Contest #194 shortlist ⭐️

37 comments

Sad Crime

Anyone who thinks ‘the short end’ is the shitty end of the stick ain’t never been hit with a stick. Well, I’ve been hit, and I can tell you, it’s the long end you want to dodge. You ever seen a sword? Lady Justice, she holds a sword. She doesn’t dispense justice with the stubby little handle, does she? It’s the long end she swings, straight and true. Not exactly a stick, but you take my meaning.  

But then Archimedes, he wanted the long end, didn’t he? And he should know. “Give me a place to stand and I will move the Earth,” or something like that. I can’t remember it exactly. So, do you want the long end or the short end? I suppose it depends where you stand.

I read about Archimedes and I want to thank him for teaching me to think about where I stand. It’s good at a time like this to know where you stand. So, thanks to Archimedes, but mainly I want to thank Father Burgos, who taught me how to read, so I could read about Archimedes. If I had another thirty-four years I might learn to read Greek, then I could say thank you to Archimedes in Greek. What’s thank you in Greek?

(inaudible)

Never mind. I was talking about sticks because Father Burgos said he thought I got the short end. He might be right, I used to spend a lot of my time thinking about that, but it doesn’t matter, not anymore. Nothing matters now but to give thanks for what I did get and not worry about what I didn’t get, and things I can’t do anything about.

I spent my days reading about people who were already dead, or who were never alive. Lots of the books I read were written by people who were already dead. Dying doesn’t cut you out of the story of the world, but thinking about the world without you is like asking a character in a story to think about the world outside the book they’re in. I don’t think it can be done. I know I can’t do it anyway. I’m talking too much. I’m nervous, not scared though, no, not any more.   

In one of the books I read they said “fear is the mind killer.” I can’t remember which one it was. Which book was that, Father Burgos?

(inaudible)

Yeah, that’s right. I liked that one. They made that crazy movie. Anyway, Father Burgos helped my mind be the fear killer. Helped me know where I stand. Took me to a few different places, some big places, open spaces, even though I was in here and I only saw a few faces; Father Burgos and the library people. I should say thank you to the library people too. Especially Tuesday Justin and Friday Keith. That squeaky wheel on their cart was like a knife cutting up my week into slices I could eat. It’s a shame they couldn’t come today. Good job I returned all of my books.

I got here, to this day, with no apologies left to make. I think I made them all. We put them in my letters. The people I needed to apologise to most, Mr and Mrs Osterberg, they’re dead now, but I wrote to them in time. I’m not the man who killed their daughter anymore. Mrs Osterberg killed that man when she replied to his letter. She said it was good that I was learning to read, and that her daughter would have liked that. She said her daughter was going to be a teacher. I didn’t know that. Mrs Osterberg said her daughter had lots of books. She said that now that she was gone she was going to give them to a children’s home. Not the same one that made the man who killed her daughter, that place is long gone, but one like it. That man, he was hateful and scared from the time he was in that place until the night he met her daughter. Mrs Osterberg’s letter showed him what bravery was and Father Burgos helped him think about that. So it’s a new man we’re killing today, but that’s ok. It really is.

I think part of why Father Burgos helped me with my reading was because he wanted me to find Jesus before today. I think I did, maybe. Found a little bit of him, not in the book, but in the reading of the book. It’s not fair on Jesus really. You can’t give a grown man the Bible at the same time as every other book he’s ever had and expect the Bible to be his favourite just because it’s the Bible. Jesus is a cool main character, but I think I might have had more in common with Holden Caulfield, maybe once anyway. I definitely have more in common with Rodion Raskolnikov. Is that me getting grandiose? Fellas can often tend to get a bit grandiose when things get to this point and they get the chance to speak.

It’s ok because Father Burgos gave me more than Jesus and more than the Bible. He gave me a reason to want to stay alive, which gave me the dignity of a death which is at least a little bit sad. So thanks to Father Burgos, Mrs Osterberg, Tuesday Justin and my man Friday, and Archimedes. And I suppose I should say Jesus too, but just so Father Burgos gets good grades or whatever.

(inaudible)

Nah, we’re done now. Brevity is the soul of wit. Now I am gettin’ grandiose, so I’ll just say; I read a whole bunch of stuff and I read about Archimedes’ Laws, and I read about God’s laws, and now it’s time for some Texas law, and I am not afraid any more.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4. There you go, Father Burgos. I read that one.

Thank you, Warden, that is all I have to say. I’m ready.

April 21, 2023 21:05

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37 comments

Philip Ebuluofor
14:39 May 01, 2023

All I know is that the story holds my interest from beginning to end meaning it deserves to be where I found it. Congrats.

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Amy Arora
13:08 Apr 29, 2023

Absolutely loved this! A great voice - I would read a whole novel told by this character. Congratulations on your very well-deserved shortlist!

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Chris Miller
13:23 Apr 29, 2023

Thank you, Amy. Very kind of you to say so.

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22:56 Apr 28, 2023

Great story, well told, brisk pace that doesn't falter and the truth of the situation revealed in a successful manner. Congratulations!

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Chris Miller
23:35 Apr 28, 2023

Cheers, Derrick!

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Michelle Oliver
22:52 Apr 28, 2023

Wow Chris, what a voice! Tha t shortlist is so well deserved, congratulations.

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Chris Miller
23:33 Apr 28, 2023

Thank you, Michelle. Really appreciate you taking time to comment.

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Laurel Hanson
17:16 Apr 28, 2023

Fantastic narrative voice here. Well-deserved shortlist!

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Chris Miller
17:22 Apr 28, 2023

Thank you, Laurel.

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Mary Bendickson
15:18 Apr 28, 2023

Congrats on the short shortlist!!! Knew you had a winner here.

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Chris Miller
15:45 Apr 28, 2023

Thanks, Mary! I'm really pleased. Some stiff competition on this one.

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Mary Bendickson
15:47 Apr 28, 2023

Thought so, too. That's why I was surprised to see only three shortlisted. But yours was well deserved.

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Michał Przywara
20:34 Apr 26, 2023

Great opening sentence, really establishes a strong voice. The story develops it nicely, and the situation is artfully revealed. I think the whole thing is a good example of showing, because if you told us, the whole thing would be "A man about to be executed says he has made peace with it, because he learned to read." The focus on reading and on how that helps us grow is crucial. Through reading and exploring other people's stories, he developed empathy (perhaps sometimes even sympathy). Thus, we believe him when he says he's changed, and...

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Chris Miller
20:54 Apr 26, 2023

Thanks, Michal. Insightful comments. It's really satisfying when someone gets it. I was hoping to make something thought provoking.

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Michał Przywara
01:04 Apr 29, 2023

Congratulations on the shortlist!

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Chris Miller
07:09 Apr 29, 2023

Thanks, Michal.

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Mary Bendickson
21:12 Apr 22, 2023

Wow! You are hitting it out of the park with a big stick. Three stories, one shortlisted and another winner here! Wait for it, wait for it, Bang! What a writer you are! Please write a bio. Are you my nephew or not:)

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Chris Miller
21:41 Apr 22, 2023

Hi Mary, Thank you so much. You must be the first to read Efcharisto. I didn't even know it had been approved yet. (I'm afraid I am not your nephew.)

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Mary Bendickson
21:53 Apr 22, 2023

I found it under activity feed under stories. It gives me stories of people I follow. Can I adopt you anyway?

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Chris Miller
22:23 Apr 22, 2023

You are too kind. Adopting a grown man sounds like a potential Idea for a story.

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Mary Bendickson
22:31 Apr 22, 2023

Okay,okay. I withdraw the suggestion.

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Mike Panasitti
22:58 May 05, 2023

Efcharisto for sharing this story that tackles soul-crushing (meaning life-changing and life-ending) social and existential issues with lucidity and eloquent simplicity - hallmarks of some of the best prose, but sorely lacking in much of my own writing. Deservedly shortlisted. I'm surprised it hasn't received more attention.

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Chris Miller
08:23 May 06, 2023

Thank you, Mike. Glad you liked it.

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16:59 Apr 28, 2023

“That squeaky wheel on their cart was like a knife cutting up my week into slices I could eat.” As Holden would say “that kills me.” So you and I are in a cool little club: newbies shortlisted for the same two consecutive prompts. And now I read and find we’ve also read all the same books. I’m honored to share the space with you because your voice is formidable. Bravo.

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Chris Miller
17:21 Apr 28, 2023

Well congratulations! I will check out your stories.

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17:41 Apr 28, 2023

Enjoy!

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RJ Holmquist
18:23 Apr 24, 2023

"Jesus is a cool main character, but I think I might have had more in common with Holden Caulfield." What a great line, especially once you figure out who the speaker is (or at least the situation in which he is speaking) I really liked the way this was done. I tried to find context through the whole thing, and even though some of the references went over my head, I was still engaged. It didn't all click into place for me until "Texas Law," and I wasn't sure until "Warden," but it made the whole thing tumble together just right and I coul...

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Chris Miller
19:42 Apr 24, 2023

Hello RJ, Thank you. I was inspired by reading some of the final statements of men executed in Texas, which are all published online. They make for slightly macabre but fascinating reading. What could be more profound than the last thing a person will ever say?

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RJ Holmquist
19:55 Apr 24, 2023

That is fascinating. I didn't know "last words" were published. What an interesting thing to do from a cultural perspective. Very rich concept.

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Chris Miller
20:20 Apr 24, 2023

It's a very interesting set of records to explore. It will be a very useful historical record one day. It offers a very particular perspective on life. And I suppose, that's one way to get published...

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RJ Holmquist
20:22 Apr 24, 2023

Ha! The same thought ran through my mind.

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Katy B
20:41 Jun 26, 2023

This is really wonderful. I read it hungrily and almost wish there was more -- but I think it fits into its case very well. "Brevity is the soul of wit" after all!

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Chris Miller
20:56 Jun 26, 2023

Cheers, Katy. Glad you liked it. I had already taken some liberties with how long they would let him ramble on. Couldn't let it go much further. "Fits into its case" - I like that! Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

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Graham Kinross
10:22 May 18, 2023

Shame, he feels like someone who’s actually changed. That’s why I hate the death sentence. There’s no chance for redemption that way and no take backs if the justice system screwed up. Great story, Chris. Congratulations on being shortlisted.

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Chris Miller
10:59 May 18, 2023

Thank you for reading, Graham. Agreed. If we deny people a shot at redemption then we risk devaluing humanity.

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Geir Westrul
18:20 May 06, 2023

Great way to start: "Anyone who thinks 'the short end' is the shitty end of the stick ain't never been hit with a stick. Well, I've been hit, and I can tell you, it's the long end you want to dodge. You ever seen a sword? Lady Justice, she holds a sword. She doesn't dispense justice with the stubby little handle, does she? It's the long end she swings, straight and true. Not exactly a stick, but you take my meaning." I was hooked. I loved the (inaudible) asides. It was cinematic in the way it made me imagine this inaudible, mysterious som...

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Chris Miller
19:14 May 06, 2023

Thanks, Geir. I was inspired by the real final statements of men executed in Texas. I liked the idea of trying to create sympathy, or at least some connection with an inherently unsympathetic character.

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