Janie pointed to the holographic note. “Now, you know what we said earlier. Not gettin’ the score you want don’t mean you’re bad.”
“Yeah,” Dani said. She rubbed her claws in excitement then reared back onto four legs. I remember her cute little pink dress, the one my mother had made special for the summer. It had white polka dots and Minnie Mouse on the print.
Janie gave me our secret look. We’d been married long ’nuff that I could ’bout read her mind. She was worried.
Hell, I was ’bout to piss myself I was so worried. Janie couldn’tve been much better off.
The end of year tests. When I was in school, leastwise up ’till it mattered, the tests just determined if you passed to the next grade. I’d scoot by on the minimum and look for’ard to fishin’ in the summers. There weren’t no fat-measurin’ contests nor beauty pageants nor physical fitness tests. Janie might’ve failed the phenotypic tests just ’cause she ain’t never learned to swim. The tests were real hard back when they was first cuttin’ out people’s testicles and ovaries. Had to get rid of a slew of undesirables, ya know.
Anyway, the scores came in the mail. “Open the letter, Mama.” She hopped up and down, just shy of bein’ able to touch the hologram.
So Janie tapped the note, and the airy envelope opened. On the inside of the envelope was the scoring rubric and what the state had given for each category.
Dani tugged a claw at the bottom of the letter and pulled it to her height so she could see it. “2!” she cried out. “I got a 2!”
I looked at Janie. A two? Our daughter?
A tear came to my eyes. I couldn’t be more proud of her, couldn’t wish greater success. At the same time, my heart sank – how would getting a tentative two-child rating help a creature so clearly inhuman?
We knew she was a Chimera. The news had broke just a couple weeks afore her first exam results came in. So who was she going to breed with? How would we break her heart?
Well, of course we decided not to break her heart right then.
Janie pointed to a number. “Dani, look at this! You did so well on your physical aptitude test – that’s a very high score!”
I looked over her shoulder. “Wow…holy mackeral, sweetie, that’s perfect in every subcategory. When’d you learn to swim?”
“Basketball camp,” she answered, “And the internet.”
I whistled. “Lord have mercy, child. I’m gonna have to see that. You teach me how to swim?”
She nodded. “Yeah!”
Just so it’s clear, the swimmin’ lessons didn’t go too well. Ain’t gonna suggest learnin’ to swim from an 8-legged person to no one.
Janie shook her head incredulously. “It’s…this is amazing. Reading, writing, math, science, history are all very good! You’ve done so well, Dani!”
“I think this calls for ice cream!” I decided.
“Yes! Absolutely. You want ice cream, Dani?”
The little girl pulled the paper down and kept perusing it. Her ecstatic demeanor crashed when she pointed out a single number. “I got a zero in this one.”
I blinked and looked at what she pointed out. “Aw, that one ain’t worth jack diddly.”
She dropped the hologram and left it floating in midair.
Janie offered her a hand. “The rubric ain’t fair for you on that one, sweetie.”
Dani clutched her claw tight. “Am I ugly, Mama?”
“No!” Janie denied. “Look at this sub-rubric – ear size. Sweetcakes, your ears don’t look nothin’ like Mama’s or Daddy’s. They’re on your face, kinda like dolphin ears ’cept tuned to work in air rather than water.”
“And nose,” I said. “You say you smell with your legs. How they gonna compare your legs with my nose?”
Dani’s legs curled in. “How do I get a nose like yours? Ears?” She reached up and caressed my legs, then held tight to the pants on my outer thigh. “Do I get to grow up to be human, eventually? Is that going to happen?”
I shook my head. “No. You’re a chimera, and we love you for who you are.”
“But that makes me ugly.”
“Swetheart, no,” Janie insisted. “This is a stupid paper. See this bit?”
Dani nodded, saying that yes, she understood that Janie’s finger pointed to ‘Morality.’
Janie ran her finger down the list. “You are just. You are kind. You are smart. You are way ahead of the curve on altruism, which means niceness. This section right here says you’re gorgeous.”
“Then why is this section called ‘beauty’?”