Physical Instruction

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
My entry for The Novelist's Seventh Sanctum contest. My topic was 'physical instruction'.
Disclaimer: All of the legal proceedings are completely made up, so it's horribly inaccurate. Sorry. Also, I attempted to be funny. Sorry for that, as well. =)

Submitted: July 14, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 14, 2012




Fitting that today, Friday, July 13th, is the day I get hauled in.

I mean, it's freaking hot outside! No one in his right mind could possibly blame me for going around without a shirt.

Apparently the guys at the police station could.

I was sitting in Café Jamie, minding my own business, along with a few women sitting at the counter, who had turned around when I walked in and hadn't looked back at their milkshakes since. I ordered an iced coffee, and the waitress who brought it to me didn't seem fazed by my shirtlessness.

The cop that sat outside the café, chatting with his partner, apparently was. After I had been sitting for a few minutes, sipping my drink and wishing they let me into the town pool, he looked up and, recognizing me, stormed in. He made a beeline for me.

"Hey, Officer Jenkens! Coincidence that you're on duty while I'm out, again, don't ya think?"

"Aright, buddy, whaddya think you're gettin at?"

"Pardon? Sit down, please, and I'll buy you a coffee."

"Get up. You're coming with me."

"Where are we going?" I inquired, not making any move to stand.

"Down to the county jail. Move it." He grabbed my wrists and began to fumble with a pair of handcuffs. Strangely enough, the women at the counter had turned back to their drinks and were beginning to make awkward conversation.

"Do I have the right to know why I'm being arrested, or has that right been retired, too?"

"Public display of partial nudity."

"When you confronted me before about it, you didn't arrest me," I said, now being pushed towards the door, my attempts to grab at my iced coffee failing.

"Yeah, because this is the third time. Last time, I told ya, if you did it again I'm haulin you in, Dave."

"But it's hot outside! If I was wearing a shirt, I'd...overheat and get heatstroke or something."

"Look, kid, I'm wearin a full uniform, along with a five pound belt and everything, and I'm fine. Not happy, but alive."

"Ask my doctor. I've got a condition. I can't get overheated. I'll have a stroke. It's got to do with my blood and stuff!"

Jenkens' partner opened the door, and I was hustled into the backseat.

"It's true," I continued to protest.

"Aright. C'mon, Dave, last time it was, 'I'm a werewolf, and I could transform any time and ruin a perfectly good, expensive shirt!' Before that, it was, 'I'm allergic to cotton and polyester, and I'm only wearing pants because they're denim!'" he mocked me.

"Well, it's true this time."

"You mean to say you were lying to me the first two times?" We pulled away from the curb and began the five minute journey from downtown Milton to the outskirts. "Falsified testimony to a police officer. That's a charge that can and will be used against ya. Remember, anything you say can be--"

"I get it, officer, thanks."


I was given an orange jumpsuit with 'Northwood County Jail' in black letters on the back, stripped of any objects on my person, and locked up that afternoon. My cell was at the end of a corridor, and the only word I can think of to describe the room - to describe the entire jail, actually - is bleak. It was white or grey, depending on how much sun was poking through the barred window in the door, which was, during my stay, none. There was a toilet in the corner, built for a dwarfish criminal, and a sheet-less cot. In between was a sink. Nothing more.

I was gently shoved in, and the door clicked shut behind me. "Dinner's in a few hours, and your trial's tomorrow."


I began to mentally calculate how many hours until I was freed, and how many ways there were to occupy oneself in a jail cell.

My final tallies were ‘too many’ and ‘five’.


I somehow managed to survive, only to attend the "trial", which was more boring than the cell because there was nothing I could mess with; my hands were restrained behind my back.

I was stuck in a room with the judge, Jenkens, and a few others I didn't recognize. After an hour of worn debate, during which I had tilted my chair back and dozed off staring at the ceiling, the judge shook my shoulder. "David, we have reached a decision. You're going to be sent to a class called Physical Instruction, which will teach you how to behave in public."

"What?" I said, a bit panicked, righting my chair.

"You'll begin this class this afternoon, and it will run three times a week for the next few weeks, or few months, depending on your progress. Failure to attend the class will result in a heavy fine or jail time."

"And trust me, every day in jail is just as bad as the first day, only it gets worse as you go on," Jenkens added.

"Do I have a choice? On whether or not I want to take this class?"

"Yes, of course, if you'd like one. You can pay a fine, which is negotiable, but for your offenses would be around $20,000. You may also go to jail for six months. Or you can attend the class, and carry on with your life otherwise."

"Fine. Fine. I'll take this Physical Institution class, or whatever."


I was sent home to shower (jail cells smell of disinfectants, but aren't as clean as you'd expect them to be) and dress in clothes that weren't over a day old, and given a notice that I was to be at the town hall at 4:00, preferably a bit before so I could meet the instructor. I took great care to arrive at 4:05.

I was greeted by a woman in an orange blouse, grey slacks, and a turquoise and gold necklace. "Hi! I'm Macy. And you must be David Rothfarb. Nice to meet you, David, come on in."

I was led into a wide, warm-colored room. The only things in in, a circle of chairs and their occupants, were cramped in the center quite comically. The people in the room studied me as I was guided to an empty chair. They all looked like they'd been in jail or rehab for a lot longer than I had.

Macy sat next to me. "Guys - and gals - this is David-"

"Call me Dave, please."

"-Dave, who's our newest addition. If I was a friend of yours, and I had just introduced Davi- Dave, how would you respond?"

"Hello, Dave, nice to meet you," they chorused blandly. If I had been introduced to them, I would have asked, very kindly, if they would like to join me for some brains and coffee, or if they'd been an extra on The Walking Dead recently, because they looked familiar. Better not to risk it here.

"Nice to meet you all, too."

"Now, Dave, I'm going to explain how we do things. Most of the time, I'll give an example of a situation, and a few of you will have to roleplay it. We do not," she said the last two words sharply, and they appeared to be directed at a large, hairy man who would look very much at home on a Harley, or hibernating, "deliberately do the socially wrong thing, make fun of others or the situation, behave inappropriately, or otherwise do anything that is out of line. Understood?" Her voice had once again become high-fructose-corn-syrupy sweet.

"Yep," I said, convinced by her impressive display of Jekyll-and-Hyde-ism.

"All right, then. We'll start with a situation I made up just for you. You're in a restaurant, and it begins to get very hot. A waiter is walking by." She motioned for me and the man next to me, whose face was so gaunt that I thought I could cut my hand on his protruding cheekbones, to stand. She then took my chair and dragged it away from the circle, and I sat again. "William, walk past him, please." He quickly stepped from one side of me to the other. "All right, stop trying to be funny." Although, looking at his sunken eyes and drooping lips, I couldn't tell where she was getting the class clown impression from. "Pace back and forth while we prep Dave. That's a good bo- William." He did look a bit like a greyhound - the dog, not the bus. "Now, Dave, it's unbearably hot in here. What do you do?"

I got up and left the building.


I now sat in an office. The judge sat behind a desk, and by the door stood Macy and Jenkens, who had caught me as I walked down the street, away from the town hall.

"David, can you tell me why you left the class?"

"I told Officer Jenkens already!" I said. "She asked me to act out what I would do if I was in a restaurant that was too hot."

"Was it that difficult of a question?" The judge shook his head. He sounded as if he was speaking to a child, I noted with annoyance. "David, since you clearly had trouble answering it in a class environment, I’d like you to tell me what you would do, right now.”

"I would leave."

The judge put his head on the desk, shoulders heaving, and Jenkens began to guffaw. Macy looked outraged.

"He was not to leave the class!" she said in an inside-voice version of a hysterical scream.

"Well," the judge began, suppressing a laugh, "He was following your directions, so I'm afraid I can't take any action against him."

Macy stormed out.

"I don't think she'll be wanting you to return," the judge said, turning to me. "We're just going to pretend that you've completed your assignment."

"Thank you," I said, standing up.

"And David?"


"Keep your shirt on," he said, a smile playing at his lips. "And you might want to pay your bill before you walk out of a restaurant."

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