By Cory Doctorow
Public Domain Books
Anda came home from remedial hockey sweaty and exhausted, but not as exhausted as the last time, nor the time before that. She could run the whole length of the pitch twice now without collapsing – when she’d started out, she could barely make it halfway without having to stop and hold her side, kneading her loathsome podge to make it stop aching. Now there was noticeably less podge, and she found that with the ability to run the pitch came the freedom to actually pay attention to the game, to aim her shots, to build up a degree of accuracy that was nearly as satisfying as being really good in-game.
Her dad knocked at the door of her bedroom after she’d showered and changed. “How’s my girl?”
“Revising,” she said, and hefted her maths book at him.
“Did you have a fun afternoon on the pitch?”
“You mean ’did my head get trod on’?”
“Yes,” she said. “But I did more treading than getting trodden on.” The other girls were really fat, and they didn’t have a lot of team skills. Anda had been to war: she knew how to depend on someone and how to be depended upon.
“That’s my girl.” He pretended to inspect the paint-work around the light switch. “Been on the scales this week?”
She had, of course: the school nutritionist saw to that, a morning humiliation undertaken in full sight of all the other fatties.
“I’ve lost a stone,” she said. A little more than a stone, actually. She had been able to fit into last year’s jeans the other day.
She hadn’t been in the sweets-shop in a month. When she thought about sweets, it made her think of the little girls in the sweatshop. Sweatshop, sweetshop. The sweets shop man sold his wares close to the school because little girls who didn’t know better would be tempted by them. No one forced them, but they were kids and grownups were supposed to look out for kids.
Her da beamed at her. “I’ve lost three pounds myself,” he said, holding his tum. “I’ve been trying to follow your diet, you know.”
“I know, Da,” she said. It embarrassed her to discuss it with him.
The kids in the sweatshops were being exploited by grownups, too. It was why their situation was so impossible: the adults who were supposed to be taking care of them were exploiting them.
“Well, I just wanted to say that I’m proud of you. We both are, your Mum and me. And I wanted to let you know that I’ll be moving your PC back into your room tomorrow. You’ve earned it.”
Anda blushed pink. She hadn’t really expected this. Her fingers twitched over a phantom game-controller.
“Oh, Da,” she said. He held up his hand.
“It’s all right, girl. We’re just proud of you.”