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       The License, p.1

           Myfanwy Tilley
 
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The License


  The License

  Myfanwy Tilley

  All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  Copyright 2014 Myfanwy Tilley

  Thank you for downloading this ebook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please recommend it to your friends and return to your favourite ebook retailer to discover other work by this author. Thank you for your support.

  Also by this author:

  Short Story:

  Sons of Adam

  Party Animals

  The Cockroach

  Full Length Fiction:

  Psyche’s Garden

  The Licence

  “You understand that only twenty thousand of these licences are issued each year for the whole country, don’t you, Mrs …er…?”

  “Claire Monet. Please, call me Claire.” The young woman shifted uneasily in her chair, crossing her legs and then uncrossing them again, straightening her back and tugging at the hem of her skirt.

  The interview room was small, furnished with a wooden desk and wooden chairs similar to the ones she had seen in her grandfather’s study when she was a child. Cameras were installed at each corner of the ceiling to video both interviewer and applicant. The recordings were supposed to be watched by staff of the Family Ombudsman’s Office to ensure government procedure was properly and fairly adhered to. Everyone knew, however, that the F.O.O wasn’t sufficiently funded to do more than cover a trifling number of random ‘drop-ins.’

  “But you are ‘Mrs’?” The adminocrat peered over his glasses at her, eyebrows raised and lips pursed. He held a Government Issue digipen in his right hand, poised to tick the relevant boxes on the application form before him. Although he manually recorded her answers, the pen was recording the interview, automatically transmitting and cross-referencing the data with the Government’s national database.

  “Well, I prefer ‘Ms’, I suppose,” she faltered, winding a strand of her platinum blonde hair around her index finger.

  The adminocrat leaned back in his chair, arms folded, and sniffed loudly. “And nearly sixteen thousand have been issued already this year.”

  She knew that people who didn’t answer all the questions put to them were recorded as being uncooperative, and that would have to impact on the success of this sort of application.

  “I live with my partner,” she said finally. “He…,” she paused in order that her partner’s sex might be noted by the adminocrat, “won’t marry me unless we can get a Licence.”

  “Ah, yes.” The adminocrat leaned forward and ticked a box on the form, his demeanour immediately more amenable. “We find a lot of young people are doing it that way, these days. You’ll both have to complete an “Intention to Wed” form before your application can be lodged. Do you have your Cohabiting Type A(i)Permit?”

  “Yes, I brought a copy. But isn’t all of this on the database?” she said, passing the form across the desk to the adminocrat. She smiled in an attempt to appear less belligerent than she sounded.

  “Now,” he said, ignoring her question, “do you have an Access to Heating Licence, and an Access to Cooling Licence?”

  “Aren’t heating and cooling on the same licence? I’m sure mine includes both.” She flicked through her folder of documents, her agitation increasing the longer it took her to locate the relevant paper. There’s always something that I miss, she berated herself.

  “Legislation and regulations were amended last year, Ms Monet…”

  “But I have a three year licence dated from 2053. It’s still current,” she said, placing the licence on the table and pointing to the date.

  The air in the room was rank, more so than outside on the street. The hackers must have broken into the temperature control system, she thought as she fanned her face with her folder, they always target this building. They hate the Bureau of Parenting, Marriages and Dying more than any other department, and I don’t blame them.

  “…dated retrospectively,” the adminocrat continued smugly. “Never mind, you can use this Licence to get hold of the new ones without too much fuss or bother. Different departments, though, and you’ll need to show 300 points of ID at each, that’s all. I shall make a note on your application that you’ll present the relevant documentation within ten days. Mind you,” he added, “I’m not sure if your quota will cut it, anyway.”

  As he wrote his notes, his face clouded. “Monet?” he said abruptly. “Where’s that name from? Sounds like an East Atlantic name? How many generations Pacific are you?”

  “My father’s family goes back to the first settlers.”

  “What about your maternal heritage?”

  Tell him straight, she thought; every question is a test of integrity, intelligence: suitability. “She’s first generation refugee,” she said with forced casualness. “West Atlantic.”

  The adminocrat frowned. “America, I suppose? Humph. Better than…,” he began, but changed tack. “Australia has been one of the luckier countries, eh, Ms Monet? Have you got your Food and Beverages Allowance card?”

  She handed the adminocrat a plastic card. He scanned the barcode and recorded the details of Claire’s allowance and monthly purchase statements.

  “This will be automatically upgraded in the event that you’re granted a Parenting Licence,” he said, “but you seem to be managing quite well.”

  “I’ll need a bigger allowance, though,” she interjected. “They won’t not upgrade it just because I don’t use it all up each year, will they?”

  It had happened to other people she knew. They had always kept within their allocated entitlements of food, heating, cooling - and all the other regulated consumables - believing that by using only what they needed to get by, they were doing the right thing for the country; for the environment. They grew as much food as they could and harvested their own water; they made their own clothes and built their furniture; they suffered the cold by going to bed earlier, and they endured the scorching heat by withdrawing into their houses during the day and going out only once darkness arrived. But they had been punished for it instead of applauded. There was Phil, a colleague: the government cut his food and beverage entitlements because he didn’t use more than 80% of them for over a year. When he injured his back and couldn’t grow his own food, he was told he’d have to reapply for his entitlements, and that it would take up to twelve months to process. And Celia: her husband died, and the Government voided his half of the family’s entitlements. Everyone knows that half of a Type-B Family Licence doesn’t add up to the same as a Single Adult and Child Entitlement. That’s the reason people wouldn’t marry before they knew whether they would be granted a Parenting Licence: as soon as you got married, you had to have a Type-A Family Licence, which meant less total entitlements than two single people would have. If the marriage fell apart, it could take up to three years to get your single entitlements back.

  “Couldn’t say, really. These things change all the time, don’t they?” The adminocrat shook his head, “There’s talk that the next budget is going to be full of big cuts. Everyone knows we’re way off target for reducing Australia’s water deficit, what with almost nine-hundred days straight without significant rain. The water deficit has hit the sixty trillion litres mark, and the World Bank’s criticising the Government for its handling of the global food crisis. I tell you, those fat-cat Equatorials are doing well out of us: all their water… it’s not like they have to do anything for it. It just falls from the sky, doesn’t it?” He gave a long and loud sniff, “I need to see your GSOH-1103 Certificate.”

  She slid the certificate
across the desk towards the adminocrat.

  “This is the wrong one,” he jabbed his finger on the yellowed page. “This Standard is for single persons only. You should have the GSOH-1193, at least, if you’re co-habiting with someone.” He looked up and gazed imperiously at her. “A safe home environment is essential for raising a child, Ms Monet. That,” he raised his voice and leaned menacingly over the table, “is why we have the GSOH-1103.”

  “I’m sorry…”

  “You have no idea how many licences are wasted because people just don’t maintain their home to the mandatory safety standard. Their child has an accident and has to be put in care, or even dies as a result...”

  “No-oh, but…”

  “And then they come back here to apply for a new Parenting Licence. As if!” He slammed his digipen on the table and leaned back in his chair, arms folded.

  She waited for him to calm down before speaking again. At length, the adminocrat’s face relaxed and his breathing returned to its regular wheeze.

  “It’s just that,” she said meekly, “I haven’t been able to source any hygienated bench tops. The suppliers keep telling me that storms have prevented shipment from Africa. Australian companies have stopped making the sanitary sofas because the manufacturing process takes up too much water. I don’t know what I can
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