Friday Flash: New kid blues

Gary Harting stared sullenly at his unfinished cereal. “I don’t want to go to school.”

“But you must, dear,” replied his mother. “It’s important for you to learn so that when you’re older you can get a good job and take care of your own children. Now finish your breakfast, or you’ll miss the shuttle.”

“The other kids all hate me. They call me Pinky, or Furry, or Round-eyes. The teachers hate me too. I hate school, I don’t want to go.”

Emma Harting mustered her patience. All the mothering forums said this was common behaviour for a boy of Gary’s age, but she had to admit that their situation was a little different to most.

“Gary, darling,” she said, “I know it’s difficult being seen as an outsider and a new arrival, but you shouldn’t let that make you feel bad about yourself. You’re just different. Maybe the others are just jealous.”

Gary sighed in exasperation. “They’re not jealous, Mum, and I don’t feel bad about myself. They just hate me. They hate me for what I am. Just like the grown-ups hate you and Dad for what you are, even though you’re useful.”

“How can you say such a thing! Your father is a respected engineer, and -“

“He’s not respected, Mum, he’s just useful because he can see colours that the other grown-ups can’t. If he’s so respected, why is he paid less than anyone else?”

“But he’s paid better than he was back home!”

“Of course he is. Everyone back home is too smart to come here and be treated like a freak just for more money.”

“Your father’s not a freak, and he’s not stupid either,” said Emma, her voice choked. “Now you stop arguing, and get ready for school.”

Gary scraped his seat back from the table and slouched off toward his room. “Guess I’d better. Maybe if I learn enough I can get a job back on Earth when I’m older.”

[tags]short, fiction, story, flash[/tags]

10 thoughts on “Friday Flash: New kid blues”

  1. An early post! Get in.

    I’m not sure I entirely get this one – not sure where it’s supposed to be set, and how the family are outsiders – or at least the sfnal element of it. But it’s nicely drawn, and capitalises on a resonant theme.

  2. Well, that’s got to be a first – me being too subtle, I mean! Strange – I thought it would be way too obvious. Probably the biggest learning curve for me with fiction is realising that other people read your material in a completely different way to you. Hmmm.

  3. a similiar reaction to Shaun, I think. I like the idea of looking at the kind of sociological problems that would go hand in hand with so much of what we write / read about in SF and that are almost always ignored and distilling that down to a simple and familiar domestic scene. You know that Gary’s parents probably don’t trust the local police, Gary’s dad is probably served last, if at all, in a bar and so on. But I have been racking my brains trying to think about where they might be or what the majority population (aliens? environmentally adapted colonists?) might look like in order for “Pinky, or Furry, or Round-eyes” to be insults based on points of visible difference – unless you were just going for a general “outsider” feel and I’m looking for something that was never supposed to be there of course…just like my degree…

  4. Well, there we go – I was aiming for a certain ambiguity, but it appears I overdid it! Yeah, they’re on a different planet; I never decided whether the other folk are aliens or posthumans, I just went for a ground-level look at economic migrancy in an sf setting. Plus I knew if I started going in to detail, I’d end up with another one of my run-away flash epics. How the dickens GLP can make one paragraph tell a complete story is quite beyond me – the mark of a pro, I guess. *shrugs*

  5. I was almost on your wavelength Paul, though I thought they were pink, furry, round-eyed aliens working on Earth. It’s an old trick to reverse the perspective at the end, but it worked for me.

  6. One paragraph should be easy. Hemmingway once wrote a six word story:
    “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” (from memory.)
    and challenged others to try it.

  7. Cheers, Gareth! And Stargeezer – nothing Hemingway ever did is easy to replicate! He has that reputation for a reason … I should really read some of his work.

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