Righteous Vigilante Justice

(Excerpt from The Park Bench Pact, one-act play by C.F. Navarro)

BILL: So, let me guess. It was this seething hatred of your Vietnamese enemies that decades later flared up and turned you into a vigilante.

FRED: No. It wasn’t the enemy I came to hate. They were just kids, like me, caught in the same nightmare. I actually felt a kinship with them.

BILL: So who, then, was it that you hated?

FRED: The politicians, the rapacious CEO’s, the fat cats who instigated and profited from the war, and the military brass that fomented it to promote their careers.

BILL: You realized they used you.

FRED: Yes. All the scumbags that I kill--execute would be a better word for it--remind me of them.

BILL: And you let the hate fester all these years?

FRED: No, I didn’t let fester. Not for long, anyway. My first execution took place right there in Vietnam.

BILL: Who?

FRED: A major who got his kicks sending his men out on hopeless missions. Shot the guy dead while he was taking a leak. Fragging, we called it back then.

BILL: Where there others after him?

FRED: In Vietnam, two more. After the war, as age crept up on me, I upped production, so to speak, before my lease on life, or luck, ran out.

BILL: Where there others after him?

FRED: In Vietnam, two more. After the war, as age crept up on me, I upped production, so to speak, before my lease on life, or luck, ran out.

BILL: How many thus far?

FRED: Over the years, twenty-one, including the last five, the ones with the coup de grĂ¢ce to the left eye.

BILL: Wow! That’s quite a record. And I assume that you’re not done yet.

FRED: No, I’m not. I still have a few more executions left in me.

BILL: And what’s with the shot to the left eye?

FRED: That signature flair I added later. It was suggested to me by voodoo believer acquaintance of mine. It combines two ancient superstitions: The evil eye and the left side.

BILL: Very creative.

FRED: Our English word “sinister” derives from the Latin sinistra, left.

BILL:Yes, I knew that.

FRED: [Chuckling] An erudite touch to my otherwise primeval acts of justice.

BILL: So, did you make the Marines your career?

FRED: No, I served my four years, went on to college, earned a Ph.D., in physics, and taught at various universities, until my retirement two years ago.

BILL: You were a professor?

FRED: Yes, and a distinguished one at that. And so was my wife. Her field was drama. We met at faculty party.

BILL: Fascinating story. A distinguished professor in polite society and a vigilante on the side.

FRED: The university provided us with a perfect front back then, just as the nursing home does now.

BILL: But don’t you ever feel a pang of guilt? The scumbags you kill may need killing, as you say, but how about their families and loved ones, aren’t they hurt by it?

FRED: Guilt? No, I have no reason to feel guilt. You see, I choose my prey carefully. Only scumbags whose family, if they have any, would be glad they’re dead. Helena helps me with the research.

BILL: Still, stalking and killing a human being who has done you no harm personally seems a bit . . .

FRED: Criminal? No, with me it was constructively therapeutic. If I hadn’t taken my hatred out on them, I would have turned it against myself, or a loved one, as have a lot of war veterans.

BILL: Yeah, many a book has been written about such veterans.

FRED: Alcoholics, drug addicts, frightened, confused, homeless men—that’s how they ended up, in the thousands. Some become outlaws, join motorcycles gangs for camaraderie.

BILL: The father of a classmate of mine ended up a hopeless wino.

FRED: A case close to us was Helena’s little brother. A timid, sensitive kid, drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam, at age 19.

BILL: What happened to him?

FRED: Came down with dysentery his first month in Vietnam. After a short stay in the hospital, he was ordered back to duty, but dreading the horrors that awaited him, he shot himself.

BILL: Which would explain why your wife supports you.

FRED: Maybe if those soldiers had taken it out on the real enemy, as I did, they might have survived, emotionally and socially.

BILL: You’re probably right.

FRED: I know I’m right, Unless one happens to be a total sociopath, most of us have an inborn need to contribute something to the wellbeing of our fellowmen.

BILL: And you, exactly what do you contribute?

FRED: By my reckoning, for every scum I execute I spare ten or more innocent people the harm he would caused them had he lived longer.

BILL: You realize, of course, that you’re playing God.

FRED: Really? How so?

BILL: Well, I’m not a religious person, a diehard agnostic, in fact, yet I believe there’s much wisdom to be had in the Bible, and when the Deity says “vengeance is mine,” it makes a lot of sense to me.

FRED: To begin with, it’s presumptuous for mortals to claim, the writers of the Bible included, that they know what the Creator of the Universe, if there’s such a being, is thinking. For all we know, he couldn’t care less what we do or don’t do.

BILL: But surely the time-tested words of the Scriptures . . .

FRED: Study the Bible from cover to cover, as I have several times over, And you’ll see that the Lord wreaks his vengeance through human agents. The Assyrians and Babylonian armies that laid waste to a sinning Israel were sent by the Lord. All the major heroes of the Old Testament—-Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah--had blood on their hands. All committed or urged genocide under orders from the Lord himself.

BILL: So, are you telling me that you’re an agent of God?

FRED: No, what I’m telling you is that your hackneyed Biblical argument is bunk. If God’s mind is so easy to decipher, then he wouldn’t be God. All that stuff you read in the Bible, profound or not, is the work of human minds. But let’s not go there.

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