Friday, February 29, 2008

Under The Microscope

This one ought to spark some comments. Stay with the story all the way to the end, I think it'll be worth it.
A man in a white lab coat tapped a pencil on his clipboard, and then addressed the man sitting in front of him. “Okay sir, Thank you for volunteering to help us with our study. Just relax and answer the questions as honestly as possible. This test will serve as a profile of you that will help us catalogue your personality to prioritize the importance of your social hierarchy.”

The man bore a confused demeanor. “Could you repeat that please?”

He smiled warmly. “Sure. Simply put, we are trying to determine what is most important to you between family and country. I am studying how people prioritize the two most important aspects of their…”

“What about God?” He interrupted.

“I’m sorry?”

“What about where we place God in your equation? You know, God, country, family?” He could tell that the psychologist didn’t understand. The researcher was probably only a student.

“What does God have to do with priorities?” He wasn’t sarcastic.

“Well, everything. Without God, what is the purpose of prioritizing anything?”

“But sir, God doesn’t exist. Even if He did, He wouldn’t be tangible enough to figure into my study.” He flipped through his notes and refocused his thoughts.

“God doesn’t believe in atheists.” The man said, matter-of-factly.

“I’m sorry?”

“God doesn’t believe in atheists. Just because you don’t believe, doesn’t mean He doesn’t fit in or exist. And since He exists, He should figure into your equation.”

The doctor placed his clipboard on the table and stopped the recorder. “I’m sorry, Mr. Boone, but my study doesn’t include any religious aspects. It’s purely a social study that evaluates how you prioritize between family and country.”

“I see. Why are you doing this study?”

“Hmm…that’s a good question.” He smiled eagerly. “You see, I have noticed that as the nuclear family breaks apart, our society seems to become less patriotic and more self-centered.” He picked up his clipboard and cleared his voice.

Boone was ready to answer him. “Oh, that’s easy. It’s because we removed God from our culture.”

“I’m sorry?”

“You see, when we removed the Ten Commandments from the schools, our children no longer had a moral and ethical standard to follow. This paved the way for Post-Modernism to begin to devalue humanity. The sanctity of human life is lost. Special interest groups like homosexuals begin to demand rights, now that our moral and ethical system is displaced, and the Tolerance Movement makes Christianity seem hateful and narrow-minded.”

“Yes, well, I see…” he shuffled paperwork for a moment. “That’s all well and good, but I’m trying to identify a possible missing link between people and patriotism.”

“Well, missing link could be the key phrase. When Darwin suggested the Theory of Evolution and began to seek out the ‘missing link’ between men and primates, he helped remove God from our culture. Once God was gone, people no longer felt they were accountable to anything or anyone and could live as they saw fit. In essence, they became very self-serving and sought out only pleasure.”

“Yes, well…”

Boone pressed on. “Well, it makes perfect sense! Don’t you see? Take those Muslim countries over there.” He pointed across the room and the doctor’s eyes followed his fingers. “Those people are devoted to their god and are very national and patriotic. Over here, where there is no God, we serve ourselves first and our country second.”

“Hmm…” he picked up his clipboard once again. “That’s all fine, but for now let’s get back to the questions. If you had to stop a terrorist from killing your wife or a stranger, who would you save if you could only save one of them?”

“It depends.”

The doctor shook his head. “No, you only have to say your wife or the stranger. It’s your only choice.”

“That’s preposterous! There are too many variables.”


“Of course. You see, my wife is a Christian and I know that if she dies then she goes to Heaven. But the stranger… do I know if the stranger is a Christian or not?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

Boone nodded. “Sure it does. How could I send someone to eternity to face God on the Great Throne of Judgment if they aren’t saved?”

The doctor exhaled slowly. “All religion aside, who would you pick?”

“Well, I guess I would have to pick the stranger.”

“Really?” Surprise was evident on his face. “Is it because you don’t love her?”

“My wife?” Boone scowled. “Don’t be silly. That would make me a murderer, which would cause me to violate the 10 Commandments.”

“A murderer? But the terrorist is the one who shoots her, not you.”

“Ah, but Jesus told us that if we have hate in our hearts toward anyone, then we have already committed murder in our hearts.”

“I didn’t say hate, I asked if you didn’t love her.”

“Absence of love is hate, right?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know…let’s move on.” He made some notes and then asked, “If you had an opportunity to make love to the person of your dreams with absolutely no repercussions at all, and your wife would never know, would you do it?”

“Of course not.”

“Why not?”

“God would know. And that would be a violation of the 10 Commandments.”

The doctor bowed his head. “Remember, Mr. Boone, God doesn’t fit into our study.”

“Oh yeah, I keep forgetting that part.”

The doctor was impatient. “Well?”

“Well what?”

“Would you do it?”

Boone shrugged. “I thought we already covered that. Of course not.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s wrong. There is no allowance for sex outside of marriage. I would be sinning against myself, the woman, my wife, my children, my family…”

“All right,” he interrupted. “I get your point. Next question, if your wife was sick and about to die, but you could not afford the medicine that would cure her, would you steal it and save her?”

Boone shook his head. “No!”


“Of course not. That makes me a thief and violates the 10 Commandments.”

“But…” he checked his notes.

“But what?”

“But you are supposed to choose to save your wife.”

“And steal?”
It was the doctor’s turn to shrug. “Yes. It’s only medicine. It’s not like it’s money or a personal possession.”

“How could I do that and sin against my God? And in doing so, violate everything I stand for and believe in? Besides, God is not impressed with the value of the item stolen; He only sees the act itself…” he observed the researcher’s reaction. “What’s the matter?”

The doctor hesitated a moment while collecting his thoughts. “You see, there are different levels of truth. You are supposed to pick the one that saves your wife.”

“Then why ask me if you don’t want the truth?”

“I do want it. I just know what it is before you answer.”

Boone’s eyes narrowed. “Not in this case.”

“Seriously? You would let your wife die, just over a few dollars?” The doubt in his voice was evident.

“My convictions in God tell me that He has appointed a day in which we will die. We needn’t concern ourselves with that. If God wants her to live, then He will heal her. If He is ready to take her home, then she will die. It’s not my choice.”

The doctor scratched his head. “But it’s supposed to be your choice.”

“But it’s not. God alone has the power of life or death. We exist according to His will.”

The doctor shook his head. “You aren’t supposed to think that way.”

Boone caught his eyes for a moment. “Do you have children?”


“Wouldn’t you choose to die in their place if it would save them?”

He didn’t hesitate. “No.”


“That wouldn’t be true to me. Their life is of no greater value than mine.”

“Doc, you can’t be serious.” It was Boone’s turn to be doubtful.

“As a heart attack.”

“Look Doc…” He stopped. “Oh I see. You are a post-modernist.”

“Define that.” He was smug.

“It means that you don’t see any sense in a universe that sprang from nothing and evolved into meaningless life forms without design or designer.”

“In that case, yes.”

Boone pressed him hard. “Do you know Pete Singer?”

“Well, yes. He is one of my colleges and a professor at Princeton. Why?”

“Because he suggested that killing a disabled infant isn’t morally equivalent to killing a person. He went on to suggest that the life of a new born baby holds less value than the life of an animal.”

“Yes, that seems about right.”

“Then you would choose to die in order to save that lab rat over there?” Boone pointed at a cage across the room.

“Well, yes. The rat is innocent and cannot defend itself.”

“But not your child?”

“He is only a new born. He is just an infant. His life has no meaning.”

Boone sat speechless. He stood up then reached into his pocket. “Well, we’ll see about that.” He pulled out a pocketknife and produced a blade, walking to the caged rat.

The doctor jumped out of his seat. “Now see here!”

Boone reached for the cage door and the doctor put his hand on his sleeve. “Stop it!”

Boone spun around and held the knife at his throat. “Okay, Doc. It’s your call. Who dies? You or the rat?”

“But, but…” he stammered. “You can’t be serious.”

“Try me. Are you willing to bet your life on it?” He dug the knife into his neck and a small trickle of blood ran down his skin. “You make the call. Save yourself or save the rat.”

“Oh!” He started whimpering. “The rat.”

Boone shrugged and pressed harder with the knife until the doctor squeeled. “Stop, for the love of God, stop!”

“Are you saving yourself?”

“No.” He breathed heavily. “It’s just that you will be breaking the 10 Commandments if you kill me. That would violate your convictions.”

Boone smiled. “But Doc, you forgot. God doesn’t exist.”

“Oh yes He does, my mama told me so.”

“Then you better make peace with Him, because you are about to be in His presence.”

“Oh God!” He whimpered. “Please, no… I have a family, I have kids. Please have mercy.”

Boone grinned maliciously. “But you said yourself that your son is irrelevant. Remember, you are the atheist here, not me.”

“But,” the doctor looked at the ceiling. “There are no atheists in fox holes.”

“Ah, you are only trying to save your own skin, but…” with that, he released the doctor, who fell to the floor and grabbed his neck.

Now free, he was courageous. “I’m going to file charges against you.”

“It’s my word against yours.”

“Hah! No, it’s not! I was recording everything.”

“No you weren’t, you shut it off, remember?”

With a gasp, the doctor sprang from the floor and looked at the desk. His recorder was placed on pause the entire time. “Oh man…” he grumbled.

“Doctor, you need some new convictions, I believe that you have just outgrown your old ones.”

“You were going to kill me.”

Boone held up his weapon. Instead of a knife, he was holding a comb. Blood was oozing from a pinched mark on his hand.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Skinny on Cows

Things have been hard the last few weeks, and I think we could all use a smile. I know I could, I used the nice long President's day weekend to experiment with the flu, which I graciously shared with my wife and kids. I'm starting to feel human again, thank God.

By the way, those that live in the Roswell, New Mexico area are invited to visit me at the Hasting's book store in Roswell this afternoon (Saturday, Feb 23, 08) from 1pm to 3pm. I've been looking forward to this visit due to the large number of requests. As is common to Roswell, I'm sure the book signing will be out of this world.

Now, I'm going to depart from the ordinary and avoid one of my short stories. (Please hold your applause to only three minutes.) I have no idea who origionally created The Skinny on Cows, but when I read it, I had to laugh out loud (LOL for those of you born before 1990). So, I take no credit for this tacky insight into government affairs around the world, but I do hope you enjoy sharing a well deserved laugh.



You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being successful. You vote people into office that put a tax on your cows, forcing you to sell one to raise money to pay the tax. The people you voted for then take the tax money, buy a cow and give it to your neighbor. You feel righteous.
Barbara Streisand sings for you.

You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor. You form a cooperative to tell him how to manage his cow.

You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So?

You have two cows. The government seizes both and provides you with milk. You wait in line for hours to get it. It is expensive and sour.

You have two cows. You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.

You have two cows. The government taxes you to the point you have to sell both to support a man in a foreign country who has only one cow, which was a gift from your government.

You have two cows. The government takes them both, shoots one, milks the other, pays you for the milk, and then pours the milk down the drain.

You have two cows. You sell one, lease it back to yourself and do an IPO on the 2nd one. You force the two cows to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when one cow drops dead. You spin an announcement to the analysts stating you have downsized and are reducing expenses. Your stock goes up.

You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows. You go to lunch. Life is good. A foreign country invades, you and your cows surrender.

You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. They learn to travel on unbelievably crowded trains. Most are at the top of their class at cow school.

You have two cows. You engineer them so they are all blond, drink lots of beer, give excellent quality milk, and run a hundred miles an hour. They also invade France every 40 years or so. Unfortunately, they also demand 13 weeks of vacation per year.

You have two cows but you don't know where they are. While ambling around, you see a beautiful woman. You break for lunch. Life is good.

You have two cows. You have some vodka. You count them and learn you have five cows. You have some more vodka. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. The Mafia shows up and takes over however many cows you really have.

You have all the cows in Afghanistan, which are two. You don't milk them because you cannot touch any creature's private parts. Then you kill them and claim a US bomb blew them up while they were in the hospital.

You have two bulls. Employees are regularly maimed and killed attempting to milk them.

You have a black cow and a brown cow. Everyone votes for the best looking one. Some of the people, who like the brown one best, vote for the black one. Some people vote for both. Some people vote for neither. Some people can't figure out how to vote at all. Finally, a bunch of guys from out-of-state tell you which is the best-looking one.

You have fifteen million cows. You have to choose which one will be the leader of the herd, so you pick some fat cow from Arkansas.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Talk

I hope everyone had a swell Valentine's Day. I know I did. I want to change directions a little and do something different. Believe it or not, this story is predicated upon real events. I had to recreate some of the particulars, but the conversation was remarkably similar to what I recorded. Believe it or not.


I was waiting for a bus one day on a busy morning; at least it was busy for me. This fact seemed to be oblivious to the rest of the world, for not one person saw that I was desperately trying to polish an urgent letter that would decide my future. As fate had it, a young man sat down and began conversing with me. At first, I politely nodded, hoping he would interpret my silence as lack of interest. However, this young man rambled on. He was no Forrest Gump, but I put away my letter and began to record his verbiage on my laptop. Now mind you, I was totally unresponsive while he rambled on seemingly without breath.

“…have you ever flirted with some one? I mean, not that I am flirting with you, because I'm not. You’re a guy, just like me, and I don’t like men. Well, I like them, but I don’t like like them, ya know what I mean? Gee, I hope you don’t like me in a bad way, ‘cause I was going to ask you about that girl standing over there. She is really cute but she would never like a guy like me. Oh well, it’s better to have lost love than to have loved at all, or something like that, right? I always say that you’ve buttered your bread, now lay in it, and the early worm leaves sleeping dogs lay. Know what I mean?

“Have you ever had a gun pointed at you? ‘Cause I have and it is a weird feeling. In fact, it made me want to say it and then do it. Do you understand? What I did was to hide in a closet and feel how warm those coats were. Gee, that was an experience I will never forget.

“Can you imagine owning a rabbit with pointed ears? Well, I had a rabbit that had pointed ears when I was little. Did you own a rabbit when you were young? I mean, I am not saying that you aren’t young, ‘cause you aren’t, young that is. I mean old. You aren’t old. Well, I mean you are old, ‘cause you are older than me. What are you, thirty? See, I’m twenty and that makes you older than I am, but not real old, even though you are. I just can’t imagine how terrible it must be to be old and not know it. You do understand that I am not calling you old, right? I know that you know that you think you are old, but I know that you are, but you are not so terribly old that you can’t work or nothin’. I think old people are tha bomb!

“Are you a pot licker? Well, don’t look so funny, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. After all, I think we’ve all done it. Well, my mother says it’s not polite to ask someone what they do at home in private. She says it’s like asking someone if they defecate in the restroom, but I’m not sure what that means. I think it’s like telling someone that their epidermis is showing, or saying that you’re a thespian. My momma always asked me why I was slumbering in my bed, but I told her that I really tried not to. She also says that I am a bad speaker as far as English goes. How could she say that? Haven’t you understood everything I am tellin’ you? ‘Cause I know what adverbs and stuff are. They are those things in sentences that show action or possession or ownership, or something like that.

“My momma also says that I can’t talk smart. Well, I know big words. Watch this: Your propensity to philanthropy is prodigious. See? I can use big words, and they sound just as smart from me as they do from you. I am not saying that you aren’t smarter than me, ‘cause you are. Or at least you probably are, ‘cause I wouldn’t have any way of knowing except to postulate that you are smart just from our conversation. I can tell by the way you talk that you are smart. After all, you carry around that typewriter thing and only smart people carry those around.

“Do ya think that the stock market will stay strong even though they are experiencing fluctuations in the Asian markets? After all, the European markets are stable right now, and I suppose that they lean upon the surging growth of Wall Street to provide a catalyst for their own future growth. At least that is what the news guy said this morning. Do you ever listen to the news? I do because I have an inquiring mind. I want to know!

“Ya know what? There is something else I am wondering about, have you ever been to church? Of course you have, I know ‘cause I haven’t heard you cuss or nothing’. Anyway, when I was little and in Sunday school, we used to sing a song about a cross eyed teddy bear named Gladly. Do you remember that song? Here, I will sing it for you, ‘Gladly, the cross-eyed bear…’ that is all I remember. Oh yeah, I also remember that some dude in the Bible named Isaiah had a horse and he went around all the time saying, ‘Woe isme’. I think that Isme is a pretty dumb name for a horse, but I think that those men shouldn’t wear dresses, either. We also sang Amazing Grapes. I liked that song. Can you believe how stupid some people are? My little brother thought that God’s name was Andy just ‘cause of that song that goes, ‘And he walks with me…’ He is so stupid. I always say that when God was passing out brains he thought God said trains, so he got at the back of the line so he could ride the caboose. Hey man, where are you going? The bus hasn’t gotten here yet!”

Those were the last words I heard him speak. Believe it or not, I left strictly for his benefit. After all, the poor fellow had to breath at some point, his face was turning blue.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Valentine's Day--A Man's Perspective

Let me speak clearly: I hate Valentine’s Day. Now, before I completely loose my audience, let me explain, and then I will back-peddle like a champ.

I am morally offended that we as a culture have allowed peer pressure, expectations, and capitalistic marketing ploys to demand our participation in an event that we should have observed on a daily basis. I want everyone to understand: I’m not opposed to displaying my affections for the love of my life, but I despise the fact that I’m being forced to participate in a marketing scheme of gargantuan proportions—all at the risk of mortally wounding my wife if I fail to meet the expectations thrust upon me by my culture. I despise the message Valentine’s Day sends to our children. I hate the way Valentine’s Day makes men believe that if they provide flowers once a year to their wives, then they have met their obligations. Finally, I am angry at the pressure placed upon dating couples to engage in forbidden activities on Valentine’s Day.

That being said, let me run for cover. I mentioned that I love my wife. She’s the greatest thing that has happened to me beyond my salvation and my children. To say that I didn’t deserve to woo such a captivating woman is unnecessary. I know my limitations, and I know how hard I can be to live with.

I try to continually remind my wife how much I love her and respect her. So, why must I participate in a day that has been commercialized by profiteers? I’m the first to admit that I don’t always succeed at demonstrating my love to my wife. I’m a flawed man, and, despite my grandest efforts, I occasionally fail to treat my wife as she deserves to be treated. But must I be forced by our culture to bend to marketing pressure?

Consider this: What is the message we are sending to our children when we load them up with 3 or 4 dozen Valentine’s cards to distribute amongst their friends? Isn’t Valentine’s supposed to be about your one true love? What kind of mixed message are we giving by handing out a card to EVERY boy or girl in the class and declaring that they are your one unique love? How many children will ask countless others to “be mine?”

Furthermore, if you are in a marriage or relationship that requires a reminder on February 14th, to offer a token of your love, then the relationship needs to be tuned up a little. Shouldn’t Valentine’s Day be a regular event in your love life, rather than an annual obligation?

I have steadfastly refused to participate in Valentine’s Day for the past few years. Out of protest, I offer flowers to my wife and daughter either before the 14th or after the 14th, but never, ever on the 14th. Am I being silly? Perhaps, but the peer pressure, which is driven by marketing mechanisms, offends me greatly.

I can further explain my position by describing what happens on a typical cruise ship. On most cruises, there is a special evening set aside called the formal night. On this night, the passengers dress up in their finest attire and dine and dance in the lap of luxury. Most men loathe this event. Now, allow me to insert what might seem like a contradiction to my argument at this point. I not only participate in the formal night, but I encourage all men to participate in this event. To most men, it is a nuisance to dress up and parade around in clothing they are unfamiliar with, and participate in events with which they are foreign. How selfish!

Women are not like men. To them, a special night of pampering is the most romantic date imaginable. For a man, it would be the equivalent of a wife going hunting with her husband, and then proceeding to join him at the Super Bowl, followed by a night of exciting, daring conjugation. Most men would give their right arm for a woman that would participate in such a date. So, why would a man refuse to treat his wife to a special date that is equivalent in the opposite extreme?

Having made that point, allow me to say that Valentine’s Day is not supposed to be an annual reminder that we have been stuck together for another year. A relationship needs to be developed and cultivated, as one would any other passion in their life. Romance is a life long intimacy that needs to be coveted dearly. The practical aspect of a curious glance across a crowded room is often unavailable for most couples. However, there are other elements of romance that will take your relationship just as far. For instance, helping change diapers, wash dishes, or helping with the daily chores might score more points than a vase of flowers.

Of course, one can never go wrong with a slow dance, a kiss in the rain, roasting marshmallows in the fireplace, or long stem roses.

A final thought. I am concerned that Valentine’s Day has become focused on sexuality and dark red lingerie. Those things are fine for married couples, but a separate peer pressure occurs among dating couples to share with each other what isn’t available to be given away. I can only imagine the pressures faced by Christians who are trying to date in a world experiencing the most vulgar of sexual revolutions pressed upon us in last few hundreds of years.

My point is, we should resist the urge to participate in Valentine’s Day simply because we are expected to participate in it. Romance should be a regular event for every couple, not a once a year tooth extraction.

Friday, February 1, 2008


I'm ready to try another short story. I think you will enjoy this one, even though it might be a little strange.
“Okay, we go live in 3… 2….” Then the cameraman’s voice was silent and he pointed at the reporter.

“This is newswoman Shara Livingstone broadcasting live from Purgatory State Prison where Governor Smith announced two days ago, a shocking across the board pardon for all the inmates held here at Purgatory. The Governor stated that he loved the people in his state so much that he was compelled to offer blanket amnesty. The only condition to be released was that each prisoner had to ask forgiveness for his crimes, accept the pardon from Governor Smith, and live a life dedicated to fighting crime. Many prisoners have been set free over the course of the last two days and can be seen walking around the prison. However, we have just learned that many of the prisoners held in Purgatory Prison were refusing to leave their cells. Joining us now is Cell Block Lieutenant Imp, “Lieutenant, can you tell us what happening inside the cell blocks right now?”

Imp scowled a moment and then commented, “It seems that most of the prisoners refuse to leave their cells. They just won’t believe that they have been forgiven by the Governor.”

“What are they telling you? Have they offered a reason why the prisoners refuse to leave?”

“They know in their hearts that they don’t deserve to be forgiven, therefore they will stay in their cells.”

“But the Governor has made it easy to be released. Haven't they been told how easy it is to just leave their cells and never return?”

Imp scowled again. “Oh they were told. Some of the Governor’s men walked through the whole prison and made their announcement.”

“What were the reactions of the prisoners?”

“Most of them refused to believe their good luck. But then the first fellow tried his cell door and walked away. It was the dogonedest thing. His cell was locked and then he asked forgiveness for his crimes, and then the cell door just popped open. Heck, we didn’t want to let him go. We knew that fellow was a thief. But after he was given amnesty, there wasn’t anything we could do to keep him there. Some of the fellows tried to get him to denounce his amnesty, but that thief wouldn’t have any part of it.”

“Why would the guards try to keep him in there if the Governor set him free?”

“Well heck, they are guilty and don’t deserve to be set free. Besides, what will we do for jobs if all the prisoners leave the Purgatory Prison?”

Shara Livingstone turned and pointed at the large gothic prison to her right. “Lieutenant, you have agreed to escort us through the cell block. Shall we begin our tour?”

“Might as well. Okay, you go through this here door and you will be inside of Cell Block One.”

“Shouldn’t the door be secured? It’s wide open.”

“The Governor ordered us to open the prison doors. We argued that all the prisoners would leave, but surprisingly, they ain’t left yet. We just keep on doing our jobs. As long as they refuse to leave, then we can keep on getting paid.”

“But don’t you care that their debts against society have been forgiven?”

“So long as it serves my purpose, I don’t care.”

“Okay, I’m now standing inside Cell Block One. Behind me and to my right are many rows of cells. You can see that bars separate and define one cell from the other. My first reaction to this prison is the smell. Lieutenant, can you tell me what that horrible smell is?”

“That is their own filth. All the garbage that they brink with them and all the sewage that they generate here. We don’t offer any toilets or showers here.”

“Isn’t that inhumane?”

“What do I care? So long as I have a job…”

“As I continue walking along, I am stunned by how dark it is here in Purgatory Prison. In fact, the further I go inside these walls, the brighter the light from the doorway that is the only opening to the outside. Lieutenant, why is it so dark in here?”

“Oh that serves several purposes.” He held up a finger as if to count. “For one, they can’t see all the filth that they are living in. B, if they are in the dark, they are easier to control. They don’t go getting a lot of ideas on their own. And third, as long as they can see that light, but can’t get to it, they stay miserable.”

“You sound like you want them to suffer.”

“They are guilty. Ever one of them deserves the death penalty. I hate to see them set free. They don’t deserve it.”

“But the Governor chose to forgive them. Shouldn’t you help them find that light?”

“Oh, they were told about that light. It’s up to them to choose to walk out of their prison. Some of them shout for joy and run out of here like a bull coming out of the chute havin’ just been branded.”

“Is that a prisoner in that cell there?”

“Yes ma’am, it is.” He hit the bars with his night stick. The prisoner flinched as the sight of the night stick. “Hey you! Get over here and talk to this reporter.”

The prisoner obediently stood to the bars. “Yes sir.”

“We have just been told that the Governor has granted you your freedom. All you have to do is accept the amnesty that was offered you. Why haven't you left?”

“Well, I don’t believe in the Governor.”

“Excuse me?”

“I don’t believe that the Governor exists.”

“Well that is ridiculous. Look around you. Can’t you see what the Governor has built here? This building had to have been built by the Governor. It was designed to be a prison.”

“No. It was here before I was born. I didn’t see anyone build it. As far as I’m concerned, this building has always been here.”

“But I hold in my hand the decree stating your freedom.”

“Okay, I’ll play your game. If you can make the Governor appear before me, then I will believe that he exists.”

“Well, I have no control over the Governor. Who am I to make him come and appear to you?”

He shrugged and smiled smugly at her.

“But didn’t you hear about the amnesty? Don’t you want to be set free from your prison?”

“No. This is the only life I know. From this comfortable room I have everything I need. Besides, if there is no Governor, then I don’t have to leave my cell.”

“So, you are choosing to stay here, even though you have been offered amnesty?”

“Isn’t that what I have been saying all along?”

“Yes, in fact it is. I just don’t understand it.” She turned to continue on her journey and the man grabbed a hold of the bars and shouted out at her. “Tell me this, misses Smarty Pants, who made the Governor? Huh? Tell me that?” He laughed at her.

The Lieutenant rapped his fingers with his baton and the man shrunk back into the darkness.

“Lieutenant, who is the man in the cell next door?”

“Hey you, get up and come here.” He beat the bars wickedly. “This is one of our best prisoners.”

A prisoner stood before them with tear-stained eyes. He refused to look at them and stared down at the floor.

“My name is Shara Livingstone and I want to know why you haven’t accepted the amnesty offered by the Governor.”

“I don’t deserve any amnesty. I am a very bad person. I deserve to be in this cell.”

“It doesn’t really matter how bad you were. The Governor has chosen to forgive you.”

“I know, but I just don’t deserve it. You have no idea how bad I was. The Governor could never forgive my crimes. I want to stay here.”

“But the amnesty is all encompassing. None of you deserve it; it is a gift to you. Why don’t you accept this gift?”

“Well, I know that part of the requirements is that you have to turn away from a life of crime. I can’t do that. I am too bad. I don’t deserve to be set free. I’m just too bad.”

“Thank you for your time.” The prisoner sadly turned from the bars and heaved gasping cries of sorrow from deep within his chest. He crumpled down on the filth and wept bitterly.

Shara watched him in amazement. “Lieutenant, who is in the next cell?”

“This joker is a nut case. The psychologist says that he is sane, but the guy just doesn’t make any sense.”

A man was standing at the bars when she stopped in front of him. “How do you do?”

She politely nodded to him. “Sir, I have a few questions about your life here in the prison…”

“What prison?”

“This prison. The one we are standing in.”

“I don’t know about you, but I’m not is a prison.” He looked at over to Imp. “Hey, Lieutenant, where did you scare this woman up?”

“Shut up and answer her questions so I can go back to my work.”

The man smiled warmly. “His bark is worse than his bite. So, what did you want to know?”

“The Governor has just announced amnesty to all the prisoners. Why haven’t you accepted his generous offer?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about. The Governor I know would never build a prison. He is a good man. He is a very loving Governor and would never impose on any of us.”

“But sir, you are in a prison that was built by the Governor.”

“Nonsense. I voted for the Governor. I chose him to oversee us. The man that I chose would never put anyone in a prison.”

“Oh yeah?” A gruff voice in the next cell yelled out. “I don’t even believe that the Governor is knowable.”

The man Shara was interviewing waved him off. “Don’t pay any attention to him. It is amazing how it’s human nature to assume that because we believe or don’t believe something, then that makes it true. This joker doesn’t believe in gravity either. Even though he can feel the effects of gravity, he refuses to believe in gravity. I keep telling him that gravity exists where he believes it or not. The Governor is knowable. I know him. I voted for him. And the man I voted for would never put any of us in a prison.”

“Oh yeah?” Another man yelled at them several cells down. “I read that amnesty announcement and I didn’t understand it.”

“Well, I read it,” a different man yelled back. “And it had a contradiction in it. Therefore, it can’t be right. Besides, one of the Governor’s aids wrote the document for him, it’s not really from the Governor himself. There, I have proven that amnesty is a fraud!”

Shara Livingstone walked several cells down and saw a man sitting on the floor with his feet crossed. “Sir, may I ask you some questions?”

“I already know that you want to ask about the so called amnesty.”

“Yes that’s right. What do you think of the amnesty?”

“It doesn’t really matter. This prison is nothing more than a metaphor about life. Besides, I believe that when I die, I will be set free from this prison. I have lived a good life and what comes around goes around.”

“But sir, you can get out now without having to die.”

“I used to be a thief, but now I live by the golden rule. If I can continue to live a good enough life, then I will make it out of here when I die.”

“Thank you.” She walked a few doors down. “How about you, sir? Don’t you want to get out of this prison?”

“Sure, some day. When I’m older. I’m not through living here yet. But before I die, I plan to take the amnesty and get out. But for now, I’m just having too much fun. Besides, I don’t want to become a puppet for the Governor.”

“Thank you.” She turned to the Lieutenant. “I have time for one more interview. Let’s go to that man standing over there. “Excuse me, I have a few questions about the amnesty announcement made a few days ago.”

“Yeah? What do ya want to know?”

“Why haven’t you accepted the freedom and walked away from your prison cell?”

“Are you trying to make me feel guilty by representing the Governor? I don’t appreciate your attack on my personal beliefs. Who are you to judge me?”

“I’m not judging you; I only want to know why you haven’t taken the opportunity to leave your prison.”

“Well, there is a truth that works for you and a truth that works for me. My own personal truth tells me that I can live right here if I want to. You can’t force your truth on me. That violates my personal space and my personal beliefs. Who are you to come and try to condemn me? Now leave me alone.”

Shara turned away from the cell and began to walk with Lieutenant Imp back toward the exit. “I didn’t realize how far we walked into the prison. It is so dark and foul in here.”

“Yep, but that’s how I like it.”

“Isn’t it amazing how bright the light is from the exit door? It’s almost blinding.”

“Yes it is. I like the darkness better. It’s just too bright outside.”

“Hey, who is that walking around here in the cell block? Is it the prisoners?”

“Well, sort of. These people here stepped out of their cells, but refuse to actually walk into the light. They just love the darkness too much to leave it. What’s more remarkable is that they think that they are free. But they still live in all this filth like the men in the cells.”

“I need to talk to one of them.” She stopped a man that was wandering in the darkness. “Excuse me sir, but I have a question for you about the amnesty.”

“Sure, go ahead. That’ my favorite topic. I love to talk about the Governor. After all, he set me free.”

“But have you really been set free? You are still living within the walls of the prison.”

“I have been set free. There is no doubt.”

“Yet you are still here in the cell block. Why don’t you move on into the light and out of this prison?”

“I’m not in the prison. I am free. Sometime I do go near the light and walk around outside. But, this is where my home is and my friends live here also.”

“But I have been outside, and it’s clean and free outside. Why make your home here?”

“Oh, when I went out there, they wanted me to go and tell others about how the Governor set me free. It just seemed like they were expecting too much of me.”

“That is part of the condition for release, to live a life that directly opposes crime.”

“Well, I didn’t want all my friends to make fun of me. It was just too uncomfortable. I tried it out, but it just didn’t work for me. So, I came back in here where all my friends are.”

“Thank you.” She turned to the camera. “I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself. These prisoners all have different reasons for choosing to remain here in Purgatory State Prison. Despite the fact that none of their reasons or excuses make sense, they are content to live a life of filth and squalor rather than a life of freedom and responsibility. This has been Shara Livingstone reporting live. Now back to you…”