By Gary Morton (550 words)
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When I was free it was like I'd corked a big sky in a bottle and swallowed it, and I was real big. I was out there surrounding everything. Evil old me like the fiery edge of the universe. Sure, I was big stuff -- you have to be big to get stowed away forever. If you're not so big, the suckers weep and say there's some hope for you yet. And you're soon free if you're small-time, but there are no more good old days and times. Instead, you got large screws in your skull like a low-budget Frankenstein monster, and all you do is waltz. Hell, I should be proud of myself -- I've done more than a fair share of time for those last six killings. I didn't beg, no sir. I could do a thousand years and keep a straight face.

But I got an attitude problem. I'm too downbeat. Hey, it's easy to be like volcanic rock. I should be seeing guiding stars like other cons do. Yeah, I'll try some upbeat thinking. It'll help pass the time. Now, let's see. Where do I begin? -- Oh yeah. I'm gonna get out soon, Johnny. You'll see, pal. I'm lucky. My gal's still carrying a torch for me; she's been true all these last twenty years. And I won't have any trouble finding honest work, bosses are asking for guys like me all the time. Hum . . . then I burst into song, “Please release me, let me go! . . . release me and let me kill again!” Ha! Ha!

This is a riot, being upbeat. I'm out of the hole now. Look at all I got. I got a window, and I can see the trees, street and sky -- and with my new good attitude . . . what can I say? It's like only a moment ago, I had hate boiling in my guts, and then spring came. Now I feel as light as a fairy tiptoeing around loving everything without touching it . . . for fear of killing it with black magic. Rehabilitated, that's what this kid is - heaven is calling -- “Remember the devil with the red dress on?” they're saying. “Well, he's our boy now.”

Wow! Would you look at that. It's an obese jerk strolling through the park. Look at those plastic shoes. Now a clever chap like him isn't going to cross the street and head down the other way like all the rest. No sir, not him, 'cause he has my walking papers in his wallet. I bet he's gonna waltz in here, slam his grubby paw down, and say he's taking me out of this hole in the wall.

What? I don't believe it. My new attitude must be magic. He sees me in the window, and he's grinning - it's good news. He's coming inside. I bet it's just a matter of formalities and I'm gone. I better be quiet and listen to what he tells the screw.

“Hey, Jack! How much is that new witch doctor's mask in the window? It'll sure look great on me on Halloween, won't it?”

“. . . send me dead flowers every morning . . . send me dead flowers by US mail . . . and I won't forget to put roses on your grave . . . .” Ha! The old mask is upbeat and out again.


   The End.