This short story came out of my frustration with all the little things. It’s unrelated to any others I’ve written.

I was three when Mom bought the Household Reminder System. Dad called it The Nagging House, but he was all for it in the beginning. “Anything that makes your Mother happy!” He said.

George was eleven. I think he was at that age where he was still mostly a kid, but starting to assert himself in little ways. He was delighted that the implant reminded him of a tick, mostly because the analogy grossed out Mom. Anyway, it was smaller than a tick, and I never really saw the resemblance.

I looked forward to the ceremony of my own implantation with solemn awe. I worked really hard in Kindergarten, always just a little worried that my parents would change their minds and decide that I wasn’t mature enough to handle the responsibility.

“Today’s the day!” Mom sang to me that morning in July. I jumped out of bed, eagerly going through all the things I was supposed to do every morning. I went to check off my list, and found that it had moved to the main Family Responsibility Chart, instead of my own cardboard and macaroni-art display. “Here’s how you check off your chores now…” my mother explained, clearly as happy as I was that I was finally old enough to handle such responsibility.

The family gathered together after Dad got home from work, and they all said a little something about how proud they were of me. George, who was fourteen by then, read his off a piece of paper and looked at Mom afterwards as if to say “Well, did I do it right?” He wasn’t exactly seeking approval or praise; he was trying to do as little as possible without actually getting in trouble.

Now that I think about it, Dad kind of looked a little, I don’t know, weird about the whole idea. Maybe he just thought I was too young, I don’t know. He won’t talk about it now. I had never felt more proud, not even when I won first place in the Kindergarten spelling bee! We went out to dinner that night to celebrate my new level of resonsibility.

Mom named the house June. When Dad got tired of the HRS he started calling her The Cleaver, but I never got the joke. I eagerly logged my household chores with June each day, and she gave me a fond “Good job, Bobby,” each time. When I left a room and forgot to turn off the light, she reminded me. When I forgot several times in a row, I got a little shock instead of a reminder.

I remember the first time I got a shock. It didn’t hurt, it just surprised me. I was more embarrassed and ashamed that I forgot, and I apologized right away. “Oh! I’m sorry June.” I said.

“It’s quite all right Bobby. Just remember next time.”

It didn’t take George long to figure out ways to trick me into getting a shock. He’d yell “Bobby! Bobby! Come quick! I need you!” and manufacture some kind of mini-emergency that I needed to help with. I’d run out of the room without turning off the lights, rescue my brother, and then I’d end up with a shock. Sometimes it hurt, if I’d forgotten too many times in a row.

“Why don’t we just program June to turn the lights off herself?” I heard my father arguing one night.

“We’re training our children to be responsible, not lazy. Not every house has automatic lights. The boys need to learn to be responsible.”

The argument continued with Dad trying to compromise with just having June set for reminders, not shocks, but Mom was adamant. Something about “…put up with it for fifteen years, but not anymore…”

George heard the argument too. He pretended he couldn’t hear, but I know he did. It wasn’t long after that I saw him stand at the doorway to a room, conscientiously touch the wall next to the switch, then step out the door. He’d wait for it, and when the shock took hold he’d grimace for just a moment, then grin as if he’d won some kind of confrontation.

Dad’s house has automatic lights now. So do most people’s, but Mom still lives with June. I wasn’t around when it happened, but I found out afterwards that Dad had said something like “It’s me or the house!”

Mom chose the house.

I wanted to go with her. I just didn’t understand what Dad and George had against doing simple little stuff like turning off lights or picking up their dirty socks off the floor. Then again, George does all those things at Dad’s house.

He doesn’t when we visit Mom. She hates it, but that’s why he does it. I try my best to follow George around and clean up after him, but if I’m caught it just makes both Mom and George mad.

I actually like being with Mom and June better than being with George and Dad, but my wishes didn’t figure much into the decision. It was something about the number of unnecessary shocks that Mom had triggered. I just don’t get that… I deserved every single shock I ever got.

 

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