Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Flashback: The Sentence

Through the end of the year, Kurt is re-running some of his favorite Friday Flash Fiction stories. If you like this one, it--and a hundred similar stories--can be purchased on Kindle in a new collection.

The Sentence
Word Count: 598

“James Humphrey Harvey—having been found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder, three counts of fraud, half a count of first-degree manslaughter, twelve counts of criminal negligence contributing to a homicide, six counts of depraved indifference contributing to a homicide, one count of aggravating a baboon (also contributing to a homicide) one count of grand larceny, one count of stealing a government vehicle, one count of wrongfully imprisoning a government official, one count of wrongfully imprisoning a government official’s nice lady-friend, sixty-seven counts of impersonating a licensed zookeeper, three counts of aggravated assault, two counts of grand theft auto, the strangest count of forgery I’ve ever heard of in all my years on the bench, and one count of attempting to defraud the Federal Government—you are hereby sentenced to serve a term of not less than sixty years, and not longer than your natural life, in a facility to be determined by the department of corrections; additionally, you will be required to make restitution to the families of Jake Corman, all of the residents of Willoughby Lane, the families of the owners of the Laurel Park Petting Zoo, the City Council of Westphalia, the mayor, that nice young lady who was traveling with the mayor—also, I personally think you owe an apology to the mother of that poor baboon—as well as all of the members of the VFW Men’s Chorus who donated their time and their pensions to your ludicrous scheme and, since the court gives me some leeway in how restitution is to be made, I decree that you will spend at least twenty days of your prison sentence wearing that damned chicken suit that you tried to convince Mr. Corman was waterproof, and I want you to go door to door to every resident of Westphalia—including the residents of Willoughby Lane, once their houses are rebuilt—and get down on your knees and beg them to forgive you for your greed, your reckless endangerment of human and animal life, and your irrevocable, unpardonable, inexcusable stupidity with regards to the proper care and storage of incendiary devices, and, while I am the first to admit that no one—no one—will ever forget little Jakey’s sixth birthday party or the high speed limo chase that preceded it, there was no real expectation that you would produce a baboon, no indication that anyone thought you were serious or sober when you made that promise, and every reason to think that Jake would have forgiven you for not producing a baboon and even if that weren’t the case, acquiring one at gunpoint seems like a poorly thought-out plan, as does transporting it in a commandeered motorcade, and even if you had made it to Mexico that evening, I’m certain that the Mexican authorities would have had no problem extraditing you back to the United States to stand trial, especially if they bothered to spend ten minutes in a room with you first; furthermore, and I mean this with all sincerity, if I ever hear about you going within a hundred feet of a child’s birthday party—presence of a baboon notwithstanding—I will drive to a state with loose gun ownership restrictions, buy the biggest firearm I can afford, track you down, shoot you once in the head and once in the chest, and then turn myself in to face whatever consequences are coming to me and, frankly, the world will be a far, far safer and a far, far better place for it.”

Carolyn had been editing my pieces for a few months when I pitched this to her: a six-hundred word story that consisted of a single sentence. Her response was "Why would you do that to me?" So, of course, I had to go through with it.

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