SSC10: The Adjustment

This story was written for the 2010 SSC (Short Story Contest). Go on, play along.

Copyright 2010 to <mijita (at) the treehouse (dot) net>. Please respect this copyright. Don’t distribute or archive this story in any way except for personal use without explicit permission. No, it’s not in the public domain. Ask first, okay? Thanks.


The dog chased the tennis ball across the garden, then pelted back to Alice.  The girl watched, marveling at Dobbie’s focus.

She threw the ball harder, farther.  Time slowed as she threw and he fetched, the blue sky and green grass of June wrapping them in a perfect day–

— shattered by a shout of “Alice Michelle, you get in here right now.”


“Hey Mom.”

The house was dark after the bright sunshine.  Alice blinked.  Darker yes, but cleaner too.

“Don’t you ‘Hey Mom’ me, young lady. I told you not to leave this house until you cleaned your room.”

Did she really? Alice didn’t remember.  Wait, when did Mom wear a dress or apron?

While Alice was musing on this, noticing the much tidier house and her unusually tidy mother, her mother landed a ringing slap on the seat of her shorts.

“Pay attention!  I’m very cross with you, Alice Michelle. Your room’s still a disaster. Go in there right now and wait for me. You’re in big trouble.”


Alice slammed the bedroom door.  Her mother had *hit* her.

Double-take.  The bedroom…

Yes, it was messy with her papers and drawings everywhere. But the room was furnished in a completely different style.  No mis-matched IKEA and garage sale finds coupled with her mother’s art. Instead a white bed and desk set with pillows and matching bedspread.

This was not her room.

As that realization struck, her mother, her suddenly *taller* mother, open the door. She was holding a wooden hairbrush.

“Slamming doors Miss? And why aren’t you in the corner with your shorts down?”

Alice looked up and screamed as this woman who was clearly *not* her mother pulled her across her lap and pinned her arms behind her back.

“No! Get away from me you crazy bitch!”

She kicked helplessly as the brush briskly smacked her thinly clad bottom.

Fifteen minutes later, a sobbing, red-bottomed Alice let herself be led to a stool waiting in the corner.

“You stay there until you calm down.  Then get to work on this room. I want it spotless, do you hear me? Then you can stay in here and think about your behavior.  I wouldn’t want to be you when your father hears what you called me today.”

Unable to speak, Alice could only nod.


The Clerk’s eyes narrowed.

“Report, Agent D.”

“Unhappy, but cleaned her room and waited for her father. Cried on me.”

“Adjustments are never happy. Hers isn’t the worst.”

“Why the change?”

“They determined 2020 wasn’t working. Much as Alice needs creative space, she needs to develop self-discipline but wasn’t.  Or something.  1950 suburbia is the adjustment.”

“She’s not happy.”

“Happy doesn’t matter. Alice has to grow up creative but disciplined. That’s what *They* require. You’re required to watch and report… unless you want a new assignment.”

“No sir.”

Dobbie shrugged. He had no idea why They needed Alice to grow up creative and discipline but the Clerk was right. His job was to watch and report.

A dog’s life.


Word Count: 509

This story is inspired by — and very loosely based on — the much more brilliant story “The Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick (1954).  Like the original, this story’s intended genre is science fiction.

2 thoughts on “SSC10: The Adjustment

  1. Karl Friedrich Gauss

    Wow, great story. And the cool thing is, I was thinking to myself — hey this reminds me of PKD, even before I read the little comment at the end. Thanks!


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