The Chopping Block
You think you know fear. You've been afraid before. As a child, when your father got drunk, you were afraid. When Randall Creed followed you home in middle school, you were afraid.
But now, now you know what fear means. Surrounded by eleven of your peers, all ages, all races, yet all of them so similar in so many ways.
Tyler Long, black, tall, and very masculine. He probably lives at the gym, you think.
Reece Weary, an old woman with long white hair.
James Locke, a man your age, 34. if you weren't lesbian, you'd find him attractive.
Lindsay Hium. She's Asian with elongated features and elegant honey brown eyes. Her, you definitely find attractive.
Kayne Wilson, a young man whose parents immigrated from egypt, fresh out of college.
Stie Drew, a mid-50s Texas man through and through.
Lin Chang, another man your age. He is eying you warily, as if you're about to bite him. You don't trust the shark-like look in his eyes.
Lionel Smith, a government teacher from the local high school. Definitely over eighty, and his features are calm but alert.
Aja Young, who lives up to the "young" in her name. She has thick, curly black hair pulled back into a loose ponytail. She's wearing a yellow sweater with open shoulders, and skinny jeans. You think she can't be much over 18.
Greg Heckleman, a heavyset man with thick, meaty arms and stern green eyes. Probably mid fifties or sixties.
Anne Malorie, a Hispanic woman in her twenties, with thick blonde hair and hot pink nails.
All eleven other jurors are staring at you. The trial has ended. The defendant: a young man named Carlos Jenkins, accused of killing his 5-year-old son, Liam. The other eleven jurors have already arrived at the firm conclusion that Jenkins is irrevocably guilty.
Jenkins has all the odds stacked against him: he's a poor, black man, and the "witness" is a rich white one.
Oh yes, and Jenkins is queer.
You of all people know about the injustice in the law. In sixth grade, you were accused (and almost convicted) of stealing booze from the corner store. If it weren't for Jenny Harris, you would have been convicted. It turned out that the whole thing was a scam, trying to convict you: the lone lesbian in a small Missisippi town.
You have been silent for too long, you realize as Mr. Smith clears his throat. If you don't answer now, your case is lost.
"Not guilty," you choke out, voice breaking on the words. You feel your pulse quicken and your arms leaden. Shit. Not a panic attack. Not now.
You have suffered from anxiety your whole life. You are on medication for it. But right now, your meds are in your purse. You can't take them out in front of all these people. You need to get a hold of yourself.
"Not guilty," you say, clearer this time. "Jenkins is not guilty."
"I'm sorry," says Chang, as if he was struggling to hear you. "Ms. Kay, do you have any supporting evidence?"
It turns out, you do. Through the trial, you tracked the arguments against and for him.
"Yes. Evidence. I have- I have evidence." Your grade-school stutter is creeping into your voice, and you try to shake it off.
Mr. Chang does not look convinced.
"Let's look at the evidence," you say. "First: against him. Against him we have the word of Dr. Edward Hanger. He is a respected man, no?"
"Yes," says Aja Young. "He is. I've had many appointments in his office. He's a good man."
"He says he saw Jenkins pounding a screwdriver into Liam's neck," you say. Everyone looks shocked at your bluntness, but your anxiety is beginning to fade. "What evidence is there besides his word?" A long silence almost makes you smile.
"None. Am I insulting his honor? Certainly not. Doctors swear an oath. Dr. Hanger is a good man. But good people make mistakes. It is possible he saw someone else, and mistook it for Jenkins."
"I suppose," says Aja coolly. "But there is some circumstantial evidence. Jenkins has a record. Petty theft, breaking and entering, domestic abuse."
"This is true," you concede. "Let's look at his past crimes. All of them have a preponderance of evidence. Fingerprints, weak alibi, multiple witnesses. This case is very different."
"It's a more serious offense, Ms. Kay," Mr. Smith says. "He could have realized the consequences and hid the evidence."
"Mr. Smith. I mean no offense, but I don't think Jenkins has the mental capacity to go to such lengths. His crimes have been very impulsive. He dropped out of highschool. He had an IEP. It's possible he has some kind of mental deficiency."
Anne Malorie snorts, then coughs, prompting a sharp glare from Aja. You have to bite back yet another smile. Yet everything you said was the truth. Jenkins seemed to have the IQ of a glue stick.
"Next: Jenkins has an alibi," you continue before things could get out of hand. You needed their focus. "He was at the hairdresser, Mr. Bob Green."
"He could have paid Mr. Green to lie."
"With what money?" you spit. "Jenkins makes less-than-minimum wage. He's dirt poor."
"There are other ways to pay than money," Mr. Chang says. There's a moment of silence, and you realize what he's insinuating.
"Mr. Chang, not every gay man is a whore, pardon my language. Yes, Green and Jenkins could, possibly, have a relationship. Maybe legal, maybe not. But to this extent? I don't think so."
"Ms. Kay, please calm down," Mr. Smith says. "I'm sure Mr. Lin wasn't trying to say--"
"Ms. Kay," Lin interrupts. "I think you are biased."
"Biased?" you say, trying to stay calm and failing. "Biased? How?"
"I think," Lin says, spreading his hands on the table. "You come from a position where you cannot make a proper decision. You are biased towards Jenkins because of his sexuality."
"Excuse me?" You can't stop the outrage from pouring into your words. "Anyone can commit a crime, no matter race, religion or sexuality. I know that, Mr. Chang." You spit the word 'Chang' with cruel emphasis. "I just don't understand why you are going with circumstantial evidence rather than facts."
"There are no facts in this case," says Chang with a smug smile. "All evidence is circumstantial. I think the prosecutor makes a legitimate defense. All of us came to the same conclusion. All except you."
"The case requires a unanimous vote."
"The vote is unanimous," Mr. Smith says. "You are unfit to serve on this jury."
You can't believe it. Everyone around you nods. You hang your head down in shame and despair.
"All of you? Are all of you that blinded by ignorance?" Lin Chang walks up to the door and has a brief conversation with someone at the door.
A man in a blue and red suit walks up to you. "Miss," he says. "I'm sorry. But you're going to have to leave." Helpless tears stream down your face. You walk out the door with your head hanging low, the word "Guilty" lingering in your brain.
Poor Mr. Jenkins is going to go to jail. Worse, in a few weeks, he's going to be executed by electric chair. He's going to go out in a blaze of glory.
You hope that it's painless, but you know better. Even if he dies instantly on the chair, he'll have weeks to dwell on his predicament.
He's going to the chopping block. Or is the chopping block coming to him? Delirious thoughts swirl in your head like buzzing wasps. Angry, desperate, and incessant.
The chopping block. The chopping block.
"God save us," you say, walking into the train station. A train is about to arrive: you can see its headlights coming towards you. "God save us all, and may He see Mr. Jenkins's innocence."
You know that there will never be justice for people like you. People like Jenkins. The whole world is so prejudiced that nothing will ever change. Nothing will ever sway human nature.
You suddenly feel hopeless. You feel like nothing you do will ever matter.
And so you step off the ledge of the subway station and onto the rails. A jolt of electricity turns you rigid, and then you hear a rush of sound as the train tunnels towards you.
If you can't save Jenkins from the chopping block, it's only fair you suffer the same fate. You will die painfully and slowly, trying to achieve some kind of justice. An eye for an eye, you think.
And what happens next?