Nanny by Philip K. Dick
5/19/17. Read in Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick. (first printing 1990)
In a version of the future, many families trust nanny robots to care for their children. The Fields family's nanny has been repaired a few times and keeps showing up with dings and dents from an unknown source.
In a version of the future, many families trust nanny robots to care for their children. The Fields family's nanny has been repaired a few times and keeps showing up with dings and dents from an unknown source. After spying on the robot at night, the patriarch of the family realizes that the nanny robot is fighting the neighbor's nanny -- a different model -- in the backyard. When the man takes the robot in to be fixed, the salesperson tries to convince him that fixing it isn't worth it. There are constantly new and better models being developed, and companies are building the need to establish dominance into all of the robots. If he doesn't want his nanny robot torn to shreds by a better one, he should just buy the best. He declines and, very quickly after the nanny robot is returned to the family, the children go to the park and the nanny is destroyed by a big, new nanny robot owned by another family. Mr. Fields is determined for this not to happen again so he goes to the store to buy *the* best robot; one who will be unbeatable in these fights, or at the very least will last a long time. The new nanny goes to the park again and takes down the one who fought the original Fields nanny.
Just when you think that will be the end of the story, the father from the family of the former victor now destroyed park bully robot decides that he will absolutely spare no expense in finding something newer and better that can handle the Fields nanny, indicating to readers that the cycle will never end.
Thoughts or Additional Info:
"When I look back," Mary Fields said, "I marvel that we ever could have grown up without a Nanny to take care of us."
Memorable Lines or Passages:
futuristic, consumerism, social commentary, robots, nanny
Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
5/12/16. Book. "Welcome to the Monkey House"
In an effort to keep every person equal in all ways, no one can excel at anything in this version of the world. If they're beautiful, they must wear grotesque masks. If they're too intelligent, they must wear something in their ears that emits all sorts of noises to distract them. So what happens when a tall, attractive genius decides to question this system?
Harrison Bergeron was taken from his parents at 14. He was too attractive, too intelligent, and seven feet tall. Since that time, he's been in prison as a danger to society. The actual story concentrates on Harrison's parents, George and Hazel. Hazel is of "normal intelligence" (read: pretty simple-minded) so she doesn't have any mental handicaps put upon her. Her husband is another question. Because of his intelligence, he has to wear ear buds in his ears that produce random sounds every 20 seconds, like a 21-gun salute or the sound of a baseball bat hitting a milk carton to distract him and prevent him from exploring any train of thought too extensively. He also has to wear a canvas bag containing 47 pounds of birdshot around his neck. He and his wife are watching a ballet on the television, but it is a sad yet comical affair with Handicapper General Diana Moon Glampers' rules in place. The better the dancer, the more handicaps they are wearing. The dancers are fumbling around on stage, wearing varying amounts of weighted bags and hideous masks.
A news bulletin interrupts the performance and a man tries to read it but cannot due to his speech impediment. One of the dancers reads it, but she quickly realizes that her voice sounds too good for society and she alters it to sound worse. The bulletin is about Harrison's escape from prison. At first, they show pictures of him. Later, he shows up on the screen--the most handicapped man ever but still considered "under-handicapped." He looks like "a walking junkyard," with 300 pounds of weights on him, and he has black covers on his teeth, has to wear a red rubber nose and has shaved-off eyebrows.
In the studio, he rips off all of his handicaps and declares himself Emperor. He rips the handicaps off one of the dancers and declares her his Empress. He encourages some of the other dancers to take theirs off and he will give them titles. The group dances around with an unknown freedom until Handicapper General Diana Moon Glampers comes in with a double-barreled shotgun and kills Harrison and his empress.
In the house, George has gone to the kitchen and he misses all this. When he returns, Hazel is crying but she doesn't remember why--probably something sad on television. She agrees and they talk about how they must always try to forget sad things.
Thoughts or Additional Info:
This was made into a movie in 1995 with Sean Astin as Harrison Bergeron.
"The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal."
Memorable Lines or Passages:
equality, handicap, handicaps, weighted bags, dystopia, satire, social commentary, futuristic, classic, ballet
The Rocking-Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence
5/8/16. Read online at www.classicshorts.com. Originally published in 1926.
A family living beyond their means finds luck and money in an unlikely place: their young son.
A mother and father have three children, two girls and one boy, Paul. Both parents make an income, but it is modest, especially when it is revealed that their other family members and peers seem to have more than enough. The mother always seems dissatisfied and though the parents rarely mention the family's money troubles, the children can feel it in the air and the house. In fact, often the children believe they can hear the house saying things like, "There's never enough money," which obviously makes them feel uneasy. Mother and Paul have a conversation about why they don't have any money and Mother says it's because they are unlucky. Paul's father is unlucky and Paul's mother is unlucky for having married Paul's father. She says that some people are just born lucky and it's better to be lucky than rich because you can lose money if you're rich, but you can make more money if you're lucky.
Paul has an old rocking-horse for a toy, and though he is getting too old for it, he still rides it. One day, Uncle Oscar is visiting and talks with Paul about his rocking-horse. He asks Paul what the horse's name is and Paul says it changes every week--last week it was Sansovino. Oscar says that horse just won at Ascot and, through a back and forth conversation, they and the reader realize that Paul has been riding his rocking-horse and somehow seeing the upcoming race and predicting the winners. He doesn't always know with certainty, but if he fully immerses himself, he will know if it is the sure winner or not. Paul has been working with Bassett, a gardner, who places the bets for Paul and for himself. They've already made some money but Oscar also gets involved and the trio make even more. At one point, Paul cashes out 5,000 pounds and they set up a trust in his mother's name to give her 1,000 pounds every year on her birthday for five years. When she gets the letter, she is disappointed she can't get it all at once and talks to the trustee. Paul and Oscar agree that she can have the full amount to pay outstanding debts. The family goes back to living in a little bit of luxury, but Paul can still feel the house whispering for more, more, more.
The Derby is coming up and Paul just knows that if he can predict the winner, the family's money problems will be solved and everyone will be happy. Mother and Father go out for an evening and Mother feels constantly uneasy. She calls to check up on the kids and hears from their nanny that they are. When they return, she hears a weird noise and goes to investigate. Up in Paul's room, in the dark, he is furiously riding his rocking-horse. He screams "Malabar! It's Malabar" to his parents before passing out. The parents are confused but Oscar is there and understands. He and Bassett place bets on Malabar to win the Derby and they had planned to bet a huge sum of money for Paul. At 14-to-1 odds, Paul's bet ends up netting the family 70,000 pounds (plus about 10,000 he already had from betting.) They tell Paul this and he is so happy. He tells his mother all about how he can predict the winner after he rides his rocking-horse, but he is so overworked that he passes away that evening.
Thoughts and Other Info:
Poor Paul, always trying to help out his family. This is a story I've read a few times but I've never read anything else like it. It's so memorable.
"There was a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck."
Memorable Lines or Passages:
"My God, Hester, you're eighty-odd thousand to the good, and a poor devil of a son to the bad. But, poor devil, poor devil, he's best gone out of a life where he rides his rocking-horse to find a winner." - D.H. Lawrence
rocking horse, winner, rocking-horse, lucky, unlucky, gambling, betting, horse race, derby, predictions, horserace, sad, family
I'm just a short story lover and voracious reader who wants to keep track of the shorts I read and help others remember the ones they've forgotten.