Last episode on IMPERMANENT RECORD: At Theodore Roosevelt High School in Patrick’s Vale, South Dakota, all of the students have lost all memory of who they are… and so has everyone else. The FBI has sent Special Agent Phil Johnson of the Yellow Center to investigate.
6 (of 9)
“Can… I said, can I…”
Mayor Bruce Hertzog tapped the microphone, which did get the attention of the thousands of murmuring people gathered in the auditorium but also caused a squeal of feedback that took their attention and tweaked it into annoyance. Mr. Appleton, the science teacher, adjusted the A.V. board quickly.
When the dissonance faded, the mayor began to speak.
“Thank you all for coming,” he said. “This… well, this situation, whatever it is, is unlike anything we, ah, as a town, have ever faced before. Your cooperation throughout this has, mm, so far been superlative.”
He paused, maybe for applause, but the crowd wasn’t in a clappy mood. Mayor Hertzog daubed the sweat from his ever-receding curly hairline with a nervously crumpled tissue.
“W-what we are dealing with here, ah, seems to be isolated to the high school and families with children attending, ah, Theodore Roosevelt. Some occurrence as of yet, um, unexplained, has caused a… hopefully temporary… lack of ability amongst the students to, ah, recall their names and identities.”
The mayor paused again. This kind of situation was well above his pay grade. He had expected that becoming mayor of a small affluent suburb would be mostly taking meetings and gifts from companies interested in developing as the town grew. To date, however, the growth hadn’t begun and most of his time was spent on zoning and traffic issues. And golf. Lots of golf. While that wasn’t what Bruce Hertzog had hoped for, it was perfectly acceptable. Doable. Easy.
This–whatever it was–situation with amnesiac kids and screaming parents… this was not what he had signed on for.
For one thing, nothing like this had ever happened in the history of, well, ever. There was no solution that had worked for the last town this had occurred in because it hadn’t before. Bruce Hertzog was suddenly expected to have all the answers to a question he had never even imagined being asked.
“I know that many of you here are deeply, deeply affected by this. Kids, you don’t know who you are… and that’s, ah, something we’re going to work to figure out… And parents, you may feel like your family has been… been, ah, torn apart. Well, we’re going to get you reunited with your kids, too. As of now, this is our first, ah, priority here in Patrick’s Vale. I’ve spoken with the school, um, administration, and the police chief, and we have even been told from the highest, ah, directors of the FBI that they are sending a special, um, investigator who has, has… experience with this, ah, kind of thing.”
Please cheer, he thought. It doesn’t have to be applause, just some kind of response so I know I’m not totally screwing this up up here. Someone, probably the attractive principal’s assistant, had put a glass of water near the lectern for him. He started to sip and ended up drinking almost the whole glass as two thousand people packed in the school auditorium watched him with judgmental silence.
He looked down at the notes he had taken from his meeting with the school administration, his advisors and police. It had been apparent immediately that none of them knew how to fix the kids. According to the chief of police, there had been very little luck connecting kids to their names… less than 5% of the student body had been identifiable. Most identification was missing from the kids… wallets were missing, schoolwork was lacking names, smartphone data was erased. Of course, like Bruce himself, his police chief wasn’t prepared for detective work like this. Bruce had given him the job based on affability and his skill at meeting budgetary requirements.
It was the principal’s assistant who had come up with the most useful suggestion.
“If we can’t place the kids with their families yet, we can at least place each kid with a family. We keep a directory of parents and guardians so we know who has the means and experience with taking care of children. Think of it as a giant musical chairs game, each student fostered by a family–if not their family–until we can solve the bigger problem of their memories.”
Mayor Hertzog continued detailing the plan to the gathered townsfolk. “Think of it as a giant musical chairs game,” he said. “When we, ah, stop the music, every kid tries to find a home before we run out.” He chuckled a little to establish that he was joking. Nothing. God blast it, these people were not going to give him a break!
“Nah, just kidding,” he muttered, chastised by the silence. “We’ve actually worked out a system matching, ah, kids to families. This is only a temporary measure, I want to remind you… just until we can place each, each kid with their actual family.”
“You want us to take strangers into our homes?” shouted one irate woman from somewhere in the crowd. There were some murmurs of agreement. Sure, Bruce thought, now they respond to someone.
“Look, they aren’t strangers… they’re your kids, or someone’s kids, and someone else will have yours… but they’re all Patrick’s Vale kids, TRHS students, they’re us. They’re our, our community.” Bruce wiped again, his brow was warm and beading sweat. “If your kid was lost, you’d want someone to take them in, right? Take, take care of them for you until you found them? Or if you saw a kid who needed a place to sleep, you wouldn’t make them sleep in the park, right? Not in the Patrick’s Vale I know, you wouldn’t! We may not be as big as Rapid City, we may not have a, a Best Buy or a Wal-Mart yet… but we’re a town that knows to take care of each other! Especially our, our kids… I mean, I may not have my own kids, but I’ll tell you, that doesn’t mean I don’t pay taxes for our schools… it doesn’t mean I don’t come out and root for the Geminis on Friday nights. I mean, you know, if any of you don’t think having kids gives you responsibility you didn’t ask for… well, then I’ll danged take your kid in my own home until I know which of you he belongs to. ‘Cause that’s how we do things in Patrick’s Vale, dammit!”
Bruce Hertzog was red and shiny with sweat when he finished, out of breath.
Thunderous applause filled the auditorium at Theodore Roosevelt High School.
To be continued…
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.