Take Them to the Happiness Zoo

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Theme of Absence, April 2016

“Junie knew that Gorvall was only trying to ingratiate himself to her. It was working.”

Exhausted, Junie watched her five-year-old daughter and two toddler sons play with Gorvall.  They stacked up colored blocks and knocked them down. Gorvall’s long gray fingers helped pry apart the building blocks that stuck together.  The colorful towers reflected in his large, teardrop-shaped black eyes.

Another one of Gorvall’s bodies, identical to the first, sat at the dining table with Junie.  “Your children will be perfectly happy.”

A third of Gorvall’s bodies picked up the stuffed toys — bunnies and dolls — that had been strewn and trampled during an earlier game. Junie knew that Gorvall was only trying to ingratiate himself to her. It was working.

“Why do you need my consent?”  What she really wondered was why a multi-dimensional being would be running happiness studies on human children.  But she didn’t ask.  It would be rude.  Or, maybe, she just didn’t want to know the truth.

Gorvall’s body sitting at the table with her shrugged.  “Rules.  You know how it is.”

“Oh, sure,” Junie agreed, as if it was a given that bureaucratic tape extended to every government, even interstellar, multi-dimensional ones.

The kids did look happy playing with Gorvall.  Emily balanced one of the blocks on her head.  The twins, Nick and Eric, laughed.

What was she thinking?  Junie couldn’t send her children away to live their lives in some sort of space zoo or science experiment.  Or whatever Gorvall really wanted them for.

Then Nick shoved Emily.  Eric grabbed the blocks and threw them at her face.  Emily shrieked, “Moooooom!  The babies are BUGGING ME!”

Junie’s head throbbed.  Nothing gave her a headache like Emily’s voice.  Instead of shouting, she said to Gorvall, “Take them.”  It was for their own good.  They’d be happier in a life-long experiment on how to optimize human happiness than with a mom yelling at them, never getting them to bed on time, and basically failing constantly.

“You’ve made a wise choice.”  Gorvall — all of his bodies — and the three children vanished in a blur of sparkles.

Junie knew her husband would be furious when he got back from his month long conference, but, for now, she was going to get a full night’s sleep.

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