*** Below is flash fiction I wrote for a contest by NYC Midnight. Similar to Second Life, I was assigned genre, setting, and an object of significance to the story. Unlike Hard Light, which had 8 days, I received the assignment with a 48 hour deadline. Below is my attempt at a political satire, in a child birth class, with a dog biscuit. Feedback is always welcome. Thanks for reading!***
“Welcome to CSP’s childbirth class. Please find a seat quickly,” an instructor with the name tag Piper made eye contact with all the participants, her brunette bob accentuating the rigid line of her jaw. “Please, we don’t have much time.”
The milling group settled, sitting amongst strangers that would surely become friends. Hesitant smiles and gentle rubbing of bellies belied a shy sense of a shared goal. One by one, each face turned towards the instructor named Piper, silently inquiring to the next step in this mysterious process.
“Hello, and good evening. As you all know, we are here because each one of you is expecting a new family member,” a smile to the giggles of acknowledgement, “and you and your partner are part of a group who strongly believes in social stewardship.”
Each pair nodded to the comment, making eye contact with other participants in the room, now filled with a common goal supported by a shared sense of importance and obligation.
“You are here because you believe being a member of society requires awareness, acknowledgement, and a sense of duty to your fellow person. We believe that starts with the birthing process. How a baby is brought into the world will determine their path regarding stewardship and being a good ally to those mistreated and subject to systemic bigotry. Empathy begins with birth.”
A polite round of applause accentuated the instructor’s speech, with the pregnant participants rubbing their bellies and their partners murmuring in agreement. Piper looked at the eager faces while picking up a dry erase marker. She moved towards a whiteboard, which rested on an easel several feet and to the right of the padded folding chairs. Then she wrote two words and underlined it several times: Offensive Pain.
Turning back to the room, she made eye contact with several women before enunciating in staccato bursts, “the drama we put around childbirth is an offense to the strength of woman. To put on a pretend show, screaming and hollering, is offensive to the doctors and nurses who are just trying to do their jobs, and it’s offensive to our partners who show love and support.”
The nods became more vigorous as Piper’s speech became more emphatic.
“Cultural indoctrination gives permission to this offensive behavior. The fake fact that childbirth is painful is a myth perpetuated by men and the system of bigotry. And playing into this makes secondary victims of everyone around us, including our children.”
The seated crowd sat forward on their padded chairs, nodding and whispering the truth of her words. Piper marched around the room, staring into the eyes of each woman attendee as she began to speak faster.
A few women looked towards their partners in discomfort but quickly hid their confusion under Piper’s steady gaze.
“We have been brainwashed. For eons women have been told that childbirth is painful. Why? To make us appear weak. However, as with most indoctrination, women have embraced this myth. Now, we make the poor choice to bring children into an overcrowded world with falsehoods of pain rather than calm empathy for those around us,” Piper held up a dog biscuit, “This is an icon of how some creatures value what others dismiss. With every holler of pain, we treat ourselves and environment as nothing but a dog biscuit.”
Vigorous head nods accentuated her speech, as murmurs became defined exclamations of “yes,” and “that’s right.” One woman in the back looked at her partner and shook her head in disbelief.
“Cultural norms are deeply imbedded in who we are. Only the truly woke can see past their own indoctrination and stake claim to stewardship in the highest order,” Piper exclaimed. The crowd of attendees hummed as whispers became roars of understanding.
All oblivious to the anxious couple, as she held her stomach protectively and he searched for an exit.
“I ask each of you, stand apart in your strength as women. Stand apart and bring forth an empathic being who is aware of the sensitivity of others. Bring forth a child who does not disrespect doctors with screams, and who does not offend nurses with requests for ice chips. Own your body, defy the myth that something naturally yours is painful, and bring forth the newest generation of woke beings!”
He grabbed her hand as they hunched their backs, walking passed enthralled couples unable to take their eyes from the front.
Piper raised her arms, a dog biscuit in each hand, and proclaimed, “take the biscuits from under your chairs. Raise them as your promise to value what all creatures value and bring into the world a child who will not cry at birth. Just as you control your indoctrination, control your child and continue the world in sensitive awareness of others before them! Do not abandon your beliefs in childbirth, like those who abandon in the face of challenge!”
The woman hesitated at the door, pinned by Piper’s direct eye contact.
Unaware of the confrontation, the group of expectant parents raised their arms with dog biscuits in hand, saying as one, “We will not give in to the myth of pain, we will not give offense to others, and we will not allow our children freedom to cry at birth, as they are privileged to live and have no right to cry!”
Gasping with fear and shame, the woman slipped from the room.
Piper lowered her arms and her head, taking a deep breath as the group in front of her swayed and rumbled with a new sense of purpose.