Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Necessary Reprimand

A strange little tale about quality of life and an odd sense of justice. Hope you enjoy.


Maria wiped the tear from her eye. Spending time locked up in a jail cell was the last activity she had ever envisioned for herself. She was not bad, and had never hurt anyone. She just didn't understand why it had to be this way. She knew she had broken the rules, but she had been careful this time. She had always been very careful. She hadn't been seen or caught the first two times she crossed the border, and hadn't been seen or caught this time either--at least, not by the residents of the Forbidden Zone. This time, she had been betrayed by her own.

"This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated," the Mayor had said. "If we overlook your blatant disregard for the law, others will follow suit and bring destruction unto us all. You have already been warned twice and yet, it is as if you care nothing for the lives of your family, friends, and the rest us who depend on our anonymity for survival in this harsh, new world."

"Please, Mr. Mayor, everyone, please try to understand why I did what I did. I know it is dangerous, but you have to believe I would never do anything to put the rest of you in any jeopardy. I asked the children who were on the swings in the playground not to say anything when they saw me approaching the border. I told them I was going to bring back wondrous things for us all to eat, but they reported me just the same. I wanted to help our town, not hurt it.

You've never seen what they have on the other side, but I have. There are fruits and vegetables, and juices and milk, and pastries and cheeses, all fresh and all sitting out just ripe for the taking. What do we have available here to feed our families, friends and children? That colorless, tasteless rubbish on the shelves in our grocery store? And, what of our bakery and our candy shop? I just wish you could see all that is theirs."

Their response had certainly not been what she anticipated. She knew the Council would be angry, but they had no right to imprison her as if she were a criminal. She knew they were deciding on her sentence and would be coming for her soon. This was all so confusing. Why was this happening to her?

The guards unlocked her cell and took her out to the center of town, where the Mayor and the rest of the townspeople were waiting.

"Maria?" the Mayor began, "you have been found guilty of the violation of crossing our border and entering the Forbidden Zone. Three times you have disregarded our warnings, and run the risk of being seen and captured, which would have resulted in the death of us all. The members of the Council and I have decided upon your sentence, and it is to be imposed immediately."

* * * * * * * *

Janie ran into her room and made a beeline immediately for the area on the side of her bed where she had set up the birthday present she had received just the day before. As soon as her mind registered what she was seeing, she put her hand over her mouth to stifle a scream. This is too horrible, she thought, my poor sweet dear, Maria. She reached down and untied the shoelace that had been tied tightly around her favorite lady doll's neck and wound around a hastily constructed gallows fashioned from some of the storefront's beams in the doll village. She also undid the twist-tie that had been used to secure the doll's hands together behind her back. The child had placed one of her shoelaces in the hands of two of her little girl dolls so they could play jump rope in the playground. The twist tie had been added to function as a leash so the little boy doll could walk his dog around the town square. All at once, Janie felt like she couldn't breathe and knew just who had to be responsible for this abomination. She called out to her brother in the hallway.

"Billy, I told you not to mess with my doll village. I'm telling Mommy and Daddy what you did!"

She began to cry. Billy knelt down beside his little sister and put his hand on her shoulder.

"Sis, really, I didn't. Don't cry. Please. I wouldn't do something awful like that. Really. Truly. I'm going to go and play with my soldiers now, and you can come in my room and play with any of my toys if you want to. Okay?"

Billy got up and started back to his own room. When he turned and displayed a small smile, Janie saw in his eyes that he was telling the truth.

"Well," Janie sniffled, "if you didn't do this, then who did? I suppose her friends in my doll town did this to her?"

Billy couldn't help but laugh at that, and Janie felt a giggle of her own beginning. Her friends. Right.

Janie bent down and got very close to all the small figures arranged in a semi-circle around the gallows that had been set up in the town square.

"Did you do this to Maria?" she whispered, cheerful now, despite being as upset as she had been a moment earlier. "So, which one of you was it? Now, speak up."

She placed her ear close to the mouths of all the dolls in the group, but none answered. They dared not. They knew the cost.


  1. Nice and eerie tale, Joyce. I think this darkly delectable dish should not . . . really . . . be served to the kiddies. (Unless of course you like to scare the poop out of the little, er, uh, ahem, darlings)Excellent, excellent read.

  2. Frightfully good, Joyce. Enjoyed the read.

  3. Thanks, A.J. Appreciate your comments. This isn't exactly the doll village set you want sitting under your little one's Christmas tree, is it now.

  4. Thanks J.R., Glad you liked it. Oddly enough, I had a blast writing this one!

  5. Freaky -- I like freaky -- very Twighlight Zone -- nice

  6. Thanks, Chad. Glad you enjoyed it. Freaky is the best!