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Ready ... Fire ... Aim!
Posted on Apr 14, 2011
By Mr. Fish
“Noes,” I said, without turning around to look at her, instead looking at Alan, who looked at his watch and then at a nonexistent bit of dirt on his shirt sleeve, fiddling with it, and then back at his watch, mesmerized by the thrill ride of his own cowardice.
“Nose–?” she said.
“N-o-e-s,” I said, spelling it out, “noes.” It’s the only answer I can think to give to a question that requires both a yes and a no answer. Yes, answering the literal part of the question, I know that stealing is prosecutable, and no, answering the subtext, I don’t agree with the implication that I deserve to be prosecuted.”
“This isn’t a joke, Mr. Booth,” she said to the back of my head, refusing to acknowledge the absolute seriousness with which I didn’t give a shit about her insistence that she be allowed to remain the only prick in the room. “Employee theft is not funny, and the fact that you think it is gives a lot of insight into why my office has you under investigation,” she said.
“Can I get back to work now?” I said to Alan, ignoring her. “This is stupid. I promise that I’ll stop signing the cashier’s names to the receipts.” Alan looked past me to answer the contempt in Heddy Markel’s eyes with a psychic blow job submissive enough to suggest itself as a spirited rehearsal for putting a gun barrel in his mouth. Markel glared back at him, her gaze cutting through me like an X-ray in search of a tumor that only her incessant searching could cause.
“Mr. Booth, do you have a previous criminal record that the authorities need to know about before we proceed?”
“See to it that he doesn’t leave, Alan,” she said before stepping into the hallway and once again closing the door behind herself, presumably to brief the death squad, real or imagined, that she had sequestered in the other room to help with my apprehension.
With my paranoia suddenly yanked out of my body and left to run around the room like a chicken with its allowance cut off, I imagined what she wanted me to imagine: That I had already been tried and found guilty and that I was going to be fired and arrested, and that if I’d only done what she had asked me to do and confessed to a crime that I hadn’t committed then perhaps she might’ve shown some leniency and rewarded me with a much lighter sentence. I wondered why she seemed so hellbent on seeing me swing from the gallows in the first place. Could it be as simple as her department needing to fill a quota? Was she merely scapegoating me because a rat catcher, once the rats become scarce, will begin snatching hamsters and then, after that, stuffed socks fitted with pipe cleaner whiskers, plastic googly eyes and shoelace tails?
Then again, even if I hadn’t stolen any money, I had taken magazines and newspapers without paying for them, so why quibble over the trajectory that my punishment followed to reach me? After all, when an arsonist is falsely accused of drug dealing and put in jail there are just as many acres spared from fire as there would be had the arsonist actually been jailed for arson. But then there was the question of the moral base from which the terms of the punishment originate. Is there ever a situation when stealing is misconstrued to be wrong simply because it is unpopular, like some form of atheism leveled against the god of Capitalism?
I looked over at Alan, who was watching me and biting his fingernails like an animal trying to gnaw itself out of a trap. I looked away and asked myself another question: If a crime is so named a crime because it is a threat to the health and well-being of a society, how effective can the punishment of arrest and imprisonment be in treating the perceived illness? In other words, how does the removal of a single cancer cell act as an effective deterrent against an ailing body’s predisposition to grow cancer cells? I wondered if maybe society itself was the sickness and that crime was merely the antibody released by the immune system to combat the disease of social restraint and large-scale blind allegiance to state power, or what might otherwise be called the buffalo over the cliff mentality. Maybe stealing money from a corporation is always justifiable when the levels of success of corporations are determined by how well they are able to subvert a community’s humanitarian code of ethics and replace it with a demoralizing economic code that makes paramount the importance of an ever-increasing profit margin.
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