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You can read the first 40% of this story for free; if you like it, you can read the rest for $.50 (payable by paypal or credit card.)

[ Read more about author Michael Seidel ]

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A son begins to learn the consequences of his father's choices and thinks twice about being saved from the sleep program.

Selection Day

by Michael Seidel

Michael Seidel

Selection Day

Michael Seidel


Curfew minus twenty-five minutes, Dad dragged scotch fumes and cigar smoke and a melodramatic scowl of exhaustion into my room. Mom settled against the doorjamb in wary vigil as he punched off my netflow of naked people leaping off a cliff.


I sat up. "Hey. I was watching that." Not that I watch that reality crap. They make it all deadly dramatic but it's a con. It was the principle that he could walk in and do whatever he wanted with my things and I know all the logic of, 'But he pays the bills.' That's a well-perused page.


"I think you owe me a moment without background residue." Dad wore his Marine Corps officer persona like a favorite shirt. His eyes go Bruce Willis flat whenever he's drinking and mad, something seen more than sunshine. Everything is war for Dad. Business. Raising kids. Sports. Driving. "It's done. You're in. Taken care of."


Because I've decided not to be like Dad, I fought him for clarification. "They're not putting me to sleep?"


"Geoffry." Mom swirled scotch and ice into a soothing rattle. "We don't say that."


Circles weighing his eyes, Dad clamped his mouth shut. "What the hell else would I be talking about?"


Mom's face closed against remembered battles.


"Slam." I sat back and laughed. "Swift."


Dad stared at me. "It cost us." His jaw jumped. "It cost me, I guess I should say, seeing as I…. I can't sit on my own ass anymore. Too much chewed off." He licked his thin lips. "I'll be working this off forever." A flaccid smile went out to Mom. "We can never get divorced now."


As if they would. That was a joke. Mom and I looked at each other. Head down, Dad swallowed on the edge of my vision. "Well. Don't get too grateful. Don't tell anyone. They can send me…"  He stormed away.


Mom watched Dad's passage out and then tendered me her favorite tipsy smile. Photos of her from her youth show a sexy girl. Surprised me seeing Mom in those crop tops and bikinis. Some zombie had replaced her. Like she'd been shipped to sleep. "You should have said thank you."


I suspected Dad wanted me to sleep because I didn't fight like he did. I quit football and hated golf, dismissing it for my boxes and Japanese anime. "I know, I know, I couldn't, I was in shock." Bands were popping free, pressure draining from my head. I wanted to eat. Something meaty. I hadn't eaten anything for three days. Now I was ravenous. I hopped up and hugged Mom. "He only did it because you made him."


"The important thing is, he did it," she said.


"Sure." I moved back from her. "He do anything for Twitch?"


"Twitch." Mom glared at me. "Don't even ask your father that. You should have heard him. It was embarrassing. He begged people. Begged. People like Lehto. Lehto, Geoffrey." She waited for my reaction, like Lehto was our family nemesis. "It was everything he could do to get you in." Blinking, she smiled and then giggled. "Out. In, out." Her giggle flared into a weak guffaw. "Like you're gay." She whispered it like a naughty word. "What a mess this is. What's the best way to say this? Are you in or out?"


I was in the Exempt Program and out of the Free Sleep Project, out of the Resuscitation Lottery, spared the Freezer. I would live my life, one of the charmed twenty-five percent for my birth year and county. Yea me. "Let's say in. Better to be in than out."


Smiling, Mom nodded with tired heaviness. "You need to get some sleep, baby. It's a big day tomorrow." She kissed my cheek and hugged me again. "Remember, don't tell anyone. Look surprised when it's announced."


"Don't worry, I'll look surprised." Dancing down the hall, I headed for the kitchen to nuke a pizza.




Twitch and I went to Selection Day without each other. It was like leaving without my shadow.


He wouldn't like such a simile. Twitch didn't like many things. Hated the nickname Twitch but stayed with it because he didn't like being called Curt and his nickname ground his parents' teeth down. I'd known him since we met in pre-school computer camp. Ages and boundaries kept us in the same classes at school and soccer, football, baseball and the other crap our parents pushed on us before we pushed back. Our moms went through rehab together. His family was mine and mine was his, although they weren't on my family's social level, not even after Dad's fall. We'd dated cousins and sisters, planned trips and schools…futures. Once we were three but Orson, smart, tall and geeky, found an obit in a military orientation accident on an obstacle course when we were fifteen. Poor Orson.


Dad got me and Twitch exempt from that. It was all very open back then. Dad bagged on who he knew, how he pinged the right people to make it happen, "Two calls, just two calls." They adored his connections, the Godfather, my friends joked, the proud nexus of fawning congratulations.


Three years later, call it a new era. Dad was raked through scandals. A reality show caught him stuffing the turkey with some hooker in an alley one night. Then some blogger exposed his mistress and the kid he had with her. Next were bribery, fraud and corruption charges, the grand jury, and then, whack, Dad has a dead signal. Dad was just doing business, same thing everyone else did if they could, but that didn't matter once he got caught. He did a country club three sixty-five and paid a slew of fines. What was killer was how he slid off the screen and out of existence. Friends run like roaches when the spotlight finds you.



Selection Day was supposed to be a festival. Tents fluttered around the Armory's parking lot and lawns. Red, white and blue balloons energetically bobbed on the wind. A brass band played weak marching crap, Stars and Stripes Forever, like that. Vendors sold anything fried, pretzels, cotton candy and caramel apples. There was a Ferris wheel, games, a petting zoo and a bunch of kiddie rides.


But the Armory was the focal, brick and steel in the thinning morning fog. Olive Humvees sat in rows in a fenced parking lot behind it and a tank with a big white star on its flanks guarded the front. Everything got solemn as we gave shaved head shiny Marine guards our tickets and went in.


Mom shivered. "Brrr. It's cold this morning." She wore shorts, slope heel sandals and a tight white knit top. A silver cross rested in her cleavage. She looked amazing.


My sisters all looked good, too, sexy in a clean way. I saw the Marines check them out. I felt pretty proud of them. We're a good-looking group.


Mom squeezed my hand and kissed my cheek. "Don't worry. You'll be all right." She crowded me. "Have faith in the lord."

Suffocation zone. I extricated. "I want to find Twitch. That good? Please?"


Mom looked at Dad without being direct. The please was for him. He nodded. "Of course. Why stay with your family? What have we ever done for you?" He waved to one of his ex-partners, Goldman. Goldman made his way to us.

Mom patted me. "Go ahead, find Twitch but be back at our table before the ceremonies start."


"Do you know what table we are?" Dad asked.


"Forty nine," I said.


It was like a knife over his throat. "Right." Pain glazed his eyes. "Forty nine. Mid pack."


Copyright © by Michael Seidel . All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.

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