Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Ogre Rehabilitation and Living Center

"And when did you first notice the signs?"

Mrs. Lou squirmed in her seat at the doctor's question, and her husband answered after much hesitation and a sideways glance at his wife.

"Well," he began, then paused to clear his throat, "it might'a been when they was wee babes. Strong grips ya know." He cleared his throat again.

"Hmmm," the doctor said, writing something in his notebook. He looked squarely at Mrs. Lou and kept his face as passive as all his training had taught. "Did they bite you when they suckled?"

Mrs. Lou couldn't stop squirming even when her husband reached out and grabbed her hand.

"Go on," he said, prodding his wife.

She turned to look towards the closed door knowing her two young children sat right outside, and worried if they could hear through the walls. She took her hand out from underneath Mr. Lou's and placed it in her lap.

"It weren't so bad. I jes thought they was hungry was all." Unable to face the doctor as she spoke, she watched her fingers trace the fading outline of a handmade pattern on her one and only dressy dress. "I jes couldn'a keep up with their feedin' times, what with the two of 'em."

The doctor nodded in sympathy, and wrote something more in his notebook. "Twins, yes, that would complicate things wouldn't it. Were there other signs, Mr. Lou?"

"Well," Mr. Lou rubbed the scrubble on his chin, "they's always been strong for the age. M'boy, he was helpin' me with the balin' near to he turned five. No, four I think was when. Four."

"They looks 'n acts normal 'n all," Mrs. Lou said, perking up her head. "They's just strong. An' smart. An' funny. Oh how they loves t' make us laugh, keeps us from frownin' 'bout our troubles n' all." Her voice trailed off much faster than her smile.

"I'm sure they're good kids," the doctor said, scribbling. He pushed a small button on his phone.

"I think we're ready for some tea, Miss Dowdy. Please." He released the button, and the door behind the Lou's opened and in clomped an overly large and beastly female, balancing a tray with cups and a steaming teapot. She placed the tray down on a side table and then carefully set each delicate teacup on the doctor's desk. She motioned to the cup nearest Mrs. Lou.

"Um," Mrs. Lou said, nodding. The ogre poured the tea and motioned to Mr. Lou, who also nodded. After having poured all three cups, the ogre offered them sugar. Mrs. Lou smiled and nodded again.

"Thank'ee," she said to the ogre, after three small white lumps were placed in her cup without so much as a splash. Mr. Lou shook his head no, as did the doctor.

When the ogre had placed the sugar spoon back in it's bowl, the doctor took a sip from his cup and then said, "This is Miss Dowdy. One of our residents. As you can see, she has a fine bearing and is well trained in the social arts." He turned to the ogre. "Thank you Miss Dowdy. You may go."

The ogre clomped out of the room, closing the door quietly behind her.

"Can you tell me about your family histories," he said, looking at Mr. Lou, "yours and your wife's?"

Mrs. Lou almost sputtered her tea back into the cup, and then put it down to dab at her mouth. Mr. Lou took a long, hard swallow of the weak and unsatisfying liquid before putting his empty cup back on the desk.

"Well," he began, then stopped. Mr. Lou surely did not like to speak much about much, but he knew animal husbandry and figured that's how he would answer. "Me and the Mrs. come from good stock. Strong breeds, both. Likely nothing so extra special 'bout that. Same as any other farmers 'round these parts I s'pose. Good stock."

"Hmmm," the doctor said again. "You say, 'strong breeds'. Per chance there are some recessive genes then."

"Jeans?" Mr. Lou repeated.

"Recessive?" Mrs. Lou repeated.

"I'm sorry, I don't mean to insult. Let me explain." And the good doctor carefully discussed how thousands of years ago civilization hadn't quite made the distinction between man and ogre, and some interbreeding occurred before a Founding Father realized that ogres were not men and men were not ogres. Surely they remembered their history lessons from school, of a time when the ogres attacked and thus began the hundred-year long war during which many died on both sides until finally a great man, Sir Hedgewick the Puce, was able to call a truce. He parted the land in two and gave the smallest to the ogres and the larger to men.

"And furthermore," the good doctor continued, glossing over the rest of a very troubling history, "no interbreeding has occurred since the hundred-year war. We now consider it a recessive gene when an ogre is born of man. Such as it is with your own children."

"They's good children," Mrs. Lou said, suddenly feeling quite defensive about it all.

"Which proves that you have done quite well with them," said the doctor, now using his most soothing tone as all his training had taught, "and we must take great care to see that they remain civil, as they are now. It will be all the better for them, and easier for you, if they reside here."

He paused a moment to take from his desk drawer a rather long piece of parchment with very fine print, and placed it on the desk in front of Mr. Lou.

"We will give your children the very best of care. Sign here please." And with that, he proffered a quill for Mr. Lou to make his mark on the contract that would bequeath the Children Lou to The Ogre Rehabilitation and Living Center, along with a nominal fee to be paid from the Lou farm's monthly earnings. Incremental increases in the fee will occur yearly, and when handling expenses are incurred. If ever payment received is less than the stated fee, or should non-payment occur, portions of the Lou farm shall be sold or brought under Center control until such time as the account is in good standing. Said contract shall be in effect until the death of the ogres, from natural causes or otherwise.

Mr. Lou hesitated as he looked into the sadness of his wife's eyes.

"You can come visit with your children any time you please," the doctor said. Visitation is subject to Center rules, and under the strict direction of the Center Director. No changes allowed. Charges shall be incurred for each visitation.

Mr. Lou waited until his wife's shaky nod, then grabbed the pen and scratched his mark. The doctor quickly took the quill and contract from Mr. Lou's hand, blowing gently on the ink to make it set. He rolled up the parchment and tied a green ribbon around it before placing it in a vacuum tube and sending it off to his receptionist with a loud thunk and whoosh.

The doctor stood up and leaned over the desk, offering his hand to Mr. Lou.

Mr. Lou stood to shake the doctor's hand, mumbling a miserable, "Thank you."

Mrs. Lou stood as well, turning as the door opened behind her. "I'll be sayin' m' g'byes to the children then," she said.

"I'm afraid that will not be possible Mrs. Lou. Miss Dowdy has already taken the children to their new quarters." The doctor came round his desk to take her hand, patting it absentmindedly as he spoke the same words he had said many times before.

"Our studies have shown that we achieve better acclimation when there are no sad goodbyes between parent and child. I'm sorry. It really is for the very best. For them and for you."

He led Mrs. Lou out of his office, and Mr. Lou followed. The doctor's receptionist pointed them to the exit, and then let the Doctor know his next visitors were in the waiting room.

As their footsteps echoed down the hall, Mr. Lou took Mrs. Lou's hand in his and gently, reassuringly, squeezed.

<word count: 1370>


Anonymous said...

this is so sad. I so liked them and I wanted them to keep their ogre babies!

Parabolic Muse said...

I can't believe I read this almost two weeks ago and forgot to comment.
You've really captured the struggle in these parents' hearts. And it leaves us with some sad expectations for what will happen afterward...