He might even have a snack or beer while he's at it, and you wouldn't even have clue one that he's there. He's that good. Until he makes a mistake. His fence turns him in, and he's going to be made an example of.
The State of Massachusetts sentences him to five years in prison, but along the way, the bus is attacked in a breakout attempt. O'Connor is shot in the head, and when he wakes up four years later, everything in the criminal justice system has changed. Everyone had been released from prison four years ago. Those released get "re-educated" and wear ankle bracelets that track them.
Bottom line, it's a new America. The Tax Code was overhauled (no more loopholes), the government consolidated and took over banks (only one now), everyone earns forty grand a year (even if unemployed). You can't hide anything you say or do from them. Even the toilets are smart; they analyze everything and can tell what you've ingested, even drugs.
For those incapable of relearning, a horrid fate awaits – confinement in an "apartment" complex run by the "cat baggers" and designed to drive the failures nuts. Nuts enough to jump to their deaths. Now it's one, two, three strikes you're out in the new ballgame. O'Connor keeps on harping about how his rights are being trod on, how he's being unfairly typecast because he's a relearner. Well, duh! Welcome to the new America.
In the end, the only thing separating him from freedom is a Plexiglas wall, behind which is his jury, one of whom is you.
The End of Marking Time is a fascinating story, a commentary on the how ineffective criminal justice systems have become. But is there a better alternative? Is there a better way to handle those who cannot conform to society's standards of what's right and what's wrong?
I don't have an answer. Do you?
22 West Books ($14.95 paperback list)