THE HORNS OF A PRISONER’S DILEMMA — PART I
Rational Self-Interest & Justice: A Dialogue

September 2016By John M. Gist

John M. Gist is the Chair of the Humanities Department at Western New Mexico University. His prose and poetry have appeared in national and international literary and scholarly journals, such as The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, The Galway Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Superstition Review, Gravel, Pithead Chapel, Academic Questions, and numerous others. He is co-author of the book Angst and Evolution: The Struggle for Human Potential.

Two lovers, Seiko Singer and Andrew Rand, have been arrested for a felony. The detective assigned to the case, a dwarf named Piccolino, knows the couple is guilty but may be unable to get a conviction, as the evidence is circumstantial, unless he can get one of the two to confess. He arrested Seiko Singer at the couple’s apartment while she nursed their newborn daughter. He arrested Andrew Rand in a Walmart parking lot. The two are being held in detached cells until they are called, individually, into separate interview rooms.

Piccolino, donning his customary green fedora, knocks twice before entering a grim holding cell lit only by a single white bulb. Below the bulb sits Andrew Rand, on a folding chair, at a rectangular table. He is wearing handcuffs, and his clasped palms rest on the tabletop. Piccolino shuts the door and faces the prisoner.

Piccolino: Okay, here’s the deal. If you confess and your sweetie-pie refuses, you go free. You deny the charges and she confesses, you’ll do fifteen years of hard time and she goes free. Get it?

Rand: And if we both deny?

Piccolino: Then we go for the tax-evasion charge instead. We got you dead to rights on that, and you’ll both go up for five years.


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