Escape Pod 393: Red Card
by S. L. Gilbow
Late one April evening, Linda Jackson pulled a revolver from her purse and shot her husband through a large mustard stain in the center of his T-shirt. The official after incident survey concluded that almost all of Merry Valley approved of the shooting. Sixty-four percent of the townspeople even rated her target selection as “excellent.” A few, however, criticized her, pointing out that shooting your husband is “a little too obvious” and “not very creative.”
Dick Andrews, who had farmed the fertile soil around Merry Valley for over thirty years, believed that Larry Jackson more than anyone else in town, needed to be killed. “I never liked him much,” he wrote in the additional comments section of the incident survey. “He never seemed to have a good word to say about anybody.”
“Excellent use of a bullet,” scrawled Jimmy Blanchard. Born and raised in Merry Valley, he had known Larry for years and had even graduated from high school with him. “Most overbearing person I’ve ever met. He deserved what he got. I’m just not sure why it took so long.”
Of course, a few people made waves. Jenny Collins seemed appalled. “I can hardly believe it,” she wrote. “We used to be much more discerning about who we killed, and we certainly didn’t go around flaunting it the way Linda does.” Jenny was the old-fashioned kind.
Linda would never have called her actions “flaunting it.” Of course she knew what to do after shooting Larry. She had read The Enforcement Handbook from cover to cover six times, poring over it to see if she had missed anything, scrutinizing every nuance. She had even committed some of the more important passages to memory: Call the police immediately after executing an enforcement–Always keep your red card in a safe, dry place–Never reveal to anyone that you have a red card–Be proud; you’re performing an important civic duty.
But flaunting it? No, Linda blended in better than anyone in town, rarely talked and never called attention to herself. She spent most of her days at the Merry Valley Public Library, tucked between rows of antique shelves, alone, organizing a modest collection of old books. In the evening she fixed dinner. After Larry had eaten, cleaned up and left the house for “some time alone,” Linda would lie in bed reading Jane Austen. No, Linda never flaunted anything–never had much to flaunt.