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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 638 Response

On Frailty’s Honor

with Gary Clifton

In Gary Clifton’s “On Frailty’s Honor”:

Does the title fit the story? If so, in what way?

A title is often a simple selection, often not. This title more or less evolved because the child was unloved, unwanted, abused, murdered, and left in a shallow grave, a scenario which should touch the most indifferent.

The title, selected after more soul-searching than I would normally ever invest, was meant as a tender label on a harsh subject in a hard world. A wise person could evolve a dozen other titles in a half hour.

What is Garcia’s function in the story?

Garcia’s function? Movies and TV for years have added a character to supply back-fill information. Garcia serves that purpose and — shudder for my political correctness — her presence also inserts a female cop into the mix. I probably should have left Red Harper out, but that character is a composite of several old-timers who were around when I was a neophyte, and I like him.

Max is depicted as being mentally handicapped and a pedophile. The two character traits are not mutually inclusive. How else might Max be characterized?

Max, lack of mental acumen, pedophilia: There were several Max’s in my travels and many more drifting along the fringes of society. Pedophilia and I.Q. are unrelated. Most pedophiles are heterosexual men from middle- to upper-class backgrounds.

In this story, Max is not so much a pedophile as a friendless simpleton who lives with his mother, who has characteristics of Attila the Hun.

The person I call Max was, as were others, well beyond a simple label, as, for a matter of fact are most of us. The Max of this story is a voyeur and a frightened loner. Remember, Max’s mama has killed the child, not Max.

Why does McCoy feel guilty about Megan’s conviction and fate? Is his guilt earned or unearned? What might he have done differently?

The American judicial system is designed to weigh heavily in favor of the defendant: rather a thousand go free than convict an innocent.

It still can fail. Once I worked on a case where we convicted the defendant, a doper if you would, for firebombing an old wood-frame apartment building, killing an old man and a child. He told a store clerk he’d done the deed, an eyewitness identified him, and his face was flash-burned.

He was convicted and awaiting sentencing; it was a death-penalty case. I’d already received a letter of congratulations from Disneyland East when I received a call from the Dallas County jail. An outlaw biker-gang guy had fingered someone else as the perpetrator.

I checked records, and the second defendant not only looked like the guy who’d been convicted, he’d been evicted from the burned apartment building. We found him. He flunked the polygraph test, while the convicted guy passed. The convicted man’s “fall” partner confessed, too.

The “foolproof” system had failed. Prosecution would not pursue the second case because of the embarrassment of having wrongfully convicted the first guy. My Max character owes his life to that case.

Copyright © 2015 by Gary Clifton

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