Rebecca Makkai, “The Briefcase”

A prisoner escapes his place in the chain gang only to watch another man get captured to take his place.

(from The Best American Short Stories 2009)

He thought how strange that a political prisoner, marched through town in a line, chained to the man behind and chained to the man ahead, should take comfort in the fact that this had all happened before. He thought of other chains of men on other islands of the Earth, and he thought how since there have been men there have been prisoners. He thought of mankind as a line of miserable monkeys chained at the wrist, dragging each other back into the ground.

Not sure what to say except I loved this simple, smart story. There’s something wonderfully old-fashioned about this one. It’s so good they put it in The Best American Non-Required Reading 2009, too. You should read it.

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