People I know places I go/ make me feel tongue tied./ I can see how people look down,/ they’re on the inside./ Here’s where the story ends
- “Here’s Where the Story Ends” by The Sundays
Maypole lifted her eyes to a sun she no longer recognized.
This is weird, she thinks to herself quietly. She wasn’t sure how her thoughts were quiet in the first place, but they were in her mind for some reason. She chalked it up to lack of planning. For her thoughts? That didn’t make any sense.
Here was the grocer like usual, leaving things on the stoop like in the Previous Days, when she didn’t have to believe everything she was told by her mother.
Mother of Everything was Maypole’s favorite phrase, and it conveyed a little bit of everything her current predicament evinced in her life. She quietly thought Mother of Everything when her mom walked into the kitchen to charge her battery.
Recharge my battery was a phrase Maypole avoided punning on, for fear the Police would hear her. She had never seen them but knew they existed from the television and a microchip planted in her ten-year-old arm when the Singularity was achieved five years ago.
Mom walked into the wall above the outlet, but kept hitting it over and over again. First hit was fine: Maypole thought she lost her balance; second hit: Maypole thought it was a joke (however bad); by the third hit, Maypole was concerned and rushed over to her mother.
I’m sorry for thinking that, mom! I’ll stop right now.
Maypole knew that families were better off for this invention, but couldn’t help feeling let down by its side effects. She forced herself to think the things appointed by The Book they had folded out like those ancient Bibles she’d seen on lecterns. But she couldn’t. All she could think about was sex and violence, sometimes both at the same time.
The mom asked if Maypole had seen Haneke’s movie The Piano Teacher. Maypole responded that such movies were no longer allowed. As soon as Maypole said that, mom flew against the cupboard with such force that it knocked the wind out of her.
I was thinking good thoughts! Maypole screamed.
Maypole knew it didn’t matter and that this dance would continue until the Repair Man came to heal them at the end of the day. Maypole wondered what took them so long, but thought against questioning it for fear her mother would be irreparably injured.
Immediately, Maypole left the kitchen, knowing that vicinity was what brought these instances on and if they never saw each other the instances wouldn’t happen. She crossed into the family room, and sat down in front of the TV with the bat smashed in it. The Repair Men do this to every house when they first visit. They said it was better than us beating each other with bats. But that never made much sense to Maypole, considering the bat could just as easily be pulled out of the set and used on a whim. Then she remembered that the Repair Men also said you can never harm anyone anymore, except yourself. And only because of someone else’s thoughts, not your own. It was for our protection. Also something about prisons and crowd control.
Maypole rocked back and forth on her butt while she was sitting Indian-style, enjoying the pretend game where her legs were wings and the more she flapped them the more she was able to escape where she was.
Maypole winced and looked back at mom in the kitchen, but mom was too busy cooking for the Repair Man to notice her gesture. Maypole let out a sigh of relief when she saw that mom wasn’t harming herself or flying weird places. Maypole was glad whoever ran this country was kind enough to not let them have access to mind-reading technology. She figured they knew how to control it better than she did and were like the benevolent and harmless dynasties and nobility of the past.
Mom? Maypole asked.
Yes dear, said mom, surely fearing Maypole’s next words or, worse, thoughts.
Why did you name me Maypole?
We’ve discussed this already, yes?
A maypole was a pole that people used during a May Day celebration, with ribbons attached to the very top and kids would grab the bottom end of the ribbon and walk in a circle around the pole until the different-colored bright ribbons wound around the pole. Was always a hoot when kids did that in the old days.
That’s lovely, Maypole replied, happy that her birth name carried such weight and gravitas, especially in her mom’s heart.
What are you watching? asked mom, peering into the kitchen.
Maypole looked at mom quizzically.
The only thing that’s ever on: the bat.
What’s it doing today?
There are glass shards slowly cracking under the bat. I think this bat is corked. One of the big reveals of the show I’ve been told is whether or not the bat is corked and will therefore take longer to fall out of the set. I’ve only ever talked to kids right before the end of the show; I’ve never talked to anybody after the show is finished. I think they all moved.
Our Repair Man should be home any minute, said mom, for some reason changing the subject. He’s taken quite a shine to you recently; we didn’t name you Maypole for nothing.
I hate the Repair Man, groaned Maypole. All he does is leer.
Maypole learned that word from one of the kids who moved: leer. It meant to stare at for a long time in a sexual manner, and Maypole pictured a non-heroic Hunchback of Notre Dame whenever she thought that word.
As soon as the word flew out of her lips, however, the duration of her disturbing sexual thought about what leering really meant sent her mom on a literal tailspin, doing a 360 spin, losing her footing, and hitting her head on a chair on the way down.
It takes a while for this technique to really settle in, thought Maypole with rueful admiration, if not for the effects than for the mechanism itself. She calmly got a paper towel from the reams and reams of them lying around in various positions on the kitchen counters, wetted it, and dabbed mom’s bloody forehead.
I just wish I never even had these bad thoughts, said Maypole, throwing her arms in the air.
I know, honey. I know. They’re working on the technology for that as we speak.
This reassured Maypole, as she was tired of her mother being thrown across the kitchen at her expense. Before the Singularity and resulting government intervention, her and her mother had a strained relationship, full of drama and strife, cries and whispers. Now the thing that had torn them apart earlier brought them together in a way that nothing else could. It was almost beautiful.
When is the Repair Man getting here?
It better be damn soon, said mom. Or else his dinner’s gonna be cold.
Maypole remembered Day One like it was yesterday. After the microchips were planted in them and after the trial phase ended and after they were raised to the level of Successful Family Unit, the thought control project was finally underway in their neighborhood. All throughout Maypole’s nearby vicinity on that day, she heard plates crashing, chairs being thrown at walls; everybody with a microchip in their arm was self-inflicting wounds with everything at their disposal. Needless to say, the Repair Men came early that day.
Maypole pondered this until there was finally a knock on the door.
(Memories were never monitored by the Police.)
I’ll get the door, mom said. Put away the paper towels quickly.
Maypole rushed to clean up the kitchen area, as things needed to be spotless for the Repair Man.
Hallo, said the Repair Man. What’s cooking?
Again? he laughed.
Yes. Why would it be any different?
You’re right. Variety’s no good.
Shall we say grace?
Maypole, why don’t you say grace?
Maypole shifted away from the handshake she was about to give the Repair Man and clasped her hands together, not quite wringing but still more nervous than pious. Let us bow:
Dear God, thank you for this bounty you have laid in front of us. Well, not in front of us currently but which will be in front of us when we’re seated at the table. Let it be your table and your food and let it be nourishing to our bodies so that our bodies can engage in your holy service. Let us be like Noah before his son caught him naked after a bout of drunkenness-
Mom shot into the air and hit the ceiling, but thankfully only her back hit.
Maypole, what are you doing? mom screamed.
Maypole didn’t say anything but she looked at her mom’s eyes intently while thinking the words “trust me.”
Maypole knew the Repair Man carried guns and that a duel was out of the question, so she went over to the busted TV and grabbed the bat.
Mom screamed Don’t because she knew something she’d never told her daughter: when the bat either falls out or is taken out the show’s over. The government believed in finales about as much as it believed in television shows. The people themselves, in their tattered houses and with their broken furniture and microchipped arms, created their own finales always. Mom didn’t want it to end like this.
Maypole struck a batter’s stance in front of the Repair Man while mom hovered over the two of them holding a knife between her back and the ceiling.
This is a much more attractive Repair Man than the last one, mom thinks. She wouldn’t mind jumping his bones, the thrusts from him roughly equivalent to the thrust of her knife inside of him later. She wanted to control him, his life and his death. She wanted all of him forever and for their love to never end. But she knew it wasn’t love, just mangled lust at this point. She wanted to fuck and kill him, or at least one of two. She knew she had to do at least one of those before he left her abandoned and left her life forever. She was never good at hiding her feelings – she knew this – but she didn’t want this Repair Man to end without her consent. In the Old Days she remembered shows like Snapped where the women killed the men they liked because of extreme circumstances, and she thought to herself that this qualified. She noticed the Repair Man had forgotten to button one of his top buttons and his chest hair was showing quite clearly. She wanted to run her fingers through his chest hair like a wildfire goes through a forest. She didn’t care if it would destroy him.
I wonder why mom is looking at the Repair Man like that, thought Maypole. It’s like she’s leering. Oh Christ does she want him sexually? That complicates things. I wonder what they would even do all things considered. No, mom, quit falling. But it was too late; mom fell on top of the Repair Man knife first, splitting open his stomach, the juices falling on top of mom’s floor-bound, motionless body. Just as the Repair Man was falling back, he shot mom in the back. Then Maypole knocked herself unconscious with the baseball bat.
Mom woke up first, slipping through the Repair Man’s entrails to get to her daughter who woke up in her mother’s arms.
You wanna know the real reason you were named Maypole?
You were named Maypole because my first baby had a nuchal chord, meaning the umbilical chord wrapped around its neck and killed it before it could be born. That’s how we named you: you were our salvation from the wreckage of our past. Also, that bat was corked.
Things were back to normal, thought Maypole as she rested her head back on the slightly raised portion of her mom’s forearm where the microchip was planted five years ago.
Mom … How will we be healed without the Repair Man?
I stole some medical gauze and bandages from the previous Repair Man-
Did you kill him too?
No, he killed himself.
Was someone in his family having dark thoughts?
No, he was. It was all him that time.
I’m not committing suicide with you.
We’re not. We’re just cutting the chips out of our arms.
Maypole told her mom to think something sexual or violent so she could get a knife from the cupboard. The mom thought and thought and finally came up with something suitable for the occasion, after which Maypole grabbed the largest knife they had and drove it deep into her own forearm. Before she could pass out, she lifted up on the knife until she hit the small piece of silicon, dug the knife under it, and then flicked it all the way across the kitchen and into the family room next to the busted TV.
Mom’s so sacrificial, was Maypole’s last thought before she passed out and before mom knelt over her in the kitchen tending to Maypole’s wounds and ignoring her own shot back. The Police didn’t monitor thoughts about sacrifice, and so mom was allowed to bleed out in peace after she’d wrapped her daughter’s arm.