Wherein the writer attempts, unsuccessfully, to return to writing fiction vignettes, producing swill and incoherent drivel instead.
Coleman Daniel Sprague was the first person convicted under the new thought-crime statutes. The charges against him were extensive. The first count with which he was charged alleged that he imagined sex acts with a woman who had not authorized such daydreams. The second count alleged he thought about thrusting a knife into the heart of Danny Tobler, the abusive husband of the woman connected with the first count. The third count was the most serious, alleging that he fantasized about assassinating the Co-Presidents of the United States, Mimi Huckabee and Robert Jeffress. Multiple other less serious charges were leveled against Sprague, as well: pondering the possibilities of entering a bank and demanding all of its cash; and contemplative road rage, wherein he envisaged dropping a ten thousand pound statue of the Buddha onto a Mazda convertible whose driver cut him off and shot him the finger.
Sprague’s bad luck stemmed from his newspaper’s exposé of the police chief of Curmudgeon Falls. The embezzlement charges against Chief Benedict Bright eventually were dropped, thanks to the fact that the chief’s son was the best friend of the District Attorney. But Bright didn’t forgive Sprague the chief’s brush with prison. So when, after the thought crime statutes were enacted and a Federal grant to purchase thought-reading equipment became available, Bright went after it. And he instructed the six members of this police force to put the equipment to exclusive use.
“I want Sprague to pay for his newspaper’s attack on me,” Bright told his officers. “That means I want every errant thought to be recorded. If anything he thinks is even remotely illegal, I want him arrested and booked. Go after him without regard to whether a charge is completely valid. With enough charges, something’s bound to stick.”
Predictably, the ACLU raised holy hell when the statutes were enacted. But by that time, the ACLU’s influence had dwindled to next to nothing. Newly-minuted attorneys were no longer the idealistic crusaders Sprague remembered from his youth. Lawyers fresh from passing their bar exams had no interest in social justice. Their motivations were money and power. If they had to ruin the lives of people as they stepped over bodies on their climb to the top, so be it. The fact that the legal profession was exempted from the thought-crime statutes exacerbated the exodus from decency.
When the time came for Sprague to enter a plea, even his court-appointed attorney recommended he not fight the charges. “Look,” the wet-behind-the-ears semi-solicitor said, “they’ve got your every thought recorded on magnetic media. If you insist on fighting it, you’re not only going to embarrass yourself, you’ll embarrass me as your lawyer. If you have a decent bone in your body, you won’t ruin my chances for a lucrative legal career.” Sprague’s silent mental response to his new lawyer’s statement earned him yet another charge: “attorney annihilation ambition” or “lust for lawyer lynching.” The politicians and lawyers thought their vacuous alliterations were clever, yet more evidence that intelligence was no longer a requisite quality for snollygosters and ambulance chasers.