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Today's Story by Benjamin Wachs

Language is an aesthetic concern, not an egalitarian endeavor. You have no rights here.

Another word for justice

There were two guards.  They handled him roughly.  They tossed him into a metal room, and before he could stand up they hauled him to his feet and strapped him down to a cold and uncomfortable chair.  In front of him, sat a dark haired officer in an unusual uniform.

“Name?” asked the officer coldly.

“Who are you?”



“Peter, yes,” the officer was not amused.  “Peter Kreppner, of 1602 Benson Court, here in the city.  Yes.  Do you know why you’re here?”

That was the question.  That was the question.  “God no.”

“Yesterday,” said the officer.  “You were overheard.”  He held up a digital recorder.  He pressed play.  Out came Peter’s voice, slightly broken up through a cell phone call.

Peter of yesterday said “Traffic was murder.”

The officer pressed stop.  “You were overheard,” he repeated.

Peter looked away.  “Is that … all?”

“IS THAT ALL?” asked the officer.  “ALL?”

“Look, I know it’s a lazy metaphor …”

The officer motioned, and a guard slapped Peter across the face.

“Lazy,” the officer said, “would imply easy but apt.  This was is no way apt.  In what way …” his disgust caught in his throat, and he had to start again.  “In what way was traffic … murder?”

Peter hesitated.  “I want to see a lawyer.”

One of the guard’s chuckled.

“It was an exaggeration,” said the officer.  “An extreme one, at that, reached for without thought for the implications.  People like you … such lazy clichés of… your kind makes me sick.”  He grabbed Peter by the chin and held his face up into the light.  “Pick the worst thing you can think of and compare a minor inconvenience to it.  Traffic on the freeway was murder?  Why not traffic on the freeway was genocide, traffic on the freeway was rape, traffic on the freeway was a 16 year old boy being bullied by a gang of football players, traffic on the freeway was a dogfight, traffic on the freeway was a widow losing her children in a house fire, traffic on the freeway was a prison guard forcibly sodomizing a mentally ill inmate with a nightstick, traffic on the freeway was a hurricane that left ten thousand poor people homeless.”

The officer’s fingers pushed Peter’s lips against his teeth.  “Lawyer!” Peter called out.

The officer tightened his grip.  “Language is an aesthetic concern, not an egalitarian endeavor,” he said.  “You have no rights here.”

He let Peter go, stepped back, and kneeled down, looking at him in the eye.  “If I had my way, you’d rot in a prison you’d probably call ‘dark.’  But there is a way out for you.  A way to emancipate yourself.  Are you listening?  Listening with attention?  Good.”

A guard stepped behind the officer, holding a notebook and a pen.

The officer leaned closer, whispered to Peter “Give me the names of everyone you know who would kill for that car.”


Benjamin Wachs has written for Village Voice Media, Playboy.com, and NPR among other venues.  He archives his work at www.TheWachsGallery.com.

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