This Crowded Earth
Chapter 5: Minnie Schultz--2009
When Frank came home, Minnie met him at the door. She didn’t say a word, just handed him the envelope containing the notice.
“What’s the matter?” Frank asked, trying to take her in his arms. “You been crying.”
“Never mind.” Minnie freed herself. “Just read what it says there.”
Frank read slowly, determinedly, his features contorted in concentration. Vocational Apt had terminated his schooling at the old grade-school level, and while like all students he had been taught enough so that he could read the necessary advertising commercials, any printed message of this sort provided a definite challenge.
Halfway through the notice he started to scowl. “What kind of monkey business is this?”
“No monkey business. It’s the new law. Everybody that gets married in Angelisco takes the shots, from now on. Fella from State Hall, he told me when he delivered this.”
“We’ll see about this,” Frank muttered. “No damn government’s gonna tell me how to run my life. Sa free country, ain’t so?”
Minnie’s mouth began to twitch. “They’re coming back tomorra morning, the fella said. To give me the first shots. Gee, honey, I’m scared, like. I don’t want ‘em.”
“That settles it,” Frank said. “We’re getting out of this place, fast.”
“Where’d we go?”
“Dunno. Someplace. Texas, maybe. I was listening to the ‘casts at work today. They don’t have this law in Texas. Not yet, anyway. Come on, start packing.”
“Packing? But how’ll we get there?”
“Fly. We’ll jet right out.”
“You got prior’ty reservations or something?”
“No.” The scowl returned to Frank’s forehead. “But maybe if I pitch ‘em a sob story, tell ‘em it’s our honeymoon, you know, then we could--”
Minnie shook her head. “It won’t work, honey. You know that. Takes six months to get a prior’ty clearance or whatever they call it. Besides, your job and all--what’ll you do in Texas? They’ve got your number listed here. Why, we couldn’t even land, like. I bet Texas is even more crowded than Angelisco these days, in the cities. And all the rest of it is Ag Culture project, isn’t it?”
Frank was leaning against the sink, listening. Now he took three steps forward and sat down on the bed. He didn’t look at her as he spoke.
“Well, we gotta do something,” he said. “You don’t want those shots and that’s for sure. Maybe I can have one of those other things instead, those whaddya-call-’ems.”
“You mean where they operate you, like?”
“That’s right. A vas-something. You know, sterilize you. Then we won’t have to worry.”
Minnie took a deep breath. Then she sat down and put her arm around Frank.
“But you wanted kids,” she murmured. “You told me, when we got married, you always wanted to have a son--”
Frank pulled away.
“Sure I do,” he said. “A son. That’s what I want. A real son. Not a freak. Not a damned little monster that has to go to the Clinic every month and take injections so it won’t grow. And what happens to you if you take your shots now? What if they drive you crazy or something?”
Minnie put her arm around Frank again and made him look at her. “That’s not true,” she told him. “That’s just a lot of Naturalist talk. I know.”
“Hell you do.”
“But I do, honey! Honest, like! May Stebbins, she took the shots last year, when they asked for volunteers. And she’s all right. You seen her baby yourself, remember? It’s the sweetest little thing, and awful smart! So maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.”
“I’ll ask about being operated tomorrow,” Frank said. “Forget it. It don’t matter.”
“Of course it matters.” Minnie looked straight at him. “Don’t you think I know what you been going through? Sweating it out on that job day after day, going nuts in the traffic, saving up the ration coupons so’s we’d have extra food for the honeymoon and all?
“You didn’t have to marry me, you know that. It was just like we could have a place of our own together, and kids. Well, we’re gonna have ‘em, honey. I’ll take the shots.”
Frank shook his head but said nothing.
“It won’t be so bad,” Minnie went on. “The shots don’t hurt at all, and they make it easier, carrying the baby. They say you don’t even get morning sickness or anything. And just think, when we have a kid, we get a chance for a bigger place. We go right on the housing lists. We can have two rooms. A real bedroom, maybe.”
Frank stared at her. “Is that all you can think about?” he asked. “A real bedroom?”