کتاب 01 - فصل 05

مجموعه: چهارگانه بخشنده / کتاب: پسر / فصل 5

کتاب 01 - فصل 05

توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 5 دقیقه
  • سطح ساده

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

این فصل را می‌توانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید

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Five

Nothing changed. Claire’s life didn’t change. She woke each day, showered, donned her uniform, and attached her nametag: CLAIRE. HATCHERY ASSISTANT. She went to the cafeteria, greeted her coworkers, ate the morning meal, and began her assigned tasks. The superiors at the Hatchery were pleased with her work.

But at the same time, everything was different. Her every thought now was on the newchild she had met only once, had held for a moment, whose light eyes she had gazed into briefly, whose curly hair had touched her chin for too short a time. Number Thirty-six.

“Have they chosen the name yet?” she had asked the young woman attendant, who was re-propping the bottle for the female one she had changed and returned to her crib.

“For this one? I don’t think so. They don’t tell us, anyway. We never know their names until they’re assigned.”

Each newchild was given to his assigned parents at the Ceremony that would take place in December. Their names, chosen by a committee, were announced then.

“I meant this one,” Claire explained. She had taken an empty rocking chair, and moved back and forth now with Thirty-six, whose loud crying had subsided. He was looking up at Claire.

“Oh, that one. He might not even get a name at the next Ceremony. They’re already talking about keeping him here another year. He’s not doing well. They call it failure to thrive.” The young woman shrugged.

“Actually, he does have a name lined up.” The man returned the infant he’d been burping to the crib, re-propped her bottle, came to where Claire was, and looked down at Thirty-six. “Hey there, little guy,” he said, in a singsong voice.

“He does? How do you know?” The young woman looked surprised.

The man took Thirty-six from Claire, who relinquished him reluctantly. “I’ve been concerned about him,” he explained. He looked down and made a funny face, as if encouraging the unhappy infant to laugh. “I thought it might make him more responsive if I started using his name. So I sneaked into the office and took a look at the list.” “And?” his assistant asked.

“And what?”

“His name is—?”

The man laughed. “Not telling. I only use it in secret. If it’s overheard? Big trouble. So I’m being careful.” He jiggled the infant in his lap. “It’s a good name, though. Suits him.” The woman sighed. “Well, it had better perk him up before December,” she said, “if he wants to get a family. And right now,” she added, looking at the wall clock, “it’s going to be naptime soon, and we haven’t even finished the feeds.” They had forgotten Claire was there. She rose from the rocker. It was true; the time had passed quickly. “I have to get back,” she told them. “I wonder: Would it be all right if I visit again?” They were both silent for a moment. She realized why. It was an odd request. Children volunteered at many different places; it was required. But after the Assignments, after childhood, people worked at their assigned jobs. They didn’t visit around, or try out other things. She tried to come up, quickly, with an explanation that seemed logical.

“I have a lot of free time,” Claire said. “It’s a slow time of year at the Hatchery. So I wandered over today to visit Sophia. You know Sophia; she works down the hall, with the next older newchildren?” They nodded. “Twenty-one to Thirty,” the man said. “That’s Sophia’s group.”

“Yes. Anyway, she showed me around a bit. And I can see that you can use an extra pair of hands from time to time. So I’m just offering to help out. If you’d like me to, of course.” Claire was aware that she was talking very fast. She was nervous. But the pair didn’t seem to notice.

“You know,” the man said, “if you wanted to do it on a regular basis, make it official, I think you’d have to fill out some forms.”

The young woman agreed. “Get permission,” she added.

Claire’s heart sank. She could never do that, never fill out official forms. They would identify her immediately as the Birthmother who had been reassigned.

Thirty-six wiggled and wailed. The man carried him to his crib and propped his bottle, but the wailing continued. The man patted the thrashing legs in a vain attempt to soothe him. He looked over at Claire with a wry smile.

“But come on over when you have free time,” he said. “Just on a casual basis.”

“Maybe I will,” Claire said, keeping her voice light, as his had been, “if I have a few moments sometime.”

She turned and fled. Thirty-six continued to cry. She could still hear him as she left the building.

Now she thought of nothing else, of no one else.

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