The Killing Place

In a future where Willful Elimination is legal and encouraged for the survival of the species. A fiction excerpt.

Hello, readers, writers and followers. Since the start of 2021, the AWS crew and I have been putting out various how-to’s for fiction writers, looking at technical craft elements, inspirational ideas, and gray-area stuff like closeness in point-of-view. This week: something different! It’s time to walk the walk and (hopefully) show some of these skills in action. So without any ado at all, here’s an excerpt from a fiction-in-progress, titled The Killing Place. It’s told from the point of view of Bernell Jackson, an employee at a franchise of the future where customers can seek Willful Elimination.

* * *

I don’t know how I thought it was a good idea, working at The Killing Place. But now that it’s been three months, it seems like a waste to up and leave. I’m trained in, and Mr. Amarusso seems resolved to my being there, at Registration Station 2, Monday through Friday. The pay and benefits are good. It’s about the nightmares, the waking hallucinations, the images that won’t go away when I shut my eyes.

I guess I thought I had considered the issues during the legal battle with the church and all. Questionable, yes. Unfortunate, yes. Gruesome, even. But as an atheist, I never had any ethical qualms. And then it really did come to seem like practical solution to the problem of the planet’s dwindling resources, as a lot of senators were saying.

Like 18 billion other Americans, I tuned in that evening in April for President McCabe’s speech from the bunker. She’s such a gracious southern lady, she really put my worries to rest and got me believing that such a radical plan — the legalization of universal retail euthanasia for all, or UREFA — could restore hope not only for the future of our country but for the world.

It had a simple elegance: create a market in which companies pay families to enact the wishes of those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for future generations. The family gets $7,500, and the deed is done using the humane method of the victim’s— er, customer’s — choice. Need help, have a look at the menu.

But these “end-of-life transactions” are not as tidy as all that. Not for those of us close to the action.

This morning before my shift I stood before Mr. Amarusso’s desk and requested the spiritual counselling that The Killing Place is legally required to provide. Mr. Amarusso is the puffy-cheeked Office Manager who hired and trained me. A real softball-and-hot-dogs kind of guy. Simple-minded, he was great at following protocols. A prep school boy, conformity was a way of life for him.

“You got it,” he said. He pulled up an online form and began typing. “Jackson… Bernell.” He began taking questions. “What date are you requesting to enter the Good Counsel Program, Jackson?”

“It’s a program? I just want to talk to somebody.”

“Okay, sure, Jackson. No problem. I’ll put effectively immediately. Which do you want to see: Psychiatrist, empath, priest, rabbi, shaman, Hindi sadu — ”

“Just a shrink, I think.”

“Shrink, I think. That rhymes.” Mr. Amarusso smiled at me around the side of his computer monitor. He looked proud, like I was his son and I’d just thrown a guy out at second base, and now he really was ready to sink his teeth into a footlong with mustard and onions.

A bleary grin overcame my mouth. We picked shrink.

Stiffly reading from an onscreen script, Mr. Amarusso explained that the form would be uploaded today to TKP HQ and I’d enter the queue for an Evaluation Meeting with the Regional Manager, a suit-wearing whip-cracker who breezed through our store once a month — one Ms. Royanne Towner. She wore suits and gelled her hair down like some kind of under-sexed space commander.

Mr. Amarusso came around and sat on the edge of his desk, studying me with concern. “How you doin’ now? You good to work your shift?” He clasped his hands and set them on his knee. He reminded me of my high school principal, Mr. Hodges, who was actually the father of my first girlfriend, Sonja Hodge. “Bernell,” Mr. Hodges would say to me dryly, “it’s true the world is going to end. How are you doing with it all? You hanging in there?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Amarusso,” I said. “I hardly slept at all last night. I kind of feel on edge.”

“We all feel on edge sometimes, Jackson,” he said. “That’s understandable.”

He stood and turned around, peering out the window, which as everyone was talking about, you could actually see blue sky today.

I groaned. “The thought of serving customers… I’m not sure I can hack it. The sodium thiopentals are not so bad. But the others…”

“Sure, sure. We understand how you feel.”

He sat down again.

“We?”

“Me, Regional Manager Towner, The Killing Place at large.” He smiled, and his warmth seemed to canter into the background like some camel into a wavering Saharan mirage.

Tapping and swiping his computer monitor, he said, “We care about you, Jackson, and we want to make sure you’re in good emotional, spiritual, and mental health if you’re going to be to be a part of this valuable workplace and important new industrial, sorry, industry that rewards the selfless and the brave. You’re a part of the true America spirit that will allow the estimated 400,000 people that Earth can support to enjoy it on behalf of humanity.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard the humanity stuff before, Mr. Amarusso. In training.”

“Well, it’s true, Jackson.”

Then Mr. Amarusso explained the bad news: until I had a diagnosis from the shrink, I was not exempt from work duty without pay deduction. I could take a Flex Day if I wanted. But I only got two of these every three fiscal quarters. That’s not a lot. So I pictured my little boy Ronnie elbow deep in his electronic surveillance equipment and I thought of the monthly payments due on his Cognitive Genomic Upgrade Procedure. Then with a sigh I clipped on my necktie bearing the tiny repeating TKP logo, and headed to Registration Station 2. I logged into my terminal just as the store’s electronic door locks snapped open.

Like most franchise locations of The Killing Place, our store was in a strip mall — Kinsley Plaza to be exact. It was a place that I came to as a kid on my scooter. I’d get a slice of pineapple/ham and a pink lemonade. A hairy guy in a red-splattered apron worked there. Now it was all the usual mitochondria spas and cellular rejuvenation places.

I leaned over and said good morning to Rosie (Station 1), and in the other direction I could see Lopez’s black hair above his Station 3 divider, his head bobbing. A gaudy lady in a track suit sat clutching her purse, asking him questions through the enforced Plexiglas window. The Welcome Script came in torrents from Lopez in his sing-song way. Lopez was gay, had dyed hair, and liked old musicals.

Which is redundant, because all musicals were old.

Me and Rosie played our usual game of gossiping about people walking by out front, people with their shopping bags and their gleaming Polynesian smiles and their expensive UV-protective glasses. A couple of them even went without respirators.

The smoke from the fires wasn’t so bad. We could see all the way to the parking lot, and we watched a lady putting shopping bags in her trunk.

“Christ,” Rosie said, “she must have a year’s supply.”

“Is that the kelp enema powder?”

“Yeah.”

A man entered.

I watched him read the signs, then scan his phone at the kiosk. The number 2 came up on my display.

“Lewis,” I called over the intercom. “Registration Station 2.”

With obvious aggravation, he approached.

“How are you, sir? Have a seat.”

He dropped into the chair, throwing one leg over the other. “For this time of morning, I’m okay,” he said. “Afternoons is when it goes downhill. Then, nights — forget it.” He dragged his fingers through his thin brown hair and his eyes bulged momentarily. He arched his back as if to release strain.

He was a mixed race guy in his forties, tall, in a faded purple polo shirt and some army green cargo shorts. I pegged him as what they called a Scrap Miner — they were everywhere around places like Kinsley Plaza, linking onto people’s signals and siphoning out their data and selling it. Some of them went for crypto, some tried for digital vax certificates. There were fewer prey for a guy like him, though, now that the Purebreds didn’t come out anymore.

No one in their right mind risked exposure if they didn’t have to. The government had a handy measuring chart where you could assess your levels. UV. Smoke. Heat stroke. Skin cancer. Digital hack. Attack by the dispossessed and indigent. Some days all bets were off and everyone stayed home. There wasn’t much of a future to work towards anyway. At least that’s how most folks felt. Me, I was still looking to making something of it all, for Ronnie’s sake.

I said, “So Mr. Lewis, you wish to use The Killing Place’s services, you want to be killed?”

“Correct.”

“Excellent. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Thank you for choosing The Killing Place, America’s most trusted UREFA provider. What’s your first name please?”

“Oliver,” he grumbled, followed by a gruff sigh.

“All right.” I worked in the terminal to start an account for him. “So, Oliver Lewis, let’s get started on the registration procedure. What is your reason for choosing TKP today?”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

“Obvious?”

I hit the Assist button on my terminal screen. The ASR (Appropriate Suggested Response), came up:

We don’t think so

There’s lots to live for

“We don’t think so,” I said. “There’s lots to live for.”

“Yeah, right.”

The words blinked away and came back, like a refresh. We don’t think so. There’s lots to live for.

“Okay, Oliver, well, I need a stated reason. Can you give me something more clear?

“If it’s not obvious to you, man, I’m not sure you’ll get it.” He seemed to spit when he said this.

“We understand your concerns. But it’s the system, you know. I require something more…definitive.”

“Definitive? OK. Well, in that case, it definitively sucks being a human. How about that?”

I repeated these words, keying them in the field. “Definitively … sucks… being… a human.” Then I clicked Save and looked for the best Stated Reason Reporting Code. When I couldn’t find one, I asked him to bear with me a moment.

“Sure.”

“Sorry, um, would you say you have ennui?”

“On-wee? What the fuck is that?” Oliver threw an insulted look at me.

“I wanna say it’s French for — ”

“Man, what’s the difference? Just put it under something and let’s do this!”

“Ok, sir, I’m sorry but please wait here a minute, okay. I’ll be right back.”

I left Station 2 and went to Mr. Amarusso’s office.

“You watching this?”

What a stupid question. Of course Mr. Amarusso was watching. He was always watching. In addition to heavy taxation, deep regulations were drafted into the congressional law making the Willful Elimination industry legal.

Selections:

McCabe-UREFA Act

Article 3

In any place of business where Willful Eliminations are performed, every client interaction shall be watched over in real time by management and recorded to video.

No American shall be Eliminated against their own wishes, or without a thorough accounting of, A) their reasons and wish to be Eliminated, and either B) the clear assertion of their right to be Eliminated, or C) unambiguous signs of their seeking to exercise said right.

That list bit was in consideration of the handicapped, injured, and impaired.

Signed, your pals, the U.S. Department of Ethics and Safety.

It’s almost as if the spirit of Kurt Vonnegut had presided over the legislative sessions and signing parties.

“What’s the call on this, Mr. Amarusso?” I said. “I’ve never had this before. He won’t give me a straight answer. Isn’t it obvious, he says.”

“I know. I was watching.”

“He’s some kind of smart-ass.”

“Smart ass? Christ, Jackson, when were you born, last Thursday? Come here, look at this.” He waved me behind his desk. I stepped in, and he pointed at his monitor. “Let me show you something. Look at that posture.”

On his monitor was Oliver Lewis, running his hand through his hair again and again in quick succession. Then he stopped and fell over his knees, his head landing dejectedly in his palms.

“No confidence there. You see that?”

“I guess so.”

“You guess so?”

“I mean yes, Mr. Amarusso.”

“And those clothes. This is what we call ‘down on his luck.’ You got a cynic here, Jackson, a classic cynic, he’s fed up, embittered. Maybe it was a lady, maybe he’s just a loser, either way with that shitty attitude I don’t blame him for not wanting to live.”

Mr. Amarusso turned to me and I felt pressured to show him an approving nod and smile.

“Being who he is.” A sad frown on Mr. Amarusso’s face said that there was nothing we could do for such types.

“Ok, got it.”

I went and sat down in a chair facing Mr. Amarusso’s desk. “But what Reporting Code should I use? Mr. Lewis says it’s not ennui…” I heard a pleading quality in my own voice that gave me pause. On whose behalf was I arguing? Mine or Oliver’s?

That is, Mr. Lewis’s.

That is: the Customer seeking Willful Elimination.

From between Mr. Amarusso’s puffy cheeks came these exact words: “Jackson, Mr. Lewis is a Customer seeking Willful Elimination, which — “

“I know! Which is legal in this country, and The Killing Place offers this legal service, which will help humanity continue on.”

“The exact words of the Elimination Procedure manual.” Mr. Amarusso smiled.

“You quote it all the time.”

“I suppose I do.”

“But shouldn’t we help him?”

“What Mr. Lewis wants will help everybody, Jackson.”

What was the use? I sighed. “The code, Mr. Amarusso.”

“E16. Disaffection in the extreme.”

Mr. Amarusso wiped his upper lip. He looked at me a while, then said, “Well, back to work.”

Yes, that confirmed it. Mr. Amarusso was inhumane.

* * *

When I returned to my desk, Rosie threw a look at me, like, Where have you been? Whatever, I’ve seen her come out of Mr. Amarusso’s office eyes water-logged and red as roses.

I apologized to Mr. Oliver Lewis and said everything was in order and we’d get him Eliminated in no time. We found him the package that suited his needs. He was more agreeable once the proceedings got underway. Sign, sign. He recited the Agreement Script into the cameras, I marked that he had Demonstrated Adequate Competence, and I clicked CONTINUE.

Next I logged into a Travel Tablet, grabbed my badge, and told Mr. Lewis that since he had selected sodium thiopental injection, I would now come out to the lobby and escort him to Elimination Room 6.

* * *

On Saturday, me and Ronnie played our little game, which meant driving all over, and getting our usual diner lunch and such.

The game’s called Sleuth. It’s something he found online that he really likes. I tell him there’s been a murder, say, at Poet’s Walk Park at 5 clock on Friday. He must hunt through my app log, my navigation history, and my device location history to discover whether or not I could not have committed the crime. If he finds me not guilty, he sketches a defense brief citing the evidence, and argues the case to me, while I act as the hypothetical judge.

He likes it. He’s 14, into detectives, Hitchcock films. And I know he’s reading about hacking online and he’s always opening up our routers and cameras…

I needed to have a talk with him actually. I didn’t want him becoming one of those Scrap Miners, who clearly had nothing to live for.

So I took Ronnie to this kelp bar he likes. We had just put in an order for two Kelpie Bowls when I turned around and there was Mr. Amarusso. I almost bumped right into him.

“Mr. Amarusso, hi.” He was looking chiseled and stalwart as ever. He looked as fresh as he looked every morning at the store. His polo shirt wasn’t even rumpled.

“Oh, hey, Jackson. Heyyyy, and this must be Ronnie. I’ve heard a lot about you, young man!”

Mr. Amarusso lowered himself a tad, smiled real broad.

“You have?” Ronnie asked.

I couldn’t help it. I ruffled his hair and smiled sheepishly. Then I seemed to snap out of it.

“Come on, Ronnie, let’s find a booth. I’ll see you Monday, sir.”

“Enjoy, gentlemen!”

We couldn’t tell which was the Cxkn Kelpie Bowl and which was the Shrxmp Kelpie Bowl. But we sure had fun sampling them and joking around about it.

“It’s all synthetized proteins anyway!”

“Yeah!” Ronnie was smiling now and pretending to make his protein chunks talk. “It’s like, Did I live in the ocean or on a farm? How do I know!”

After a minute, things quieted down, and I said, “Listen, son, I’m worried about you and what you’re doing online. I know what’s going on with those Scrap Miners, I know what they do, and that may look real glamorous, you may think it’s fun, but I don’t want you getting involved in anything like that, you understand? Sleuth is one thing, but you don’t want to do anything illegal now, right?”

“Nah.”

“Nah?” I quoted back to him.

“I guess not.”

I made my protein chunk say, “You’d better guess not.”

He was quiet a while, then looked away and mumbled, “Well, look who’s talking.”

“What’s that?”

“Look who’s talking,” Ronnie said, staring me down.

“What’s that mean?”

“What you do isn’t exactly ethical.”

Ronnie slumped in his seat after saying this. His wolf-grey eyes lay behind a screen of the long bangs that mother didn’t make him wear short, as I wished she would. Which is entirely beside the point — Ronnie’s point — and precisely why I preferred to dwell on it.

I stammered, sat back, sputtered. “You think…”

I closed the lid over my food, put my chopsticks down. The intercom was playing an Air Quality warning, as if we couldn’t tell by the scratches in our throats. As if the foggy golden-orange sunsets weren’t a daily reminder.

“You think I like….”

My throat kept catching.

Ronnie’s eyes narrowed, he flipped his bangs aside. He wasn’t eating either.

“Listen.” I was pointing at him sternly when Mr. Amarusso appeared, emptying his tray in the bin next to our booth. Like a shiny hot rod, he pulled up square to our table, the edges of which I grasped firmly to steady myself.

“Enjoying your meals, gents? You know, your dad’s one of our best employees, Ronnie. You should be real proud of your father. He’s doing this country a — ”

“Don’t!” I yelled. “Don’t say it, Mr. Amarusso.”

“What’s the matter, Jackson?”

“It’s just not a good time right now, sir. It’s the weekend.” My voice quavered, and I had yet to raise my eyes to meet my boss. My neck was stiff rope. One chopstick was in my fist now, I noticed, and Ronnie looked frightened.

“Well, I’m sorry,” Mr. Amarusso quietly stated.

“And by the way, sir,” I chimed, looking to his eyes. “I sure hope that the Employee Services Department gets in touch soon about my appointment. You did fill the form out correctly, right? You’re sure you filed it in the right manner? Because, you understand that I’m demanding my federally guaranteed right.”

“Jackson, Jackson,” Mr. Amarusso said, in a tone of fond scolding. “Don’t worry, my good man.” He put his hands on my shoulders and smiled at Ronnie. “Everything’s in order. TKP takes care of its own, you know that. We’re all doing what’s best for ‘merica.” Mr. Amarusso winked at Ronnie, making a ch-chick noise in his jowl. “Right?” he said with a chuckle, and was off, his loafers scuffling over the dry tiles of the restaurant.

“America?” Ronnie said. “What about the world?” He looked dejected. His shoulders must have dropped four inches.

“I know.”

“Anyway, what are you demanding?” Ronnie said.

I fussed with my napkin. “Nothing. There are protocols the company has to follow, and I’m just making sure they do. That’s all.”

“Protocols.”

“Look it up.”

“I’ll tell you what.” Ronnie lifted his phone above the table, showing me a Voice Recorder app, the clock at 3 minutes, 10 seconds. “You don’t let me tell mom where you work. Now she doesn’t need to know about my Scrap Mining.”

“You little — ”

“Anyway, most of what I make I give to charity anyways. There’s a fund for Willful Eliminations.”

“What?” I hissed.

But Ronnie stood and took his tray and walked away, saying, “Let’s go. I can’t eat anymore.”

In the car, I said to him, “What’s this fund, huh? You must mean a college for Ronnie fund, right?”

“It’s easy. I donate my balance to help people who want Willful Elimination.”

“Oh real nice! Ronnie, I don’t want you to have anything to do with Willful Eliminations, son. You use an app for that?”

“For donating, yeah, of course.”

I sighed and tore down Plymouth Avenue. The boarded up stores whizzed past. “I want you to delete that app.”

“What’s the big deal! I’m helping! What chance does someone my age have if we don’t thin the herd by a few billion!” Ronnie’s anger was a bronco making him buck. His jugular swelled, and I beheld his white and perfect 14-year-old teeth in the face of torrential anger.

What could I say?

I put on the radio. The year was 2076, and the song was still “Hotel California.” That was discouraging.

* * *

That night, I woke racked with sweat, yelling into the night. When I finally came to, I froze, silent, remembering that it was the weekend and that Ronnie was there.

2:25

I lay panting heavily, remembering my dream. I was in an Elimination Room with its recessed LED lights and its pneumatic portals, its surveillance cameras, and its digital panels and its eerie stench of banana-scented sterilizer.

I felt so vividly the Travel Tablet in my hand and saw the bare knees of a man, a customer, whom I was ushering in, walking beside me. He wore a blue hospital gown, which was funny because that’s not how we do it. They come in dressed.

Putting him in the Administration Chamber, I only saw him from the waist down. Those bare legs, ankle socks, and knobby knees. They were hideously beautiful. Tragic and just…upsetting. Then, once at the helm of the Administration Control Panel across from the Willful Eliminant, I at last saw his face.

I couldn’t get back to sleep. I didn’t even like to have my eyes closed. At 3:30, I got out of bed and ate potato chips in front of the television.

* * *

Dr. Krasner looked at her terminal. I knew she likely had an Appropriate Suggested Response available to her. All professions were functions of government now, either directly or indirectly.

“Bernell Jackson,” she said. She had a deep voice. “Your records say you have performed 56 Willful Eliminations.”

She looked at me. Hazel nuggets in a pudding sandwich of a face, a face beaten to bureaucratic pulp. A face robbed of its soul.

“Twenty-two sodium thiopental injections. Thirteen Mechanized Strangulations. Nine Mercury Drownings. Nine Electrocutions. Eight Internal Immolations.”

She sat up, turning her away. “And on down the line. Three months of employment. You requested treatment last Tuesday. So, Mr. Jackson, tell me why you opted for a psychologist.”

She let her words hang in the bookish air, while I studied her. She wore what everyone wore these days: whatever you had in your closet that had lasted. It Looked like she had slim pickings to start with.

I said, “Did you hear the news? There’s no new leather anymore. No animals to make it. And with the petroleum restrictions, plastic is not far behind. Except for the rich of course.”

“You could have seen a priest, a rabbi, a shaman — what else?”

“Imam.”

“Imam. Okay.”

“I guess I feel like if I can just think this through.”

The seat says everything in a shrink’s office. How comfortable are you allowed to be? Are you placed below or above relative to the doctor? It’s their office. They are the ones who get to set it up. So It says everything about their m.o. To me, with shrinks, they just always seemed to tower with their superiority and their leading questions. Yet, though I hadn’t said anything yet, I already felt proactive of Ronnie.

“I want to clear up the situation,” I said, “and make it possible for me to do my job.”

“The situation is unclear?”

“Well, I have clarity, I — ”

“What are you clear about?” She was too quick on the draw, and the tilt of her head belied false concern.

“All I want,” I said, through gritted teeth, “is a way to do this job without losing my mind.”

“What about quit the job?” She was glib now.

I sat there.

“But you need the job. Ronnie needs you to have the job.”

I would applaud once she really figured something out. But not before then.

Dr. Rasner looked away to some contemplative point in her mind. “Let’s get down to it. You have moral misgivings about the customers seeking Willful Elimination.”

“Yes.”

“Are you an American, Mr. Jackson?”

“Yes.” She reclined in her seat like some kind of evil queen.

“Do you value your rights?”

“Yes.”

“Well, the right to Willful Elimination is now an American right. Soon it may be a global right.”

“Have you noticed that even China has not signed on to this. I mean — China!”

Levelly she said, “It’s an inalienable American right.”

She then rotely iterated that it was important to her that I feel gratified in my work, as many Killing Place employees do. She said it was an obtainable goal for me to carry on in my position and earning my salary while enjoying my life.

“Let me guess, a pill,” I said. “My mother took something for asthma and her blood pressure and her heart, and as far as I can tell, they were nothing but addictive poisons.”

“No, no, not a pill. All you need, Mr. Jackson, is a change in perspective.”

“Oh, right,” I said angrily, “Just pretend it’s okay and not the most awful thing I’ve ever seen or been a part of. What about my son? He doesn’t respect me.”

“Ah, yes, your son.”

A funny smile spread over Dr. Kranser’s face. She tapped her terminal screen. “Your son… Ronnie.”

I shifted in my seat. My balls were sweating and I yanked at my jeans — the decorum be damned.

“You’re wondering about Ronnie. Let’s just see here. I see you have another 44 monthly payment left on Ronnie’s Cognitive Upgrade Procedure.” Her voice became chilling. Fake caring and rapid tempo. “How’s he doing in school, by the way, oh wait, I know, much better, I’ve got it right here.” Now loudly and brusquely: “You are happy with the results of the procedure, aren’t you, Mr. Jackson?” Hot air blew from her mouth, and her eyes beamed sparks, and the mirror on the wall close to me seemed to shake. “And you know the payment terms, right?” Her voice broke off sharply, leaving a frighteningly hollow sound in the office.

I waited until my voice was steady enough answer. After I swallowed everything in my gullet, I squeaked: “I remember.”

Now Dr. Krasner came around her desk just as Mr. Amarusso had. She was all cordial and clam. “Okay, so, my advice, Mr. Jackson, would be this. For sleep, take some Blankitol. I’ll happily write you a prescription. Have a nice night’s rest. You’ll feel marvelously in the morning, I guarantee it. Then take your Flex Time. Take one of the two days that you have banked, and do whatever it is you enjoy. Then head on back to the Kinsley Plaza and work your shifts. Try not to let it bother you. You’re helping your country. You’re helping your fellow man. And you’re helping yourself, and you’re helping Ronnie.”

I nodded slowly, my lips twisted into tense, cordial circumspection.

“That’s a lot of helpings, isn’t it?”

I said nothing.

Dr. Rasner spun off her desk and around with feminine grace. “It’s like Thanksgiving!” She was jubilant now.

I stood, pulling my jeans down, wiping my wet palms on the denim. This was my last best pair. I looked at her puzzled.

Dr. Krasner said, “You remember Thanksgiving? No?” She frowned. “Ah, well, it wasn’t the most kosher holiday anyway.”

I left.

* * *

When I returned, business was brisk. Super busy. I couldn’t even keep up with all that was going on. On a Thursday , I was in Elimination Room 4 all afternoon. My customer was getting agitated about the straps being put on his body. Then he demonstrated Remorse. We had to run mandatory sobriety tests. There we more issues with the equipment. Meanwhile, I knew the lobby was packed, a half dozen people waiting, which always adds pressure.

It was a hectic day. To top it off, Mr. Amarusso V-called me on my tablet. “Come to my office right away.”

Gladly.

“What’s going on?” I said, walking in.

“This your boy?”

There was Ronnie, in the chair before Mr. Amarusso’s desk.

“Ronnie!” I ran to him and crouched down beside the chair. “Son, what are you doing here?” He had his contrite eyes on, and was slumped there in anger and shame.

“He tried to get a Willful Elimination,” Mr. Amarusso said, dropping into his desk chair. “Look at this.”

Mr. Amarusso flipped a fake ID onto his desktop.

“Wayne Albert Harrison?”

“He got as far as the fingerprints. Didn’t match the ID. Duh.” Mr. Amarusso was swaying around in his seat real cockily, like he’d single-handedly brought down the mob or something.

I demanded an explanation from Ronnie.

“Willful elimination is an American right,” Ronnie said.

“Okay, you know what,” I said. “I’ve had enough. That’s it.” I stood. “Mr. Amarusso, I quit.” And I threw my badge on this desk.

[To be continued…]

Instructor at @GothamWriters, NYC. Ed.-in-Chief of AspiringWriterSyndrome.com, where fiction is the focus and inspiration is the goal. #Javascotia @PenguinBooks

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