Tag Archives: death

Unsuspected Intimacy

wireA dense fog shrouded the facility and obscured the windows along its brick facade. The main building stood monolithic behind foreboding chain-link framed in razor wire. The same journalist assigned to cover the criminal trial had to brave the autumn chill to report on the late-night execution. He drew this lot as a cub reporter for a news outlet that covered such morbid proceedings but stayed warm inside the News 41 van as long as possible before setting up for a live shot outside the prison barrier.

Protesters drew attention – those who oppose the death penalty and supported the Reynolds’ family juxtaposed with others who wanted their brand of justice done. They staked claim on opposite sides of the main driveway and stomped around under flood lights bright enough to illuminate a sports stadium. Their signs galvanized opposing positions. Placards on the right heralded, “Down with the death penalty.” Others on the left read, “An Eye for An Eye” and “Good Riddance,” as their owners chanted, “Justice for Gwen, Justice for Gwen” outside the prison’s formidable gates.

Gwen Brown’s family sat undetected and anonymous inside a dark sedan parked on grass aligning the drive. The media spotlight cast upon them already took its toll without adding more undue probing.

Hoards of hard-line vigilantees rehashed the details of how Reynolds sadistically killed the teenage girl. A youth himself at the time, Timothy Wayne Reynolds had been defended on the basis of a crime of passion. A jilted lover. An especially humiliating break-up. A previous closed-head injury suffered in a football game the prior week that defense lawyers said incapacitated him from responsibility for his crime.

People say, “Dead men tell no tales.” The dead can’t speak of atrocities against them. The drug that accidentally killed the King of Pop, Proponol, would be used to take one of his fans to that person’s final rest.

The frenzied folks outside never knew of the turmoil within those confines. “We can’t let this leak to the press,” Warden Jenkins told his officers. “There’s enough negativity connected to these proceedings already.”

Reynolds ate his favorite meal of chicken fried steak with gravy and a piece of angel-food cake before receiving the priest’s last rites and taking those final surreal steps to his berth in a room with a one-way mirror. He couldn’t see those viewing his execution from the other side of that chamber, as his uncertain death became quite a drawn-out procedure, stretching out much longer than planned.

An unnamed pharmacy compounded a special recipe for lethal injection, even though human rights groups claimed that using untested drugs constituted ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The concoction took twice the usual timespan to work its way through his veins, twice the normal timespan. Reynolds’ heart pumped the poisonous mixture circuitously within his body until it rendered his vital organs inoperable. That same heart his adversaries insisted didn’t exist.

The man turned toward his withered image in the mirror and mouthed the words, “I love you,” in hopes the receiver would get his message. At the last moment, a panic spread through Reynolds’ body pinioned to the gurney, and he struggled against the straps that bound his wrists when the masked clinician approached him with a syringe clasped in gloved hands.

The woman who named him on June 15, 1962 at John Franklin Memorial Hospital in Tulumqua, Alabama sat sobbing on the other side of the transparent wall. She wailed painfully when her boy closed his eyes for the last time.

A satellite feed sent out a signal to major network with the report, “State officials brought an embittered battle from 1979 to a final close tonight as 54-year old Timothy Wayne Reynolds was executed for the crime of aggravated capital murder. The county coroner pronounced him dead at 12:15.”

Outside the gates, the mother of Gwen Elisabeth Brown cried into her cupped hands. She felt both relief and sadness at the news.

Inspiration Monday prompt – uncertain death inmonsterpromo

 

 

 

Image: “Razorwire” by Joi Ito via Flickr

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A Secret Locked Away

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It took 50 years for me to find out who I had married. He failed to inform me that he was a polygamist. The other two wives on opposite ends of  the country were as clueless as me about his other families. I only knew him to be a sales manager who worked for a nebulous privately-owned company that supposedly required him to travel several states and be home very little over the course of a year.

I imagine the other women were told a similar version of his long line of lies and just as dumbfounded when they received a phone call requesting someone claim his body in a Cincinnati morgue. The airport there was a connecting hub for his travels, and a security agent found his body slumped in a chair. Apparently he was waiting for a flight, but I don’t know which family he was en route to see. In retrospect, I don’t care. This fatal layover represented poetic justice.

This triple-life must have kept Jacob on his toes and exhausted most of the time. A busy schedule and his web of deceit surely precipitated his ultimate heart attack.

The wife in Utah was the only one who found it in her heart to pick up his worthless remains in Ohio. I considered not going to the memorial service out in Salt Lake City but wanted to meet the women who’d also been duped by Jacob. Come to find out, he had several children with Mrs. Utah, but she was nowhere near as upset about his duplicity (triplicity?) as me or the wife in New Hampshire. Maybe it had something to do with being Mormon, that whole sister-wife thing.

His grown children had kids of their own, although none of them minded the discovery of multiple families much. Just another fact of life for them. I suppose they thought ‘the more the merrier.’

Not so with me or my east coast counterpart. We were livid to find out the years we’d spent as Jacob’s wives were not as they appeared. If it wasn’t bad enough I’d spent days and months on end wondering whether my spouse was safe in the city where he claimed to be working (cell phones were not his thing), the times he was home were just as circumspect. His freshly laundered clothes and pressed boxer shorts never ceased to amaze me.

At the risk of making such a sexist judgement, no man — especially one continuously on the road — could be that neat. Early on I speculated, much like Jerry Seinfeld claimed people used to assume about him, whether my husband was gay. Since he was both thin and neat, I thought he must be gay. While I was glad to not have done his chores, it struck me how he spent so much money at the professional laundry. Little did I know the wife in Utah kept him in clean clothes.

His lies were only uncovered much later after his dilapidated body was retrieved from the Midwest and taken to the Great Salt Flats. Jacob deserved to be buried out there in nothingness. Maybe his Mormon wife would visit his desert grave, but not me. I was suspicious of him then and despised him now – would despise him for eternity. Maybe Joseph Smith would’ve approved of his earthly behavior, but not me.

My resentment followed me all the way out West to attend his service, and I went only out of a morbid curiosity as to what those other wives were like. Meeting them might quell the insatiable rage inside me at having fallen for such a blatant misrepresentation of what I thought constituted my 50-year marriage. Such a fool I’d been!

The one from New Hampshire felt much the same as me, realized upon our commiseration at the funeral home in a nice Salt Lake City suburb. She also felt betrayed, but we set aside our shame in deference to the Utah wife who arranged the memorial. She was gracious enough to pay for Jacob’s burial, so we conceded to not make a scene and embarrass her in front of her religious community. We sat in the back row and bit our tongues, wishing to not raise any awareness of our relationship to the deceased.

I felt a smug pride in being able to rise above the circumstances and keep my mouth shut. Jacob had to explain his misgivings in life to his maker, not the wives he’d wronged. It wasn’t my place to punish him for eternity, as much as he deserved to pay.

A man dressed all in black arrived and sashayed to the front of the chapel, his exaggerated wails echoing throughout the sanctuary. Every eye in the room turned to watch the demonstrous display as the gentleman approached the casket. He was thin, as neat as a pin in his seer-sucker suit, and he choked back mournful sobs and pulled a silk handkerchief from the front jacket pocket to staunch a great flow of tears. He was clearly in mourning, and anyone who didn’t know better would think he had also just lost his spouse.

*This fictional post was prompted by #GetYourWriteOn at Indie Chick Lit.

Your husband/wife (that you secretly hated) of 50 years has just passed away. Write the funeral scene.

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Antiquity – Studio30+ writing prompt

You live by the sword, you die by the sword was somewhat his motto. Until he got sick. Funny he never mentioned the saying again after his diagnosis. Bravado displayed in earlier times must’ve become the clique only when his vice turned into a death sentence.

He’d never meet three of his five grandchildren and only really knew one of them, as the boy was a toddler but the little girl only a baby when their grandpa died. Oddly enough, the boy would later make up a song about his Grandpa John while strumming a toy guitar and wailing away about things they’d done together in the short span of two years. The final refrain was a blunt, And he died.

They’d gone on rides in the truck, the carseat tied in with a rope, and the little one’s frantic mother noticing him missing only after they’d long been gone. Grandpa created a stir by goading him to point at a storybook Cruella DeVille and call her Mama. There was no love lost between the two in-laws, and her dig was dubbing them outlaws.

Few pictures remain of the boy and his granddad in those good days of — perhaps not sobriety, but at least being dry.  The man smiling in the foreground of one, with the boy staring back at his thick glasses and reaching out to touch the stiff bristles of his funny mustache. He had become the man he wanted the boy to know instead of the drunken daddy his own son had known, as he claimed from the hotseat at an AA meeting.

Cancer not only attacked nicotine-damaged lungs from 40 years of smoking but a cirrhotic liver weak from another other sword’s abuse over time. He’d never get to watch the kid mature into a 6’ 3” man in uniform, much like his own in the ’60s, with an acoustic guitar in hand instead of a play one. Or see the other four kids grow up to have their own adventures and accomplishments.

ImageHis grandchildren stood to learn a lot from him. Maybe not about video games or sports as they might like but how to bait a hook or safely use a 30.06. He’d done so much for the brevity of his short but hard-lived 55 years and physically aged far beyond that span.

He wasn’t an educated man or world traveler but knew the ways from before, when there was no money to throw at problems, just hard work and doing for yourself because you couldn’t afford otherwise. A world gleaned from well-earned experience. One daughter eulogized him as knowing the name of every bird in the trees and plant in the woods.

An old black-and-white Polaroid showed him standing atop the saddle of an Appaloosa stallion named Cloud Chief on whom he honed his farrier trade.  Weathered chaps covered his worn Wrangler jeans, probably stiff with the sweat of a long day in the sun and horseshit pried loosed from hooves shod earlier.

He had a perspective on the world not likely found much any more. They’d have known the man he wished them to know, different than the one who raised their parents.

This post follows the prompt “old” from Studio 30 Plus, on an online writing community.

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