THE BIG DAY by Jay D. Homnick (Fessay #4)
I remember the day they came for the cripples.
Mummy was still here, you know, she was huddled beside me as we watched through the window. The trucks were gray and had a special motor that made almost no sound, just a quiet hum. When they pulled up on our street, they never killed the engine; it just sat at the curb doing its little throb while they loaded people into the back, people with wheelchairs and walkers and canes. They all went silently, with profound looks of resignation on their faces. The policemen had no expressions at all, though, not happy, not sad, not angry, not regretful, just blank, uninterested.
I recognized most of them from around the neighborhood, even Mrs. Byrnes who used to lean out the window to pretend she was standing. But her cleaning lady told that she really was living in the wheelchair, and they took her away. Still, they never took Professor Cook, even though he could only move his fingers. Mummy said it was because he used to spy and inform on the others who would take pity on him and visit. He never did get taken as a cripple, but he failed his Tribunal later.
When it was Mummy’s turn for her Tribunal, Daddy worked with her for weeks before to prepare. He kept telling her to remember that beauty is in the mind, that it’s really a state of inner being, that if she believed in herself she could pass. For a few weeks, it was really working and I could see her begin to glow like she never had. Then the card came that tells the name of the Tribunal members; Mummy’s had two women and a man. She got really discouraged from that, because she said the women judge more harshly.
She never gave up, though. She left the house that day with a lot of energy. I could see she had pep and vim and zest and gusto, all those things Daddy kept telling her were the keys to true beauty. If you asked me, she looked like an angel that day. Even with two women on the Tribunal, she should have passed. But it was the mole, always the mole, right there on her neck. That spelled real trouble if they saw, so she wore a turtleneck although the weather was warmish.
They told me later that she had gotten through most of it and she came so close to being cleared. Except one of those ladies suddenly dropped an earring and Mummy bent over as a reflex because she was kind. She realized that they had seen it and she knew it was over, so she just asked if she could see me one more time instead of a last meal. The man voted yes and the women abstained, so she came.
I was crying so much when she told me but she kept saying to be strong. Even though mine is in the same place and is maybe a little bigger, she kept assuring me that when my time came I would approach the Tribunal with enough confidence to win them over. She was so brave and she never shed a tear in front of me. Later they sent me her dress and I still keep it in my closet to remember.
I wanted Daddy to make a twenty-first birthday party for me a few days before my actual birthday, because the Tribunal is scheduled on the day itself. Dad refused, saying that he could not let me harbor the tiniest doubt that I would not make it. It’s just five more days now and I feel like I’m really ready. I keep saying it to myself over and over: Beauty is a state of inner being. Plus my Tribunal has two men and a woman. And also I have Mummy’s turtleneck.
I’ll be fine.