Author : Matthew Harrison
Susan led Tommy by the hand into the kindergarten forecourt, past the big red climbing frame. “No, not yet,” she said, dragging him back. “Wait until the break.”
“You know,” she said to Marjory, who was likewise preoccupied with her son, “I don’t feel useful any more.”
“Yes, it’s hard to keep up,” Marjorie agreed. “Don’t, Jerry!”
After a struggle, they reached the kindergarten door, and checked their children in. A teacher appeared, smiled just a little too long, and led the two boys away by the hand. They submitted docilely.
“Keep up?” Susan repeated, as the door closed and they were left standing in the forecourt. “I think I’m going to give up.” Her blond hair hung over her eyes, as if she were too defeated even to brush it back.
“Don’t say that,” Marjorie said mildly. She straightened, tall and at ease with herself, and looked around the forecourt. It was deserted, except for a drone watering the trees, and a row of flowerpots. A burst of childish laughter rang from inside the kindergarten.
“And wasn’t that a robot?” Susan continued pitifully. “I asked for a human teacher for Tommy, but they didn’t listen. I feel so helpless.” She rested a limp hand on a nearby urn.
“If the children are happy, that’s the main thing,” Marjorie said soothingly. “Robots have so much more patience. I used to be a teacher myself, God knows.” She shrugged.
“Look, Alassio’s is open,” she continued, seeing her friend still despondent. “We’ve got an hour before the break….”
A little less than an hour later the two women were waiting again in the forecourt. The time had been well spent, and Susan was more cheerful.
“I just don’t know where it’s going,” she said brightly. “Oops! Who put that there?” This last was to a flowerpot; the drone hurried over and set it up upright.
“It’s all happening so fast, with the uploads, they get better and better all the time, Jack thinks he can keep up but he can’t, he’s just fooling himself. And what I want to know is, where is it all going?”
Marjorie, cheerful herself, didn’t know quite what Susan meant.
“I mean, how are our children going to cope?” Susan continued. “It’s going faster and faster, robots everywhere, and you know what? It’s going to take off!” She spread her arms dramatically. “There’ll be no future for the children at all.”
Marjorie smiled, too contented to contradict her friend.
A bell rang, the roar of childish voices rose in pitch, and a moment later the kindergarten door opened and several children rushed out.
“Tommy!” Susan shouted. “It’s too big for you.” But it was too late. With a whoop, the little boy hurled himself at the climbing frame, clambered up a couple of rungs, and then slipped. He fell onto the soft padding that covered the ground, and was hauled up by his mother.
“How can they let them play unsupervised?” Susan looked around. But the teacher was not to be seen.
Meanwhile, Tommy approached the climbing frame again, cautiously this time. The frame obligingly shortened itself, and extended a handrail at just the right height. With a delighted cry, the little boy lurched forward.