The Garbage Man

He stared for a moment out of the foggy window and at the rain drenched street. An ethereal steam rose from the asphalt in curls and wisps like the smoke from a French cigarette. It was lunch time there in the coffee shop but from the look outside it might as well have been midnight. He breathed in deep, rolling the question that had just been posed to him around in his mind, seeing what it would stick too. He could have easily answered yes or no, had he known the intentions of the stout man that sat across from him. Without knowing if he was being tested or if the question was political or metaphorical, he had to be sure his answer did not imply or tell anything more than he meant. In this day and age, you never know who was really asking the question. He let out a long sigh, to indicate the exertion he had gone through to develop a satisfactory answer.

“Theoretically, yes. I do agree with the death penalty. I certainly believe that there are people that are, in fact, unfit to remain free within society and are hopeless of rehabilitation. People so mentally disturbed they are incapable of understanding right from wrong. Certainly you and I both have seen cases of people so corrupted that they no longer care right from wrong and will do nothing but seek out chaos, destruction, and harm to fulfill their own wants. A man’s soul shattered can be put back together but sometimes there are some pieces that cannot be put back. Conscience, good will, trust; if these are irrecoverably lost, then there is no chance of salvation. And is that not the point of incarceration? We lock away our criminals in penitentiaries; an establishment with the goal of penance. Every judge that sends a man to prison sends him with the goal to atone for his crimes. All men except for those put away for life. They have been deemed too unstable, without hope, never to be put back together. I do not speak with pity of these men. I agree that there are people just too dangerous to be allowed back into society. Much like how we will put down any other animal that has been deemed to vicious and unpredictable to be allowed to roam free. There are people who willingly become beasts of blood and fang who can never be trusted to live by the rules that govern society.

“While I do agree with the death penalty in theory, I do not agree with it in practice. Man is far too flawed to make such exacting decisions. Often the cries to send a man to the chair comes from voices wanting retaliation. Victims of these heinous acts are wanting revenge and could care less about removing an unstable element. They scream “Blood for blood, eye for eye” so loudly that they may never hear the criminal express remorse. They drown out the words of regret. Now clearly punishment must come before penance. One must pay for his transgressions, receive forgiveness before starting down the path to full rehabilitation. But in the time of trial and sentencing, the emotions of the victims, of the public will run far too hot and that fury can be far too powerful, never giving reasonable, logical decision making a chance. And what of the falsely accused? In the light of modern science, startling numbers of people once found guilty have been vindicated. What if we had gone ahead with the euthanasia of these people? No, I believe that the death penalty should be saved for those whose crimes are unquestionable and whose souls have been lost for good.”

The stout man took a short sip from his drink, wiping foam away from his thick, bristly mustache.

“So you feel that absolute punishment should be reserved for the most wicked of the wicked, and those too far gone to be saved?”

“Yes sir.”

A grin spread across his round face, creating deep wrinkles in his thick skin.

“Fantastic, that’s exactly the kind of attitude we want in this city’s first ‘super hero’. Now we can’t officially endorse or publicly support you, but we have special resources we will supply you with. Come in tomorrow and the sergeant in charge of this task force will supply and brief you. You’re going to be a real hero, none of that comic book crap though where the police are out to get you and the mayor is screaming down someone’s neck to have you removed. You’re doing the job this whole city knows needs to be done, but no one will condone what it will take.”

As the stout man began to pull up different documents on a bright, hand held tablet, the other man looked back out on to the rainy city and suppressed a cackling laugh to a mere grin. So they’re letting out Hannibal Lector to take care of all the Buffalo Bills. This should be fun.


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