‘It's about trimming the fat, you see. We've got to trim the fat.’
‘Trim the fat?’
‘Trim the fat,’ the Minister repeated, emphatic. ‘Just cut all that fat right out.’
No one thought much of it, at first; they’d been using that metaphor for a while. When it started in the public hospitals, we thought that they were talking about firing the cleaners, hiring them back at a lower rate – the usual, you know. That’s what they used to do.
Before long the chronic patients, the ones who required the most difficult procedures, were simply taken off the waiting lists. When the lines in the emergency room became too long – that was back when they still let the public into the hospitals – they created a new virtual ward, so that the bleeding, wheezing, pustulating patients, crowded shoulder to dislocated shoulder into the room marked ‘Emergency’ were, technically, no longer waiting in emergency. You had to give them full marks for ingenuity.
After a while we started seeing the Trimmers out and about – removing the playsets from public parks, making sure no water came out of the public taps. It wasn’t until the final Phases that they started to trim the fat from us, the people; and then they simply trimmed the people right out altogether.
When it gets cold here at night, we all bunk together in the cabin. We stole the wood from the edges of Agricultural Production Unit No.2568 (that’s the old campground) – just one or two planks each month, and always in the early hours of the morning, to avoid detection. I think we’re safe here, for now. The rest of the land has been parcelled out into APUs, of course, but this little stretch over the river is hard to reach.
I was a teacher before it began. Ancient history, high school. They got rid of my kind nice and early – did a cost-benefit analysis to show that we couldn’t be effectively leveraged. That was how I knew about the children, when they were still keeping the first wave of Efficiency Measures fairly quiet. Back then it wasn’t too hard for us to hide the lower-scoring students in the system, juggling the numbers around. Once they brought in Phase 1 of the Change Management Process (Natural Attrition), things got a bit dicey.
I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t bother me, sometimes. Was there more I could have done for that first round of kids? We thought they would just ask them not to come to school – so that they didn’t drag down the averages, you know – and at first it did seem like that that might be it. That was before Phase 2 of the Change Management Process (Strategic Attrition).
They toned the body politic right up. Even the government didn’t last long, once the Restructure got under way in earnest. It’s just the Investors now, and I hear they’re getting a good return.