“Now Ed, pay attention, this is important. You listenin'?”

“Yes sir. I'm listening.”

But he wasn't.

He'd heard all this before, heard it every time he came here. Twice a month Ed sat in that tiny office, all six feet and six inches of him. Ed shot his grandparents when he was still a teenager. Then he burned down their house.

That was nine years ago. He'd been a model prisoner. Ed seemed to be doing well.

“No drinkin'. No alcohol, no firearms, you workin' yet, Ed?”

When Ed was twelve his father committed suicide. Ed's mother wouldn't go to the funeral. But she made Ed go. By himself.

“Ed, you listenin' to me?”

“Yes, sir. I'm listening.”

But he wasn't. Ed was consumed by what he called “a something else”, all six feet and six inches of him. Small for his age at five, at ten he was almost as tall as his mother and too big now, she said, to sleep in her bed anymore.

“You workin'?”

“No sir. Going to school, though.”

Ed had a car, an '89 Mazda, and he had his own place, 800 square feet with a naugahyde sofa. All of it much too small for his giant frame. He slept on the sofa crunched up and hunched over and dreamed about things he'd been told to let go.

“Well keep lookin'. It's gonna be hard with your history and all.”

“Yes sir.”

“Okay, see you again in two weeks, that's the 19th. Hey. You know what they say doncha, Ed?”

Through the window Ed could see the Mazda in the parking lot.

“No sir. What do they say?”

“They say after the first one it gets easier. First one's the hardest.”

But it wasn't.

Ed shook his hand and went out to the car, all six feet and six inches of him sat very still for a moment.

He turned toward the backseat, looked down at the floor.


They're all easy.

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