A Serial in Eight Parts
retribution: deserved punishment for evil done.
Retribution Episode 4
“Allens came back to town a couple months ago,” he said.
I looked at Levi’s face trying to read his thoughts.
“I’m surprised that the bastard would have the gall to come back here. They should have fried him in the first place.” I thought about how I might feel in his place—seeing the murderer of his wife and kid walking the streets.
“I was a little upset.” He still had not lost his wry habit of gross understatement. “He hung around for a couple months and then disappeared.” The wind had picked up a little and was a little cold, so we moved to the lee side but still in the sun.
“I was really pissed off at the courts when they let him go, and I completely lost it.” It was the first time he had spoken to me about anything concerning his wife and kid. “I’d just halfway adjusted to their loss, and it was too much for me to handle. I got pretty low there for awhile, but that was where I wanted to be I guess. When my mom died, I spent some time out at her place. Her death kind of shocked me into thinking again and I was able to snap out of it. I was never a real alcoholic so it wasn’t that hard to get off the stuff.”
Off to our left a hawk soared lazily across the canyon.
“I did a lot of thinking about the justice system. I’ve decided the problem is that they have just completely lost sight of the purpose of the whole exercise: justice. It’s really not a justice system anymore. It’s just a complicated game that lawyers play. The criminals are the pawns, moved around to the tune of a bunch of arcane and irrelevant little rules. The judges are still lawyers themselves, part of the game, acting as referees.”
I didn’t say anything, and I had the feeling that he wasn’t expecting, or even wanted, a response yet. He always talked more than I, although in college we had often had long arguments about politics, and philosophy. He was the socially minded one; I, the anarchist. He would argue for becoming part of society and trying to change it. I was the nihilist, arguing that it could only be changed by destroying it first. He had gone to med school and started a family. I had gone into the army for awhile, kicked around and now was teaching music part time at a small college up state, gigging on the side, and living alone.
“In the days of the old west,” he continued, “at first there was no law. Since there had to be some order, men compensated for the lack of law by imposing a system of honor. When a man gave his word, it was sacred, and he was expected to keep it. This gave men a basis to deal with each other. There was also an unwritten law of conduct, the code of the west if you will. A man was expected to act honorably: keep his word, treat women with respect, always give an even break, and take the part of the weak against oppression. Loyalty was expected. A traveling cowboy could stay in a rancher’s line shack when he needed to, but was expected to leave it in the same condition as when he came, cut wood for the next person, etc. This provided a basis for the western frontier society. Of course, some didn’t act honorably, but there has always been outlaws.
To be continued