by Tony Sakalauskas

The dark wooden door opened to allow the first of the three prisoners to enter the room. Three judges, two men and a woman, draped in black robes, were waiting for him.

The man wore an orange prisoner suit beneath his long brown hair. He had indistinct tattoos darkening his neck. He hadn’t shaved for two days.

The male judge, in the middle, seated behind the long table, shuffled some papers and spoke.

“It says here, from your personality tests, that you don’t like to read. Is that true?”

“Yes, your honor. I never read a book in my life.”

“Okay. It also says that you hated school. Is that true?”

“Yes, your honor. I dropped out in junior high.”

“Okay then. Here is your punishment. You will have to read a couple of dozen school books. Books such as: history, geography, biology and so forth. You’ll read them in jail. After you have read these books, you will be tested on them. Only when you pass the tests, will you be free. You may leave.”

The second prisoner appeared before the judge. Like the guy before him he had long brown hair and some matching brown facial hair. He also had some tattoos marking his neck that you couldn’t make out.

Once again it was the middle male judge who was doing all the talking.

“Your personality tests show that you like listening to Country and Western music. Is that true?”

“Yes, your honor. It’s all I listen to.”

“And that you hate heavy metal music. Is this also true?”

“Yes, your honor.”

“For your punishment, you will be given about two dozen heavy metal compact discs to listen to in your jail cell. You will learn the names of all the bands, the names of their albums, the names of their songs and the lyrics. You will be tested. When you answer all the questions, you will be set free. You may leave.”

The third prisoner appeared before the three judges. He was a clean cut kid with short blond hair and a clean shaven face. He wore silver-rimmed glasses. His neck did not display any tattoos. Even is posture was different; he stood more erect.

“Your personality tests show that you like to read,” said the middle judge. “That you’re a bookworm. Is that true?”

“Yes, your honor.”

“And that you hate boredom. Is that also true?’

“Yes, your honor.”

“The tests also show you to be an intelligent person, a law-abiding citizen. Why would you be involved in a break and enter with these other two prisoners who were here before us?’

“I just moved to the city and didn’t know anyone,” said the third prisoner. “All three of us live in the same apartment building. And um… I don’t make friends easily.”

“I see,” said the judge.

“For your punishment, you will not be allowed to read books or magazines or any other reading material. Also, you will not be allowed to watch television, or listen to the radio or to be on the computer.”

“But your honor, if I can’t do those things I’ll be bored to death. I’ll go crazy.”

“That’s the idea,” said the judge. “That’s your punishment, boredom. We had a difficult time thinking of a suitable time period for your sentence. So, we came up with this. When your so-called friends finish their sentences, you will be finished yours. You may leave.”

Tony is a 63-year-old Canadian from the city of Halifax, on the east coast of Canada. Follow him on Twitter @TonySakalauskas

Wade’s Apology

by Lori Cramer

Wade said he was sorry for not showing up at my friend Shayna’s birthday party. He swore he’d planned on meeting me there. In fact, he’d even plugged Shayna’s address into his GPS so that he’d know exactly what time he’d have to leave Finnegan’s Pub.

At Finnegan’s, everyone’s eyes were glued to the game on the big screen. The Twins were down 5-3 in the ninth when Wade got up to make his exit, but then Mauer smacked a two-run bomb to tie the game.

“You can’t leave now,” Bruno yelled at Wade from behind the bar. But Wade informed old Bruno that he’d made a promise to his girlfriend–and that he was a man of his word.

Then Angie walked in.

Angie. The one who’d left Wade three years earlier without so much as a Post-it note. The one who’d refused to take any of his calls and eventually even changed her number. The one who’d pretended not to recognize him last fall at the gas station on Route 33.

Imagine his astonishment when she asked him to have a drink with her for old times’ sake! How could he refuse?

So while I was at Shayna’s house, incessantly checking my phone, my so-called boyfriend was having a heart-to-heart chat with his ex-girlfriend about their completely-dysfunctional-and-now-defunct relationship.

To Wade’s surprise, Angie told him that the reason she’d left him wasn’t because she hadn’t loved him enough (as he’d always believed) but because she’d loved him too much (whatever that means). A few beers later, she admitted that leaving him had been the biggest mistake of her life.

And then she kissed him.

(Not that Wade fessed up to the part about the kiss. But how else would that pink lipstick smudge on the corner of his mouth have gotten there? Hard to believe that he hadn’t had enough sense to check a mirror before trying to feed me his half-baked half-truths about The One Who Got Away.)

What Wade did admit was that Angie had invited him to her place. “I didn’t go, of course,” he clarified in a self-righteous tone. Instead, he told Angie about how I was making a better man of him and how he’d never thought he’d be able to trust another woman after what she’d put him through.

When he finally reached the end of his tale, his blue eyes shone with virtue, and I honestly think he was expecting me to tell him how pleased I was that he’d chosen me over The Great Angie.

What he wasn’t expecting, judging by his countenance, was for me to say that, coincidentally, I’d run into my ex as well–so I didn’t have any more time to listen to him drone on about Angie because I was on my way out for some last-minute dinner plans.

Lori Cramer’s short prose has appeared in more than two dozen publications, including Fictive Dream, Riggwelter, Train, Unbroken Journal, and Whale Road Review. Links to her work can be found on her website. Follow her on Twitter: @LCramer29