- Exhibit No. 22
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Exhibit No. 22 (©1994 Gilbert P Belmudez) 

                Perspiration ran down the woman's face as she sat on the living room floor.  Screwdriver in her hand, she examined a phone that lay in front of her.  Big and round, her eyes were framed by dark circles and the skin was pale from the lack of sun.  The walls were cluttered with just about anything from photos to posters and an assortment of other unrelated items.  An accumulation of dust gave a grey look to everything in the room and a stale tobacco odor saturated the air. 

                She was alone but that did not stop her from speaking her mind as she grabbed a tissue to wipe at her nose.  She reached for the phone and with a screwdriver began to disassemble it.

                "I know they put one in here." she mumbled to herself.  There was a noise at the front door and she looked up to see it open a moment later.  A young girl of about ten years old walked in.

                "Close that door Felissa!", the woman hollered at her daughter,  "You'll let the damn flies in!"

                Felissa said nothing as she turned to shut the door.  She looked at her mother for a moment, then scurried into the hallway sidestepping several piles of soiled laundry as her mother spoke again.

                "Girl!”, she hollered, “Where do you think you’re going?"

                The frail girl stopped and was silent for a moment.  Her eyes watered but she managed to hold back the tears. "I'm going to do my homework mom."

                "Homework?” her mother replied.  “This ain't no time for homework!  It's late and where have you been anyway?"

Felissa’s shoulders hunched forward.  "Don' t you remember mom?  You signed the permission slip last week so I could go to the science fair with my class".  The woman looked up for the first time and stared ahead in thought.  She did vaguely recall signing something.

                "I can't remember everything.", she mumbled before turning back to the project in front of her.  Her mind wandered.

"I just know they put one in here..." she said to herself then closely inspected the disassembled phone.

The daughter stared at her and with a resigned sigh asked, "One what mom?"

                Felissa's mother stood up to pace in an aimless pattern as she tried her best to explain.  The words didn’t make much sense to Felissa as her mind filled with confusion.  Whatever her mother was saying began to fade into the background as the young girl recalled the exciting field trip earlier in the day.

                "What a day!" she thought to herself as her friend Rick came to mind.  He was one of the few people from school she felt comfortable with and the trip had given them a rare chance to socialize.  Rick had moved into town about a year before.  Twice his mother had invited Felissa and her mother to visit but the girl, not sure how her mother would act, relented.

                The field trip gave them both a chance to learn more about each other.  She discovered that he also lived alone with his mother as neither of them had any brothers or sisters.  There was an irony to the similarity in their uneventful lives. In the exhibits they saw a different world of life in the future.  There were rooms with beautiful white maintenance free carpeting and movies with designs of what cities could look like in the future.  Felissa's favorite exhibit was the one with the spotless kitchen.  Fully automated, it was equipped with food dispensers and control panels with buttons you simply pushed when you were hungry.  There were so many things for the two of them to see and it gave them an escape from their daily lives.

                Felissa was startled from her thoughts when her mother raised her voice.

                "Are you deaf?" she yelled out.

                “Sorry mom” Felissa answered.

                "Well!” the mother continued, “are you going to get me the flashlight?”

                Felissa quickly set her books down then quickly scurried back before her mother became more irritated.

                "I'm here trying to take care of this phone so we can use it and you just dawdle", the mother said in a lower voice as Felissa brought her the flashlight.

                "It was working this morning" Felissa said as her mother gave her a strange look.  She took the flashlight from the girl's hand.  Felissa watched her point the light onto the scattered phone parts. 

                The room was silent for what seemed like an eternity until the woman spoke again.

                "I'm going to find it if it takes all night" she said and then put the flashlight down to reach into her shirt pocket for a cigarette.  She lit it, took a hard drag and then exhaled.  The dirty white smoke spread itself out slowly, settling onto everything that lay in its path.

                The woman stood up, walked over to the old television and turned it on as she settled into a large, overstuffed chair.

The girl spoke up, "I'm hungry mom".

                "Hungry?" the woman barked back, "hungry isn't getting the laundry done girl".  After thinking for a minute she continued, “there's some pizza in the refrigerator.  Go ahead and warm it up. You're going to do the laundry when you're finished eating, right?"

                "Yes mom", Felissa answered back.

                She found the pizza, warmed it up in the microwave and then poured herself a glass of milk.  When she finished she went outside, grabbed a shopping cart from the trash area and then set it by the front door to load the laundry.

                It was already 7pm and she wondered how she would ever have the time to do her homework.  Her mother got up from the chair and went back to what was once a phone. 

                "I just know I'm going to find one", she said again.

The girl loaded the laundry and was about to leave when she turned to her mother and asked one more time,                "Find what mom?".

                "The bug!" her mom replied.

                "Bug?"  the girl repeated quizzically.

                "Yea", the mother answered and then continued, "I know the cops bugged my phone.  I just know they did.  They think they're smart but I'm smarter and I'm going to find that damn bug!"

                Felissa looked at her mother sadly.  She thought of the afternoon at the science fair and all the exciting things she had seen.  She also thought of the good time she had with Rick.  Then she thought of life, reality and wondered why she was ever even born.

                "I love you mom." She said and then closed the door.

EPILOGUE:  The sleek passenger vehicle continued through the EARTH MUSEUM and its passengers sat in silence thinking of the exhibit they had just seen.  It was a holograph with three dimensional pictures and lifelike people who depicted a part of human history.  A slice of life from the twentieth century.

                Another vehicle pulled in after and stopped at the same exhibit staging area.  The excited passengers quieted as their guide moved forward and addressed them.

                "This is a part of our history we will never forget and we hope, will never repeat again.  First, there is the mother riddled with infectious drugs.”  The guide paused as a low sound of sadness could be heard from the observing group.  After a moment the guide continued. “But there is a hero to the historical representation you are about to observe.  It is the persistent resilience of others who determined to survive at all cost.  In this case it is a little girl and in her you will see why the human species continues to survive to this very day.”

                The tourists looked at the stage setting as light seemed to bring it to life.   They saw there was a woman sitting on a living room floor.  Her eyes were glazed and hollow.  The skin paled from the lack of sun.  As she lifted a screwdriver one of the passengers pulled out an electronic palm program and asked a question.

                “Is this scene listed here?”

                The tour guide answered.

                “EXHIBIT NO. 22”


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