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The Parent Test – Part 10: The first day

By Teresa Dovalpage
For The Taos News
Posted 12/26/18

Summary of Part 9: After Tandra destroys a robot assigned to her for the parent test, she and her friend Uki flee in a helicar to El Yermo. They hope to join a new colony established outside the city limits by a group of dissenters.

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The Parent Test – Part 10: The first day

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Summary of Part 8: Tandra and Uki are in the helicar, looking for the new colony in El Yermo. Though Tandra doesn't trust her friend's abilities to take them there safely, she has no choice but to go along. They finally see the colony from the air.

Summary of Part 9: After Tandra destroys a robot assigned to her for the parent test, she and her friend Uki flee in a helicar to El Yermo. They hope to join a new colony established outside the city limits by a group of dissenters.

We are toast, Tandra thought. But before she could curse, Uki, her friend rolled down the helicar window and yelled, "It's me, stupid! I came with a friend!"

Tandra didn't think it wise to call armed folks "stupid" but surprisingly, it worked. The people on the ground waved at them and moved away from the machine guns. The helicar landed without incident.

A tall skinny guy stepped away from the group and hugged Uki.

"I didn't expect you to come by helicar," he said. "They aren't allowed to fly out of the borough limits. How did you get it?"

"Ah, I stole it."

Tandra was thankful that she hadn't known that piece of information before.

The skinny guy, who seemed to be the leader, introduced himself as Oso. Tandra refreshed her knowledge of Spanish. Didn't that mean bear? He didn't resemble a bear at all. She examined the small crowd that had gathered around them. They didn't look like mutants or nuts. They were, as Uki had said, regular people who, maybe to make up for the initial scare, went out of their way to welcome them.

"We have a doula who can help you when the time comes," a woman named Raquel told Tandra. "Is there anything that you need right now?"

After such a long, nerve-wrecking trip, all Tandra wanted to do was rest. Raquel took her and Uki to a house divided into small cubicles and showed them a bunk bed.

"It's the best we can offer you now."

Uki placed her androll on the top bunk and said she was going to get something to eat. Tandra flopped down on the lower bed and closed her eyes. The sheets were made of cotton and smelled as if they had been dried in the sun. The fresh, crispy aroma reminded her of her childhood and the times she had visited her grandmother, Jesusita, on the outskirts of the borough. The homes there, though small, had their own backyard with old-fashioned clotheslines in them. All those old houses had been replaced by tall modern buildings. Tandra evoked her grandmother's wrinkled face and dark eyes and decided that, if she had a girl, she would name her after Jesusita.

She covered her belly with her hands and whispered, "Everything's going to be fine." Then she fell sleep. For the first time in many weeks she slept deeply, peacefully and without dreams.

The next morning she woke up happy and refreshed. She was in a safe place, where she could deliver her baby and start a new life away from parental coaches and nosy people. The sun was coming out. It couldn't be later than six in the morning but Uki wasn't around. Where had she spent the night?

Tandra found a bathroom, took a quick bath with water stored in a rain barrel and went outside. Her nose led her to the biggest flat-roofed building. Through the half-opened windows came an enticing aroma that she couldn't identify. She entered an ample room furnished with five tables and long benches alongside them. Raquel came out of the kitchen.

"You are up early!" she said. "Where's your friend?"

"I don't have any idea."

Raquel smiled knowingly.

"She's quite a character, isn't she?"

Tandra wasn't sure if it was a compliment or a complaint.

"I didn't notice when Uki went to bed last night and this morning she was gone when I woke up," she said.

This time Raquel laughed frankly.

"She probably didn't sleep anywhere near you. That girl is fast!"

She led Tandra to the kitchen. "Here, we help ourselves to whatever is available."

Tandra saw flat pancakes made of flour speckled with seeds. They reminded her of the frozen pancakes she was used to eating, but much better, as they had just been cooked. The seeds, though, were a new item.

"These are piñones," Raquel said. "They grow in this region."

Tandra piled her dish high with pancakes, added scrambled eggs and followed Raquel to a table.

"You all have been so nice," she said after the first few bites.

"We're always happy to receive new people."

"I didn't get that impression when we were trying to land, if you don't mind me saying so."

"We didn't know who you were. We have to be in the lookout because the commune is becoming a bad example, proving that life is possible outside the boroughs. The effects of the fallout vanished many years ago, and the higher-ups don't want people to find out. But don't start worrying," she patted Tandra's hand. "Nobody is coming after us…for now."

Tandra nodded. She wanted to believe Raquel. And there was something else that had been bugging her for a while.

"Is it true that there are mutants here?" she asked. "What do they look like?"

The dining room door creaked as if someone were opening it slowly. Raquel whispered, "You will see for yourself in a second. But don't call them mutants. It's kind of disrespectful," she raised her voice and said, "Come on in! We have a new member and she wants to meet you!"

The Spanish version of this story is here.

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