.

Horton initially had no plans to work today; a late night stroll into the labyrinth of Youtube held him hostage into the wee hours of this morning, taking him everywhere from Rage Against the Machine clips to tutorials on jellying cranberries.  But when an automated phone call came in at five thirty this morning offering him the job of librarian, he couldn’t say no despite his Youtube-caused forfeiture of rest, because the librarian is the white whale of substitute gigs.  People hear legends of it, people hold out for it and no one in their right mind turns it down.

So Horton’s alarm enlivens him and he yawns with puppyish vigor at the prospect of being a librarian today.  After breakfast and a jolly commute, Horton parks and skates across the street through the double door entrance of the elementary school.  The unmistakable scent of education is upon him—a cocktail of crayons, recycled poster paper, old heaters, and carpets.  He signs into the binder for substitutes, gets his key for the day, and heads into the library where he can literally taste the smell of old books with each breath.  The hum of idle computers is so soothing it nearly coaxes Horton into a nap, already.  There is a yellow piece of paper with large scribbles at the circulation desk.  It reads SUB PLANS.  Beneath that, there is one short line of instruction, Horton can tell.  This is perfect.

Today there will be no classes coming to check out books.

“Niiiiiiiiiiiiiice.”

But there’s more.

Our school is hosting its Bring Your Parent To School Day today in the library.  Please set up the caucus table in the carpet area and assist Principal Rosepond as needed.  There will be many people in the library all day.  Thanks, Mrs. Debbie.

“Caucus table?” worries Horton as an image of Camelot’s round table comes to mind—some colossal berg of lumber sculpted to accommodate many men and their armor.

It all makes sense now, Horton thinks.  Mrs. Debbie probably knew that today was going to be tedious, and so she skedaddled the way many teachers skedaddle on days when bullshit is in store, like school rallies, department meetings and standardized tests.  In other states, Horton has heard that teachers are legally required to work on days of standardized tests, likely because there have been too many catastrophes at the hands of decrepit substitutes on those days.  Other states have learned that entrusting the future of its children in the hands of substitutes is the equivalent of infanticide; however, San Francisco has not yet learned this, and so the weeks of standardized tests in San Francisco are ironically Horton’s busiest weeks.

Today, Horton has been duped.  He thought he had lucked out.  The library job—it was too good to be true, a mirage.  The library will not be an empty sanctuary of wall-to-wall carpeted tranquility.  He’s been outsmarted.

Horton walks over to the landing strip of oak that is the caucus table and moves it with the success of a Chihuahua nudging a cinderblock.  There is a knock at the door.  A parent has arrived.

“Hi,” announces the parent sitting down in the children’s chair.

“Hi.”

“I’ll be speaking at the event today,” he says.

“Fine.”

“I’m a parent.”

“Right.”

“Name’s Wald.”

“Horton.”

“I’m an environmental engineer.”

The ensuing silence suggests that Wald would enjoy some praise for his job.  Horton continues to be foiled by the table, getting low and desperate as if pushing a Coup Deville through sand.  Another few adults come into the library and gather on the color coated children seats.  They barter names and ask one another if they’ve come for Bring Your Parent To School Day, as though there could be any other reason for them to be in an elementary school library.  Horton abandons hope of being helped with the table.

“Boy, I sure need this,” yawns a portly young man, who is referring to a McDonalds coffee, a McCafe, as it were.  Constellations of crumbs and dandruff pollinate his polo shirt.  He’s gone on the record as being named Preston.

“I haven’t been up this early since driver’s ed.”

He sips the McCafe, allowing a moment for this achievement to set in for everyone.

“You don’t wake up to take your child to school?” asks Wald.

“Oh I don’t have kids.  My brother’s kid goes here.  He called me up last night and asked me to come do this thing and talk about what I do.  I’m into sports.  I’m a sports guy.  Kids go nuts.  That’s how it goes.”

A woman steps up and inaugurates herself into the conversation.

“I’m Artemis.  I’m a dance teacher, in the public schools.  Teaching is nature’s nectar of employment.”

Her audience of men nods in vague approval.

“Excuse me, are you the librarian?” she asks.

“I’m Horton.  A substitute teacher,” calls Horton, grappling with the plateau.

“Substitutes get walked on by the students,” Artemis informs the other adults.  “They’ve got it worst.  They have a very hard time earning respect, but I think they’re the real heroes.

“Would you like some help with that table?” she asks, but by now the table is in place, so everyone continues to sit in the peewee chairs, discussing themselves.  Outside, the muffled banter of kindergarteners multiplies.  Students are lining up at the door.  Teachers are peering in through cupped hands, gauging the readiness of the room for their squealers.  Bring Your Parent To School Day has arrived.

Within minutes, the library carpet is suffocated under piles of young children, crawling on top of one another, dispensing mushy baby farts of glee as they involuntarily celebrate this postponement of school that is Bring Your Parent to School Day.  The parents are sitting around the table, hands folded, as the principal silences her students with a clapping exercise: “if you can hear me clap once.  If you can hear me clap twice, if you can hear me clap three times.”  The children clap according to the instructions and the principal has their attention.

“Good morning boys and girls.”

“Gooood mooorr-niiiiinng  Missss-essss Rooose-ponnnd,” they say in precious unison.

Principal Rosepond proceeds to thank them for their salutation, and then compliments specific children on things that they’re doing correctly, like Jack who is sitting up straight, and Tracy who is sitting “criss cross apple sauce” and Fergal whose big green eyes are looking right at hers.  Mrs. Rosepond tells the students that they’re in for a treat today because adults have come to share the important things they do for a living.  Each parent has a big important role, she says.

“From the roads we walk on, to the air we breathe, to the food we eat, to the power that lights our houses and turns on our computers and phones, to the trains, planes and cars that get us to and fro— without people like your parents, things would be much different.  So let’s show these very important people how we treat our guests.  Let’s show them that we can be grown ups too.  We can do this by listening, raising our hands when we have questions, and sitting with our heads up seven up.  Right boys and girls?”

“YEAAAAAH!”

“And remember, as you listen to these special people talk about their jobs, imagine what our lives might be like if we didn’t have them…”

Artemis delves right in.

“Good morning,” she says, situating herself in front of the children.  “I’m Artemis, and I’m the mother of Journey, and Eclipse, who are sitting back there.”

“Goooood Mooooornniiiiing Arrrteeemmiiiisss!” say the children.

“Peace and love.  From La danca de los Machetes of Mexico, to the commemorative Bon Odori dance of Japan to the Palestinian wedding dance Debka, dancing is nature’s nectar of communication.”

Artemis leaves no doubt of her worldly ethos by pronouncing each dance in its native tongue; La danza de los Machetes is rolled out with rapid Mexican sass, Bon Odori is presented with a humble Eastern bow that nearly unloads one of her bosoms, and the “k” in the Debka is hacked as though she is choking on owl pellets.

“How about this, boys and girls,” she says.  “How about I give you a quick lesson, to show you the virtues of dance, to give you a breath of the air that I breathe every day?”

“YEAAAAAAAAAAH!”

“I’m going to teach you the Palestinian wedding dance, Debke.”

The children look at one another energetically.  Horton finds them to be precious.  Anyone innocent enough to be captivated by Artemis is, by default, precious.

“But first, let’s pay the culture the respect— or münasebet— it deserves, and pronounce the dance correctly.  Repeat after me.  Deb-kkkke.”

“DEB- KUH,” call the children.

“No no.  Deb-kkkkkkke.”

“DEB-KUH!” they return.

“No no, you see.  Now you’re insulting Palestine, and we don’t want to do that, do we?”

“Nooooooooooooooo,” say the children, shaking their heads worriedly.

“Deb-kkkckkckcckkceh,” she hacks.

“DEB-KEH!”

DEBBB—KCKCKCKKKCKHCKCHCCKKCCHCHCHEEEHHH!”

The kids unfortunately do not catch on.  Artemis sighs.  “Someday, you’ll learn to open yourselves to the world.  For now, let us all stand.”

In a very congested space, toddlers rise in a flurry to their feet, which turns out to be a bad idea.  The act of children standing compromises Artemis’ control of the class; high fives, pushing matches and additional soft farts are all instrumental in the disturbance.

Mrs. Rosepond snaps her fingers.  She is staring at Horton, motioning for him to do something about the students.

“Uh.  Clap if you can hear me!” he attempts.  “Clap if you’re listening!?”

He is guessing like a lush who’s forgotten the password at a speakeasy.  Mrs. Rosepond rolls her eyes, exasperated, for Horton is proving to be just another substitute that can’t do shit.

“One-two-three, eyes-on-me!” says principal Rosepond.

“One, two! Eyes-on-you!” they say, and shut up.

Artemis proceeds to instruct the eighty-or-so children to find a partner.  Because there are so many, and because they already managed to offend a culture, Artemis says she will teach them a “watered down” version of the dance so as to avoid further cultural desecration.

“As partners, one will stand and look to the sky with his hands shaking like this, and the other will shake his hands as well, look at the sky and dance in circles around the standing partner, like this.”  She enlists Horton to stand as she demonstrates the revolving dance.

KA HALA HALAHALA KA KCHCKCHCKEH!” she retches.

This woman is more insulting to any culture than toddlers struggling to annunciate its language, Horton thinks to himself.  She may very well be making this up as she goes.

Artemis continues strutting and gargling about the room, leaping in what seems to be a conscious effort to have her face bludgeoned by her breasts.  Then, she stops.

“Understand?” she asks, finished.

“YEEEEESSSSSSSSSSS!” the children shout, chomping at the bit to show how cultured they can be.

“Alright.  On my count.  And five, six seven eight!”

Artemis claps her wrists together.  The clanking of her jewelry provides the beat of the dance, but it’s nearly inaudible against the excitement of the children.  The library is in a frenzied state, the loudest library in San Francisco.  The vertigo of twirling has drilled five children into the carpet head first.  One is crying.  A collision between two twirlers has inspired a tussle.  Some students get carried away and orbit right into a bookshelf, which promptly topples, spraying books all over the floor.  Children continue parading, however, too engulfed in the activity to skip a beat.  My Side of the Mountain, Number the Stars, A Series of Unfortunate Events—these masterpieces of children’s literature are shredded to confetti beneath the sneakers of stimulated munchkins.  Artemis seems as though she is witnessing the ultimate sacrilege.

Meanwhile, from her chair, Mrs. Rosepond once again has her gaze fixed angrily upon Horton, implying that it is Horton’s job to solve this now.  The presence of a principal has always ruffled Horton’s feathers in the workplace, for the principal is the closest thing Horton ever has to a boss.  Usually, Horton’s job entails floating in and out of school without ever crossing paths with a single adult.  No one diverts from their normal routine to acquaint themselves with a sub— someone they’ll never see again— and this leaves Horton with a hell of a margin for error.  Any time he gives a subpar teaching performance, there is no boss of any kind noting his professional deficiencies.  In the event of a principal on site, however, things quickly change.  Suddenly, he is like any other worker in the presence of his boss, making unusual efforts to make a good impression.  So per Mrs. Rosepond’s orders, Horton fidgets to the front of the class and tries to get the class’s attention again.

“Um.  Oh boy.  One-two-three, this-should-stop!” he tries.  “One-two-three, look-up-here!” he trumpets.

“One-two-three!  Eyes on me!” Mrs. Rosepond says calmly.

“One, two! Eyes on you!” the children return.  Their ruinous dance recital has been extinguished.  Artemis can hardly bring herself to smile.  Mrs. Rosepond reminds the children to applaud and say thank you to Teacher Artemis for teaching them about the importance of dancing and culture.

“THAAAANK YOUU TEEA-CHERRRR AARRR-TEEEEM-ISSSSS,” they squeal, certain that they are all now dancers.  Artemis has sat down, muttering snippets of worldly hopelessness.

Preston stands, inviting everyone to endure his gut, and says he’ll go next.  He sits in front of the caucus table, his back molded in an arch that suggests he’s spent his life hunched over a keyboard or videogame controller.

“Well, for starters, let me ask you guys a question.  WHO HERE LIKES SPORTS?”

The room goes apeshit.

“SPOOOOOORTS!” they yell.

Children who are too young to understand the concept of athletics and teams are looking around and joining in on the fanfare.  Boys and girls who will grow to completely loathe all forms of competition are cheering now as though they can’t go a day without ESPN.

“Me too!  Good morning kids.  My name is Preston.  I don’t have any kids.  I’m Skyler’s uncle.  What’s up buddy?” he says and waves at alleged Skyler.

“GOOOOD MOOOORNNIIIING PRESSS-TTOOOONNN!!” the children welcome.

“Whoa.  Gotta love the energy.  Boys and girls: I’m here to talk to you about sports. I love all sports.  My passion is football.  Has been my whole life, and so when I grew up and I had to get a real job, I figured, why not do what I love?”

One oddball raises his hand and tells the room that his father plays for the Forty Niners.  Three more children say me too!  Mrs. Rosepond smiles, and confirms via whisper to the other adults in the room that all of their fathers are actually software engineers.

“Anyhow, since I loved football so much, I started my own fantasy football website, and now I manage and compete with my own football teams! Preston raves.

Children are sold, looking at each other and approving with quizzical nods.

“In my first season of football ever, I put together a nail-biting comeback and clawed to first place in my league!  That’s unheard of for someone’s first year of fantasy football!  After that, I knew I had found my calling.  Like everything else, fantasy football has taken practice, hard work and dedication, but it’s been worth every minute!

“Hey!  I bet you guys probably want to hear about my success, about what it takes to be me.”

“YEAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

Bless their hearts, thinks Horton.

“I’ve got some general pointers that will benefit all fantasy football players, amateur and pro!  A serious principle that has led to my consecutive championships is to never underestimate your opponent; I have made it a habit to assume that everyone in my league is putting in as much work as me.  This keeps me sharp, quick on my feet.  My next principle is to always try to stay one step ahead of my competition.”

The kindergarteners strain to keep up with Preston’s Principles, because, as confused as they are, it is quite obvious that they yearn to be successful football players, just like him.

“I make it a point to always be on my computer, clicking refresh on all the sports blogs, keeping up to date on injuries, trades, draft picks, stats, everything there is to know.  I’ll skip sleep, I’ll skip meals, anything to get that edge on my opponents, and that’s what makes me a cut above the rest.  That’s the life of a professional fantasy football player.  I’m living the dream!

This man has made no mention of what his job entails apart from making real money off of imaginary victories from imaginary teams.  Preston has not hesitated to digress on his virtual accomplishments with terms of perseverance like “come from behind,” and “claw to the top” and “quick on my feet”— terms that are usually reserved for the tangible accomplishments of real athletes!  Though Preston has tried to make his job sound complex, the only remotely complex thing about his job is that it somehow leads to money.  Much more money than Horton makes, to be exact.

At this point, kids are unzipping their mini-backpacks for pens and paper and racing up to Preston for autographs, thinking he is an actual football player in the real world.

“Remember, guys.  Always give it one hundred and ten percent and you’ll be able to live the dream, just like me!”

The dream.  That’s nice.

Preston is at the forefront of the twenty first century’s American Dream, Horton realizes—finding a niche in which one can feel like an important contributor to real society by existing in a fantasy world.  Working from home is the American Dream, creating a successful distraction— an app— is the American Dream.  Working without having to work is the American Dream.  In that sense, Horton has somewhat achieved that nirvana; Horton never has to do shit, really.  However, there is nothing dreamy about his income.  Preston, on the other hand, has the unjustifiable income, along with the pompous belly, the five o clock shadow, the unwashed hair and the dandruffy shirt of a man who is truly living today’s American Dream.

When the line of for autographs is exhausted, the children return to the rug, deliriously chatty from their signatures that read—in oafish cursive—Preston.

“What a treat,” says Mrs. Rosepond.  “Mr. Preston talked about some very important things in his presentation.  Let me ask a question, boys and girls.  Did Mr. Preston seem happy?”

“YEEESSSSSSSSSSSS.”

“Why was he happy?”

A child raises his hand and waves it.  “Because he gets to be a football player!  It’s his favorite thing!”

“Right,” she says, and then looks at Preston with a smile.  “A football player.  But what did he say he had to do in order to become a football player?”

“He had to do lotsa hard work.”

“That’s right, students.  So in order for Preston to be happy and successful, he had to do lots of hard work first, right?”

“YEAAAAAAAHHHHH!”

Preston, from the looks of it, is deep in an American dream of Artemis’ boobs.

“Good.  Very important life lessons.  Let’s say thank you to Preston for teaching them to us today.”

“THAAAAAAAANK YOUUUU MIIISSSSS-TEEERRRRR PRREEESSSS-TOONNNNN!”

With charismatic impotence, Wald volunteers himself next.   Horton is praying that this next presentation will provide something wholesome, something inspiring, something lasting— if not for the children, for him.

“Hey buds!  I’m Wald!  See that little goof over there, Ernest?  Well, that’s my boy, and I’m an environmental engineer!”

Wald is horrified by the silence that follows.

“Alright.  I’m going to ask you guys a question.  What are some things that we need to survive?  What can’t we live without?”

Hands are shooting up and flopping around like little salmon jumping upstream.  One student declares medicine as vital, another claims hot dogs, while blankets receive a few votes.

“Yes,” agrees Wald.   “Everyone loves these things, but try to think of things we can’t live without.”

“Food!” says one child.

“Air,” airs another.

“Ketchup!” fails one child.

“Water!”

“Bingo!” Wald celebrates.  “Water!  We can’t live without it, can we?  And if we waste it, or we run out of it, then we’ve got a problem don’t we?”

“Yea, a big problem!” worries one kid.

“Well, every year, there are more and more people.  So, as an environmental engineer, I’m part of a team that is always searching to find new ways to find, or create, clean drinking water.”

“WHOOOOOOOOOA!”

Sometimes, in moments of rare optimism, Horton is fascinated by what environmentalists do, and what trends they start, in order to keep this careless planet afloat.  He remembers a mere decade or so ago when eco-brilliant San Francisco began encouraging the separation of recyclable material from garbage.  That trend caught on to the whole country, and now there are humongous blue bins everywhere you go.  Next came the green bin for compost.  Green-thinkers convinced people that food, drinks, egg shells, dirt, and anything else from the earth could eventually return to the earth and mulch into nutrients instead of suffocating in a landfill.  These movements have been possible thanks to people like Wald, the kind who dedicate themselves to human sustenance even if it is at the cost of their own personality, and physical appearance.

“So, you know where we go for this new water source?  I’ll give you a hint.  It’s where Santa Claus lives!”

Wald has just dropped the ace up his sleeve, the key to a child’s heart.

“THE NOOOORTH POOOOOLE!”

“That’s right.  And is there lots of snow in the North Pole all the time?”

“YEAAAAAAHH!”

“It’s just a lot of ice, and no one is using it, so we go up there and melt it with big hot torches and turn it into delicious drinking water!  Straight from the source.  There is no water fresher than the water we manufacture.”

“Do you burn down Santa’s house?” frets a boy.

“Of course not.”

“Do you see Santa?”

“Well, no.”

“What about the elves?”

The heroics of Wald’s craft have quickly been shot to shit.  He has completely distracted the children and ruined his presentation, as they are now comparing personal sightings of reindeer, Santa’s cookie preferences, the gifts they received last year and what they plan to put on their wish list for next Christmas.  Kids are claiming they’ve seen Santa come down through their chimney, though most houses in San Francisco do not have chimneys.  Wald is clearing his throat and mumbling the way people do when they are accustomed to being walked all over.  He is clearly disappointed: so simple is his audience to prefer annual gifts over life-sustaining water.  They don’t get it!

Mrs. Rosepond is snapping her fingers, eyes on Horton.  Once again it’s time for him to silence the chirping tikes, but this time he does not notice her.  He is sitting in a baby chair, deep in speculation, struggling to see the good in Wald’s work.  If he’s not mistaken, Wald is melting ice caps to create drinking water.  He is accelerating global warming!  Horton wonders if he is the only adult in the room who heard this correctly.  Artemis and Preston are engaged in a discussion about water; she has just claimed that it is the nectar of earth’s nipple, while Preston says he can “take it or leave it.”

“A diet Mountain Dew and I’m good to go,” he whispers.

The children are conversing with one another, and suddenly it is difficult for Horton to see any difference between the children and the adults.  No one thinks Wald’s job is bad!  Begrudgingly, Horton rises and gives his best shot at clapping loud enough to distract, or perhaps frighten the children into silence, but personally he’d prefer to hear them gloat of their experiences and fantasies of Santa Clause.  Hell, he wishes he was on the rug talking about Santa Clause.  He wouldn’t mind sitting with them, suddenly reliving the days of wearing Velcro, singing songs, drinking milk with meals and digging holes in the backyard during summertime for no other reason than why not?  The days of playing Candyland and imagining that every little stage of the board game— the gumdrop mountains and the peppermint forest— really existed somewhere without adult restrictions on how much candy he could eat.  He would sit and imagine the taste of every last gum drop, and he would calculate exactly how endless the peppermint forest was, or how many days Gramma Nut’s peanut brittle house would last before he had eaten it all up.  Horton would even eye the colored plastic figures in the game, imagining that they too were somehow candy.  These were days when imagining and pretending were signs of healthy and functioning and promising minds, as opposed to now, when fantasizing turns you into Preston, a celibate oval-shaped earthworm.

These were the days when you drank water because it was refreshing when thirsty.  No one ever thought to wonder, or ever had a reason to care about where the water was coming from.  Horton doesn’t want to quiet these children down, no.  They are a fresh breeze passing through a stagnant mildewy room.  He wants to sit with these children.  He wants to be one of them and watch these adults speak and be fascinated by how important they are.  He wants to think that Artemis is the most cultured and enriched woman on the planet, he wants to think that Preston is a quarterback in the NFL, he wants to think Wald is doing good by giving us water and saving the planet at the same time.  It would be nice if Horton could sit on the rug and look up at these adults and think they really were the heroes that they are supposed to be, that they themselves think they are.  He wishes he was at the tender age when it was expected for him to have heroes, not to be a hero, because deep down, he can think badly of these imposturous and unheroic adults around him, but he knows that such thoughts won’t change the fact that he will never be any kind of hero himself.

Horton sees that there is one person at the caucus table who hasn’t yet presented.  He hasn’t spoken a word to anyone; he’s barely even moved.  No one knows his name or what he does or whose child is his.  There is a forgettable, mundane quality about him, a paleness in his face.  He maneuvers himself to the front of the room and is standing before the students before anyone sees him.  He is an invisible force moving through the air— calculated like a rumor, a cancer— the kind that only rears its head when it is too late.  Horton prays that this man has something of substance to offer today’s proceedings, something to redeem the previous three.

“Salutations, young learners,” says the man at last, something to which the children do not know how to respond.  “I look around this room, and your innocence is enlivening, it is refreshing, it is encouraging.  In your eyes I see the wonder and the trust of baby lambs.

“As I explain my job, I’d like for you to trust when I say that my sole purpose is to keep you out of harm’s way, to keep the world safe.  And that’s all.  Nothing more.

“I’ve spent my career tracking down the bad people of the world.  I keep close watch of them, follow their every move, and work hard at making sure the good people are safe.  Right now, my organization, America’s Central Intelligence, is completing a mobile phone application capable of voice recognition.  Listen to the ingenuity of this development, my baby lambs.  It is going to change the world.  For the better.

“Already, we’ve placed sound receptors in the ceilings of jails, prisons, juvenile detention centers, mental asylums, hospitals, and courtrooms.  There, vocal samples of anyone and everyone with a legal record—anyone who passes through a courtroom, even to contest a speeding ticket—is recorded and stored.  With these voice samples, we’ve developed vocal templates, or foundations on which voices can be identified.”

Of course, this unidentified man has lost the children.  He never had them, nor did he seem to care.  Naturally, a man of this occupation and background is incapable of relating to anyone, especially young people.  It has not even been clarified as to whether or not this man even has children.  However, the confusion of the children and adults alike does not unsettle him, in fact, it provides a nice platform on which to proceed uninterrupted.

“Boys and girls, this application will restore beauty to our country.  It will take homeland security glorious strides into the future.  We will soon be able to hold our phones up to the conversations that surround us and— within seconds— know if there is a criminal nearby.  On the buses, in supermarkets, anywhere in the world, criminals will have no place to hide.  Anyone who has ever spent a night in jail, anyone who has ever pled innocent will be catalogued—forever— as a criminal.  We will no longer live in fear, no longer live uncomfortably.”

The man goes on to discuss an additional segment to this application, one which will identify those who have not yet committed crimes, but shown a “grave proclivity toward misdeeds”.  This particular department, he says, will conspire closely with social networks such as Facebook and Youtube, and will comb through illicit materials to help determine who might be future criminals.  From there, a vocal-recognition template will be created for them based on their self-posted videos.  They will be placed on a “watch list.”  This “watch list,” in time, will be accessible to all civilians. Quite blissfully, the man goes on to say that this application will come to dictate what we do, where we go, and how we carry ourselves, all so that we can live safely with the privacy that we as Americans are promised.

“Soon this application will be a treasured function of our every-day lives,” he predicts.  “We will wonder how we ever lived without it.  We will forget that we ever did live without it.”

This nameless man has given no indication that he is finished, however he now fades back to the caucus table.  Children have already forgotten about him and begun speaking animatedly of Facebook, boasting that their older brothers and sisters all have accounts and are constantly on it.

Horton ponders in the baby chair, thinking of what Mrs. Rosepond said prior to the event:

“And remember, as you listen to these special people talk about their jobs, imagine what our lives might be like if we didn’t have them…”

He looks around at the presenters, the adults, who don’t seem to be appalled or even affected by the things they have just heard from the CIA employee.  Preston and Artemis are talking about friending each other on Facebook to keep in touch.  Wald is busy offering free samples of his Global Warming Water and the adults are slurping it up.  He remembers what the CIA agent called the children.  Baby lambs.  What an apt label, Horton thinks.

For everyone.

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