“Willy, it’s time for school,” Margaret shouted up the stairs. “You don’t want to miss your first day.”
Margaret smiled wistfully. She remembered her own first day of school, many years ago. Mother and Father had made sure her uniform was perfect and that her lunch was her favorite; everything was as perfect as possible for her to transition from being always at home to learning to join an ordered society. She wanted Willy’s first day to be as perfect as hers.
“George, hurry up,” she shouted to her husband.
She heard grumbling but finally the thuds of her husband’s feet striking the stairs heralded his arrival.
George came into the kitchen as he finished the perfect Windsor knot of his black tie. As always he was dapper in a dark suit and crisp white shirt. Margaret had always admired how well put together her husband was. His attention to detail had brought him to a high position in the company and she knew that given time he would rise to the very top.
George frowned as he took in Margaret’s preparations for Willy.
“You’re going to spoil him. Banana and peanut butter sandwiches, really?”
“George, it’s his first time away from the house and I want it to be as pleasant as possible.”
“He’s just doing what every other youngster in the world does. He’s just going to school. We did it, he’ll do it, and someday his child will do it; it’s nothing special.”
Margaret huffed and placed her hands on her hips.
“George you are a wonderful provider but sometimes you have the emotional range of a robot. Willy is a little boy and the first time away from home can be scary. I want it to be something fun and memorable.”
George harrumphed but didn’t push the issue further.
“Are his school supplies in the pack?” He attempted to change the direction of the conversation.
“Yes dear, along with his favorite pencil – you know the one, it has the stars on it.”
George’s mouth compressed into a bloodless line but he held his opinion in check. He busied himself with checking the contents of his briefcase and brushing imaginary specks of dust from his spotless suit. After his third pass at straightening his tie he cocked his head toward the ceiling and shouted.
“William, hop to it. You’re going to be late.”
A thud and scampering feet answered the call and in seconds they could hear Willy racing down the stairs.
“Sorry sir,” Willy said as he skidded into the kitchen.
Willy was the perfect image of George in miniature; angular features, dark hair parted on the right in a razor straight line, and a dark suit and tie completed the picture.
“You’re so handsome,” Margaret said and impulsively gave Willy a hug.
“Margaret you’re going to make us late.”
Margaret shot a glare at George but released Willy and straightened up, still beaming approval at the boy.
George gathered his briefcase and motioned Willy to gather his lunch and backpack. He gave a perfunctory peck on the cheek to Margaret and with a final glance at his watch headed for the front door.
“Come along boy.”
Willy trailed George from the house. Their journey to the black four door car was mirrored by another man and boy down the block. Willie waved to the boy who was dressed as identically to Willie as the adult was to George. The ritual of the suburbs: identical men going forth in their safe, staid cars to boring jobs every morning with children in tow.
George opened the driver’s door and climbed in. He noticed that Willy was still standing beside the car.
“Well, open the door and get in boy.”
When the boy hesitated he raised his voice.
“Do you think I’m going to hold the door for you? You’re not special; get your tail in here.”
Willy’s throat worked but he grasped the handle and tugged the enormous door open. He climbed into the passenger seat and with a grunt pulled the door shut. He grinned at George but his joy collapsed as he noticed that his elder was staring pointedly at the safety restraint. Setting his face, Willy snapped the belt into place and faced forward as George started the car and pulled out of the driveway.
George drove safely and without conversation through the suburbs until he reached the sprawling school campus. He drove into the parking lot and parked between two other dark sedans.
“Come along William,” he said as he climbed from the car.
Willy attempted to take George’s hand as he so often held his mother’s but quickly dropped it to his side when George stared at it as if it were some strange creature being offered.
The identical duo marched across the parking lot toward the towering gray block building of the school.
“I don’t know what frivolous things your mother has filled your head with, but it’s now time for you to become part of society. You’re not special; never forget that. You are going to go to school, learn your lessons and prepare to be just like me, the breadwinner for a family.”
Willy nodded gravely but he could feel tears welling in his eyes; Mother never spoke to him so bluntly.
They reached the end of the parking lot and George stopped and grasped both of Willy’s shoulders, turning the boy to face him.
“You will march in there and do as you are told. You will respect your teachers and learn your lessons. Understand?”
Willy nodded, tears falling from his eyes. George grimaced.
“Stop that. Do you think you don’t have to do this? Do you think you can remain a child forever? You’re not special. Now get in line with the other children and do as is expected.”
He spun Willy around and pushed him into motion. Willy sniffled but marched forward. He fell into line with a hundred other small boys. Each wore a dark suit and tie, their dark hair was parted in razor straight lines and each was the mirror image of the other.
Across the lawn another line shuffled toward another door. This line held hundreds of little girls; each one was the spitting image of Margaret as well as each other. They all wore identical white dresses, shiny black shoes and wore their blonde hair in identical pigtails.
Each child shuffled away from the man who had brought them. A sea of dark suits, slick hair, and thin ties stood silently watching the daily procession of children entering the building.
The last children passed through the doors and the men turned as one to face the parking lot. Each man nodded to his identical twin on either side and then they all marched back to their identical cars. Hundreds of cars roared to life and drove away, taking the drivers to their identically boring jobs where they would each toil equally to support their identical families.
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