This is part of Chuck Wendig’s Friday Flash Fiction Challenge here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/02/10/flash-fiction-challenge-the-unlikable-protagonist/
An unlikable protagonist in less than 1000 words. Here’s my attempt:
The doorbell rang.
Mr Thomas opened the door and greeted the immaculately dressed guest.
‘Guest’ may not be the right word as she’d invited herself, but the local education authority letterhead usually grabbed a parent’s attention. She was shown into the sitting room and offered a cup of tea. She declined.
She sat rigidly in the proffered armchair, perching on the front of the cushion. Her grey skirt suit seemed to keep her sat bolt uptight, as if it were made of steel. She wore a pair of thick rimmed, rectangular glasses, which, with her hair tied in a tight bun, almost gave her the look of a sexy secretary just itching to shake it loose in slow-motion.
This was not, however, a woman who could be described as sexy. Her glasses stayed on. It was the only thing that gave any character to her plain, expressionless face. Shaking her hair loose in slow motion to the accompaniment of a power ballad was out of the question.
Mr and Mrs Thomas sat across from her, nervously holding hands on Mrs Thomas’ knee.
“Thank you for letting me see you on such short notice,” she said. Getting straight down to business meant she wouldn’t have to put up with the banality of small talk with this couple.
“Of course,” replied Mr Thomas “Anything that concerns Katie is the most important thing to us.”
“So, what seems to be the problem Mrs Bell?” asked Mrs Thomas
“Ms,” she replied curtly.
“Ms. Ms Bell.”
Mrs Thomas shuffled slightly.
“Oh, I see. Forgive me, Ms Bell. What’s this about Katie?”
Ms Bell bent to pull a folder out of her bag.
“Your daughter Katie has been brought to my attention because of certain… Difficulties she’s been having.”
“I, I don’t understand.” Mrs Thomas glanced at her husband, who was equally clueless.
“Of course, parents often have difficulty being objective in these situations. That is why I’m here, to help. As I was saying,” she shot a cold glance at Mrs Thomas, “Katie has been having difficulties at school and it’s starting to affect more than just her schoolwork”
Katie’s parents were now very worried. What could it be? Katie was only nine years old, it could hardly be anything sinister. She had a few good friends, maybe not the extensive network that a lot of children appeared to have, but some sweet girls came to play quite often. However, they had observed recently that she was maybe a little… Distant? Was that the word? As if she was watching more than playing. A nearly imperceptible gap had opened between Katie and the other girls.
“Tell me, does Katie read many books at home?” Ms Bell asked.
“Oh yes,” replied Mrs Thomas. “She’s quite the little bookworm, isn’t she David?”
“Yes, always got her nose stuck in a book. That, or writing little stories of her own.”
Ms Bell nodded solemnly.
“I thought that may be the case. You weren’t to know, you shouldn’t blame yourselves for her obvious learning difficulties.”
Mrs Thomas held her husband’s hand tighter, her eyes wide.
“Please don’t be alarmed” Ms Bell continued, reading the rising concern in their faces. “Katie’s problem is quite common and easily remedied these days. We believe Katie is hyperlexic and is leaving her classmates behind.”
This diagnosis was little comfort to the Thomas’, who continued to be perplexed.
“Are you sure?” Mrs Thomas asked. “She’s seem so normal, I hardly think she has a problem as drastic as that.”
“We are rarely wrong Mrs Thomas. I would like to administer some tests, naturally, but I am quite confident.” She seemed almost arrogant with her response. This was the worst part of the job, having to argue with ignorant parents who simply wanted to protect their ‘little darlings’ and deny everything. They needed a dose of reality.
“Simply put, Mr Thomas, Katie is leaving her classmates behind and it is affecting her in more ways than one. She is finishing her work halfway through her lessons, creating extra strain for her teachers and humiliating her peers. Surely, you can understand why we must step in to help.”
Mr Thomas struggled for words. He had had no idea things had become this bad. He’d seen a few reports on TV about the spread of hyperlexia, but had dismissed it as a silly fad. Now it was affecting his own daughter, he started to see it differently. The school had sent them an expert after all, specially trained, who was he to argue?
“Well, I suppose you could be right,” he admitted.
“As I said, this problem is quite straightforward to remedy.” She pulled out a sheaf of papers. “I will show you how to fill these in correctly and then you can simply take them to your GP who will provide you with a prescription.”
“Prescription? You mean medication?” Mrs Thomas’ eyes were starting to well now. Ms Bell sighed irritably.
“I mean medication. It is the most effective solution to your daughter’s condition. It will bring her down to her friend’s level allowing her to socialise normally. She’ll lose interest in all those books, and soon be playing with her dolls and watching television like a normal girl.”
Despite being irritated by these typically tedious parents, Ms Bell was satisfied with her work. She knew that she was helping poor Katie, and saving her from a life of intellectual solitude. She smiled inwardly as she assertively indicated where to place signatures and initials.
Katie would soon be normal, just like everyone else.