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After years of impersonating a Systems Engineer, Ken Poyner has retired to watch his wife continue to break national and world raw power lifting records. Ken's two current poetry (The Book of Robot, Victims of a Failed Civics) and four short fiction collections (Constant Animals, Avenging Cartography, The Revenge of the House Hurlers, Engaging Cattle) are available from Amazon and elsewhere. kpoyner.com.

James came out through his flimsy front door and was halfway to his car when Ned from the next home over got him flush in the back with a .38 slug. The shot likely sufficiently killed James, but to be sure Ned walked over and placed two more rounds into him. James's wife came to the door and started screaming. Ned bent down and affixed his claim tag around James's ankle. He pried his cell phone out of a pocket, popped the flip-style phone open, and called the authorities.
Neither James nor his wife apparently knew it was James day. Had they known, James would have stayed locked inside, blinds down, in an interior room.
In the end, Ned collected the $450 for his catch. He then waited up that night to see what tomorrow's name would be.
Ned did not win the bonus for most inventive catch. A slug in the back had no chance. A fellow a couple of townships over got a James by tricking him to step on the plate of a disguised catapult, tossed the James forty yards to break his neck where he landed. It took some effort to get enough tension on the catapult spring, and almost all day to disguise it. And he had to be sure it was a James on the launch spot. Cull some other name and there would be a fine, possibly community service. When they announced the award, they had two eye-witnesses come on and describe seeing the event--the James's arms flailing, his legs in a run even though he was free in the air, the scream ending in an anonymous thud.
One wonders how some people think these methods up.
As for Ned's James's wife, no one seemed to know her name. She had managed to keep it off most documents, did not mention it in the few conversations she had. She was referred to as Mrs. Most people resented the success of her secrecy.
From the day of her husband's death, she was alert as to whether the name Ned came up for a day. The family had a hunting rifle and even if she could not catch him outside, all of that Ned day she could pop stray rounds into Ned's house, call up to see if a random shot had made a lucky hit. If it had, she could stroll over, place her tag, call the authorities from Ned's own phone.
Problem is, if she tries to claim the bounty, she will have to give her name.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, September 30th, 2021

Author Comments

I have always been fascinated at how easily people accept prevailing norms, even though those norms may be grotesque. Rather than fix the problems with those norms, they find ways of manipulating them to their advantage. Too many people would prefer to learn to play the game well than consider why the game is being played.

- Ken Poyner
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