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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Reader (04/15/10)

TITLE: The Trial of Mack Brown
By Mona Purvis


“Heath! Get in here!”

Lou's husky yell was followed by his door-slamming as I slid into the greasy seat across from his paper-cluttered desk. I waited.

“Get down to the courthouse. I'm running front-page on the Mack Brown trial. Get me something. Seems it's all people are talkin'.”

“Mack Brown? The meter reader? Are you sure you want to run front page...?”

“Get the story! He's guilty of theft, embezzlement, kickbacks! Do it!”

“Lou, he's no Bernie Madoff. We're not talkin' ponzi scheme. Heck, our town hasn't got a deep-pocket among us. What's up?”

“Betrayal, swindle...it's all the same. People are tired of these no-good scammers. Front page! Now get down there before I give it to Pat and put you on obits! Go!”

So, it was with some reluctance I, Heath Harris, Globe Gazette reporter extraordinaire, took my seat in the packed courtroom.

The jury had been sworn in and was seated in the box; I knew most of them. Union City is a small town. Stretching my neck I got a glimpse of the accused. His dark hair was neat and brushed back from his face; his blue shirt was pressed - he looked nothing like Bernie Madoff.

“All rise! Judge Joseph Roberts, presiding.”

Judge Roberts motioned to the prosecutor, “Ready for opening statements, counselor?”

Grinning at the jury like a Cheshire Cat on the prowl, Sam Fielding spoke calmly.

“Men and women of the jury. I'm going to tell you a story of greed and corruption. That man, Mack Brown, has taken his last dime from this community! Wasn't enough that Union City folks provided him with foster homes. No sirree! How did he thank us? Born out of wedlock, his mother ran with a rock 'n roll band until she died of a drug overdose. She was a local girl. Now, I'm not about speakin' ill of the dead, but how does he thank us for takin' him in? He stole from us! I'm here to tell you how he did it.”

The first witness for the prosecution was Arnold Mabry, local manager of Duke Power Company and Mack Brown's former boss. His testimony spelled out how Mack was fired and eventually arrested for fraudulently changing the meter readings he recorded at 822 Walnut St, the home of Amelia Clarke. Evidence was found that it had been done every month for years.

Amelia Clarke sat near the front, her blue eyes staring a hole into the heart of the accused. Whispers of her soft silver hair floated into her face and she pushed it back impatiently, staining to hear every word.

One by one each witness for the prosecution was called.

Always knew that boy wouldn't mount to anything. Mother was a drug addict. Father...who knows?

In and out of foster homes...

Thought he would learn from his mother's mistakes.

A loner. No friends as I remember.

Mack watched as people he barely knew spoke as if they knew his innermost feelings.

The defense called only one witness, Mack Brown.

“Mr. Brown, you're accused of tampering with the readings you submitted as meter reader. Did you do that?”

No one stirred as he spoke softly, “Yes sir.”

“So, you defrauded your employer, Duke Power?”

“No sir.”

“Son, look at the jury and tell them what you did.”

“I felt bad for Mrs. Clarke, her being a widow and all. She don't remember me, I guess. She taught me about Jesus at Vacation Bible School when I was only ten. Jesus got me through the rough times...still does. I owe her.”

“Go on.”

“Well, seeing as I was working and all, I subtracted volume from her meter reading so her bill was manageable. I didn't steal or nothing. I added the difference to mine.”

“Judge, I'm submitting Exhibits to show every month the totals deducted from the bill at 822 Walnut St was added and paid for by Mack Brown at his residence. It was the least he could do for the lady who taught him about Jesus.”

I don't need to tell you he walked. Became something of a legend around here. Oh, the front page story? My readers loved it! Won me a Pulitzer! Me, Heath Harris, reporter extraordinaire.

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This article has been read 757 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 04/23/10
This story touched me as I ponder how many of us judge others with never knowing their hearts. My heart melted when Mack told his story. This gets two thumbs up from me.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge04/23/10
You pulled me right into the courtroom! I was however confused by the italics...it was my understanding from past board discussions that they were for thoughts, not dialog...but the dialog was really good.
Donna Wolther04/23/10
Very clever and heart warming. I tried to think of something with a meter reader but couldn't. Wish I had your talent.
Jackie Wilson04/24/10
Great plot, enjoyed the characters. Good message, too!
Ruth Stromquist04/24/10
Well written and engaging with a great ending. Small note: I had trouble with the italics also.
Barbara Lynn Culler04/25/10
I never thought of a meter reader! Brilliant. Loved your story and it's ending.
Would love to see what Heath's boss thought about the story!
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/25/10
This is what is meant my "out of the box" creativity. I loved your story... and Mack Brown and the lady who taught him about Jesus.
Kimberly Russell04/25/10
I enjoyed this story--especially the ending. Gives us a little hope in mankind. Nicely done.
Patricia Turner04/25/10
Wonderful story with a terrific heartwarming ending. Very creative take on the topic.
Sarah Elisabeth 04/25/10
My heart hurt to hear the people so heartlessly dragging his parents' past into the trial.

Interesting take on the topic, loved the twist of innocence!
Gerald Shuler 04/25/10
Great characters. I liked everything about this one... even the italics. Well, maybe not the italics.
Noel Mitaxa 04/26/10
Great twist Mona. Bernie "Madoff" with millions; Mack Brown made off with greater respect from everybody. Loved the small-town feel.
Beth LaBuff 04/26/10
I was drawn in and had no idea where the story was headed. I LOVED the ending. Your creativity for "The Reader" topic is superb!
Pamela Kliewer04/27/10
I really liked this. Thank you for making me smile today.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/27/10
This is absolutely delightful and such a clever twist on the topic
Lyn Churchyard04/28/10
Wonderful take on the topic! If this doesn't do well I'll be surprised. Loved the whole voice of the entry. It was just plain good.
Edmond Ng 04/29/10
An interesting read nicely written! I like the plot and the sense of humor in your story, closing it with Heath Harris winning a Pulitzer. LoL (",)
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/29/10
Congratulations in placing in the top 40 over-all. Good job!
Gregory Kane05/11/10
This was a clever tale with a apt punchline and you've certainly had plenty of feedback. I suspect that where you slipped a little was in your use of the topic word, Reader. On the message boards Deb defined this as a reader of literature and it may be that the judges applied this rather strictly. But, hey, you squeezed into the top 40 which is good going.