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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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Losing Control

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Pamela’s sister yelled from behind the window, “What in the world were you thinking?” The woman didn’t know how she always seemed to get herself into such predicaments. With her car in the shrubbery, its bumper dented and headlight smashed, she had yet to suss the situation, much less defend or refute any accusations from an angry sibling.

“What was I thinking … I don’t even know where I am,” Pamela mumbled. Her head ached and a thin trickle of blood leaked down her forehead as she lifted it from the top arc of the steering wheel. Confused, she asked herself, “Where the hell am I?” She looked past the dashboard to where her sister stood at the plate-glass window in shocked surprise with her arms spread wide to hold open the living room curtains. A plume of steam rose into the air above the Accord’s crunched hood.

She gritted her teeth and beat a fist on the wheel. “It’s that goddamn Ambien! I should’ve known not to take that last night when I got home from the bar.” Now, facing her sibling, she was at a loss to explain her actions. As if losing her job wasn’t enough, begging forgiveness for ruining such carefully-sculpted greenery would be her next humiliation.

She didn’t have to open the driver’s door to feel how her sister would assail her with accusations. Such a one-sided conversation happened before. “What it is now, Pamela? When are you going to get your shit together?” Their mother’s expression on her sister Margaret’s face bore down on her. No disapproving words were unnecessary.

That glare made Pamela feel lower than she already felt about herself, if possible. Margaret’s judgment filled in for their mother’s absence, and her punishing opinion only added to Pamela’s miserable self-concept. Mother’s disdain was palpable all the way from her vault at Peaceful Acres on Parkridge Drive.

Pamela’s stomach turned at seeing the crumpled front bumper. No way could she afford the insurance deductible this time. She’d just have to drive it as-is. “I don’t remember starting the car, much less driving … or ending up here,” she explained in a futile attempt to quell Margaret’s anger.

Had the Honda veered into a guardrail on the freeway, her suffering may’ve finally ended. Instead, the landscaping of the house where desperate circumstances left her to live off a family member had cushioned her sleep-aid-fueled escapade.

Margaret stood, her arms crossed in front of her, stabbing Pamela with an all too familiar steely glare. Although Pamela loved her sister and was grateful for the hospitality of a place to stay after losing her apartment, the woman’s condescending attitude grew to an intolerable level.

“I’m so sick of this shit,” she spat, got back in the car, and slammed the door. The tires dug ruts in the formerly-pristine sod when she threw the gear shift into reverse, spun out onto the pavement, and sped down the street. Radiator be damned.

“Hmmm,” Margaret pondered, giving a slight shrug. “Guess I get to watch the new X-Files by myself tonight. Good.” She went back inside and closed the curtains.

(photo – joshboyd studios via Flickr)

Studio 30+ writing prompt – vault s30p

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Out to dry

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An old, threadbare dress hung in tatters above her on the clothesline. It would take no time to dry in the fierce wind atop the hill where they lived. The biting breeze seemed to blow through the fabric of her coat and nip into the bare skin of her neck. Elizabeth thought of the tough luck she accepted marrying a Johnson and moving where the elements so mercilessly wore upon their lives. Her soul suffered the same treatment as the clothing on the wire stretched there between two posts.

Her memory went back to the days that frozen diapers on the line in wintertime would snap in two when removed. With no money for essentials, there was certainly none for extravagances like a clothes dryer. They were lucky to have laundry detergent and soap for bathing. Elizabeth’s red hands were worn raw from hanging wet garments and linens in frigid temperatures. Drips of water almost froze before touching the ground.

Elizabeth spent the time outdoors as a respite from the chaos inside the house, as her toil was never ending. Getting pregnant the first time seemed to lock in her fate as a homemaker, and submission to her overbearing husband brought along three more little ones thereafter. Those children were her heart. She loved the little buggers but wanted more out of life than making supper and cleaning up after other people. At least a little break in the day-in-day-out chores to which she seemed destined.

One of her boys, who suffered a broken neck from an ATV accident with a neighbor, would spend his adulthood on disability, while the other two stayed close to home working minimum-wage jobs like their daddy’s. She marveled at more privileged women, their big cars and nice clothes. A front-loading washing machine. Elizabeth lived out her dreams vicariously through others.

She wanted more for her daughter and stashed away a little cash each time the pittance of grocery money was doled out by her husband. Emma would go to college if it took everything her mother could scrounge for her to do so. Either that or just the hell out of here. Emma’s mother would see to it that she escaped subsistence on this God forsaken hill.

When Emma became a boy-crazy teenager, Elizabeth took the first chance they had to go to the free clinic for birth control. Elizabeth threatened the girl within an inch of her life to not settle for any of those juvenile delinquents who caught her eye at school. They would only lead Emma to a life like her own.

Elizabeth had no concept of feminism or equality for women. She could only mull over the unrelenting disappointment at how things had turned out for her. Directing her daughter away from a similar life seemed the only rational thing to do.

The woman pulled her knit cap down further over her ears and commenced whistling a tune to take her away for the moment. She pinched another wooden clothespin with stiff fingers whose sore knuckles didn’t want to work any more and pinioned another pair of blue jeans to the wire running vertically above her head. The gnarly appendage was hard to recognize as her own when she stuck it through a hole in the knee of the Levi’s. A gaping chasm pulsated inside her much like that worn out place in the denim.

Elizabeth Johnson hung up the last pair of socks, pulled her coat collar tighter to keep the cold wind from traveling down her back, and turned toward the house to go inside. She used the blue and white ticking of the clothespin bag to wipe away an ice-cold tear running down her cheek.

*This post was prompted by Tara’s line, “hung in tatters above her,” from a previous post prompted at http://www.Studio30Plus.coms30p

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