Copyright is held by the author.
IT ALL seemed very routine to them. I had only been visited by the police once before and that had been when they had come to inform me of Julia’s suicide. So seeing them exit their Buick to walk up my garden path stirred a dark tide in my chest that made me gasp for air. Their expressions were wooden, unmoving and spoke more of boredom than urgency. Both were in plain clothes, but there’s something special about a detective’s cheap suit that makes them unmistakable.
That same rise in my chest compelled me to meet them at the door. The first, an older Caucasian with a moustache like steel wool, had the decency to remove his sunglasses under the grey Carolina sky. The second, a younger man who resembled the high school jock who was going to pot, said nothing.
The first office spoke. “Mr. Haggart?”
I nodded and felt all of my dread come out in a perfunctory, “Yes.”
“May we come in?”
I nodded and stood aside as the men crossed the threshold. It was only after they had done this that I felt it odd they hadn’t introduced themselves.
Without turning to face me, the younger man asked, “When was the last time you saw Daniel Haggart?” He said the name, not “your son” and that seemed appropriate as Danny had stopped being a part of our lives long ago. He hadn’t even returned for Julia’s funeral, perhaps intuiting from afar that he was one of its causes.
“I’m afraid I haven’t seen my son in a few years.” The politeness of this turn of phrase hid its truth. I was afraid I hadn’t seen him, afraid for him, worried in the long, dark moments of insomnia that punctuated my nights.
The younger man nodded as if this were a satisfactory answer but the older one continued with, “He hasn’t called or written? You don’t know of his whereabouts?”
I shook my head.
“Mr. Haggart,” the older man began, moving to face me in the vestibule, taking out something from his waistband. His face corkscrewed, though, sensing the confusion of addressing both me and my son by our common last name. “It’s been decided that your son is to be removed from the system.”
“Excuse me?” My confusion rolled over into my dread, not dispelling it, but embracing and amplifying.
“His social consciousness score has been under the state-mandated level for over 16 months,” the younger explained. “Interactions with any citizen he has come into contact will be rated as negative.”
The moustachioed detective examined the device he had brought out and for a moment I thought he was going to scan me with it like I was some old sea wreck. Instead he read its display and stated, “You’ve largely been absent from the lives of your friends and neighbours, so it was determined we should be sent out to make sure you haven’t been contaminated.”
“By his actions, yes.” The younger man spoke, gesturing for me to close the door. “Even in their absence society’s lost can cause damage. So we’ll be removing him from you.”
“Yes,” said the older man. He, his partner, and the device surveyed me and my mourning. “I know the idea can be disconcerting, but honestly consider it. Wouldn’t your life be better without Daniel?”
He raised the device, not as he might a gun, but as if he were holding a microphone, waiting for me to speak. A central black iris protruded from above the detective’s handhold. I stared into its darkness for quite a while before answering, “He’s my son.”
The detective nodded grimly, adjusting a knob on the back of the device. “I know.”