The Throwback

I took a deep breath and tried to steady myself.  I couldn't believe that she believed what she had said.

As far back as I could remember I'd wanted to be a Family Engineer.  As children my playmates and I would play games.  We would imitate the adults we knew, so that each of us had a different profession that we would pretend to be in.  Jim and Steve and Karin usually switched professions after a while, but I was always Family Engineer.  One time Karen wanted to be Family Engineer, but I wouldn't let her.  I told her one was plenty, and she wouldn't be as good as me anyway.  She cried and ran off, but she played with us the next day.

I knew exactly where I wanted to go when I was old enough to go to college.  I had dreamed of the Institute of Family Engineering for a long time.  I knew the qualifications were high.  I knew that rigorous tests were given at the end of training, and that you had to pass a basic physical before even getting into the Institute.  But I was sure of myself.  I wasn't at all afraid that my application would be turned down.  I wasn't nervous even on the day of my preliminary physical.  I just knew I would pass.

The next four years of training were boring.  I think I would have dropped out if I hadn't wanted so much to get my Family Engineering Degree.  It seemed to me that I wasn't learning anything new.

One time I complained to my teacher, Nl. Carlson (after the Post-War Emancipation the archaic terms Miss, Mrs., and Mr. were abolished and replaced with Nl., the abbreviation for Neutral) that I knew everything he was trying to teach, and that I felt I was wasting my time.  He got real angry for some reason, saying that if I could just understand the importance of all this training I wouldn't bellyache.  He got very excited, and told the class some really wild stories of babies born deformed, diseased, of child-beating, oh, about a lot of things I found hard to believe.  Then he started on how important it was that mothers be sound mentally, physically, and above all, psychologically.  He said that one warped mind can ruin a child, can start a vicious circle which could lead us back to pre-War times.

This lecture was just as boring as all his others, but I liked watching his face change color as he became more and more excited.  I didn't realize people could turn such a pretty shade of purple.

Then exam time came, and the culmination of four years hard study with it.  First came the written exams which were pretty hard.  The physical examination came next.  Then I had to take the psycho test.

The other students all worried about the results of their tests, but I knew I didn't have to.  During the week required for results from each of the tests to be analyzed and sorted, I was calm and cheerful, while all my classmates were tense and anxious.  Then my turn to see Nl. Ronson, my counselor, came.

I still stared at her incredulously.  Then I began to see her humor.  True, it wasn't very funny humor, but it was certainly a feeble attempt.

I laughed politely.  "I must have done real well on my exams for you to joke like that."

"Angela, I think you've misunderstood--" she was saying in a tone of distress when I interrupted her.

"No, no, that's alright.  I understand.  But could you tell me how I scored?"

Nl. Ronson glanced at the file lying on her desk and cleared her throat nervously.

"Well, actually, you did quite well in the written exam, and are in top physical shape.  But in the psychological exam we noticed some interesting phenomena.  You have, for instance, a very single-minded--ah--ambition--to be an F.E."

I smiled.  "I've always wanted to be an F.E.  Well, I have to go now.  Thank you for telling me how I did.  Bye!" I left before she had time to say anything.  Congratulations have always bored me.

*           *           *

Nl. Ronson placed a call on the telecom after Angela left her office.  Her tone was urgent as she said:

"I'm afraid we have a problem.  Angela has completely rejected the fact that she's failed her F.E. Degree.  It's even worse than we suspected from the psycho test.  She's psychologically unfit to raise children, yet she has a compulsion to bear children--she must be a throwback from Pre-War--we'll have to take care of her..."

Copyright © 1976. ’Cause I know everyone wants to steal this old story.