TITLE: The Perfect Pardon
By Donna Wasson
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Sheriff Zebulon Walker leaned back in his creaky wooden chair, swatted at a fly and put his dusty, well worn boots up on his desk. He scowled at the piece of horse manure on his heel as the deputy escorted Mrs. Edna Dogood in.
“Afternoon, Mrs. Edna,” Sheriff Zeb said, tipping his hat in her direction.
“Good afternoon to you as well, Sheriff,” Edna replied.
“Edna, do you know why you’re here?”
“Why, yes, of course, Sheriff. It’s a matter of my borrowing that hair clip from Mr.
“Edna,” Sheriff Zeb said, pulling his feet down and scooting his chair up to the desk, “You know good and well you didn’t have permission to ‘borrow’ that hair clip, now did you?”
Edna glared at the Sheriff coldly. “Zebulon Walker, you’ve known me for many years. You know I’m a good person; I go to church, I even sing in the choir. And I make the most delicious lemon meringue pies to take to the sick in our congregation. I don’t see how taking a little ‘ol hair clip should raise such a fuss! It’s such a little bitty indiscretion.”
“Well Mrs. Edna, that’s not up to me to decide. I have to follow the law and the law says stealing is an offense punishable by death”, said the Sheriff. He bent over, picked up a heavy, leather bound book from the floor and placed it on the desk in front of him. “It’s all in here. Every law we have is written in here,” he informed her while gently dusting off the cover.
“Why Sheriff”, Edna laughed nervously, “That’s absolutely ridiculous. You have got to be out of your mind! You mean to hang me for taking a silly hair clip?”
“I don’t have any choice, ma’am. You see, the Judge is the one who wrote the law. I just enforce it. Nothin’ personal, you know that,” Zeb said quietly. “However, there is a way for you to go free. You see, the Judge built this town and came up with all these rules to make it a perfect place to settle. He figured nobody could possibly live up to all of ‘em, so he came up with a plan. Otherwise, he figured everybody in the town would end up hanged sooner or later.”
“Yes, yes, I know,” sniffed Edna with impatience. “It has to do with accepting that silly white piece of paper with all those icky bloodstains all over it.”
“Yes ma’am, that’s right. Those bloodstains come from the Judge’s son who did what his dad asked him to do. He came to town and agreed to be executed for all the laws the Judge knew everybody was bound to break. It’s a full pardon,” he informed her solemnly.
“Well, I don’t want that disgusting piece of paper, or pardon, or whatever you call it. I won’t accept that and carry it around the rest of my life like some badge of honor. You tell the Judge that I’m a good person and an upstanding citizen of this town and I want another kind of pardon that isn’t so distasteful.”
“Mrs. Edna, that’s the only pardon the Judge, gives. It’ll cover you for any laws you break in the future also, not just this thing with the hair clip. You’ll be completely free from the death sentence; you’ll never have to worry about the law again.”
She was offended. “Sheriff, really! I just don’t think I need that. Besides, I would want one on blue paper; you know the ones Mr. Muhammad over in Pickneyville prints. Or maybe the yellow ones that nice Mr. Buddha fella gives out. Those don’t have those nasty stains. My friends told me a pardon printed on colored paper without that embarrassing blood all over it was the same thing. The Judge would honor it just like what you’ve got.”
“Oh, there’s where you’re wrong. There’s only one pardon that’s acceptable. It’s gotta have the bloodstains of the son on it to be good enough for the Judge. That’s what makes it authentic. Anybody who tells you different is a liar, Edna. Please, for Pete’s sake, listen to me before it’s too late!” pleaded the Sheriff.
“Sheriff, you just let me talk to the Judge myself. I’ll sweet talk him and tell him about all the wonderful things I do for the folks around here. Then he’ll see he can just let me go without that pardon. I’m not some common criminal who needs a pardon anyhow. After all, being a good person should count for something, shouldn’t it? It’s all just so insulting!”
“Alright Edna, if you insist,” Zebulon said wearily.
He had heard all the reasons and excuses from other town folk before. It was a rare occasion indeed when a prisoner gratefully took the paper in his or her hand and looked at it with wonder and gratitude. He, himself, had a copy in his shirt pocket; the one over his heart. The paper was old and tattered, but was still valid until the day he died.
He just couldn’t understand why folks would turn down such an offer. The Judge didn’t have to give up his own son. His only son, whom he adored. But he did, and the son took everybody’s punishment and died willingly. Funny thing though, the son didn’t stay dead. That was the mystery of the pardon. That the son rose from the dead was what gave the pardon it’s authority.
The deputy ushered Mrs. Edna Dogood back to her cell to await her appointment with the Judge. Zeb had seen it all before and knew the Judge was more than fair. The ‘ol boy always got mighty angry when somebody demanded to be set free on the basis of some reason they thought up, instead of accepting the priceless pardon, especially seeing how much it cost him and his son. Edna Dogood just couldn’t see that she was doomed.
“What a dad-blame fool,” he thought sadly, shaking his head. “Deputy,” he called out, “Bring in the next prisoner.”
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