“What do you mean, ‘you’ll each get a half’?” the boy’s father asked.
The judge leaned back on his leather chair. “Half a child each, half goes to you, and half goes to your ex-wife,” he said, pointing towards her.
The mother simply stared at him, mouth slightly open.
“Let me explain,” the judge said and leaned forward to rest his elbows on his desk. “In cases of non-consensual divorces, such as in your case, the custody is determined by the Court. And this is the Court,” he said, emphasising the word by blowing air out of his nostrils. “It is tired of you and will resolve this situation if you don’t come to a decision quickly.”
“But… You can’t do that,” the mother said softly.
“I can and I will!” the judge shouted, looking for his gavel to emphasise his ultimatum. It was nowhere near him, because the custody battle was taking place in his office.
“But, my boy, he’ll die,” the mother said terrified.
“Pft! He’ll be just fine. Doctors can do wonders these days. We got mechanical life support, transplants. It depends on how we divide him up. Let’s see…” The judge grabbed a thick, expensive pen and drew a stick figure on the paper. He then drew a line that sliced the kid horizontally across his belly.
The parents stared at the paper with horror, since it represented little Johnny more or less as if he was cattle ready for slaughter.
The judge mulled it over a bit and then raised the drawing to them. “What do you think? Which half do you each prefer? Top or bottom? Let’s have the mother decide first, it’s only fair.”
The mother simply let out a wheezy ‘a.’
The father gulped. He finally sait, “I should get the top half.”
“What?” the mother said, snapping towards him.
“Yeah, I’m calling it. I’ll get the top half. It will be weird walking around with the bottom half of a preteen boy. People might get the wrong idea,” he shrugged.
“And what am I? Taking care of a pair of legs?”
“It’s not just the legs, see? It’s the stomach area too. Plus a couple of ribs, I think,” the judge added helpfully, pointing with his expensive pen.
“So now you pretend to have raised little Johnny? You with your fucking career, you who couldn’t wait to be done with his birth so you could drop him off on a nanny?” the father spat back at her.
The mother opened her mouth wide. “How dare you! I carried him for nine months-”
“Eight,” the father interrupted her, raising a finger. “We found the only doctor who would accept to an early delivery and paid him off, big time. You forget how you made a cost-benefit assessment of getting your quarter’s bonus against the cost of the OB-GYN?”
“Is it my fault I fight every day for the sake of my child?” she cried out.
“Should we add three ribs?” the judge said, pressing his lower lip. “Will that suffice?”
“Quit this acting,” the father said disgusted, pointing at her top to bottom. “The judge knows every little thing, don’t pretend you’re a caring mother, it’s beneath you. We get it, you care more about your carreer than our family. Fine. We broke up, that’s a done deal. Now we have to figure out something about the custody situation.”
“I got it!” the judge said, and started to draw again. He made another stick figure, but now he sliced it vertically from the top of the head down to the groin.
“You should compromise! I’ve already said what I want and it makes perfect sense,” she hummed, crossing her arms.
“Sure, it’s so reasonable for little Johnny to live with you and me coming to visit him in Dubai,” the father mocked.
“It’s not my fault your company doesn’t offer you the good positions,” she said turning her back to him.
“They did offer them to me!” father shouted, throwing his arms in the air. “But I refused them, for our family.”
“Well, I think this distribution is absolutely fair this way. Take a look, you can split everything in two, nice and easy. Twelve ribs for you, and twelve ribs for you,” the judge pointed out with his pen.
“Riiight… That’s an excuse, because you’re a loser. You were a loser back then, and you’re still a loser now,” she said with venom.
“We can patch each half up with implants and artificial skin,” the judge carried on monologuing, drawing stick figures, “and with just a little plastic surgery, we’ll have two little Johnnies. Easy. And everybody’s happy.”
“And what about the heart?” the father asked. “And all the other organs that aren’t in pairs?”
“Bah, they can fix those too, you know these 3D printed organs? I had a case recently where the husband wanted his kidney back from his ex-wife, but it was too dangerous for her so they just printed him a new one. He’s fine, I see him checking-in in some bars all the time, drinking and partying.” The judge waved away the concern.
The father actually considered it for a while. “And what about the brain?”
“Didn’t you say that little Johnny is dumb?” the judge asked.
“Completely dumb,” the mother said. She presented her ex-husband, “He got it from his loser of a dad, got nothing from me, dammit.”
“So, what’s the difference?” the judge shrugged. “Cut the stupid in half, can you tell if it’s half as stupid or twice as stupid?”
“Please stop calling my kid stupid,” the father cried out, shaking.
“We insulted his offspring,” the mother nodded sideways, rolling her eyes.
“I prefer dumb over a bitch like you are!” the father spat out.
The judge rifled through his drawers. He must have had a spare somewhere around here, he knew he had.
“If he was like me he’d already have won championships and walls lined with medals! But no such luck, with a loser for a sperm. I wonder why I even let you screw me in the first place.”
“It’s nobody’s fault if suddenly normal people aren’t good enough for you. Did you forget, you fucking bitch, that you were raised in a village? You pretend to be all high-class-”
Bang. Bang. BANG.
The judge banged his spare gavel and felt so nice. It didn’t have that round coaster at the base, and he’d just made a few dents on the surface of his desk, but he didn’t care. He really enjoyed banging his gavel and make everyone shut up. “Well. I demand a yes or no answer. Do you accept to split your son up in the middle and settle this child custody case? We’ll go for the option of patching any leftover parts with cybernetic implants.”
“No,” the father said without hesitating.
The judge turned to the mother.
She considered it.
The father glared at her.
“No,” she finally said with a grunt.
“I see.” The judge crumpled up the paper with his stick figures. “So, on to the next idea.”
The parents began to protest but the judge raised his gavel and waited there. They didn’t say anything.
“There’s another alternative. I don’t know if you follow these things, but there’s new legislation about human clones. The Chinese have ignored the international treaties prohibiting that sort of research and now that the sacks of Aeolus have opened up, everybody’s talking about it.”
“Yes, I might have heard something on the news,” the father said.
“Good. There’s the option on the table of cloning your son. Down that path, you’ll have two complete sons and each will get his own little Johnny, in Dubai or wherever the hell elsewhere he wants to go.”
“You mean we’ll have a fully-grown Johnny? Exactly the same?” the mother asked, interested. “Is there a case for the clone to be made, I dunno… smarter?” she added with almost a whisper.
“The clone’s intelligence will be exactly the same, taking into consideration acquired traits such as family environment and level of education,” the judge said.
Mother seemed pleased. “Okay then! I’ll take the clone. Please God, don’t let him be a idiot.”
“Yes, but you didn’t understand something about this procedure, allow me to explain. The cloning simply produces a biologically identical human. He will not possess the same memories as the original little Johnny has, and most importantly, he’ll have to go through gestation, birth, and grow up all over again,” the judge explained.
“What?” the mother snapped back. “Giving birth, again? Nonono, I cannot do that. I have a very important four years ahead of me.”
“You could implant him into a surrogate mother, who you choose. The legislation regarding surrogates is very solid and you have nothing to be afraid of, beyond the stage of the cloning.” The judge twirled his gavel in his fingers.
“Hey, wait. Can any woman become a surrogate mother?” the father asked, hesitating.
“You wanna know about your little slut, huh?” the mother screamed in his face. “You want that fucking breeder-bunny to make you more kids?”
“We’ve been separated and fighting in these divorce proceedings for two years. Two. Years. Yes, I found someone. Don’t act all butt-hurt, as if I knew her since before we broke up. You’re not convincing enough.” The father sliced the air with his palm.
The judge raised his gavel.
“Okay, fine. We’ll go with that option. But I’m not giving birth again, I want full custody of the existing little Johnny. He can have another one with his breeder-bunny, add more to her three kids.”
“Can you please not talk about her like that?” the father said patiently.
“Oh, come on, you moron! She’s had three kids with some punk who dumped her and now she’s found stupid-old-you to deal with them. I’ve explained this to you, it’s a biological instinct. They have kids with the alpha male so they are healthy and strong, and then he’s suddenly too grunty and rough for them. So they find a sensitive beta to help raise them. They have one more kid so they can seal the deal and voila, love of their life and whatnot. Fucking birth-bunnies,” she scoffed, crossing her arms.
Bang. Bang. BANG.
“I’m not paying allimony so he can feed the breeder-bunny!” the mother added quickly and sat back.
“On topic, please. Do you think the birth-bun- sorry, your future wife, when we get to an acceptable deal, be willing to become a surrogate for your son’s clone from your previous marriage?”
The father sat back in his chair and blew out air. “I’m not sure, but yes, I think she might agree to it, if that would complete the divorce proceedings as well…”
The mother snorted. “As if the breeder-bunny would say no!”
“So, you, as the father of the child, would accept losing custody of your son and settle for raising a clone inside a surrogate mother?” the judge recapped.
“Um… Yes. I think I would.”
“And do you understand that you will never see your son again, losing any guardianship rights towards him?” the judge carried on.
“I understand. The answer is still yes,” the father nodded, his jaw firm.
“And you, ma’am?” the judge asked the mother.
“I agree. Where do I sign?” she said with scorn.
“Very well.” The judge sat back. “In this case, you both lose custody of little Johnny, permanently.” The judge banged his gavel once. Oh, that never got old.
“WHAT?!” the parents both stood up in protest.
The judge pressed the button of his intercom. “Bring the boy in, please.”
Little Johnny was brought inside by Child Services. He looked frowny, crying.
“Oh, baby!” the mother said and stepped towards him.
Little Johnny pushed her away.
The judge explained. “You have both lost custody of you son since an hour ago. I’ve removed it.” He stood up too, since everyone was standing in his office.
“You can’t do that!” the father spat out.
“Normally, no,” the judge huffed, straightening his belt. “But this is new legislation, one I’ve been working on for a few years now. It’s especially for the cases of parents such as you two, with first-world problems and not enough love.”
The mother looked as if she’d break out in tears.
“Tell me, Johnny, you’ve heard the whole thing?” the judge said, kneeling down on the boy’s level.
Little Johnny nodded behind the guardian’s leg.
“So, do you want to go with either mommy or daddy?” the judge asked.
Little Johnny looked from one to the other.
The parents pleaded, begged, offered gifts.
Little Johnny shook his head left and right, saying ‘no.’