THE COLD INSIDE
By AL BRUNO III
Wednesday November 9, 1994
The morning was warm, warm enough for light jackets and long sleeved shirts. Tristam stood with the other Magnificent Seven near Blessed Heart’s main entrance, waiting for the Homeroom bell to ring.
“Look all I know is that if you kill somebody you should die. End of story,” Adelphos said.
“But what if they’re later found out to be innocent?” Drew asked.
Warren puffed up at this, “I’d rather an innocent man die than a guilty man go free.”
“Well, that’s really Christian,” Greg said with an uneasy laugh.
“Why should we waste resources keeping these dingleberries alive when there are homeless children starving in the streets?”
Adelphos nodded, “He’s got a point man.”
“But if we kill killers aren’t we being no better than the people that we are killing?” Yusef asked.
Rich nodded approvingly, “That was a tangled little sentence.”
Thursday’s speaker had them all revved up to debate. Blessed Heart had a long history of Social Activism and tried to impress on its students the importance of that activism. So every month they had a little one-day workshops on some important cause- world hunger, environmentalism and human rights were favorites- and each class of the day would try to incorporate some aspect of that month’s cause into the lesson plans. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. Algebra and war crimes just didn’t mix.
“You still haven’t answered me,” Drew said. “What about the people on death row that are later found to be innocent?”
Adelphos dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand, “That shit only happens in the movies.”
“These guys get almost twenty years of appeals, if they’re innocent they wouldn’t be on death row,” Warren said.
This week’s speaker was an advocate for abolishing the death penalty, a minister who had been beaten and tortured for standing up to fascist South American regimes. A tireless crusader for the rights of others. The kind of man Tristam’s father would have called a troublemaker or a martyr-in-waiting.
“How can you-” Warren pointed at Greg, “-of all people be against the death penalty?”
“Woah! Woah!” Rich hit Warren in the back of the head with a dog-eared copy of The Dancers at the End of Time. “You can’t go there!”
“It’s a legitimate question.”
“And you are legitimately over the line.”
Tristam stepped away from the group and peered into the parking lot, another bus was pulling up and disgorging its load of well-dressed students. He watched them as they filed past the Magnificent Seven. Most ignored them but a few made catcalls or rude gestures.
“It’s PK Rich” Greg began. “Warren, do you think that Jeff Hayes really deserves the death penalty?”
“How many people did he kill?” Warren snapped back, “How many people did he kill?”
“And his parents?”
“He killed twelve and wounded ten others but he was disturbed do you understand that.”
“If he’s that nuts then he won’t know we’re putting him in the electric chair.”
Adelphos frowned, “Look all I’m saying is that they should have had that fucker strapped into the chair at his trial and set it up so that when the judge banged his gavel down to pronounce sentence it would have flipped the switch.”
Greg shook his head “He never came to trial. They found him too disturbed to answer for his actions.”
“Insanity. That’s bullshit.”
Yusef said, “I believe that God made insane people to test us. To test our compassion and patience, to see if we can be as merciful as he is. It is the same way with jocks and Republicans.”
Then Tristam saw her, nearly the last one off the bus because she was too busy chatting with a group of her fellow cheerleaders. In spite of the unseasonably warm weather Monique had chosen to wear a turtleneck sweater. The sight made Tristam clench his hands into fists.
Warren sneered, “What Jeff Hayes did had nothing to do with God.”
“What Jeff Hayes did...” Tristam said as he turned to go, “...is what we all secretly wanted to do.”
Drew watched after him, “Ohhh. Somebody’s on edge.”
Warren chuckled a little, “Wouldn’t wanna be a dog right now.”
The rest of the Seven groaned with disgust and walked away.
“What?” Warren called after them, “What did I say?”