Brilliant, clinical, fabulous. Never mind the torture and execution, you’re setting up Jessie’s anticipation and fear wonderfullyJessie drove home to her apartment, rushed past her boys' toys in the living room to her bedroom in the back, and opened her drawer. Her boys were with her mother across town - she'd taken them there the night before. She dug through her collection of intimate garments until she found the blue tanga panties she was looking for. They were at the bottom of the drawer, because she found them uncomfortable and never wore them. She was sure she would be allowed to wear them, though, and that was what mattered. She changed into them and tossed the white panties they replaced in the hamper. She paused a moment to consider that she would not be washing them, and neither would anyone else. Maybe she should have put them back into her drawer instead? Silliness - she had to get back to the Ministry of Correction.
The knot in her belly tightened as she threw a last glance over the apartment before shutting the door for the last time and locking it from the outside.
When she returned to the Ministry of Correction, it was almost 7:20, and there were four or five men and a woman in line. A second receptionist had appeared to help process them. From what Jessie could overhear, it sounded like most of them were here for bastinado - probably drug offenders. The usual punishment for drug possession was between five and ten blows on the soles of the feet - usually in private.
When Jessie's receptionist finished with one of them, she craned her neck around the line to call to Jessie:
"Ms. Aguilar?" Jessie came forward. "I'm sorry, we were going over the apparel restrictions, and I forgot to give you the breakdown of your bill." She handed Jessie some stapled pages. "Usually we send this in the mail afterward, but obviously that won't work in your case. I need to help these gentlemen, but I can answer any questions you may have in a minute."
Jessie sat down in the waiting room chairs along the wall and scanned the papers.
Processing fee - $75.00
Torture fee - $1,250.00
Pre-execution handling - $700.00
Crucifixion fee - $5,000.00
Torture fee - $500.00
Dog handling fee - $1,000.00
Materials - $2,000.00
Tending fee - $3,840.00 (estimated)
Site rental - $150,000 (estimated)
Misc. - $500.00
TOTAL - $164,865 (estimated)
Everything in Jessie wanted to scream. But she knew better. She took deep, shuddering breaths, waiting for the receptionist to be free, then approached, face composed, quickly whisking a tear from her left eye. The receptionist looked up with a helpful, questioning look.
"Did you have some questions?"
"Yeah... Um. What is site rental?"
"Yeah, everybody always wants to know what is that, cause it's like - that's the most expensive thing on here! What am I payin' for?" She smiled at herself briefly. "So, site rental is reserving the actual spot on the Plaza where you'll be executed. That's prime real estate, right, so they charge for you to use it for your execution." How could Jessie respond? She stood wordless, for a moment, looking at the bill for lack of courage to look the woman in the eyes. "And its estimated, based on having your body hanging on the cross for 30 days. Of course that could vary, for public health reasons, or if the spot were to be needed for another criminal. But they'll keep treating your, your - body, uh, for as long as they can, and it could be up there for a few months if it doesn't rot too bad."
"Ok," Jessie said blankly at length. "And... Why are there two items that say torture?"
"Let me look," the receptionist swiveled the paper around to face her. "Yeah - let me pull up your master list real quick..." she said, turning to click and type. "Ok. So you're getting 25 lashes at the beginning... Those are $50 each, so that's..." she turned back to the bill, scanning with her finger, "yeah - that's the $1,250. Then..." she turned back to her computer. Jessie began to wonder why she was bothering with this. She supposed would feel like a victory, if they found a mistake. Or maybe it was her only way of protesting the bald injustice of the world without deepening it to swallow up her family as well.
"Yeah, you're getting cane strokes," the receptionist said, changing her voice slightly to read: "Ten strokes with the rattan cane upon the bare buttocks, five from each side." She turned back to Jessie. "That's right before you're lifted onto the actual cross," she explained. "That's gonna be..." her eyebrow was raised and she looked out of the corner of her eye at her screen, as if bracing herself. "Yeah," she finished. "And you'll be on the cross with your butt like, rubbing against it...!" as if the thought were just hitting her. Her face was a pained, sympathetic grimace. It wasn't helpful. "I actually got 5 with the cane for accessory to shoplifting when I was a teenager, so I have an idea." Then she finally snapped out of it. "I'm sorry - did you have other questions?"
Jessie shook her head. None she wanted to discuss anymore.
"Ok, well if you just want to have a seat, they should be here for you any moment."