Flash: H is for Hoot (Mom Eyes 3)

Photo by Renaldo Kodra on Unsplash

Noise echoed off the raised ceiling of the repurposed waiting room. At one point, the carved ceiling imposed awe for those seeking governmental services. Now, the Civic Registered Center filled with male teens joking together and the adults registering for Powers siting quietly in ones and twos. Those with children were pulled out immediately. Billy and his parents, Robert and Brook Baumgardner got taken back as soon as they hit the first official.

Robyn huddled quietly in the corner after having her school ID checked.

Boys walking out complained about not knowing they had to donate blood with registration.

Robyn frowned. She hadn’t heard about that before. Must be new.

The part in her – the new one that told her what was good and what wasn’t – said that wasn’t good.

Just like it said the one guy sitting by himself was a problem, and the two over in the corner were working themselves into a bad place. Like when Ramses kept getting angry about school instead of actually doing something for school, three fights later he was expelled and in juvie.

Exhausted from her time with Billy, Robyn leaned back in her chair considering. Was there anything she could do for those adults, the angry or the bad? Would they even listen to a kid? No, her gut said.

Her mind agreed. Didn’t like it, anymore than when all she could do was hug her dad after he had a bad day at work, but her little Power couldn’t fix everything.

She smiled to herself. It was very, very cool that it did help Billy.

“Robyn Whittle.” A man in a jacket and dark blue tie called from the front of the room.

Seemed she hopped the line, just a little more slowly than the actual kids. Only two adults beat her to the back since she checked in. And they had been at the very front of the line, waiting on the Center steps when she arrived. They were clearing the draft registerees quickly through a different door.

She nodded at the man as he led her back to his office with a door. Most of the people working had raised gray walls partitioning areas off. The man’s office was one of three along the north side, both of the others still had families in them. The Baumgardeners were in one and the fairy girl was in the other. She wondered how green boy made out.

“Hello Robyn, my name is Hoot Lane. You can call me Mr. Lane or Hoot, whichever makes you more comfortable. Please have a seat.” He motioned to one of the two chairs in front of his desk before walking around to his seat.

Robyn chose the chair that let her glance sideways at his computer. It had a privacy screen, so nothing was visible. “Thanks, Mr. Lane.”

“So, I take it, you are here to register a Power?” Hoot leaned forward, steepling his fingers.

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you know the category?”

“Category?” Roybn shifted in the seat. “Oh, yeah, some of the other kids mentioned them covering that in health. I start that next semester. Obviously, not a Freak, I think … Brainie?”

The intake specialist made a face when she said Freak. “We sort the Powers into physical, mental, energy, and special.”

“I guess mental then.”

“Mental,” the man said that slowly, drawing out every sound, “Are you sure?”

The rules for the non-visible Powers, especially mental, were much more involved. Laws and laws, still being sorted out since Powers started in the seventies. Most of the kids snored through that part of American History last year, including her. Now, she wished she paid more attention.

Her gut said the definition wasn’t quite right, and it was important to be right. Good to be right. Sometimes it was okay to smudge the truth, but in this case, the pancake wouldn’t rise.

“Maybe Special?”


Her gut liked that better. Still wasn’t quite right, but corn syrup is still syrup, however much mom used to like maple. Robyn’s gut liked syrup.

“Whatever, it isn’t physical – not doing better in gym or have anything strange happening with my body … other than … you know.”

“Being a teenage girl, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Robyn shrugged. “And it isn’t visible like fire or plasma bolts like Phoenix. So special or mental.”

“Okay.” The man nodded. “Can you tell me what happens when you use Powers?”

“Um, okay, it’s weird.”

“I’ve dealt with a lot of weird in my day, the entire state goes through this office.”

“People calm down and do better around me.” Robyn wigged in the seat, wrapping a foot around the chair leg.

The man who thought he had heard it all blinked. “Can you expand on that? Maybe the first time you noticed it?”

After a long, slow, inhale, Robyn’s words tumbled out. “Yeah, so the first time was in the locker room before gym. Girls being girls, Jennifer was laying into all of us with smaller breasts. She really got on my case saying Latino girls should have big boobs and big butts, anyway, I stared at her thinking ‘Really, you are going on about this when we are about to go out for dodge ball and all go home with bruises. You got a brain girl, use it for once.’ And she backed off. Like apologized and backed off. She never apologizes. Anyway, during dodge ball she stepped between the ball and Rhonda, who was still recovering from the last hit. And, you know, she hasn’t teased people about the size of their breasts since.” Robyn wound down from her prepared example, then struggled to figure out how to close. She hated presentations in English class for just this reason, but she guessed that this is the perfect example of why they had to learn to do this stuff in school. “Anyway, Jennifer is nicer. Not that we have become friends or anything, she is just … a better her. Hell, her grades have even gone up.”

“Okay, that is weird.” The registration expert leaned back, frowning a bit. “From your observation, she isn’t much different, just the behavior you attempted to modify ceased.”

“I guess?” Robyn waved to the wall. “The Baumgardners, I did a lot of whammy on them waiting out in that line, more than I’ve ever tried on anyone. I usually tried to keep it down, but the Power seems to be on all the time.”

“The Baumgardners, the ones with the Physical Manifestation next-”

“The ones with Billy, the kid who is in a great deal of pain.” Robyn interrupted firmly. “Pain and scared because his parents couldn’t make the pain stop. Babies are always so sad when they are teething, you know, parents always make pain go away – belly hurt, they feed them; butt hurts, diaper change time; overall hurt, somehow the big ones make them sleep. But teething – or physical manifestation – that doesn’t stop and the parents can’t make it stop. Terrifying when your entire memory is less than a year. Will you always hurt? So I assured him the pain is temporary. Made him less scared. Less scared also equals less pain, especially with his parents holding him.”

The man focused on the Power portion. “You made him less scared.”

“I think.” Again Robyn shrugged, “at least it felt that way.”

“Anything else.”

“I made the mom more confident in her ability to deal with the problem.”

The man muttered. “Empath?”

“Excuse me?”

“Just trying to figure out if a category already exists for you.” Hoot said. “Doesn’t seem to be full telepathy, but your Power does have some emphatic aspects.”


“Control, sending or receiving of emotions.” The government agent smiled. “Useful in crowd control. Major Heart is a crowd empath and is paid to attend concerts, sporting events, and other functions. On a smaller scale, empathy can make individuals feel good.”

“Oh, right,” Robyn remembered something from the news, “Or fearful, like Panic Stomp did last month in Chicago.”

“Yes, like that. Some Powers prefer to be criminals.”

Robyn pressed her hand against her stomach. “I’m not sure mine will let me.”

“Excuse me,” Hoot leaned forward and steepling his fingers, “can you explain?”

“It’s got this gut thing, says what is good and what is bad. Doesn’t like the bad things. Makes me sick to my stomach.”

A little fear entered the man’s eyes for the first time. Children with powers were bad enough; powers which have their own “minds” often ran to nightmares scenarios. “That’s good. Right?”

“Yeah, I guess. Been okay so far.” Robyn knocked her foot against the chair leg before wrapping it around the metal again. Teachers hated when she kicked things. “As dad says, ‘Keeps me honest.’”

A sigh of relief escaped the government worker. “So your father knows about your powers Robyn?”

“Oh no, he doesn’t.” She shook her head. “I’m gonna tell him when I get home tonight. I just didn’t want to worry him until, you know, I could tell him the options.” The teen studied her fingers, not making eye contact. “So. What are my options?”

Hoot glanced at the pamphlets on his desk, straightening on pile entitled “Children Love Our Special Schools” and the posters decorating the walls around his office. “Options. Well, we will need to do a full battery of tests first.”

“How long?” Her head popped up. “Winter break is only two weeks and I can’t miss my freshman year. I got perfect attendance and I need everything I can get for scholarships to get into college because we got no money and dad already works so hard and I mean, I still need to do two papers during break though I got most of the studying done so I could come here and do the things you need, but I also got to babysit my cousins because they are off too. And–”

“Whoa, whoa, it’s okay, Robyn.” Hoot held up his hands. “The first tests can be done at home. We can send someone. If you need additional tests, we can work around your school schedule. Depending on the results, you might even end up for your own personal tutor and free college education.”

The gut twisted at that one.

“Ugh.” Robyn leaned forward, swallowing down the nausea. “Please don’t lie like that.”

Hoot shook his head. “It wasn’t a lie.”

Robyn looked up, making solid eye contact for the first time in the interview, and Pushed.

He gulped. “I may have presented it incorrectly though. The first tests are easy, blood draws, verify nothing in your house is impacting the results you have observed, maybe send a Sorter, if one is available. We are really careful about Mentals. Basically rule other things out, and see if we can get a whiff of your actual powers. Sometimes as a teen, or even adult, people imagine things that aren’t real.”

“I assure you, I’m Powered.” Robyn sat up straight, keeping eye contact.

“And I believe you, but we must document it and go through all the right channels.” The man started typing on his computer. “Let’s get you properly registered, although your father will need to sign the paperwork tonight, unless there is a reason he cannot, such as your safety.”

“Nah, dad is cool.” Robyn lips twisted, “So long as I don’t come home with cancer, he’ll be okay.”

The man stopped typing. “Your mom?” he asked gently.

“My brother. COVID got Mom.”

“I’m sorry.”

Robyn stared as only a child who had heard those two words too often could.

“Right,” Mr. Lane cleared his throat. “So, I have your name, address, birthday, Let’s finished the forms.”

The questions were simple, ones asked and answered a dozen times at school and doctor offices.

(words 1,972; first published 1/11/2023)

Series: Mom Eyes

  1. R is for Robyn (12/28/21)
  2. B is for Billy (4/3/22)
  3. H is for Hoot (4/10/22)
  4. N is for Natalie (4/17/22)