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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Love (04/27/06)

TITLE: Jake's Shiny Red Card
By Gini Branch


Jake eyed the long lines before him. He had been summoned to appear today by the Imperial Regent of the Territory, and not wanting to be found in contempt of the summons, he showed up. “How long you been here?” Jake asked the woman in front of him.

”Forever.” She glanced at her watch. “Actually about 30 minutes, just seems that long.” Jake put his brain in neutral, stepped forward one step every few minutes.

“ID.” A clerk held out his hand waiting. “Hey fellow. I said ID.” Jake realized the clerk meant him and handed his ID over. The clerk pitched it into a bin and handed him a shiny, bright red plastic card. The card had a long silver number and a black stripe on its face. “Sign the back before you try to use it. Here’s the rules that go with it. If you can’t read, then there’s a audio center over there.” Jake looked where the clerk pointed. Another line longer than the one he’d just endured. He decided to read, later. “Next.” the clerk shouted.

Jake now possessed a bright red plastic card with a number imprinted on it. He assumed the number in some way distinguished him from the thousands of other citizens. He read a small part of the pamphlet as he wandered back to his car.

This card is a gift from your magnanimous, generous, loving and merciful Imperial Regent of the Territory. In the effort to speed the judicial process, I have dissolved the courts and issued you this card good for 490 infractions of the laws of the Territory. When you have transgressed any law, report to the newly installed justice centers, and follow the instructions. Listed below, you will find a summary of the laws and their point values. Make every effort to minimize the use of this card. No extensions will be issued.

Jake had heard of changes coming to the judicial system but never imagined a red plastic card with a number. He scanned the laws. “The usual stuff.” he thought and pitched the pamphlet onto the back seat of his car.

Several months later, Jake watched a young man at one of the justice centers. The booth’s door opened automatically and the man stepped inside. Jake overheard him say he’d be right back with a laugh. His companions leaned against the wall continuing their conversation while they waited. A bright flash from inside the booth startled them. Then a low-pitched hum came from the booth. The companions cautiously peeked into the booth. “He’s gone!” “Overdrawn.” flashed twice, and then booth reopened waiting for its next customer.

Shaken by what he’d seen, Jake reread his justice card pamphlet. “No extensions will be issued.” He had heard the stories of what he’d just seen from others. He’d thought they were exaggerations. He took his card from his wallet and looked at it. It wasn’t shiny anymore. “How many points have I used? Don’t they have some audit function for these things so I can get a balance?” He searched the finer print of his pamphlet. Nothing about any audit function. “Time to get serious.” he thought.

Jake joined the Rules Keepers of the Territory. He studied hard, practiced harder. Tuesday was class day and Jake was running late. The stop light changed. Jake screeched to a stop, just inches into a crosswalk. The pedestrian guard glared at him as she approached the car. She handed him a ticket that required his visiting a justice booth. “Reckless endangerment of pedestrians” was what it said. “There were no pedestrians.” Jake protested, but that only seemed to make matters worse. He apologized and left the scene.

He sighed as he walked toward the booth. “I’m bound to have enough left on my card for this. I haven’t been here in years.” The doors opened, he stepped into the booth, inserted his card and waited. “Overdrawn.” He saw the word. He didn’t see the flash.

His eyes jerked open and finally focused. His heart still pounded. The book he’d been reading slid off his chest onto the floor. He picked it up and saw “Love… Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others…”. He breathed a prayer of thanks and relief that no red cards existed in God’s Kingdom.

(1 Cor 13:5 MSG).

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Member Comments
Member Date
Andrew Phillips05/04/06
Good stuff here. Very immersive and unique in wording and setting. The title could use some work, but other than that, a good piece.
Lynda Schultz 05/05/06
Clever way to handle the theme. I'm glad there aren't any red cards out there too! Good work.
Virginia Gorg05/09/06
Intresting read, actually. I like this - could be a wave of the future? Some grammatical errors (a audio center should be an audio...). But overall thought-provoking.
Edy T Johnson 05/09/06
This is a very creative piece of writing with good thinking behind it. Just as it is, this story could be a useful tool to "put the fear of God" in a reader's heart, because, even tho' it has a ring of sci-fi to it, the events don't seem beyond the realm of possibility. I liked your title, too.