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Saturday, June 25, 2022

How the Supreme Court is taking a wrecking ball to America.


 

Mitch McConnell, thank you for your inescapable, ignominious contributions to preserving our democracy. Thanks for not mustering GOP votes for impeaching a criminal and then making a hypocritical speech on the senate floor implying Trump should be prosecuted.  Thanks for packing the Supreme Court with religious zealots.  You have given us, in coordination with your dissembling judges, a Supreme Court that has just overturned a precedent relied on by two generations of American women, the constitutional right to make their own reproductive choices.

 

The fanatical religious zealot Samuel Alito and the intellectually dishonest, equally zealous, Amy Coney Barrett joined by the lying Clarence Thomas, now threatening other rights, (who replaced a judicial giant, Thurgood Marshall) and Bret Cavanaugh, have laid waste to 50 years of increasing rights for women.  Cavanaugh, after disingenuously telling Susan Collins that he had no intention of overturning Roe v. Wade (1972), has joined his extremist brethren in wresting the power of the Chief Justice from him, moving the court even further to the right, using religious dogma to rationalize the draconian political results to come of overturning Roe.  Preachy Barrett replaced another judicial giant, RBG, a lifetime warrior for the rights of women, who, on her deathbed, pleaded for the Senate to wait until a new president was inaugurated. But McConnell, after not even allowing a Senate vote on Merrick Garland for a year, rammed Amy through the senate in the last months of Trump’s presidential pardon adventure for felonious cronies.

 

Thomas Jefferson famously said, “keep the preachers away from government,” and surely his words resonate now more highly than ever.  We have preachers on the court making decisions based upon their interpretation of Catholic/evangelical doctrine.  Except perhaps other religions may have a different point of view.

 

For example, interpretive religious writings, in the Talmud says that a fetus does not yet have a soul until it is born.  And the doctrine of “pekuach nefesh” says that the life of the mother is superior to the unborn. But apparently not in Texas or Mississippi.

 

Using religious dogma as the sole basis for judicial decisions is like using a stone age manual for building a computer. 

 

Several things need to be done to control court extremism. Voters need to work hard jettisoning GOP politicians who pander to their minority base to the detriment of the majority.  Justices should be added to the court, subject to term limits of 18 years, allowing each president two choices for the court, per four years of presidency.

 

The United States Senate could be made more democratic through a constitutional amendment, say, allowing two senators per 500,000 of population, or some other figure that does not allow states with only that number to have as many senators as a state with 40 million people.  This is inherently undemocratic, allowing entrenched minority rule.  Next, there should be a constitutional amendment codifying Roe, and another one abolishing the dark money generated by Citizens United.

 

Another amendment screaming at us is the abolition of the electoral college, allowing direct popular vote, no more minority presidents. 

 

The Kabuki dance confirmation process should be transformed allowing senators to really know what philosophy these powerful supreme court nominees really hold. 

 

A one term, criminal minority president who lost by 3 million votes to Hillary Clinton, with the help of Mitch McConnell, appointed three justices, captivated by antediluvian dogma.  The Senate is not representative of the people.  Religion has invaded the public space. And people who are the minority rule the land through a perverted electoral process, originally created to give equality for slave states and a militia carrying muskets.

 

The framers, who knew well the history or government and religion deeply understood that separation of church and state be inviolate.  It is right in the First Amendment, clearer than a bell. “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This amendment has allowed disparate religious beliefs to thrive in America.

 

Many cases have interpreted this clause, as well as the right to bear arms, for that matter.  Justices place their personal imprimatur on these issues, however. The court needs moderation, not extremism.

 

The constitution does not go well with originalism, written when people believed differently than they now do. Amy Coney Barrett believes that women should carry unwanted children to term including those who are plagued with incurable maladies that can be determined well before viability, to term, and then drop the child at the police station or at a an underfunded childcare facility so that they can be adopted.  This zealot does not belong in a position of power deciding the fate of millions of women who need reproductive choice.  She and Samuel Alito are cut from the cloth of those who persecuted others because they did not share their beliefs.   

 

Alito, a modern-day Torquemada, is conducting an inquisition against women.  His opinion is a screed of indifference to the dim social implications of overturning Roe, forcing poor women to travel long distances to seek reproductive care, creating insurmountable obstacles to keep their lives controllable.  Some states will now ban all abortions, including a result of incest or rape.

 

As Jefferson said, “Keep the preachers away from government.”

 

 

 

 

Saturday, May 7, 2022

GOP hypocrisy at its highest


So the Supremes, appointed by Republicans, Bush I, Bush II, and three justices appointed by the Donald, who lost the popular vote by 3 million voters and who probably will soon be indicted in Georgia for election fraud, and maybe Federally for a failed coup d’état, have decided that 50 years of precedent be damned, that there is no constitutional right for a woman to make her own reproductive choices. Never mind an entire generation of women who have grown up under Roe. So let’s socially engineer by judicial fiat, what has been law for generations.

Let’s face the facts. The “justices” make up their own minds, and then build a constitutional rationalization to support their position from an infinite variety of decisions throughout the centuries of common law.

And by the way, Bush II, like Trump, was also a minority president, except in the anti- democratic electoral college, designed originally to allow slave states to remain so. Our Constitution also ensured that woman and black people could not vote. So all you originalists and textualists can go back to where we were before Roe v. Wade, to that wonderful mid 20th century where segregation ruled, or the early 19th century where slavery ruled. Why not overrule Brown v. Board of Education to keep America white and segregated

Justice Alito, that righteous avatar of Catholic abortion dogma rests at one of the pinnacles of governmental power, believes that American women should be the victim of state gerrymandered legislatures, representing a minority of the American polity. When Thomas Jefferson said famously, “keep the preachers away from government,” he surely should have included Alito.

Let’s not forget the notion that the court is or should be not politicized. That train left the station in the early 20th century. When FDR’s National Recovery Act was shut down by the conservative Court, a court packing threat from the Democrats in congress caused the conservative majority to back off from shooting down the progressive programs that were to help the nation out of the great depression.

The problem is now that there are not enough votes in the Senate to do any such thing because of successful Republican moves to suppress the vote; instead packing the court with ideologues, the most notable of whom is the handmaiden herselfAmy Coney Barrett, whom the Donald picked to fill the seat of a progressive giant, RBG. Never mind the hypocrisy of dissing Obama’s selection of Merrick Garland, not even given a hearing thanks to Mitch McConnell and his lieutenants, including Chuck Grassley, who should be in a nursing home feeding on double doses of Prevagen.

Mitch at the helm has seen to our current “Justices”, helped by disinformation emanating from Rupert Murdoch’s FOX news, a money-grubbing Australian oligarch, no better than the Russian ones. Mitch’s net worth has increased ten-fold since he was elected and not on his Senate

salary for sure, his wife benefiting from Chinese largesse to and from her uber wealthy family. Oh, and don’t forget Clarence Thomas, a black man who hates his own people, abetted by his wife, Ginny, encouraging the rioters to storm the capitol, sending emails to insurrectionists and GOP party leaders to stop the certification of the vote by the Senate. Thomas is all bent out of shape because of the dastardly leak, impugning the integrityof the court. But he will probably not recuse himself on Trump’s appeal if he is convicted of felonious conspiracy to precipitate an insurrection.

Other dramatis personae include the repulsive Ted Cruz and the vituperative Josh Hawley, who voted against the purely ceremonial certification of a lawful election, necessary to enshrine the vote.

Also, lets not omit a Bronx cheer for Bret Cavanaugh, the beer swilling frat boy, credibly accused of waving his penis in Christine Blasey Ford’s face at his fraternity house, assaulting her. While admittedly a college escapade, it does not speak well to his character. But no matter, he has absolved himself by joining in this sadistic exercise of Republican misogyny. “I like beer, Senator Klobuchar, don’t you?” Cavanaugh hubristically asked the Senator whose father died of alcoholism. No matter, there is no right to privacy in the Constitution, says the red spider veined nosed icon of the religious right.

Now, poor women who live in Texas, Mississippi, or other places of enlightened Republican legislators will have to book an airplane flight or drive to a place where it is legal. But wait! They do not have the money to do so, instead they can carry them to term and drop their newly born at the nearest police station or underfunded Mississippi or Texas childcare facility. Thanks a lot, Amy. Perhaps you want to adopt some more children.

This whole sordid episode of “Making America Great Again,” curdles the blood even of the most casual observer.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

MACK THE KNIFE. A SHORT STORY


A work of fiction,

By David Wieder 


I.

Mack Bronstein woke up, as he did every day, pissed off. He hated his life and everyone who, in his twisted perception, slighted him.

Mack had a grudge list, but most of all, he wanted his wife dead. Mack lived in a house that looked like someone had forgotten about it in the 1960s. Several large TVs populated the den and living room; a dated shag rug lay on the floor. His refrigerator reflected his tastes, smelling like an overripe salami. Mack liked to dine at a nearby Jewish Deli, where the food was copious, the prices were cheap, populated by an elderly crowd of ravenous local condominium dwellers. The deli was reminiscent of a Edward Hopper painting except there were many people sitting at the counter, stuffing their faces with kosher pickles, freshly baked rolls and huge cheesecakes. The countertop was trimmed in chrome around the worn, pink, cracking Formica. The changing demographics, causing the deli later to close, much to Mack’s chagrin, forced Mack to go to other less desirable restaurants, like a nearby buffet where he could chomp on frozen all-you- can eat shrimp. He loved Chinese buffets where he could stuff himself with as much food as possible, paying a minimum price and returning for unlimited seconds and thirds. If one would want to join Mack for dinner, it would have to be at a place of his choice, all others being “a rip off.” “They are all a rip-off” he would say if someone were to suggest another place. Cheesecake factory was a big favorite. “good value.” The Mack restaurant rating was based upon the size of the portions, rather than the quality of the food.

Most of all, back in 1970s, he loved to dine for free at his cousin Daniel’s father’s hotel, where he would eat enormous portions filling his 250-pound frame. Free food was great, and no limitation was imposed on seconds and even thirds and best of all, no bill. The hotel, filled with religious Jews, its clean environment and kitchen dispelled the parochialism of its clientele, many of whom were Holocaust survivors or down from the Bronx to consume as much food as at a Nathan’s Coney Island hot dog eating contest. To this Daniel’s parents had catered generously, and had made a not inconsiderable amount of money. Daniel was the first cousin of Mack’s wife, Dottie, a somewhat humorless, yet decent woman, who never could find her place, until she and Mack married, and probably not afterwards, either.

Dottie and Mack had been introduced by Daniel’s sister, Carole, and the engagement party was held at Daniel’s waterfront home. Carole, a scheming, spoiled woman, generally liked to get what she could out of people, and took advantage of Daniel, trying to sabotage his marriage, and sowing chaos and misinformation, to her and Daniel’s parents, generating familial discord in every manner she could. Daniel was an insecure, poor student, immature, and unmotivated. He sought approval from his Father but it never came. Daniel had some sort of attention deficit disorder and was inconsistent in his schoolwork, and getting through his classes by the skin of his teeth. He needed to be loved but it never really came. When he met his wife, Caroline, and began to work, he finally found his place, but never really overcame the scars of his neglected childhood. Mack had accepted him though, and what came out of that relationship’s destruction conferred enormous pain and another feeling of rejection that ate at Daniel without abate. The mystery of how he could be so casually cast aside by someone he cared for added acid to the witch’s brew of emotional instability that Daniel suffered from all his life.

“You know, Dottie, the reason Mark and Jon moved away to distant cities, and never call, is because I was strict and demanding. They knew not to be disrespectful to me, or I would have booted them out the door or slapped their face.”
“That’s not the reason, Mack. Or only part of the reason. You never listened to them, always
hollering and telling them how they should do things, and not even acknowledging they had their own opinions; all you did was complain to them about anything and anyone who might be their friends, or who did not have money, or did not agree with your demented politics. You expected all your friends to suck upto you.”

Bullshit.”
“It is
not, and I’m sick and tired of your angry, bullying personality. You fight with everyone, the neighbors, your children, and my cousin Daniel.”
“Daniel is a jerk off Democrat who asked me
to give him Jon’s number to work on the Kenyan candidate, Obama. “
So, couldn’t Jon make up his own mind? He needed you to tell him what to do?
“He needed my guidance.”
“Hardly, Mack. He needed your guidance so much, he couldn’t
wait to leave the house. And he certainly did not want to follow you into your dumpster fire law career.”
“Fuck off
Dottie, you frigid bitch. I wish I were free of you. The only time you pay attention to me is when you put me down. I’m going out.”
“Where?”
“None of your fucking business.”

Mack drove over to his office, three rooms and a receptionist area. Belle, the receptionist was sitting at her desk, chewing Nicorette.
“Hi Belle,” Mack said, “glad you’re quitting smoking.”
“Thanks a lot. Charlie said he would fire me if I didn’t, because
you told him. I need a cigarette now and then, and I always went outside, so why did you insist?”

“Because I can’t stand the smell of tobacco and I don’t want my lungs affected. Anyone who smokes is either stupid, suicidal or doesn’t care about others inhaling poison.”
“Thanks again Mack.” Belle hated Mack.

Charlie was sitting with his feet up on the desk. “Hey, Mack, I thought you were going to bring in some business. Plus, you are late on the rent.”
“I know I know, been having a rough time at home.”
“Why?”


“Well, the boys are no longer around, and I have to be with Dottie too much, she’s always ragging on me, and won’t fuck me, not that I want to.”
Charlie was not interested. “Listen Mack, you need to pay rent, you are three months
behind, and you haven’t lived up to our deal. You promised some cases, you promised to do some TV spots, you said you had sources for business, and you can’t even pay the reduced rent.
“Charlie stop busting my balls, I’ll come through.” Mack stormed out the door. Charlie
thought to himself, what an asshole.

Mack went to his office and decided that he wanted out of his marriage, his law firm and financial demands he could not meet. But he had a plan. He was fed up with his left-wing associates and his up-tight wife. He knew they all despised him. Robert, the other lawyer in the office, had plenty of business. Cheerful, young, aggressive, and hardworking, always had people coming in and out.

“Rob,” wanna get some lunch?”
“Mack, I am so busy, not today,” Rob
knew lunch would be another tirade about how the world was out to get Mack, the Democrats were ruining the country, and the black president was not born in the US.
The time before when Rob did dine with Mack, Mack had a tirade.
“Obama is ruining the country, and the Democrats are so soft on crime. We need a law and order administration. Anyone who votes Obama is stupid.” Mack announced. Most of his colleagues ignored his right-wing tirades. “They’re trying to outlaw capital punishment. I say fry them all.” I don’t even speak to my wife’s cousin Daniel because he worked on the Obama campaign and asked me for my son’s phone number to tell him how to vote. He had the nerve to call me an asshole. Obama never even showed his birth certificate.”
“Mack, sorry, I have work to do.”
“OK Rob, see you later.” Mack was pissed that Rob dismissed him, and felt his blood rising, but
held back, thinking Rob might need him in a case later on. In fact, there was no such possibility. Rob was convinced that Mack was a washed-up loser. Rob thought Mack should get a drink, but Mack neither drank nor smoked, confining his beverage to caffeine-free diet Coke.

Welfare manipulators” he would say, causing him to rationalize his racist politics. “Liberals were satanic manifestations of Leon Trotsky. Obama was not born in America, a Kenyan, not fit to be president; moreover, a black person who was not born in the United States.

Mack was Jewish, but acted like someone from the Alabama backwoods. Mack voiced his half- baked opinions as though they were gospel. If anyone disagreed with his rantings, they deserved no credibility. Mack was an iconoclast without portfolio. An Archie Bunker sans humor. Mack’s sense of humor died when he married Dottie, who never laughed at his jokes and evinced a sullen apathy herself.

Dottie had lost any semblance of her self-esteem, suffering psychological abuse for 40 or so years. She had taught school many years, achieved a substantial pension, and inherited money from her parents’ estate, as well as from a niggardly uncle who left her a part of his rather large fortune, because Uncle Vincent resided at poverty level, sporting a 50-year-old frazzled leather

belt that seemed like it would separate from its buckle at any moment and a worn polyester shirt looking as though it would spontaneously combust. Uncle Vincent, a confirmed bachelor and multi-millionaire, after selling his supermarket to a chain, was a constant presence at Mack and Dottie’s house. He enjoyed the free food, and the large televisions he found too extravagant to buy for himself. Uncle Vincent was gentle soul, though, as was Dottie’s father, Mitchell, certainly not a spendthrift either, a retired dentist who continually catered to his wife, Eleanor, Daniel’s aunt, until the day he died. Eleanor, Helen’s sister, lost her noodles, and mostly sat around Mack’s house in semi-catatonia. She no longer remembered anyone, even her children.

“Dottie, your cousin Daniel called me an asshole because I would not give him Jon’s number because he told me he was working on that Kenyan presidential candidate’s campaign and wanted Jonathan to help him. I’m never going to speak to him again,exaggerating the context of the perceived insult to justify his sangfroid to his wife and sons.

“I told him, I thought you were a Republican. Can you imagine, he was a Democrat. I thought he supported Nixon, like me. I think he did at that time. What a dumb move, supporting a schvartza. They’re taking over our country.”

“Mack,” Dottie responded, “enough.”
“Dottie, shut up. You’re
someone who I would have left a long time ago, but we had children. Your opinion is worthless. I’m sick and tired of listening to you, you are just plain stupid. Daniel is a prick, but I guess it runs in your family.”
Dottie had heard that all before. She, too, was tired of Mack’s abuse, but she did not want to extend the conversation. She knew she was locked into an unsalvable marriage and could not even bear to sleep in the same room. But she was fearful enough to remain in place. She had no friends either, no place to go.

“Listen, Dottie, we have to go to your brother’s son’s wedding in Washington, and I won’t speak Daniel, he’s a left wing socialist.”
Dottie did not respond, preferring to keep the peace, and too tired of arguing with a wall.

“Don’t answer any calls he may make to you, I won’t forgive you either, if you speak or meet with him. As far as I am concerned, he is dead to me.”
Why do you have to be such a jerk? He’s my cousin.
“I am sick of you and your
family; I should have divorced you a long time ago.”

“My family are good people, and you keep insulting them. Because of them we have money, certainly not through any hard work you did. And everything we inherited came from my family, certainly not yours. All we got from them was a psychodrama, with you playing the lead.”

Mack got up, approached her, and smacked her in the face.

Dottie, who had always acceded to Mack’s sociopathy, began to weep, hung her head and left the room, Why am I here?” she thought. She wanted him dead, but never would act on it.


At his cousin’s wedding in DC, Daniel approached Mack to apologize for calling Mack an asshole, a title which he richly deserved, but that Daniel should not have called him. “Mack,” Daniel said warmly, attempting to give him a hug.
Mack repulsed Daniel, who, to Mack, was a serial killer. “No, stay away from me.” “Why?” asked Daniel.

Mack did respond, glaring at Daniel with contempt. “I don’t want to have anything to do with you!” he shouted, his facing growing red.
Daniel walked away, realizing, but not completely understanding, why Mack had such strong antipathy toward him. He re-approached Mack.

Mack started yelling, “get away from me.”
“Why are you so angry?”
“Get away from me,” Mack
shouted. By this time the other guests noticed the disturbance and Mack’s son, came over to separate Daniel and Mack. After that, they had no further communication, Daniel not wishing to disturb the wedding any further, but deeply shaken by the rebuff, the lack of forgiveness.

After, Daniel had phoned Dottie, curious as to what was really his offense, asked her to lunch, she accepted, then cancelled. The issue hardly could not have been only one aberrant conversation. It did not make sense. Excepting if Mack had exaggerated the exchange between him and Daniel. Dottie and Daniel had spent much of their childhood together, visiting Niagara Falls with her parents, riding the Maid of the Mistunder the thundering water, and shared the same fate when Dottie’s father stopped them from swimming with her older brothers and cousins at Buttermilk falls outside of Ithaca New York, where Dottie’s uncle was a professor at Cornell. Daniel had accompanied his aunt and uncle on a trip as a seven-year-old. Daniel loved his aunt and uncle, who had been so kind to him. Daniel felt awful when his uncle Mel had died, and his aunt faded from dementia. Dottie sort of knew this but sublimated her feelings to pacify Mack. That trip to Niagara Falls, burned into Daniel’s memory endeared Dottie to him. She was emotionally detached, almost autistically indifferent to most other people. Dottie had had a hard time connecting with boys during her teenage years. She had crushes on boys, which went mostly unrequited. Dottie, like almost everyone else in the family, worked at Daniel’s father’s hotel for many summers and basically grew up with Daniel and his sister, Carole. Their childhoods were intertwined through the deep friendship of Daniel’s and Dottie’s parents. Hellen’s sister, Dottie’s mother, Eleanor had driven Hellen to the hospital that summer day in 1942 when Daniel was born.

Mack had again received repeated calls, emails containing apologies from Daniel after the Obama and wedding incidents, never responding. Mack angrily never wanted to reconcile with Daniel nor his estranged brother whom Mack viewed upon with a not an inconsiderable mixture of envy and contempt. Forgiveness was not in Mack’s vocabulary; he viewed the world as a conspiracy directed at him. Mack’s brother had moved on, but Daniel was consumed by the unexplained rejection. Mack’s younger brother had made a successful career idermatology, finally married, but was able to put Mack out of his mind. Daniel was not able to do that.

Mack, some years before, had drawn the will for Daniel’s mother, Hellen, much before his perceived insult from Daniel, making himself the alternate personal representative. Upon Hellen’s death a trust was set up for Daniel’s alcoholic sister, Carole.

Daniel remained persona non grata. Daniel had come to accept but not completely understand Mack’s hatred after trying to reconcile with him through emails and phone messages. “Please forgive me,” Daniel pleaded, even though he knew the attempts would bear no fruit. Daniel optimistically thought he would succeed but sometimes apologies do not work. Daniel, trying desperately, could not understand the opprobrium. Some people just can’t forgive. If it is true that forgiveness is more for the forgiver than Mack would continue to suffer, and Daniel felt compassion, even pity, for Mack, yet remained wounded psychologically with Mack’s refusal to even explain why he was hateful. Daniel hurt inside and could not help thinking that there was something more he could do to resolve his pain.

Much before all this, Daniel had represented Mack in a lawsuit against an African American man who sued him for assault, when Mack blocked him with a briefcase outside a courtroom trying to collect a debt on behalf of his father’s used car business. The debtor was an ignoramus, who had been a professional prize fighter, who did not accept Mack’s boisterous aggression, and punched Mack in the face, shattering his sunglasses and blackening his eye.

Mack went to Daniel to represent him in a lawsuit against the man, George, who had socked him in the eye in the courthouse hallway, all this having been witnessed by a police officer who promptly arrested George. George had pled guilty on the assault charge, and Mack had Daniel sue George for civil assault and battery. The trial judge directed a verdict in favor of Mack, which was later reversed on appeal. Daniel and Mack spoke frequently on the telephone, exchanging family news and pleasantries. They were friends in those years. Daniel also achieved a substantial settlement for Mack in a personal injury case. Mack and Daniel went to Epcot together and celebrated. Mack found some comfort there with a prostitute.

Mack’s son, Jonathan was to be married. And the wedding plan and invitations were to go out. Jonathan called Daniel, to explain why he could not invite him to his wedding.
“You know, Daniel, my father told me that if I invited you to my wedding, my dad would not come. He told me, “It was him or me.” Jonathan, who also must have suffered from abuse, complied with his father’s ultimatum.

Daniel, non plussed said, “sure Jonathan, I understand.”
But Daniel was surprised by Jon’s deference to his father who had given him an inappropriate ultimatum. Daniel thought that Jon should have stood up to the bullying. On the other hand, Jon’s gentle nature wished not to be excommunicated too. “He’s stubborn,” Jon said, and Daniel felt even more compassion for the difficult place his father had found for him.


Sometime later, Daniel ran into Mack in a noisy restaurant. The restaurant was a kind of an upscale Outback Steakhouse, where full dinners came at an inexpensive price, drawing a mostly elderly crowd in an undistinguished ambiance, the menus adorned with color photographs of steaks, chops and fries. The tables bore no cloths. There was a hardwood laminated floor, with a transparent look of cleanliness. Waitstaff scurried about, feigning familiarity by introducing themselves by name. “How are WE doing today?” Mack was seated at a table with about six others, including Dottie, who sat basically transfixed, almost in catatonia.

“Mack, do you have a minute?” Daniel wanted to again bury the hatchet, to clear the fetid air. Daniel, pained by the rejection, wanted to reconcile. Daniel had felt that he had done a lot for Mack, and had more than earned his forgiveness, despite Mack’s impulse to cut him out because he did not agree with him politically, or even worse, made a statement with which Mack did not agree and took hyperbolic defensiveness.

“No.” Mack replied.
“I just wanted to have a word in private...”
“No,” Mack
interrupted.
Daniel, nonplussed, said “why not?”
No response from Mack, speaking as though Daniel was not there. Dottie sat closed mouth and incredulous. Daniel could not believe the immediate rejection.
“What kind of man tells his son, it’s him or me for your wedding?” Daniel announced to the group. Mack jumped out of his chair and threatened to punch Daniel in the face. “I’m bigger than you, if you stay here, I will flatten you,clearly embarrassed by the confrontation that exposed Mack’s nakedly unforgiving, mean-spirited character, Daniel retreated, astonished by the behavior of a bully, who had called the manager to eject Daniel from the restaurant.

On his way out the door after dinner, Daniel loudly accused Mack of being Hitler.
But Daniel remained pathologically obsessed about what he had really done to create such
hatred toward himself. He ruminated about it, but no one from Mack’s family wanted to reveal to him what Mack had thought he had done wrong. The mystery germinated into an obsession and Daniel’s children told him to “forget about it.” They could provide no clarity either. Daniel still agonized and continued to do so. His pain was evident to all who knew him. Rejection without explanation. Mack had achieved his goal, his schadenfreude.

II.

Mack fantasized about he could get rid of Dottie, but he did not know how. He thought of hiring someone to kill her, or creating an auto accident, running her down in the driveway or the street, or feeding her poison. Then he could find some younger woman who would have sex with him, but he could not get himself to do it. Maybe a staged home invasion with both of them as victims. He had an old client, Cliff, a convicted murderer, with whom he thought he could make a deal. He decided to meet Cliff in a seedy bar near downtown.

“Cliff, I can pay you $20,000 to off my wife.


“I dunno Mack, you did me a good turn when you represented me in my murder case, but I paid you plenty. I guess I owe you. You got me a really reduced sentence. They could have fried me.
“I don’t know either, Cliff, but I have the cash to pay you if you decide. But don’t do anything yet, I’m just thinking about it.”

“OK, Mack.”

The house was dark when Dottie and Mack arrived home. Mack looked at his bed, his wife and his life and felt a gloomy, existential pain. He found her repulsive. He wanted a way out, a way to be respecteda trophy wife. It was not to be, he thought, not enough money. He craved adulation, which never seemed to come his way.

“Dottie, my back is killing me, could you bring me some Advil?”
“Sure,” said Dottie. “Why don’t you try to get some sleep?”
“I can’t.
I hate your fucking cousin. He keeps trying to contact me. I’ll never forgive him. Dottie took a step back, “Maybe you should take some sleep medication?”
“Nah, I’ll just lay here.
I hate that bastard. The only reason he has money is because his father left it to him.”
“That’s not true, he is a lawyer just like you, except he goes to work.”
“Shut up Dottie, you are just an idiot. You’re not worth the trouble.”

Dottie, tired of Mack’s complaints, left the room to watch television. Since she had retired from schoolwork, she was obliged to spend too much time with Mack. She knew he could explode at any minute. Sitting down on the lounge chair, Mack called out to her.
“Dottie, get me some sleeping pills.” Dottie got up and brought Mack some Ambien. She hoped he would take the whole bottle. She returned to the lounge chair.

Dottie had compromised her life, she thought. She yearned to have some independence, some time to herself. Mack was in the way. He always complained to her about her lack of sexual desire. In reality, she found him repugnant, his big fat body, almost whale-like pressing her down, squeezing the air from her, making her unable to breathe. There was no tenderness, no intimacy, no love. But Dottie did not feed on those qualities. There was something missing anyway. It could not be found. Whether it ever existed is hard to visualize, given her unloving personality and his bombastic, misanthropic bravado. Their marriage was a psychodramatic, pathological, tragic undertaking.

Outside the house, dark skies warned of an incipient thunderstorm. Claps of thunder and lightning pierced the living room. Dottie awoke in a start and went to see if Mack was still sleeping. He was. His loud snoring outdoing the thunder. Dottie thought to herself, how could I be married to this man, this overwhelming bully who has divorced himself from my family?

The next morning, the skies cleared, a crisp cold front passing through. The sun shone. Awakening, Dottie still reflected upon her wretched state, married to a boor, isolated from her children, whom Mack had condemned for moving far away, not calling much, asking to speak to


her, not him, when he picked up the telephone. Dottie knew that her sons did not respect their father and it was a cause of continuing worry. But Dottie did not like to face reality; it was easier to just ignore the bad or set upon unchartered waters. Her brow was wrinkled, and her jet-black hair dye job covered her completely white hair. She looked like some surreal feature of a Dali painting.

Mack said to her,
“What’s for breakfast?”
“I don’t know,” Dottie answered.
“What do you mean, you don’t know?
Gimme some coffee and donuts, I brought them fresh from Dunkin Donuts. I like them hot.”
“Get them yourself.”
“You’r
e just like your fucking cousin. I should have divorced you years ago.”
Dottie started to weep. Mack did not care, he continued,
“You are just a dried-up old bitch. I knew I should never have married you. You were ugly then and you’re worse looking now. And I do not give a shit about your family and that Daniel who is worse than you, but not by much.” And don’t go reconciling or having lunch with him, or youll regret it. I have a friend who does a lot of divorce work, believe me, you won’t benefit. Dottie recoiled from the threat. How could this man, to whom I have given two wonderful sons and so many years, be such a brute? I worked much harder than he did over the years, teaching school and raising our two sons, while he “practiced” law, earning next to nothing.

The weather was changing, that night, Mack scarfed down some additional salami and eggs, washed down with a Diet Coke.

There had been many robberies and burglaries in the neighborhood, a small 1970s Levittown- type development in which their house was bordered by a huge concrete wall in the backyard behind which was a freeway. Dottie felt a fear creeping up her back and the hair on the back of her neck stood up. There was someone knocking on the front door. Dottie approached the front door and opened it. Two men pushed her aside and rushed in.

“Who are you?”

Cliff stepped in, slammed the door, and slapped Dottie in the face. “Shut the fuck up,” he said, and Cliff had a partner with him. “Shut up, bitch.”
Dottie screamed, and Cliff slapped her so hard, she fell to the floor. Cliff and his partner wore black masks.

Mack, sound asleep, snoring like a whale, attached to his CPAP machine, heard nothing. Another man, black hooded mask and turtleneck sweater, screamed at her, “Bitch, stay down on the floor.” Another man, similarly attired, who had followed him in through the door, walked by her as she lay terrorized on the floor.

Mack awakened in a fright.


Cliff’s partner grabbed Dottie, pulled down her slacks and panties, forced her to the floor and penetrated her while she screamed in pain. Then they exposed her breasts and raped her again. When they finished, they cut across her face with a knife, and cut her breasts. Dottie screeched in agony, knowing they would kill her. Mack watched dispassionately.

Another person who would no longer annoy him.

Cliff said, “give me the combination to the safe, Mack or I’ll kill you, too.”
Mack became frightened, gave the combination to Cliff, who opened the safe and found $90,000 inside.
“Cliff, we didn’t make a deal, why are you here?”
“I need the dough, Mack, and I’ll kill you and your wife for it.”
“Cliff, are you crazy? Or high?”
Mack said.
“Don’t push it Mack, I am gonna do you a big favor.”
Mack protested, “No, No, No!!!”
Cliff went over to Dottie, pointed a gun at her mid chest and pulled the trigger three times, killing Dottie. Blood exited her mouth and spilled onto the white ceramic tile floor. Mack winced in horror, but strangely was not unpleased.

The two then, while Mack watched, emptied the rest of the clip into Dottie’s corpse.
Then they walked over to Mack, with the butt of Cliff’s gun, smashed Mack in the mouth, knocking out his front teeth and leaving him with a bloody mouth.
They then duct taped him to the bed, hand and foot, cleaned up after themselves, and took their latex gloves, and the gun with them, but replacing the kitchen knife in its holder in the kitchen after thoroughly cleaning it.

III.

Mack struggled to untie his hands and after 20 minutes, succeeded. He ripped the duct tape from his bloodied mouth and dialed 911 as soon as he could.
“My wife’s been killed,” he screamed into the phone.
“Please hold,” the robot said. Thirty seconds passed.

“Can I help you?”
My wife’s been killed in a home invasion,” Mack said almost dispassionately. “What’s your address?”

After that, he called his two sons to tell them what had happened but did not talk about Dottie’s death yet.

“Geez, Dad, who did you antagonize?” Jon inquired.
“Goddamit, Jon, how dare you ask me that?”
“Because it seems like you have a lot of people you dislike or don’t talk to”
“Listen, Jon, “I have some bad news.” Your mother was killed by the two men who broke in.” “WHAT?”


“Your mother is dead.”
“You told me a long story about yourself and mentioned nothing about Mom? You just matter
- of-factly say she is dead?”
“Listen, don’t give me
shit, I’ve been through a lot of traumas, and the police will probably not do a thing.

And if you were a good son, you would live here in Miami, near us. I never hear from you.” “Dad, what the fuck? You don’t hear from us, because you never expressed any interest in our lives, and you never have anything nice to say. All you do is tell us how to live our lives. And you bring this up in the same phone conversation with the news that Mom is killed? How sick is that?”

All you ever did was complain about Mom and my wife, and Mark. You’re probably glad she is gone.”

“Mark and I will be down for Mom’s funeral, but not to see you. You treated her like shit, which she wasn’t, she came from a good family, better than yours. All you ever wanted to do was wallow in your own misery and blame others for it. You are jealous of other family members who did better than you. I hate you.”

Mack thought, he’s an ungrateful little spineless shit, not caring whether he came or not with his sniveling little family that sent out picture New Year’s cards to everyone, who probably did not give flying shit about him anyway. Mack then plunged into gleeful thought about having a new girlfriend, preferably quite young. Maybe someone in their 20s and now that hag Dottie was gone, he would be free of all encumbrances. Except he thought that a younger woman would cost him money.

“If I were there, I would slap you in the face.”
Jon hung up the phone, preferring to say nothing to someone who meant nothing to him.

Mack dozed off after they removed the body.

Jon sank into despair; he loved his mom, who stood in the way of their father’s bullying. Now that she was gone, he felt like an orphan. His father was a prick and he knew it. Maybe he had something to do with his mother’s death. Maybe he plotted the entire thing. Why didn’t he invite his mother to come with him and Judy, his wife? Judy liked her mother-in-law but not that much. But since she always was quiet and minded her own business, she was tolerable. Judy hated Mack and saw him for what he was: a selfish, narcissistic, bullying asshole. She could not comprehend how quiet and sensitive Jon was, and the psychodramatic relationship with his father.

Jon called Mark. “I have some bad news.” “No, about Mom. Sit down.”
“What?”


“Mom was killed in a home invasion. She opened the front door, and two men broke in, raped and killed her and tied Dad up to his bed, but Dad untied himself and called the police. Mom’s body was mutilated, and she was shot a bunch of times, maybe 8-10.
“I wonder why they didn’t kill him too?” Mark said.

“Don’t know. We have to go down for Mom’s funeral. Will you pick me up in your plane, and we’ll go together. Too bad Dad will be there. I’m sorry it wasn’t him instead.”
“Sure, Jon, I am devastated.”
Mark loved his mother even more than Jon and a sinking feeling came to him.


IV.

Mack woke up the next day to a ringing phone.
“Mr. Bronstein, this is Detective Ron LaFarge of the Miami-Dade Police Department. We would like to come by today to ask you a few questions.”
“What for?”
“We need to know some more details about the circumsta
nces leading to the murder of your wife and your home invasion,” said LaFarge, his voice betraying skepticism when he said, “home invasion.”
“What time,” said Mack, “I have some clients to meet.”
“We need you to make yourself available.” LaFarge had alread
y done some questioning of neighbors, learning that most of his neighbors had had tiffs with Mack, and characterized him as a very angry man. Some of his neighbors avoided him entirely and had said that they had heard enraged confrontations between him and Dottie. Everyone sort of agreed that Mack evinced a stubbornness and denial of the perceptions of his evident personality flaws gained by Mack’s neighbors. Mack was always angry or complaining about someone or something in a tone that was filled with rage. They thought that he had shouted often at Dottie. Mack had no ability to understand the feelings of others. A sociopathic narcissist.
“How about three this afternoon?”
“Ok, said Mack, “I’ll shift my meeting around.” Actually
, Mack had no meeting to go to at all. “See you at three.”

A knock on the door. Mack answered. It was 3pm. Detective LaFarge and his partner, a young woman, Shirley Grant, were at the door.
“May we come in?”
“Sure,
but crime scene forensics has already gone over this place with a fine-toothed comb.” “That’s why we want to talk to you.”

Mack grew anxious. “Ok, have a seat. Do you want anything? Coffee, soda, a bagel, something stronger?”
“No thanks, Mr. Bronstein
, we are good. We want to ask you how all this happened.”
“I already explained everything to the uniformed guys
.

“Well,” LaFarge continued, “we have seen some inconsistencies in your story and what the lab reported.”


“What do you mean?”
There was no sign of forced entry and the gun, which we found on a street nearby, had your fingerprints and DNA match the bullets found in your wife’s body. We ran a check on the gun, and it was sold locally. There is no record of it belonging to anyone else, so we have to assume it was yours. We are now checking gun shops and gun shows and we think you purchased that gun. Also, none of your neighbors saw anything or anyone suspicious going on at your house that night. The knife wounds on your wife match one of your kitchen knives. You untied yourself from the bed and the duct tape came from your garage cabinet. We have no evidence that there was anyone here that night except you and Dottie.”
Mack exploded, “are you accusing me of killing my wife?”
“Yes, we are. You are under arrest.”
Put your hands out so we can handcuff you.”
“You must be kidding!” Mack screamed.
“Put your hands out!”
“NO. I did not do this, we were invaded!”
LaFarge drew his gun. Mack then extended his hands, was handcuffed, and led out of his house, with the cops locking the front door.
“At least let me turn off the water heater and the air conditioning.”

Mack was put in the police car, given his Miranda warnings, and taken to the County Jail.

Meanwhile, Mark and Jonathan had arrived in Miami, and went straight to the house. Not finding their father there, called the police to be informed that their father had been arrested for homicide, and was in jail.

Mark said, “Do you think Dad could have killed Mom?”
“Dunno, he could have
,said Jon.
“He was so mean to her, shouting and bullying her. She always wanted to avoid a fight.”
“And he was always looking for one. Let’s make funeral arrangements and then go down to see Dad at the jail.”
Mark knew his father for what he was, “Let’s just do the funeral arrangements and not go. I really can do without his denials,evincing his conviction that his father killed his mother. Jon was a thoughtful, sensitive soul, and did not want his thoughts of doubt interfere with what seemed to be overwhelming evidence.

Jon reflected a moment, I think we have to go down to see him and at least hear him out.” “Well, OK, but I really have no desire to see him. I think he did it,Mark said.

The funeral director sat in his office, behind a muted plain wood desk and wore a dark blue suit with a black tie, his partly bald pate had his hair slicked with some sort of pomade across his head, making him look somewhat like he had been anointed with Elmer’s glue. The room had some pictures of green landscapes, mountains and greenery in the distance, and an azure blue unclouded sky. The office seemed a not unsubtle allusion to a peaceful transition to the afterlife. The desk had a mini-Torah scroll on it, and a gold pen set with a leather blotter. “Gentlemen, I am so sorry for your loss,” he greeted them.


“Thank you,” Jon uttered, still not fully believing his mother’s corpse was in a fridge in a nearby room.
“Let me show you the selection of caskets.”

He led them into another room and there were many polished, finished caskets, but Jon and Mark decided on a plain pine box, as the rabbi had suggested, when they had met with him a bit earlier. A cemetery plot had been purchased at a place in West Miami and the funeral was to take place in a day or so. Jon paid the funeral director, and the two bereft sons headed south to the county jail, where their father was awaiting arraignment.

“What took you so long?” Mack said upon greeting his two sons. Mack did not seem distraught, there was a certain relief in his face, almost as though nothing had happened.
“We had to make funeral arrangements. Dad, what the fuck happened?” Mark said.
“Don’t use that language with me, you are not too old to get a smack. I don’t
like your tone of voice.” Mack was behind a glass wall and had to use a telephone to speak, so Jon feared not of fatherly violence, of which he had been a subject of for many years.

“Mom’s dead and that is your response?” Jon interjected. “Yeah, I know, I know.”
Don’t you care?”
“The police said they think you killed her.”

Mack sat silent, not surprised by the statements of his two ungrateful sons, upon whom he had wasted his time. “I suppose you agree with them.”
“We don’t know, “said Jon.
“I ought to smack you in the mouth.”

“Go ahead, Dad, it won’t be the first time.”
“Get out of here, you un
grateful little shits, “ Mack rose in his seat, slammed the telephone behind the glass window, and left the prisoner’s area with the guard following behind.”

The next day Jon and Mark went to see Detective LaFarge.

“We think your father killed your mother,” LaFarge said, outlining the evidence.
“I guess he needs a lawyer,said Mark.
Walking out into the Miami heat and humidity, Jon said, “should we go back to the house?” “Yeh,” Mark responded.
“Remember when we were young, how fearful we were of Dad? I
was scared shitless most of the time. I always thought he was going to hit me. He used to talk about how grandpa used to smack him around. I guess he took a page from grandpa’s playbook.”
“You think?” said Mark. “He used to hit me all the time. It
was like living with an animal trainer.
“I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Mom was so fearful of him also, I don’t know how she put up with him.”


“And now she’s dead, probably because of him, or some enemy he made. She was not courageous enough to do the right thing for herself. Abused people live in fear and I blame myself for not pushing her to leave,” said Jon.

“I can’t really wrap my head around it.”
“Why did she stay with him?”
“Why do you think? Because of us
. Or maybe she was happier not rocking the boat, or out of fear.” Jon was not sure, and his insides were roiling. He called his therapist, who clearly observed Jon’s ambivalence towards his now dead mother. Jon felt like his insides were turning out, exacerbating his already abused, depressed psyche. “I’m pooped, let’s go get some lunch.”

They went to a nearby IHOP. The IHOP was a run-down dive. People sat around waiting for one waitress who never seemed to appear. The windows were clouded with a grey film of exterior dirt, and the tables had Formica rimmed with crenelated steel. It was crowded but so noisy that one could not hear conversation at the next booth. The waitress finally appeared, wearing a striped dress and white apron, slightly stained by coffee. “Hi boys, what will we have today?”

“Coffee, eggs, over light and bacon,” Mark responded. “What are you having?” Jon grimaced. “Wha,” she said. “Well, you said we,” Mark said. She frowned. Jon Grimaced at Mark’s sarcasm, which completely went over the waitress’ head.
“Me too,” said Jon. The waitress, doughty and about 60 years of age, said, “OK, back in a jif.” “She’s going to spit in your egg,” Jon murmured.

She slowly waddled off, and clearly the years carrying food weighed heavily upon her as she weaved through the tables, none of which looked very clean. Her wrinkled, ruddy face revealed thinly veiled despair. A desperate life, trapped in a job she of which she had had enough. All around, overweight customers consumed large breakfasts of eggs, pancakes, with faux maple syrup, muffins and food not worth the calories. It was a scene of middle America, flyover country right in North Miami Beach, thought Jon. It was one of Mack’s favorite restaurants. Mark was indifferent. But he did remember going often with his dad and mom, and his father usually having a dispute with someone at the next table or arguing about the service or the check.

“Mark, how scared were you of Dad?”
“Not that much, but I think you were.
He did slap me around, though.”
“I was
very fearful.” Jon said. “ I never knew how he was going to react. His fights with my teachers. His dislikes of girls I was dating, his always glaring disapprovals of anything I did. I never really knew how to handle him; he was always angry. He always seemed to have some comment of disapproval. I don’t know why, but I was such a wimp where he was concerned. There were so many times I wanted to step in when he was abusing or arguing with Mom. I guess I took after her and didn’t want the confrontation. I should have been more assertive.”


Mark looked at Jon, “Assertive? I think you should have told him fuck off. You know, you should not have given into him so easily on things that were important to you. Like not inviting people to your wedding who you cared about because he gave you an ultimatum. What was with that ‘him or me’ bullshit? It was so manipulative. Dad always was always pissed off one way or another. That’s why your wife doesn’t talk to him. And now you are mad at yourself, because you thought you abandoned Mom, but she could have made choices on her own, you know. The two of them were suited for one another, even though they did not realize it.

“Mark, you’re so cold and calculating.” “Just realistic, and I feel for you, brother.

“I coped differently,” continued Mark, “I don’t wish him to die, but I can’t say I would shed any tears at his funeral. He really is a son of a bitch. I remember grandpa was a mean old fucker too, who used to slap him around. Never saw him crack a smile. And what about uncle Bart, the dermatologist? Dad hasn’t spoken to him for 40 years because of some twisted competition about Dad’s resentment that Bart did not give enough money to help grandpa and grandma. I spoke to Bart, and he spun a different story. Dad was just jealous that Bart was more financially successful than he was. Bart never got approval and was happy not to have Dad in his life. It was all about money. The sooner I got out of that house the better it was for me. I could not have lived far enough away. And what about Mom? He treated her like shit. I can’t believe she stayed with him.”

“She made her choice. Even detesting him she stayed, because she feared the outside world, or was indifferent to it. Her personality was stilted and narrow.”
Jon listened and knew that Mark was telling the truth.
“Now she’s dead and he probably had her killed, or he did it himself.” Mark said.

“We have no proof of that.”
“The police think so.”
“I don’t know who would stand up for him. I certainly won’t, I hate him. And in a way I hate
her for not standing up for herself.”
“But she always put us first..”
“She
just let things lie, she didn’t want to confront him. He was too much of a shit. And now she’s dead probably because of him but we don’t know that for sure.” Jon shed a tear but Mark did not.
“I didn’t want her to sacrifice for me, but still, she made her own bed, but I haven’t figured it out. It should have been horrible for her, but I’m not certain that it was. She had coping skills, almost robotic, that allowed her to stay in Dad’s crucible. I watched her at the dining room table, always grading papers for hours, in order to avoid talking to him.

She had cousins who was always nice to her, and she never even picked up the phone to say hello to any of them. She had become even more of a recluse than she had been all her life. I think she liked being alone and he proof is, she had no friends. And Dad cut off family members from her. She had no spine, and neither did I,” Jon lamented.

“Let’s go to the house and rest. I am so fucking tired,” Mark said. They drove up upper Biscayne Boulevard, a charmless exaggeration of every middle American city, its palm tree sections


interrupted by the insipid gentrification of most of the commercial streets in America, yet still Floridian, with palm tree and vegetation in some few areas that challenged the constant stream of big box stores. They arrived at the house of their now dead mother and jailed father and slept 10 hours.

V.

Mack did not particularly enjoy his residence in the county jail, among those who resembled him more than he could discern. Now in his late 60s, could not physically threaten anyone and feared for his own self. He called the house, Jon answered.
“You need to get me out of here.”

“I have no control until the arraignment,” Jon responded. “Have you called any lawyers?”

“Yes, and they all want 25 grand to take you on. “What do you mean, you have a good job.” “Sorry.”
“Let me speak to Mark,” Mack screamed.

“Hold on.”

I don’t have the cash.”

Mark got on the phone. “Hey.”
“Jon says he does not have the money for a
lawyer, I’ll pay him back. What about you?’
“You killed Mom. I wouldn’t put up a red cent for you. Get a public defender, and don’t expect any help from me.”
“You ungrateful shit. Fuck you.”
“Fuck you right back,
“I hope they put you away for life.” Mark slamm
ed the phone so hard it cracked.


V.

Arraignments in Florida are pretty brief.
“Florida v. Bronstein. Case No. 18-3637. Will the Defendant please step forward.”
Mack stood up, his public defender beside him.
“How do you plead?”
“Not guilty.”
The prosecutor, a young woman, Shirley Brown, said, “Your honor, the Defendant is an ill- tempered flight risk. He has considerable funds, probably hidden, and has no reason to stay around for trial. His sons have not offered to assist in his defense and have indicated no interest in helping him. In fact, they have expressed doubts about his innocence during police interviews. They are not in town.”


The public defender, Jack Harkness, barely out of law school, said, “Your honor, the defendant is a member of the Florida Bar, has never had any prior issues and we would request release on his own recognizance.”
“Your honor, this is a heinous
murder, and all the evidence points to the defendant,” Brown responded.
“Bail is set at $3,000,000.” The judge banged the gavel.
Mack, not having the resources to post bail, was returned to his cell.

Neither son attended the arraignment, nor the did they contribute for an attorney. Finally, as Mack would have it, he was on his own. Three months later, he was tried in front of a mostly female jury, including four African American women on the charge of first-degree murder. Mack had fired his public defender, calling him incompetent, conducted his own defense, figuring he could indirectly testify without being cross examined.

Mack was convicted.

At sentencing, Mack showed no remorse, no one showed up to speak in his behalf, and he received a sentence of death by lethal injection. Mack, who had supported the right-wing governor, appealed to the governor but received no clemency. Mack’s confusion as to how he was denied life, was compounded by the fact that he had given the governor a $10,000 campaign contribution, confounding his understanding of his imagination of “how the system was rigged.”

As Jon had left Miami, he saw how the city had changed. The new towers, the cars speeding and honking, the new crowds in his old neighborhood. The manicured lawns and people saying hi to him as he left. It did not seem that any were unhappy that Mack was in jail. Most were indifferent about Dottie also. He was glad he no longer lived in his neighborhood.

Jon went home to Philadelphia, to his wife, Judy, suffering pangs of guilt about how he did not help his father.
“Judy, did I do the right thing on turning my back on my father?”
“I don’t know, Jon, he certainly mistreated you. But are you sure he is guilty?”

“Well, I talked to the police, but they were so certain. They had all the evidence, the DNA, the gun, the knife, the crime lab stuff. He certainly was a very angry and violent man. He fought with everyone, and everybody disliked him, including me and even you. You know how he treated you and why you never wanted to visit. And I understood your reasons. They were valid. I just can’t wrap my head around what has happened. My mother did not deserve to die such a grisly death.

Jon called Mark, who had earned a good deal of money in tech and did not seem at all displeased with the result.
“The prick got what he deserved. He never did anything for anyone and treated us and Mom like shit. How many times do I have to tell you? He was toxic, and I have no feelings except to say I am glad I will never see him again.”
“Come on Mark, that’s so heartless.”


“Jon, he was not a true father, he was an asshole, and the sooner you come to terms with that, the easier it will be for you. I don’t want him to die, but if they give him life without parole, I’m good. And if he dies, I’ll piss on his grave.”
“Mark, you need to see a therapist.”

“No, Jon, I’m fine. It’s you who needs the therapist. Dad really fucked you up.” “Ok Mark, I understand.”

Jon was always more forgiving, more empathetic, more tolerant, more understanding of his father, Mark thought, and I guess it’s a good quality to have, but it turned him into something less than he could have been.

TEN YEARS LATER

Mack’s appeals to all the courts were exhausted, including to the Supreme Court of the United States. Mack had supported in words and voice all of the conservative justices who refused to commute his sentence.

The guard approached Mack’s death row cell door and said “it’s time.” Mack complained that the last meal was not up to his expectations. He had wanted a corned beef sandwich from Katz’s delicatessen flown in from New York. Instead, he got an overcooked steak, fried eggs and ice cream.

Mack, all the while, protesting his innocence was led to the death chamber, strapped to a gurney, and the needle inserted into his arm. Mark and Jon did not attend. The only witness from the family was his cousin Daniel, still seeking a last word of forgiveness from his cousin.

***