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Up, Down, Into, Around... Gerald hummed the little ditty to impress the sequence into his brain once and for all. He'd only been out of training for a few hours, but turnover at the Supplemental Nutrition Office was high and so a position had opened for him immediately.
Surveying the vacant-eyed, flaccid sacks of jelly that lined the waiting room, Gerald surreptitiously fondled his obliques with pleasure. Four hours at the school gym every day, physiology and sociology courses attended while bouncing on his exercise ball, the native intelligence to manage the hefty allowance his father sent him every week; these had turned him into a veritable idol for the masses to look up to. Utterly ridiculous, the number of non-working, corpulent, unwashed, illiterate humans living in this city. And how magnificent that their betters had put together a program to try and lift up the downtrodden, stiffen the backbones of the weak, support those unable or unwilling to support themselves without crippling them with too many luxuries, tax-payer overabundance which entrapped them in a silken snare of perpetual servitude...
The plastic tubing suddenly wrapped around his neck choked off his pleasurable ruminations.
"Gotcha Gerry! Ogling that toothless broad over yonder? I saw you feeling yourself up." Kyle, the interim program supervisor, removed the tubing and coiled it like a lasso.
Gerald felt a rising blush in spite of himself. "New shirt's a little scratchy." A glance at the clock showed 8:59. "Time to call numbers. I wanna be out of here by five so I can get in some rowing on the river."
"As you wish, Master. Please wait for your loyal subjects in the throne room."
She couldn't have been more than 13 or 14, with dimples and delicate, fragile ears. Sweat broke out on his forehead. He steadied himself by scanning her microchip and reading the data. Father dead, mother recently laid off, three siblings aged 9, 4 and 3 months. Zero assets. Pre-qualified for one month of meals. Proffering a packet of ration stamps, he lectured her on their use and safekeeping. Then he carefully tore out one ticket. "You give one of these to me each time, right? We can access everything by microchip, but the old paper system teaches you responsibility. Have a seat, and I'll get you your meal."
Up, Down, Into, Around...he sang to himself. First a little lubricant, then the two-foot long plastic tube as thick as his middle finger snaked through her nose. Tears welled up and flowed, temporarily pooling in her dimples. He squirted a little sugared water into her mouth and urged her to swallow, honey, swallow as he slipped the tube past the glottis, inched it slowly down her throat into her esophagus and stomach. She writhed silently, miserably, and Gerald felt an unwelcome pang of ...what? He was performing a public service. Allowing her to stay alive and healthy. A few seconds of discomfort, but then the sweet reward of 2000 welcome calories flowing into her body. The stuff of life. And perhaps the daughter would push her mother more insistently to work, support the family, get off the public dole.
When he was finished, he escorted her through the door in his best chivalric fashion. 9:15, not bad for a start. He'd get through the caseload by 4:00 easily. Not like the old days of frozen turkeys and bagged groceries, when lines stretched around the block for 14 hours at a stretch. Those people and their government had become hopelessly mired in a failing theory of "feed the poor", similar to the political fiasco of "feed the mob" which brought an end to Rome. In the new regime, supported autonomy was the cornerstone. Sometimes it is necessary to temporarily compromise the autonomy of a person in the short term to preserve their autonomy in the long-term.
And they were getting fed for free, weren't they?
|Writer Djuna Barnes had herself force-fed to experience what suffragettes were enduring in 1914.|