The door eased open to the hotel conference room and a stout, little man ambled through the threshold. He wore a charcoal, pinstriped suit. Underneath, he wore a pale purple dress shirt with a deep purple tie. His plump face hadn't been shaved in several days.
“Hello Bob,” an older man greeted him, rising out of a swiveling chair. The man, Gerald, walked around the lacquered, wooden conference table. The two men shook hands as Bob pulled out a white handkerchief and wiped the perspiration off of his gleaming, balding head.
“You remember Sam and Patricia,” the silver-headed Gerald said, motioning to the other two sitting at the table. Bob nodded at the couple, approximately the same age as him. The young lady word a red dress outlined in black. Her husband sat next to her in a white dress shirt that was unbuttoned at the top, and a blue, patterned tie that had been loosened. Sam had a grave look about him, while Patricia wore a blank expression.
Gerald led Bob over to the table and said, “Please, have a seat.” Gerald sat down at the head of the table. He paused for a moment, his face wrinkled more than usual with a look of concern. “Well, we all know why we're here. Let's get down to business.” He pulled out a pair of glasses, put them on, and glanced over a stack of papers. “James Alan McGregor and Thomas John Reynolds. We have to decide which one.”
A look of shock came across Patricia's face at the sound of the two names.
“Blasted government,” Sam mumbled under his breath, “making us choose like this.”
Five years earlier, the government passed a law to handle the rising population crisis the U.S. was beginning to experience. Two individuals would be randomly chosen and a group of four was chosen to decide which individual was more beneficial to society. The six individuals in this particular case happened to all be connected. James, or Jim as they called him, and Thomas, T.J., were college roommates at Ball State. Gerald had been a professor at that time and had each of them in one of his history classes. Bob, Sam, and Patricia were all classmates of Jim and T.J.
“I guess the first place to start would be academics,” asserted Gerald. “Jim graduated with a 4.0 and was salutatorian of his class. T.J., 2.5. Jim belonged to various academic clubs, while I seem to remember T.J. being a bit of a prankster.”
Sam chuckled at the last comment. On several occasions, Sam had aided and abetted his friend. Gerald glanced over as Sam with a look of irritation.
“Please Gerald, that was years ago,” Sam pleaded. “You can't hold something like that against him. It was just for fun, and nobody got hurt.”
Gerald looked back down at the stack of papers laying on the table. The meeting continued for several hours as the four individuals poured over pages and pages of data on the two subjects.
“We'll take a break before we make a decision,” Gerald said after they finished looking through the papers. “They need an answer by midnight.”
The four dismissed and went various ways. Bob and Gerald went their own ways, while Sam and Patricia went out to a restaurant. They all returned reluctantly a few hours later.
Gerald brought the meeting back into session.
“Well, for all practical purposes, Jim seems to be the best candidate. He's better academically. He went on to do great things in the technology industry. He's the model citizen.”
The four of them looked around at each other, hoping that one of them could do something to change the situation. Bob spoke up.
“I guess there's nothing more to do than log in our choices.”
Each person opened up a laptop that had been provided for them and logged into a secure site. They cast their votes and went their separate ways.
A few weeks later, Sam saw the top story on the news. T.J. was going to be executed in a few short weeks. A look of bewilderment came over him.
“Honey,” he yelled to her upstairs where she was changing into some sweatpants and a tank top.
She peeked her head around the corner in the hallway.
“Who did you pick?”
“Who did you pick? Jim or T.J.?”
“I did too, but he's not the one.”
Patricia had made her way into the living room by that time to see T.J.'s face on the screen. A look of horror came over her.
“That can't be right. How could it be him. Bob said he picked Jim too. How did T.J. end up being the one?”
“I don't know,” said Sam as he picked up his phone and began dialing a number. “We've got to do something. I can't let T.J. die.”