Inspired by: Ballad of Donald White
Ein Quin opened the Beacon Chronicle and was stunned by the picture on the front page. Donald White, a convicted murderer who’d been sentenced to life in prison. More strikingly, the article was an op-ed written by him.
Just as he began to read the article, his phone rang. Answering the phone, he dropped it, picked it up off the floor, and put it to his ear.
“Ein?” the voice said.
“It’s Reggie. Are you reading the paper?”
“We’re just letting convicted murderers write op-eds now?”
“You know what I was thinking?”
“He was a drifter, traveled through the pacific northwest. No education, no friends, no family. This man could be you.”
“You think I’m planning to kill you so I can go back to jail?”
“You could be!”
“You scammed me into working for you.”
“Fair enough. Well, as your boss, tell me something about yourself.”
“I think this Donald White and I do have something in common. I bet this guy’s dyslexic.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“50% of the people in prison are dyslexic. Growing up without support thinking they’re stupid because they used the wrong homophone, or they can’t understand an instruction that’s simple to neuronormative people. Some end up self-medicating and get arrested for possession. Others can’t fit in and are forced to the fringes of society. Their entrepreneurial spirit kicks in, and before they know it, they’re the kingpin of a drug ring.”
“Donald White did his time and was released. At the idea of returning to the “real world,” he begged to be put back in jail. He was leaving a world that he understood and was accepted.
“He knew he couldn’t survive in a world where he was deemed less than because he didn’t have an education. It isn’t his fault he can’t demonstrate his intelligence in academic ways. I won’t condone murder, but I understand why he did what he did. Society let him down.”
“I think that was the most I’ve ever heard you speak.”
“I take this stuff seriously.”
“Well, you’ve done nothing to put me at ease, so I’ll let you go.”
Ein hung up the phone. He looked at the portrait of Donald White. He stared into his eyes and saw himself looking back at him. He crumpled up the paper and threw it across the room.