‘Truman, you can’t expect a crushed child on your watch to go without consequences.’
Derek Granger stands up, gulps down his Coke and burps. I stare out the window at the July snow.
‘People pay huge coin to leave their kids here,’ he continues. ‘It is supposed to be a safe environment, away from the Horde. They don’t expect to turn up in the evening and find little Jacob’s mashed-up torso at the bottom of the ballpool.’
I nod. He’s right, but I cite Katie from Big Slide Security in little red shorts as mitigating circumstances. He concedes my point with a nod of his own.
’But this is your third death,’ he says. ‘Although I admit one of those was probably for the best.’
Derek walks around from behind his desk and stands over me. His tie pinches at his neck and dangles too long in front of my nose, tapering over his groin. I crane my neck to look up at him. Sweat pools on his upper lip.
’I also appreciate the sacrifice you made in helping me become regional manager.’
His words hang in the air.
‘So, I’m not going to fire you, or even tell Clive.’
Clive is a former IT consultant who has found a new lease of life in his shiny black uniform as a Command Compliance Agent; one of thousands employed after The Fall. Every home and privately-owned business has an Agent, who ensures nothing is running against state interests. Clive combines KidSafe with three other businesses and the four apartment blocks in the square.
‘But I can’t cover for you forever, and you can forget about promotion,’ says Derek, flicking the ring pull on his Coke as he walks back behind his desk. ‘You’re on Sanitation for a week. As long as no kid falls down the shitter in the next seven days, I’ll consider you for Farmyard Beckett.’
Farmyard Beckett: Sitting in a wheelchair feeling sorry for myself while an oversized rooster called Clov clucks around me. It’s depressing and I’m not sure what the kids get out of it apart from a vague recollection of the days when we could all eat chicken.
The problem with Sanitation is there is no way to hide from Evie the fact I’ve been knee deep in kids faeces all day. She’s going to know I’ve let someone else die and been demoted and she’s going to ask questions about how we are ever going to get a room of our own if I keep being such a dipshit.
‘Please, not Sanitation,’ I say. ‘Anything but Sanitation.’
Derek lobs the Coke can towards the bin, but misses by a mile. He says ‘no can do’ in a weird American accent and tells me to start by cleaning out little Jacob’s body before his parents arrive.
This is an expanded version of Mitigating Circumstances. Seems like a sensible way to scale up a story to see if it has legs.