Malcolm had barely been awake for five minutes when he heard the soft footsteps in the hallway headed toward him. The door opened and his granddaughter rushed to the bed, bouncing on the covers.
“Happy tire mint, grandaddy!”
He patted her on the head and reached for his glasses. “It’s called ‘retirement’, Maya, and thank you!”
“Maya, did you wake up your grandfather?” Malcolm’s wife, Loretta, stood in the doorway, her arms crossed.
“No, Nana, he was already woked up.”
She crossed over to the bed and gave Malcolm a kiss. She then picked up Maya.
“We’ll let you get yourself together and then you can join us for breakfast”, she said to him and then looked at Maya. “How about waffles this morning?”
“Yes, waffles, please, “ Maya replied.
“How about waffles?” Loretta asked Malcolm.
“Well, why not! Woo hoo! It’s my big day!” He held up his hands and gave them a wave.
“Woo hoo!” shouted Maya, waving her little hands too.
Loretta grabbed Maya and walked to the door. She turned back to Malcolm and gave him a small smile, then left.
Malcolm sank back into the pillow. This was his last day at work. He let out a sigh. He had accomplished so much in the past fifty years and he never guessed he’d make it to this day. But he was going to simply treat it like any other day. He had one last Restitution to preside over, then no more. It was actually a good thing that he could pass the responsibility on to James, his deputy. Malcolm knew that he had secured his place in history when the government had adopted his idea of Restitution for criminals. It had been the project of a lifetime. He had to now let it go. He felt it was time.
Maya was dabbing a piece of waffle into her syrup when Malcolm walked into the kitchen. Loretta walked over to him and gave him a cup of coffee.
“You should just stay home with me and Maya,” she told him. “What can they do? Fire you?”
“Let me have this last day and one last Restitution. We’ve already discussed this.”
“Oh, I know. But you haven’t had to go to any Restitutions in years. You’re only a figurehead at the company anyway, they would be fine with you…”
“You think I’ll decide not to retire...”
“I just want you all to myself now,” Loretta leaned in and gave him a kiss. “Now let’s get some homemade waffles into you to start your big day.”
“I hope we’ve got some juicy sausage or bacon, too.”
Loretta frowned as she held up a blue and white package. “Only this,” she replied.
“Not that fake stuff...not today of all days!”
“I tried to get some real bacon, my dear, but Orlon’s has stopped carrying it. I talked to the manager but he said that it was too much trouble with all the new laws and everything.”
Malcolm sighed and thought about the days before animals were thought to be feeling sentient creatures. He wished for the time when pigs were ham, bacon, chops, and sausage, and not emotional beings with rights. Since most industrial nations had given animals rights and banned slaughtering animals for food, the United States had seen a huge rise in meat prices and a move toward similar laws concerning animal welfare. The food corporations had begun to cut their ties with the animal farming operations, converting to meat substitutes. The fresh water crisis only sped up the process – it took too much water to raise food animals. Some called it progress, Malcolm called it madness.
Malcolm worked for the National Prison Agency. Thirty years ago, he had lobbied for a change in polices concerning capital punishment. He himself had put forth the idea of Restitution as a graduate student in college, but it wasn’t taken seriously until the drug crisis occurred.
Companies had started to end production of the drugs used in lethal injection executions. Some states had stockpiled the drugs for future use, but eventually those supplies began to drop. States began looking into other methods – firing squads, hanging, even the guillotine had been considered -but all were considered to be painful, drawn-out processes. Others had begun looking to ban capital punishment altogether, bowing to anti-capital punishment activists.
One of Malcolm’s friends in college had remembered his graduate work and talked to a senator about it. Malcolm was called to Washington to explain his ideas. A few years later, the National Prison Reform Act was passed and Malcolm was chosen to implement Prisoner Restitution as a cornerstone of the reforms. “Capital punishment” was replaced by “Restitution” and states readily accepted this humane practice.
Malcolm walked into his office. He noticed a large book on his desk. He walked over and opened the cover.
“The Victim’s Liaison Office went back through their files and put that together for you,” said his assistant Janine, poking her head through the doorway. She walked in and set down some papers. “I need you to sign these.” She looked at the inscription inside the book. “Letters from over the years from crime victim’s families praising the Restitutions they had gone through. That was real sweet of them.”
“I’ll have to pop down and thank them later.”
“Don’t forget you’re having lunch with the commissioner before the Restitution.” Janine tapped the papers lightly, reminding Malcolm to sign them. Malcolm adjusted his glasses, then took out his pen from his briefcase. “Your retirement party is a 5:30,” she reminded him. She then whispered, “ on’t be late. I hear there will be appearances by some bigwig politicians – maybe a vice-president – but you didn’t hear it from me.”
“Some people think you’re a big deal, Boss.”
“Not after today.”
Malcolm did very little work. Most of the morning was spent accepting best wishes and congratulations from colleagues and taking phone calls saying pretty much the same. Lunchtime was spent with the prison commissioner and a few select VIPs in the prison industry. Restitution had proven to be a quite profitable option. Two hours later, Malcolm rushed away to his last Restitution.
Malcolm got to the Restitution Center as they were bringing in Jimmy McKinzey for his Restitution. He entered the chamber as a nurse judged Jimmy’s dosage of Calmicolizine. The prisoner looked at him and meekly smiled – the effects of the drug given to him at his last meal. Malcolm silently burped – the effect of too much fake steak at his last meal. Malcolm was glad that most prisoners were now given sedatives and other drugs, it made it easier to deal with them. He was thankful the drug companies had introduced programs to medicate prisoners, it had made prisons calmer places, almost like schools.
People slowly began to appear in the chamber – Jimmy’s attorney, the victim’s family, the commissioner, and others. Malcolm sat down at the large table across from Jimmy. He looked at his watch, it was time to start.
An officer called the chamber to order. Malcolm shuffled through his papers and then looked up at Jimmy.
“James Arthur McKinzey, inmate number 45629D, you have been called forth to this chamber for your Restitution. Do you understand that today you have to pay for your crimes against Nathalie Howe, who you brutally murdered last year, and provide restitution to her surviving family? Do you comply?”
Jimmy stared at him for a second. “I do,” he said, with a slight slur.
“As the verdict has been made and the prisoner understands that restitution has to be paid to the satisfaction of the victim’s family, to this state, and to this nation, according to the law. Your assets have already been transferred to the victim’s family in the amount of $3, 235.00; as a balance is still outstanding, we will proceed with the Restitution.” Malcolm turned and motioned to the two officers standing behind him. Jimmy made no show of emotion.
The officers walked over to Jimmy and helped him to his feet.
“James Arthur McKinzey, proceed to make your Restitution.”
The officers escorted Jimmy to a curtained side of the chamber. They led him through the curtain into a small antechamber, followed by Malcolm. Meanwhile, inside the large chamber a large screen appeared from behind a wooden panel and the lights were lowered. A camera in the antechamber flashed, signaling that it had begun transmitting the event to the large screen.
The officers placed Jimmy onto a slightly-inclined large metal slab, jutting out from the wall. Malcolm pulled over a stool and sat down beside Jimmy.
“Time for your Restitution, James.”
Jimmy slowly turned to look at Malcolm. He looked into Malcolm’s eyes and smiled.
“Do you understand?” Malcolm asked, and slightly shaking his own head.
Jimmy gave a shallow shake of his head, then grinned.
“He’s ready.” Malcolm gave a sign to the officers standing near the slab.
One of the officers moved a console close to Malcolm. The other officer reached up and pulled down a swing arm to which was attached a headset. Three large cylinders protruded out from the headset. Malcolm placed the headset onto Jimmy’s forehead. He adjusted it over Jimmy’s eyes and secured some straps which encircled Jimmy’s head. The other officer secured a strap across Jimmy’s chest and his legs.
“Okay, Jimmy, I want you to count down from ten with me.” Malcolm pressed a few buttons on the console. “Okay, now we will start. Count with me. Ten...nine...eight...” The man slurred the number eight. Malcolm pressed a red button. There was a soft thud and a wisp of smoke appeared above the cylinders. There was a shudder across the man’s entire body as three bolts were driven into his brain, as was once done to cattle and pigs in slaughterhouses. There was no seven.
“The law places the value of $488,000.00 on human life. Today, James Arthur McKinzey paid that ultimate price toward his debt. There can be no outstanding balance and Restitution has been paid,” said Malcolm, after turning to the camera which had shown the event to the people in the chamber. Malcolm paused and removed his glasses. “I would also like to say this is the last Restitution I shall preside over. I am glad that I have helped give closure to the family of victims over the years and that I have offered to the world a quick and painless method to implement justice. May we never go back to old days of needless and drawn-out suffering again. Thank you.” The camera light then signaled the end of the transmission.
There was loud bell, and the nurse appeared. She placed a mask over Jimmy’s nose and mouth. There was a slight buzz and she placed a device on Jimmy’s chest. She pulled a display panel from the side of the slab. The slab was raised parallel to the floor. A hatch opened in the wall and there was a rush of cold air. The slab moved into the hatch, then closed quickly after Jimmy’s body disappeared inside.
“Thank you, Nurse Greene. My office will finish the paper work and send in on.” The nurse nodded and left.
Malcolm would now leave the organ harvesting and all to the medical division. The victim’s family would receive their commissions, and Jimmy’s body could realize a big return in compensation for them. There was still so much paperwork, but he was not too worried about it. It’s a job for someone else now, he thought. He had a retirement party to attend.