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Henry Bishop sat at his desk working when his boss, Mr. Carn, came to his desk. “Bishop, you were supposed to give me the Compton report this morning,” he yelled.  “I want that report on my desk before the end of the day,” he bellowed and stormed off.

“Loudmouth bastard.  I wish it were legal to kill people like him. He’s giving me an ulcer.”

In order to forget how much he hated Carn and his job, Henry spent his weekends going to the beach and wandering around the city. One Saturday, he stopped at a curio shop. “ This is a fascinating place,” he said looking around, and picked up a dusty book.  “Boy, this is weird.  There’s only one page. ‘You don’t have to die,’ ” he read. “I wonder what the characters below mean. I’ve never seen characters like those before.”  As he wondered about the book, a man appeared behind him.

“May I help you with something, sir?”

“This book. There’s only one page, and all that’s written is, ‘You don’t have to die’ and there are symbols that I don’t recognize, and where are the rest of the pages?”

“That’s the only page.”

“Why would anybody write that? Everybody has to die.”

“That’s not true. If you could read the ancient symbols that are on the page, you would understand. What would you say if I told you that you could live forever?”

“Forgive me, but I would say you’re crazy.”

“Come with me,” he said and Henry followed him into a back room, where he opened a desk drawer and took out a dagger.  “What would you say if I told you I can’t die?”

“Not possible.”

“Watch,” he said, and plunged the dagger into his stomach.

“Oh, my God,” Henry gasped.

“I’m proving to you that I can’t die,” he said and pulled the dagger out of his stomach. As he pulled it out, the wound healed.  “I’m not dead, am I?”

“I don’t believe it. It must be a trick.”

“It’s not a trick,” he asserted. “Here, take the dagger and push it into my stomach.”

“Are you crazy?”

“No,” he said, and put the dagger in Henry’s hand.

Henry stared at the dagger, and watched the blood that was on it evaporate. “I’m not gonna…”  Before he could finish speaking, the man grabbed Henry’s hand and pulled the dagger into his stomach.  Henry gasped, jumped back, and stared wide-eyed as the man pulled the dagger out of his stomach. Henry watched the wound heal and shook his head in disbelief.

The man then took a small box out of the drawer, opened it, and took out a vile. “My friend, if you drink this potion, you, too, won’t be able to die. If you want to live forever, drink it,” he said and he put it in Henry’s hand.

Henry stared at the vile, looked at the man, and then drank the potion. He waited for something to happen. “I don’t feel anything.”Without warning, the man plunged the knife into Henry’s stomach, and Henry gasped, looked down at the dagger, pulled it out of his stomach, and watched the wound heal.  “Oh, my God. It’s true, I can’t die, ” he mumbled several times and, as though in a daze, walked slowly out of the shop.  On his way home, he stopped in a sporting goods shop and bought a hunting knife.  “Mr. Carn, I bought you a present.”

When Henry went back to work on Monday, he waited for Mr. Carn to bombard him with complaints, and he didn’t have to wait long.  “Henry, the Compton report was full of grammatical errors.  Didn’t you go to school,” he yelled. “One more blunder, Henry, and you’re history,” he growled.

“Mr. Carn, if you will stop yelling for a moment, I want to show you a present I got for you,” he said, took the knife from a drawer, and plunged it into Carn’s chest. “How do you like your present, Carn?”

Henry waited for the police, who arrested him and took him to jail where he was booked.  His court-appointed lawyer stood by his side and entered a not guilty plea.  “No,” Henry said loudly.  “I plead guilty.” Because of his crime and his guilty plea there was no trial. Instead, Henry had to face a judge, who sentenced him to death as mandated by state law, and he was transported to death row.  In the visitor’s room, Henry met with his attorney. “Is it true that if the condemned can’t be executed, can’t be killed, he has to be freed?”

“Yes, Henry, but why do you ask?”

“George, I can’t die.  Soon I’m going to be free. I will have gotten away with murder.”

“You can’t die?  That’s impossible.  Everybody dies.”

“Not everybody, George. You’ll see.  And I don’t want you to file any appeals.”

Two weeks later, Henry’s lawyer visited him.  “Henry, good news. The state supreme court has abolished the death penalty. Your sentence is now life in prison without the possibility of parole. Henry, the state saved your life.”

“No.  No,” he sobbed. “They can’t do that.  I want to be executed,” he sobbed, fell to his knees, and pounded the floor with his fists, and two guards dragged him out of the visitors’ room.  “I can’t spend eternity in prison. I can’t,” he sobbed over and over as they dragged him to his cell.


The End


While teaching  communication skills and English at a community college, Mr. Greenblatt wrote short stories, and plays, one of which won a reading at Smith College. Since retiring in 2000, he has written short stories and novellas.




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