I hate this!!
this is not a real question.
i thought of this, read other posts.
and i get only angrier every moment.
this is terrible.
you are blind if you don't see:
you want an answer.
you want some heroic statement,
you want some romantic scene.
will die for? will myself to die for?
i don’t know.
the life i have i give to my daughter,
but it is living for,
and not dying for,
there are no evil wizards,
the wolves are not waiting.
if i had to, i would face them ,
if i could.
but the question that is much,
Much morr important,
is if in life, am i doing for her,
am i a good father?
do i let my wraknesses,
does she feel love?
will she grow well,
healthy , happy,
intelligent and resourceful?
will i teach her the right things?
should i even teach her,
absurd romantic notions,
like princes, dashing with their lance,
to slay dragons?
does she really need,
that Freudian , self-destruction crap?
better teach her,
about telling good from bad,
lie from truth,
edible from inedible.
i make no plans, therefore for tigers,
and do not wish an arsenal,
oily hole-punching mechanisms.
we have a tool box,
we have play-dough,
we have legos,
we have a piano,
we have books,
and food and a blanket.
that is what i want to think about.
Welcome to the Apocalypse
A cacophony of sounds swims around me, punctured by a wailing cry of, "Mom! I want the PHONE!"
The apocalypse has happened. I am among zombies.
It's a swelteringly hot day, but somehow, I feel the overwhelming urge to shiver. I'm terrified, truly. It's been fifty-something years, and I thought the future would be badass; flying cars, robots, you know what I'm getting at. It's The Future! But instead, I am surrounded by the undead.
All around me, there are people. A writhing child tears at his mother's sleeve as she clicks away at a black object in her manicured hand. Vehicles honk and swerve and weave through the bustling street. But they're not really people, I don't think. They all stare at these sleek cubes: holding them out in front of them, smiling at them, holding them up to their ears. And their eyes; they're glazed over, like they've been dug out of their graves and forced, like pawns, to act like they're alive.
Again - I didn't ask to be woken up into the apocalypse. I'm a scientific miracle, for God's sake! Couldn't I have at least been woken up in some kind of robot bar, maybe taken some of the strain of being frozen for decades off with a whiskey? But no. Zombies. Just my luck.
Lights flash around me as I march forward, determined to appear normal. To appear like one of them. I stare at a distant point ahead of me, hoping my eyes will swim out of focus and I'll look like just another zombie, going about my zombie day. I don't want them to suspect me - to kill me. No. I must act like one of them. To protect myself.
One foot in front of the other, Thomas. Keep on going.
All around me, there is motion. Lipglossed mothers pushing around crying babies in warped baby carriages. A teenage boy dashing past on a tiny-looking skateboard, his t-shirt tattered and worn. Yellow, sleek-looking automobiles zipping through pedestrian-laden walkways. Flashing signs, flickering store lights. I can't even wrap my head around how much there is - how many people, how many streets, how many bicycles with shrieking bells. My head pounds with the sheer humongous-ity of it all. I need a glass of water.
Speaking of water, a cold glass sounds like the gateway to Heaven right about now. Sweat clings to my back, sinking its sticky fingers into every one of my pores. It's unnaturally hot - dangerously so. I clutch the collar of my shirt and pull it away from my neck, feeling it detach like an old bandaid from an injured thumb. New mission: get water.
My eyes drink in the storefronts lining the sidewalk where I walk. A man in a business suit, eyes covered in darkly tinted sunglasses, pushes past me, nearly knocking me over. I stop in front of a garishly lit yellow sign, bigger than my entire body. It looks like an upside down W, or maybe a weirdly drawn M. A woman walks out the door, gazing at me pointedly. She holds it open for a second.
I step forward and walk through.
Instantly, I'm surrounded by a sticky, salty smell. It fills my nostrils and travels up into the endorphin-creators in my brain, pumping seratonin throughout my nerves. Fries.
I approach the counter, behind which a kid with bad skin stands. He's staring at one of those godforsaken cubes I saw the mother looking at earlier. He, like all the others, has a glazed, zombie stare. I gather up the courage to walk forward.
"Cup of water, please."
He continues to stare at me, eyes still empty as the center of a doughnut. Man, a doughnut sounds good right now.
"You have to buy a meal first, sir."
I shove my hand into my jeans pocket, twisting around and coming up with - nothing. When planning to be frozen for an unknown chunk of the future, money isn't exactly a priority.
"I got nothing, pal." A sudden thought enters my brain. How could I have not asked this earlier? "Hey, what year is it?"
For the first time that I've been in this weird limbo of a future, his eyes glean some sense of emotion. Confusion. "2019. And if you've got nothing, then nothing I can do for you."
Jesus. 2019. 67 years. I decide to ponder this length of time later - right now, I need to focus on the task at hand."Come on, just a glass of water."
Obviously irked by my continued questioning, the kid caves. He grabs a plastic ringed cup and fills it with water from some odd-looking machine.
"Here you go. Goodbye."
I shoot him a quick smile, then turn around towards the tall doors. My eyes are instantly drawn back to the street. Like a living organism, it seems to grow and warp and breathe, like each little zombie-person is a blood cell or capillary keeping it alive. It's beautiful, but also too much. Far too much.
The street is singing to me - harmonies comprised of intermittent honks and rising voices. I take a deep breath, stepping forwards towards the door. This is it.
Well, 2019. Here I come.
Sixty-Seven Light Years
The government was asking to cryogenically freeze bodies for scientific purposes. They didn't answer any questions about it and I wouldn't have volunteered if I didn't need the cash. $5,000 in the name of science. It’d be done by the end of the year.
Earlier that summer, a man we all called King came home for break from Harvard and he was working on a sermon. We were down in Mister Sydney's basement and had seven candles drawn for light and cockroaches scattered up from underneath the floorboards.
"Stardust" by Louis Armstrong flickered dust and spun through fading light from the windows and spun on the record player like the orbit of a flying saucer.
King said that most people lived an entire lifetime as though only they existed in this world, using their brothers and sisters selfishly and for their own gains and prosper. But gravitational pull is final and inexorable, a law of the universe, that is, what goes up must come down and each shall reap what they sow and whoever was the first shall later become last. Finally, he said that the breath of life is the outward concern for others. "We must reach beyond humanity," he said, "and reach up. Way up, for the God of the universe, whose purpose changeth not."
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison was published the day after Easter Sunday and when I read it, it struck through me like the eternity of grace in one fleeting second of space. I saw change coming at the speed of light and regretted not being a part of its making.
I came out from the cold with my teeth chipping and grinding away furiously at my own teeth. It was New Year's Eve and near midnight and I walked down the way.
A gray Ford sedan pulled up by the sidewalk and the driver put it in park and rolled down the window. He looked to be a hundred years old. "You call for an Uber son?"
I said, What, and he said to hop on in, "It’s fixing to storm. Come on before I lose all my heat coming out the window."
When I got in the car I thanked him and he said that I was surely welcome and he was humming some gospel song and I asked him how he’d describe America today.
"Divided," he said.
"That’s exactly what I said. Broken as the heart of a bastard child."
"Circles" by Post Malone vibrated through the radio speakers and the song seeped into my skin, stealing away my senses, and I told him I've missed so much over the years and looked outside the window as the driver spoke and I saw, black men on the side of the road getting beaten and choked by policemen, the same as I saw in Georgia in the thirties when I was a child, and my driver told me that’s just how it goes even these days, and there were homeless on the sides of the street like an army of ghosts and they asked for help, some of them did, and recieved it not, and there were thousands of cockroaches roaming across the road and I saw money on fire and I saw people fleeing from a dark wrath in the sky like a terrible biblical exile and before my eyes it rained the ruins of mankind. The driver said that’s just the future and he said it's been one hell of a year and asked me if I had any plans for the one coming but he didn't let me speak. "Yup," he said, "Been one hell of a year, one hell of a year I tell ya."
He said you know how racist this country is, that they voted for a known criminal to be President who had no business running in the first place and he got their vote just because they were so sick of a black man in charge of the free world they didn’t care who replaced him. They’d had voted for anybody.
"Is this the year 2019?"
"Goddamn," I said
"Yup, you said it son, this president now," he said, "has broken the law in more ways you can count and they tried to get him for it but he’s above it all. It’d be like trying the devil. Well, good luck with that, I say. He’s gone as far as promising to take every last Mexican from here and then building a wall making it impossible for any immigration to occur."
I tried to speak but could not. I come from all over across the Atlantic, Germany and Ireland and Scotland and France and Spain, and I only ever got here because my ancestors risked it all to get me here, hundreds of years ago and they did it for me.
The driver said in this past year a billionaire sex offender, who had molested thousands of underage girls, finally hung himself in jail but maybe he was killed and the people who might be behind it is downright scarry, and said that the sex offender used to run with the current president and he ran with a former president too. "The former president I mentioned, well, when he was still in office, a staff of scientists briefed him on the status of extra-terrestrial activity and by the time they finished their report and left, the President of the United States hung his head with horror in his eyes, rested it upon the desk right there in the oval office and wept," and he told me there's dark things going on that we don't know about, and I said, You mean like the nature of God, and he said, "No, not like the nature of God," and then he told me that God died in 1966. He told me about Vietnam and Civil Rights and how when they killed Martin Luther King, Jr. it was like killing Christ without redemption. "Mama Nature is fixing to tell us all," he said. "Been a long time coming. But hell, what do you expect?"
I thought I needed that money back then but I should have turned it down and stayed where I was meant to be, and fought for change instead of watching and waiting on it. Could I have made a difference? No, probably not. Could I have tried, yes, I should have tried. I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life. My heart felt scorched, my body was as a dried-up earth. "I don't know," I said, "I didn't expect this."
"Mama Nature will have her way, she ain’t nobody’s bitch." He finally told me that he don't know how far gone I've been but that I ain't missed much and he called me son at the end of the sentence and we drove on down the way some and the shadow of dawn blazed crimson and bright-flame orange as the sun emerged across the horizon, burning in the sky the color of blood, like the soul of a vengeful deity on fire.
Aliens. Every one of them.
With their green, lopsided hair, blue lips and too-tight pants. I met a man early on, who had chains hanging from the massive holes in his earlobes. Another woman had chains hanging from the door-knocker-looking ring in her nose. They attached to a black velvet choker. It sorta’ reminded me of the bridle of a horse, but I didn’t dare say anything.
This is not my time, after all. I’m the odd woman out here.
I’ll admit it’s a bit breathtaking, this future with its glass towers that scrape the sky and its automobiles that no longer look like automobiles--rather resemble some sort of spacecraft on wheels. When I first set foot out of the lab, they warned me to brace myself, that the world had changed a lot from when I was initially frozen in 1952. And that went without saying. But I had no idea it had changed this much.
Not that I’m complaining. The farther advanced the better. I was never content with my own time anyway. When the esteemed Dr. Ronald Haloran of Haloran Engineering began his highly-publicized experiments regarding cryogenic stasis—better known as suspended animation—I was among the first to volunteer as a lab rat. My mother had just passed, rendering me an orphan. As an only child I had no siblings to stick around for. And at thirty-five I was virtually an old maid, unwed and childless. The eyes of my era saw me as a pitiable creature, a good decade beyond her prime. It was my hope that with time would come progress; that I would find greater solace and acceptance in the arms of the future.
So I signed my life away, and put my fate in the hands of a man I barely knew. At thirty-five you’d think I’d have better sense than that. I was always scolded for my irrationality, and that’s probably why.
“Yo!” I look up to see a young man walking toward me. Another alien. An illuminated rectangle rests in his hands. Most people carry them nowadays. I’ve yet to find an opportunity to ask what they are, but they must be something special, because everyone I’ve met seems quite enamored by them. “Uh, you look kinna’ lost, bruh. Need any, like, directions or anything?”
“Oh, yes, thank you,” I smile warmly. “Do you have any idea where 412 Grenadine is?”
“Uhhh, that’s real specific-like. Can you be more broad, Ma’am?”
“East side? I used to live in an apartment there. The building itself was painted a sickly shade of pink.”
“Oh, yeah. That way,” the man pointed. “Though I think they...tore that place down when I was little. Can’t remember so good.”
“Yeah, I remember when it had that fire in ’49. They almost condemned it then. I’m amazed it held out as long as it did.”
“Uh,” the guy narrowed his bleary eyes. “How...old are you? You look, like, twenty-something.”
“I...” my voice caught. “I guess I don’t really know how to answer that. Biologically I suppose I’m still thirty-five.”
“Biologically? Yo, are you a vampire?”
“No. I’m an experiment.”
“Oh! So you’re more like Frankenstein’s monster. Cool. Cool.”
“I was cryogenically frozen. Do you know what that is?”
“Yeah. I think they did that on Cowboy Bebop.”
“They did that with me. In real life.”
“Woahhh. What year are you from?”
“Can I get a selfie with you? Lady, you’re like a living artifact!”
“Your grandmother was probably alive in nineteen-fifty-two. I wouldn’t exactly call us artifacts.”
“Yeah, but my gramma’s my gramma. You’re...kinda’ hot. Wait,” he paused, his forehead gathering as he attempted to think. It looked like he was quite unpracticed at that. “Dude, I just called someone my gramma’s age hot. Ewww...”
“What’s a selfie, by the way? I’ll gladly agree so long as it’s not vulgar.”
“Nah, man. I just hold my phone out like this, flip the camera to us, and take a pic.”
“Is that what the rectangular bar is? A phone?”
“Yeah. Duuude...you don’t know what a phone is? You got so much to learn. I think you’re gonna’ love it here.”
I laughed a bit.
“I already do.”
over and over
your smile changed all that
My Panicked Americans
My fellow Americans - as your emergency Commander in Chief I will do as much as one person possibly can over the next 36 hours to address the most immediate concerns of our country. Every 3 hours I will provide a summarizing tweet on my actions and you can watch live on C-SPAN.
@hypervoter2020 It takes at least an hour just to cram complex policy into 280 characters, so yes - one tweet every 3 hours.
@247grammarnazi Feel free to point out typos as you see necessary.
@sk8trl4d I disagree, I find watching our democratic republic in action riveting entertainment.
HOUR 3: ALL states must adopt & ENFORCE public mask policies or lose Federal relief funds until 90% of the population is vaccinated. The Dept. of Education has guidelines for schools including when they should re-open. Includes emergency funds for school safety protocols.
@maskedhero7 I’m glad you’ve been doing it the whole time, your country thanks you.
@asthmatic53 Please see the CDC taskforce’s weekly announcement on the success & safety of masks as confirmed worldwide and refer to their extensive online guidelines, updated daily as actual science happens.
@influencer99 That is a creative way to wear them, but I would encourage you to follow the CDC guidelines for sanitation as well.
HOUR 6: We are joining COVAX to ensure every country receives vaccines for at least 3% of their population initially, building to 20% of their population as quickly as possible. We are also working with the WHO/Gavi for best practices on testing, tracing protocols, & treatment.
@secretasianman777 Yes, we are very late to this party since COVAX has been operating since April and we’ve already made commitments to vaccine distributors. We are working to ensure equal consideration / funding will be made available to other nations.
@libertarianlibrarian0 We will continue to procure vaccines for Americans; this initiative does not slow this effort, it only contributes to global initiatives as we recognize that vaccine nationalism sets a dangerous tone for global pandemic response.
@flatearther4 No, COVAX is not a Communist vaccination cult. Vaccines are safe. I’m going to link to the CDC’s website again here along with a fifth grade online health textbook, please refer to these.
HOUR 9: Violence from white supremacists now threatens us more than jihadi’s as the key ideology of terror. We have redirected resources accordingly. The Dept.’s of Justice, Homeland Security, & ATF will work to arrest/actively monitor members of right-wing militia groups.
@proudpapa1 Sorry - it’s not “stand by”, it’s “hands up” - but I’m sure our officers will exercise restraint when making their arrests.
@gopordie44 All three dept.’s did look at Antifa and determined it does not pose a significant threat. Months ago. Please go try some new sources of real news and perhaps look up the definition of “false equivalence”.
@floridag8tr Ma’am, thank you, but I don’t need your first born.
HOUR 12: Link to new Federal policing guidelines by reorg. public commission which all states are asked to implement. I asked Congress for Federal funding to states which accept these to help cover costs associated. Per guidelines current police union contracts must be redone.
@leftbrain9 That’s not a very nice thing to say about your elected representatives, now.
@rhonda64 No, this actually provides funding towards police training and oversight - that would be the opposite of “de” funding them.
@acab92 Under the guidelines police unions must be re-organized as “minority” unions allowing dissenting voices within the police to negotiate separately, with all contracts made public for greater oversight by voters. We will empower good cops over bad ones.
HOUR 15: New bill signed for $25 billion to Small Business Administration to directly supply GRANTS - not loans - to small businesses during the pandemic for ANY operational costs, not just PPP. PPP forgiveness guidelines revised.
@teapartyfor2 The newly suggested bill taxing the $14 - 24 billion in fees banks made administering PPP loans should help cover the costs of this program.
@frequentflier12 I will veto further bailout bills until Congress revises them so a greater % of funds (preferably 100) come from low interest, repayable loans. Grants shouldn’t be a first resort - we’ve kept interest rates low, big business can afford to pay them. Small ones shouldn’t have to.
@minibookmonger I know the SBA isn’t perfect, but at least they’re not Wells Fargo.
@247grammarnazi I’m sorry my participle was dangling.
HOUR 18: All court cases against the Affordable Care Act are now dropped. We are backing a new bill in Congress to expand Medicare/Medicaid coverage for all Americans, particularly those who have lost healthcare coverage due to COVID. Includes free COVID care for all, no co-pays.
@nursejoy22 Yes, healthcare worker additional compensation and tax breaks are included - you deserve it.
@roy28dare No, we are not dismantling private health insurance at this time. We’re simply extending public health care options for those without access to affordable private plans.
@europeanlights9 I know we are the only developed country without universal healthcare but we’re also one of the only developed countries whose educational funding is based on property taxes/geographical wealth - so we’re a little slow.
HOUR 21: We stopped all actions against TikTok. I don’t know why this merits a tweet, I was told people cared. We do not set precedent for government-levied takeover of foreign companies - we actually complained about that a while back, we are not opening that Pandora’s box.
@gimmegimmedance OK that was a bigger reaction than the healthcare tweet, I admit I’m a little disappointed.
@capitafist3 Honestly the world’s second largest economy right now is Socialist, so I feel free market Capitalism is already whacked.
@flatearther4 No, TikTok is not hijacking your phone to film you while you sleep. Honestly if the Chinese wanted your data they could get it so many other ways, there’s a cyber attack est. every 39 seconds. Sorry if I just made things worse.
HOUR 24: The FCC has re-enacted net neutrality, if you didn’t notice it was gone.
@wifi51 Well, at least you noticed, thanks for the support.
HOUR 27: We have rejoined the Paris Accord and committed to reducing our carbon emissions as a country by 35% by 2035. We’ll be making up lost time by reestablishing environmental policies removed by the prior administration as well as incentivizing states to adopt clean energy.
@coalminer49er Part of our incentives packages will include retraining funds for states with dislocated workers, helping them find new jobs in clean energy initiatives.
@misspiggy6 No, we are not banning hamburgers, we’re investing in methane capture technologies which will provide farmers grants towards converting their pastures into energy-producing side gigs.
@247grammarnazi Could I get some help in here?
HOUR 30: I proposed a new tax code which establishes a fixed, progressive Fed income tax rate for all Americans. The IRS will auto file your taxes for you with info already collected, and a postcard will be mailed to you to simply verify all info as correct. Just sign & return.
@hipRgranny I couldn’t honestly tell you why we haven’t done this already.
@accountantjim3 I’m sorry, but really - do you enjoy preparing taxes? I can ask for an addendum to provide retraining funds similar to the clean energy initiatives if you feel you need extra work. The IRS is hiring.
@menlennial69 How did you even claim that as a tax deduction to begin with? I don’t think you’re helping your case here.
HOUR 33: Our new budget increases K-12 education funding 150%, aimed mainly at low income schools. Tuition at state colleges receiving Fed funds must be capped, & college waivers made available to low-opportunity students as well as in grads in demand careers like healthcare.
@sassyteach84 Low income schools will be identified as those with disproportionate funding due to lower property taxes or other income in their area, and Fed funding will make up the gap. New teacher training initiatives are also re-established after being cut by the previous administration.
@steelydam2 I’m pretty sure simply reading the responses to this tweet explains why investing in education is so necessary.
@billyis5 No, we will not pay robots to do your homework for you.
HOUR 36: 36 hours ago I invoked the DPA to force tech companies to create a secure way to vote online. Backed by testing/oversight of the FBI & Pentagon every American will be sent login instructions. You can view & track your vote, which will be printed at your election office.
@patriotpam63 Further details will be sent to your address of record for your voter registration, either by mail, email, or over the phone. State election officials will ensure every registered voter acknowledges these instructions.
@ballotboxer4 Local polls will be opened for online access to those who need it. The printed copy will be made available for review upon request after submission.
@datguy42 No, I am not on the ballot. There is no way I would lead you people - you vote like it’s American Idol & one celeb can fix all your problems while you ignore the 435 other elected idiots who make our laws. +You’re too busy to research & have truly informed opinions. POTUS out!
The Chopping Block
You think you know fear. You've been afraid before. As a child, when your father got drunk, you were afraid. When Randall Creed followed you home in middle school, you were afraid.
But now, now you know what fear means. Surrounded by eleven of your peers, all ages, all races, yet all of them so similar in so many ways.
Tyler Long, black, tall, and very masculine. He probably lives at the gym, you think.
Reece Weary, an old woman with long white hair.
James Locke, a man your age, 34. if you weren't lesbian, you'd find him attractive.
Lindsay Hium. She's Asian with elongated features and elegant honey brown eyes. Her, you definitely find attractive.
Kayne Wilson, a young man whose parents immigrated from egypt, fresh out of college.
Stie Drew, a mid-50s Texas man through and through.
Lin Chang, another man your age. He is eying you warily, as if you're about to bite him. You don't trust the shark-like look in his eyes.
Lionel Smith, a government teacher from the local high school. Definitely over eighty, and his features are calm but alert.
Aja Young, who lives up to the "young" in her name. She has thick, curly black hair pulled back into a loose ponytail. She's wearing a yellow sweater with open shoulders, and skinny jeans. You think she can't be much over 18.
Greg Heckleman, a heavyset man with thick, meaty arms and stern green eyes. Probably mid fifties or sixties.
Anne Malorie, a Hispanic woman in her twenties, with thick blonde hair and hot pink nails.
All eleven other jurors are staring at you. The trial has ended. The defendant: a young man named Carlos Jenkins, accused of killing his 5-year-old son, Liam. The other eleven jurors have already arrived at the firm conclusion that Jenkins is irrevocably guilty.
Jenkins has all the odds stacked against him: he's a poor, black man, and the "witness" is a rich white one.
Oh yes, and Jenkins is queer.
You of all people know about the injustice in the law. In sixth grade, you were accused (and almost convicted) of stealing booze from the corner store. If it weren't for Jenny Harris, you would have been convicted. It turned out that the whole thing was a scam, trying to convict you: the lone lesbian in a small Missisippi town.
You have been silent for too long, you realize as Mr. Smith clears his throat. If you don't answer now, your case is lost.
"Not guilty," you choke out, voice breaking on the words. You feel your pulse quicken and your arms leaden. Shit. Not a panic attack. Not now.
You have suffered from anxiety your whole life. You are on medication for it. But right now, your meds are in your purse. You can't take them out in front of all these people. You need to get a hold of yourself.
"Not guilty," you say, clearer this time. "Jenkins is not guilty."
"I'm sorry," says Chang, as if he was struggling to hear you. "Ms. Kay, do you have any supporting evidence?"
It turns out, you do. Through the trial, you tracked the arguments against and for him.
"Yes. Evidence. I have- I have evidence." Your grade-school stutter is creeping into your voice, and you try to shake it off.
Mr. Chang does not look convinced.
"Let's look at the evidence," you say. "First: against him. Against him we have the word of Dr. Edward Hanger. He is a respected man, no?"
"Yes," says Aja Young. "He is. I've had many appointments in his office. He's a good man."
"He says he saw Jenkins pounding a screwdriver into Liam's neck," you say. Everyone looks shocked at your bluntness, but your anxiety is beginning to fade. "What evidence is there besides his word?" A long silence almost makes you smile.
"None. Am I insulting his honor? Certainly not. Doctors swear an oath. Dr. Hanger is a good man. But good people make mistakes. It is possible he saw someone else, and mistook it for Jenkins."
"I suppose," says Aja coolly. "But there is some circumstantial evidence. Jenkins has a record. Petty theft, breaking and entering, domestic abuse."
"This is true," you concede. "Let's look at his past crimes. All of them have a preponderance of evidence. Fingerprints, weak alibi, multiple witnesses. This case is very different."
"It's a more serious offense, Ms. Kay," Mr. Smith says. "He could have realized the consequences and hid the evidence."
"Mr. Smith. I mean no offense, but I don't think Jenkins has the mental capacity to go to such lengths. His crimes have been very impulsive. He dropped out of highschool. He had an IEP. It's possible he has some kind of mental deficiency."
Anne Malorie snorts, then coughs, prompting a sharp glare from Aja. You have to bite back yet another smile. Yet everything you said was the truth. Jenkins seemed to have the IQ of a glue stick.
"Next: Jenkins has an alibi," you continue before things could get out of hand. You needed their focus. "He was at the hairdresser, Mr. Bob Green."
"He could have paid Mr. Green to lie."
"With what money?" you spit. "Jenkins makes less-than-minimum wage. He's dirt poor."
"There are other ways to pay than money," Mr. Chang says. There's a moment of silence, and you realize what he's insinuating.
"Mr. Chang, not every gay man is a whore, pardon my language. Yes, Green and Jenkins could, possibly, have a relationship. Maybe legal, maybe not. But to this extent? I don't think so."
"Ms. Kay, please calm down," Mr. Smith says. "I'm sure Mr. Lin wasn't trying to say--"
"Ms. Kay," Lin interrupts. "I think you are biased."
"Biased?" you say, trying to stay calm and failing. "Biased? How?"
"I think," Lin says, spreading his hands on the table. "You come from a position where you cannot make a proper decision. You are biased towards Jenkins because of his sexuality."
"Excuse me?" You can't stop the outrage from pouring into your words. "Anyone can commit a crime, no matter race, religion or sexuality. I know that, Mr. Chang." You spit the word 'Chang' with cruel emphasis. "I just don't understand why you are going with circumstantial evidence rather than facts."
"There are no facts in this case," says Chang with a smug smile. "All evidence is circumstantial. I think the prosecutor makes a legitimate defense. All of us came to the same conclusion. All except you."
"The case requires a unanimous vote."
"The vote is unanimous," Mr. Smith says. "You are unfit to serve on this jury."
You can't believe it. Everyone around you nods. You hang your head down in shame and despair.
"All of you? Are all of you that blinded by ignorance?" Lin Chang walks up to the door and has a brief conversation with someone at the door.
A man in a blue and red suit walks up to you. "Miss," he says. "I'm sorry. But you're going to have to leave." Helpless tears stream down your face. You walk out the door with your head hanging low, the word "Guilty" lingering in your brain.
Poor Mr. Jenkins is going to go to jail. Worse, in a few weeks, he's going to be executed by electric chair. He's going to go out in a blaze of glory.
You hope that it's painless, but you know better. Even if he dies instantly on the chair, he'll have weeks to dwell on his predicament.
He's going to the chopping block. Or is the chopping block coming to him? Delirious thoughts swirl in your head like buzzing wasps. Angry, desperate, and incessant.
The chopping block. The chopping block.
"God save us," you say, walking into the train station. A train is about to arrive: you can see its headlights coming towards you. "God save us all, and may He see Mr. Jenkins's innocence."
You know that there will never be justice for people like you. People like Jenkins. The whole world is so prejudiced that nothing will ever change. Nothing will ever sway human nature.
You suddenly feel hopeless. You feel like nothing you do will ever matter.
And so you step off the ledge of the subway station and onto the rails. A jolt of electricity turns you rigid, and then you hear a rush of sound as the train tunnels towards you.
If you can't save Jenkins from the chopping block, it's only fair you suffer the same fate. You will die painfully and slowly, trying to achieve some kind of justice. An eye for an eye, you think.
And what happens next?
#theholdout #randomhouse #theprose
Without stopping to think I said, “You’ve watched too many cop shows.”
Macaulay rolled his eyes. “Don’t be a smart ass,” he answered. “Fact is most people are killed by their spouses.”
“But not in every case.” I’d thought to say a less than perfect correlation, but even I wasn’t that pedantic.
“What is your problem?” This from the short tempered, overweight man whose name I couldn’t remember. “You’ve kept us locked up for two days, arguing about nothing. I’m sure there’s nobody looking for you but I’ve got a business to run. Everyone else here knows he’s guilty so why are you wasting our time?”
Macaulay knew his duty as foreman. “You can’t say that, Arthur. A man’s life is at stake. We mustn’t take any short cuts just to get finished. We all have to agree.” He checked the table, seeking approval. Two nodded wisely, but four refused to meet his gaze and someone audibly huffed.
I felt I should give them something. “It’s not about the man’s guilt,” I said. “I’m also inclined to think he’s guilty. My problem lies with the process. In my view, the case isn’t proven.”
“Why not, for God’s sake. He’d got motive, means and opportunity.” This from the thirty-something woman with the dyed blonde hair.
“I get that,” I answered, “but so have other people. Her sister for one. She also fit the facts in evidence. We’ve got no actual witnesses, remember. Everything about this case is circumstantial.”
“What have you got against the sister? The police never thought she did it.”
“And that’s my problem in a nutshell. I think they focused their investigation too quickly.”
“So now you’re telling them how to do their job.” Again from the blonde.
“That’s not fair,” I said. “Their job is to prove the case to my satisfaction, and I don’t think they did that.” I was meaning to make a point. Instead, I made an enemy.
“Okay then,” said the older woman at the end of the table. “Tell me why you think it’s her.”
“Well I’m not sure do I think it’s her. It’s more that I think it could have been her, and that’s enough for reasonable doubt.”
“Oh, good grief.” Again from the overweight man. Macaulay stepped in.
“That doesn’t help, Arthur,” he said, then turned his attention back to me.
“So that’s your issue, is it? You can imagine some scenario where the sister might be guilty.”
“And you want to share that with us, see if we agree. You understand you have to be realistic. You can’t concoct a story out of thin air. It’s gotta fit the facts of the case at least as well the husband.” A delay then, “You want to do that?”
“Sure. Why not?” This felt good. At last he’d understood me. He’d got that I wasn’t just being difficult. I wasn’t really the bad guy.
“But if your answer doesn’t convince us, what next? You’d have to fall in line, vote guilty and let us go home.”
“I’m not sure I’ve agreed to that.”
Macaulay let his temper show. “Now you’re just being a jerk,” he said, but calming down he added. “Let’s understand your position. You’re saying the sister could have done it, but if we can show that’s too big a stretch, you’d stop with all your nonsense. You’d find the husband guilty, and we can get back to our lives.”
An academic by training, I shouldn’t be asked to serve on juries. It’s not in my nature to come to conclusions, but I’d been caught by his logic. If I couldn’t show the sister as a viable alternative, I’d have to find the man guilty. If it wasn’t her, it had to be him. Reluctantly I said, “Okay.”
“About time,” from the old man in glasses.
“Let’s start with the rifle,” I said. “Ballistics confirm the wife was shot with the husband’s hunting rifle, meaning the killer had prior access to the basement and kitchen. Also, she was shot about five in the morning, her normal time for starting the day, meaning this person knew her habits.”
“You want to tell us something we don’t know.” Again from Arthur.
“I know its not in your nature,” I said, “but try to be patient and keep an open mind.” “Cut that out.” Macaulay spoke quickly before Arthur had time to react. “Just stick to your story.”
“Sorry. Okay then. We know the rifle was just used for hunting. It wouldn’t be needed until the fall, so if it went missing, no one would notice. Yes, it was locked in a basement cabinet, but the key was kept on a ring in the kitchen, so no problem there. And yes, the husband had easy access, just as he knew his wife’s habits, but so did her sister. She often babysat, so she’d be alone in the house. With the kid only nineteen months, he can’t be a witness. She’d plenty of time to take the rifle.”
A pause while they digested my story then, “Let’s look at the actual shooting. The wife was shot from outside the house through a hole in the kitchen window. That just needs a circular glass cutter, something you buy at most hardware stores. They’re cheap, so a cash sale with no record.”
I smiled I thought warmly at the others, but given their reaction, I may have looked smug. I thought I’d better continue. “They’re ideal for this situation. They’re easy to carry, they don’t make a noise, they’ll cut through double glazing, they won’t set off the alarm, and they don’t let go of the glass. Then you point the rifle through the hole. The noise and flash are inside the house so no one will notice. We know the neighbours heard nothing. It might have woken the kid, but he’s too young to be helpful. There’s no footprints to check. Concrete sidewalk outside the window. The killer also wore gloves so there’s no finger prints. The hole was only four feet off ground, so nothing about the killer’s height. If they hadn’t used the husband’s gun, she might have been shot by anyone, so why not by the sister? In fact, by using the husband’s rifle, it’s almost like setting him up. Wouldn’t it make more sense for him to get a disposable gun?”
“You said why not the sister?” This from Macaulay. “You can’t leave it like that. You can’t just say why not. You have to say why.”
“Point well made,” I told him, “ but let me come back on that.” It looked like he wanted to argue but I held up my hand.
I started again. “I want to begin by talking about security cameras. There’s CCTV everywhere. They’re at traffic signals. On bank machines. On city buses. Businesses. Even the motel parking lot. With so many cameras around, why are there no pictures? Do you remember his excuse for spending the night alone in that motel?”
“He said he’d found a note on his windshield.” This from the older woman. “He told us his girlfriend had wanted to meet him that night at that motel. The note had said she’d important good news she needed to share. Apparently, this message was typed, and he was told to destroy it. He booked the room and waited for her, but she never showed. He says he spent all night there alone.”
“And you believe him,” said the dyed blonde.
“Utter nonsense,” said the older woman. “It insults our intelligence.”
“But if he’d come out of the room,” I said, “and used his truck, he’d be on CCTV. There’s only two ways he avoids being seen. One is he doesn’t leave the room. The other is if he walks to the house. About two hundred yards behind the motel, there’s a system of public footpaths that connects with the sub-division where he lives. He could exit the room by the back window, make his way through the bush as far as the trail, then walk to the house and never appear on any cameras. It’s only six miles. If he left about two-thirty, he’d be there in ample time to cut the hole, shoot her about five, and be back in bed for six-thirty. Nobody uses unlit secluded trails in the dark, though apparently, he didn’t want to risk being seen carrying a rifle, so he buried it in the bush, never expecting the cops to use a metal detector.
“Now that troubles me. It makes no sense. With only the kid in the house, there’s no one to sound the alarm. We only find out she’s dead when he comes home and sees the body. That means he’d plenty of time to dispose of the rifle, and as for running into people on the trails, they’d be using flashlights so he’d see them coming a mile away. So is he really that dumb, cos leaving the rifle for others to find seems almost a plant. Why don’t we break for coffee. When we come back, I’ll try to explain why I feel this doesn’t add up.”
“The girlfriend says she never sent any note.” This from the blonde.
“And I’m sure she didn’t. You could tell from her testimony, she wasn’t that into him. For her, it was just another fling, so why would she bother with lying. But if there wasn’t a note from her, why did he choose to stay at that motel? The obvious answer is that it’s a made-up story, but why risk your entire defence on something that asinine. It’s so pathetic, you sort of wonder if it could be true. You saw him in court. He’s kind of childish and rather naive, and he’s clearly besotted with the girlfriend. You gotta think some kind of note might work on a guy that desperate, but a type written note? It could have been written by anyone. So here’s my point. If he’s lying about the note, then clearly he’s guilty. But if he’s not lying, just stupid and naive, then the note could be real. If it’s not from the girlfriend, who else would write it? Could the sister have him lured him to the motel?″
“I still think he did it.”
“That’s not what I asked. I asked if this guy might be dumb enough to fall for a note, and if that note might have come from the sister.”
“So you’re also saying the sister knew about the affair?”
“I guess I am saying that. Well, she did tell us the wife was concerned about the way he’d been acting, and it’s a small town. The sister knew people who knew the girlfriend, who also had a bit of a name. It’s hard to keep secrets in small gossipy places, so I think there’s every chance the sister knew about the affair.”
“She said not.”
“Of course she said not, but that’s in her interest, isn’t it. Why would she incriminate herself?”
“Yeah, I guess. Go on then.”
“Now the sister lives just fourteen miles away, but how does she get there and back in time and still avoid CCTV. She can’t use a vehicle, and it would take too long to walk, but what about a bicycle. She can ride the same trails. I’ll bet she knows back ways from her house that reach these trails without passing any cameras. If she uses a bike, she’s plenty of time to get there and back. If she leaves early enough, she’s also got time to go by the motel and check for his truck. If that’s not there, he’s likely at home and she knows to cancel.
“She said she was asleep in bed with her husband that night, and apparently he confirmed her story, but if he was fully asleep, how would he know? Let’s say she got a few sleeping pills and slipped them into his night time drink. She told us they’d gone to bed early, that her husband was extra tired from work, and they both slept through until morning. But he gets up about seven, so if he was out of it all night, she’d have no alibi. She could easily leave about two-thirty, there’s no noise with a bike, and be back in bed by six-thirty. No one using the trails in the night, and no one would notice a bike in the suburbs at six in the morning. What do you think? Does she have means and opportunity?”
“What happens to this bike?”
“Again, no problem. A cash sale so no record, and she’s got a minivan. She throws it in the back then leaves it somewhere to be stolen?”
“Can she even do this journey in the time? It’s twenty-eight miles round trip and she doesn’t look that fit.”
“That’s a good point but there’s also plenty of cheap power assist bikes. She doesn’t need top of the line. She only uses it once. Again a cash sale then leave it to be stolen. That would work.”
“Okay, I get it.” This from the older woman at the end, “but why would she even do it? Why would she want to kill her sister?”
I glanced at her and then at Macaulay, hoping to judge their expressions. They were the sharpest in the room. If I could reach them, the others wouldn’t matter.
Time to close. “Again, I don’t know that she did. My objection is that she wasn’t properly eliminated as a suspect. I don’t believe the cops made enough effort to investigate her, focusing on the husband from the start. I also think the husband’s lawyer failed his client badly. He should have checked her out, or at least gone after her during cross examination. She’s the obvious alternate, but he gave her an easy ride, so here’s my point. Because she’s now the next of kin, I can imagine two motivations.
“One is the wife’s insurance. If the husband’s found guilty, he can’t inherit. The sister then gets all the money. It would be nice to know if she needed it, but nobody bothered to check that. It’s three hundred thousand. That’s money worth having.
“Two, the sister’s got no kids. We already know she likes to babysit. Does she have a thing for children? This would be instant family. Can she have kids of her own, and does she want them? Again, some background would be nice.”
“That’s pure speculation,” said Macaulay. “You’ve no facts about her to back this up.” “But also none to knock this down. Because of the poor police work, I’ve been left to speculate.”
“No way,” said the older woman. “I don’t beliueve there was any note, or any bike, or she had any motive. None of this works for me.”
“Well, it does for me. There’s reasonable doubt.”
“And letting him off on a technicality goes against my sense of justice.”
“And ignoring due process doesn’t matter? Why even bother having a trial if that’s how you feel. I’m guessing you don’t think women do violent crimes.”
“Do you know how rude you are?”
“So now it’s about if you like me or not.”
“Get off your high horse. Even you think he’s guilty.”
“Not the point.”
She slammed her writing pad down on the table. “I can’t work with this man any longer.” Macaulay sighed and rang the bailiff. “Come and get us,” he said. “It’s all over. We’ve got a hung jury.”