Evidence by Deborah Rocheleau

They’d made a new rule in the hospitals: all visitors must have their fingerprints taken before entry. They’d tried to get yours back in grade school, offered to take them for free. You refused. On a fieldtrip to the police station they asked for your prints, but again you declined. For certain jobs they required it, like a flu shot, but you took the ones that settled for a background check instead. Now, though, with the new law passing, they won’t even let you into the waiting room without one. No, not even to see your newborn daughter.

Why not, your wife begs, holding up your baby’s wrinkled foot, blackened like a fire walker’s. They already have hers.

You know it’s true. Know, too, they’ve already chipped her, ID number embedded in her wrist, declaring which vaccines she’d received, and which her Luddite father had refused to allow. She’ll be discriminated against, you know, as if sedition could be caught like an illness. Or else, ran in families.

So you drive to the police station, confident, upright, like a man returning a lost wallet. Inside, you ask the receptionist for the appropriate form, squash your thumb into the swamp of the provided ink pad. You stop just short of pressing down in the indicated box, hesitant to stain the crisp paper. Why not? What do you have to hide? Can they read a criminal record in a print? Can they tell, just by looking at the lines, which ones spell citizen and which scream delinquent? No doubt refusing now will look incriminating, like the thief in the story who refuses to put his hands on the pot, lest the rooster crow.

You turn the form in blank, pay the processing fee, and leave. Instead of returning to the hospital, you drive to the bridge and watch the snow flowing clean in the river until it melts. With every passing siren, you turn, waiting for the one sent to track you down. They don’t need prints, really, to accuse, arrest, find you guilty. Clean fingers are enough to convict you.

Deborah Rocheleau is an English major, Chinese minor, and all-around language fanatic. Her writing has been published by Tin House, 100 Word Story, Silver Pen, and Page and Spine, among others. She blogs at deborahrocheleau.wordpress.com.

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