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The Big Man

J. Elliot Masterson wiped fresh perspiration from his forehead with his sleeve, the bright light of the overhead lamp giving his face a shiny look. He tried not to squirm in his plain straight-backed chair as the two nondescript men in dark blue suits entered the small interrogation room and took their seats on the other side of the plain gray metal table. The taller man slapped a thick manila folder on the table and stared at Masterson.

The two men were silent for several minutes, breaking the ominous silence only to confer with each other in unheard whispers. Masterson had been sitting alone in the room for nearly an hour, and his nervousness showed. Finally, the taller man spoke.

“Mr. Masterson, I am Mr. Jones, this is my colleague Mr. Green.” The shorter man nodded slightly, unsmiling.

“What am I doing here?” asked Masterson, his eyes darting from Mr. Jones to Mr. Green then back again. “I…I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Mr. Jones smiled. “That’s why we’re here, Mr. Masterson. To determine exactly that.”

Masterson wiped more sweat from his brow. “But…”

“Now now, Mr. Masterson, if you haven’t done anything wrong, then there’s no need to worry.” Mr. Jones smiled again, then opened the manila folder and paged through the thick stack of papers inside.

He looked up. “Are you warm, Mr. Masterson? Would you like a glass of water?’

“Y-yes, it’s a little warm in here. Water would be good.”

“Well, just answer a few questions and we’ll be happy to get you a glass of water,” said Mr. Jones, smiling again. “Now then.” He glanced down at the page in front of him. Mr. Green frowned, his gaze unblinking.

“According to our records, you drive an SUV, is that true?”

“Yes, I own an-“

“And is this the vehicle in question?” Mr. Jones shoved a photograph toward Masterson. It clearly showed Masterson’s late model silver Lincoln Navigator.

Masterson nodded and mumbled “Yes.”

“That was a yes? Good,” said Mr. Jones, withdrawing the photograph. He glanced at his colleague, who removed a small legal pad from inside his suit and starting writing in it.

Mr. Jones flipped more pages in the folder, ignoring Masterson for the moment. Mr. Green was scowling, adding to Masterson’s nervousness. “Hmm,” said Mr. Jones, “according to our records, you have two children, ages 14 and 11.” He looked up at Masterson. “Is this true?”

“Yes, I have two boys,” replied Masterson, his eyes darting around the room.

“Good,”replied Mr. Jones. Once again, Mr. Green wrote in his little pad.

“Wh-what is he writing?” asked Masterson.

“Just answer the questions,” answered Mr. Green testily.

Mr. Jones smiled. “And your two boys attend the local public schools I assume?”

Masterson hesitated. Why were they asking these questions about his kids? Were they in trouble? “Umm…”

“Come come, Mr. Masterson,” said Mr. Jones. “It’s a simple question. Do your children attend public school?”

“Well, um… I send them to private school.”

“Hm, private school,” sneered Mr. Green, writing again.

Mr. Jones shook his head slowly. “Mr. Masterson, why do you send your children to private school?” Masterson wiped more sweat from his forehead. “I-…”

Well?” Mr. Jones was no longer smiling.

“I….that is, my wife and I…” Masterson hesitated.

“Your wife and you what, Mr. Masterson?” asked Mr. Jones.

“Well….um, we though they’d get a better education at a private school than…”

“Are the public schools not GOOD enough for your children, Mr. Masterson?”

“No, um I mean, well…”

“I’m waiting, Mr. Masterson.”

Masterson squirmed in the chair. Mr. Green was scowling at him again, tapping his pen on the table.

“It’s not that….I….my wife and I felt….”

Mr. Jones interrupted him with a heavy sigh. “Mr. Masterson, if the public schools are good enough for other people’s children, why are they not good enough for yours?”

Masterson squirmed. His face was pouring sweat as the bright light bore down on him.

“Are your children BETTER than other children?” pressed Mr. Jones. “Do you NOT support public education?”

“No…I mean, yes I support public education. It’s just that….why are you asking me these questions?”

Mr. Green leaned forward. “We’re asking the questions here,” he snapped.

“Now now, Mr. Green. Let’s give Mr. Masterson a chance to respond,” said Mr. Jones gently. He looked at Masterson. “Well, Mr. Masterson?”

Masterson looked from one man to the other nervously. “My….my children aren’t better than other children,” he finally answered, his voice quiet.

Mr. Jones’ stare was unwavering. “I’m sorry Mr. Masterson, I didn’t hear you. Can you repeat that please?”

“My children aren’t better than other children,” Masterson repeated.

Mr. Green stood up suddenly, his chair squealing angrily against the floor. “Then why do you send them to a PRIVATE school?” he shouted. Masterson was cowed; he didn’t know what to say. Mr. Green smoothed his suit jacket and sat back down, shaking his head in disgust.

Mr. Jones looked down at the pages in the folder again, then looked up. “Mr. Masterson, are you a big man?” Masterson stared at him. “Wh-what?”

“Are you a big man?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Mr. Jones pushed the folder toward Masterson, the smile and gentle manner now completely gone from his face. “Mr. Masterson, you drive a big fancy SUV. You send your children to an exclusive, expensive private school. You have a lawn service come and do your yardwork for you once a week. You even have the school decals on the SUV, for heaven’s sake. Sir, it’s all here in your file. You MUST think you’re a very important person.”

Masterson clutched his hands together in his lap. “I….I….”

Mr. Green laughed derisively. “I…I…I. Yes it’s all about YOU isn’t it, big man?” He pointed his pen at Masterson.

“No, I…please, what do you want? What have I done?”

Mr. Jones closed the folder and stood up suddenly. “I thought you were a good citizen, Mr. Masterson. I really wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. But now I see I was mistaken.”

Mr. Green also stood up. “You’re too nice, Mr. Jones.”

“Yes, it IS a failing of mine,” replied Mr. Jones. He looked back at Masterson. “Sir, you are in REAL trouble here. No one person is as important as you seem to think you are. And you obviously think you’re a big man. Don’t you?”

“I – I –please….I’m not a big man, I don’t think – “

“DON’T YOU?” shouted Mr. Green, leaning down, his short but squat body stretching his suit ominously.

Masterson couldn’t help himself. He started to sob.

Mr. Green jerked his thumb at Masterson and shook his head. “Not so big now, is he Mr. Jones?”

“No, Mr. Green. Mr. Masterson is finding out that nobody is that important,” replied Mr. Jones, ignoring the sobbing man. The two men approached the door to the room and were about to leave when Mr. Jones turned to Masterson. “Mr. Masterson, you are aware of the statutes, aren’t you? I’m afraid I have no choice but to inform you of the consequences of your selfish actions. Your property has been seized by the state for redistribution. Your family has been enrolled in one of our education centers for retraining.” Masterson buried his face in his hands.

He nodded to Mr. Green. “Mr. Green will continue your questioning. Just confess your crimes and things will go much easier for you. AND your family.” He opened the door and left the room.

Mr. Green closed and locked the door. He removed his suit jacket and hung it neatly on the back of his chair, then began rolling up his sleeves.

“Now then my friend. Let’s you and I have a chat, shall we?”


© 2007 Michael S. Cohen

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