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by mkbayne 

Posted: 13 June 2006
Word Count: 995

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My mouth is dry and my heart pounds against my chest like Mike Tyson on crystal meth as I watch them struggle to insert the needle into a collapsed antecubital vein. After two unsuccessful attempts, I lose my patience. "Can't you assholes do anything right?" Then, an awkward silence, as each member of the prison's execution team looks at me with measured restraint. Finally, a patent vein is located, and a needle inserted, as eight New York State employees, standing behind a black curtain in an adjoining room, wait patiently for the signal to trigger the lethal injection of drugs.

As my eyes sweep the crowd, I spot her in the far corner, wearing the simple black dress she wore the night it happened. Only she and I know the truth - the real version of the events that unfolded that evening. She was there. But now, as our eyes meet, she turns her head away.

She could have told the truth at the trial, but she didn't. Add to this equation a brash and brilliant district attorney, public and political pressure for a quick cop-killer conviction, and an indifferent public defender, and you've got yourself a defendant who knows the verdict before the jury's picked.

The next voice I hear is the warden's: "John Patrick O'Malley, having been found guilty of the crime of Capital Murder by a jury of your peers, it is my duty as warden to carry out the sentence imposed by that judge and jury. Therefore, I hereby order a series of lethal drugs be administered intravenously until your heart stops and a physician pronounces you dead. May God have mercy on your soul."

"At last, freedom," my final thought before the warm darkness begins to absorb me and I lose consciousness.

I awake, surrounded by familiar faces. "Is it over?" I ask, still groggy but buoyant. "Yes," they say, smiling, "complete with a happy ending." As we begin to leave the prison, my spirit soars as I realize it is all forever behind me.

As I approach the final gate, however, a voice calls out, "Detective Pearson, I'm afraid we're going to have to hold you for questioning in the death of police officer Charles Gordon, your former partner. We have new evidence implicating you as the real killer."

"But you just executed O'Malley, didn't you?" I stammer.

"Detective, a citizen has stepped forward, under agreement of immunity, and given us the complete and truthful accounting of Officer Gordon's death. Based on this new evidence, Mr. O'Malley's defense team was able to secure a last minute reprieve from the governor."

"But why didn't I..."

"Because you fainted in the gallery," the official says, trying to keep a straight face.

As I watch the last person leave the prison, there is a sudden and profound moment of both clarity and despair, as I catch a glimpse of my wife's black dress, dancing freely outside in the warm, spring wind.
--------THE END--------

"Wait one farkin' minute!" shouts Chris Monetta, a Tier II guard on the three to eleven shift.

Monetta had to act fast; characters rarely loiter at the end of the final chapter.

Most of the nameless "prison officials" had already vanished, chasing trains, flights and agents for opportunities with novelists and screenplay writers from Binghamton to Bombay. The detective's wife, known for her split-second exits, came off the set like a three year-old out of the gate at Aqueduct.

Yet, unlike the ubiquitous officials, who often wait weeks for a decent manuscript at "scale," the woman in the black dress was snatched up within minutes by Ann Rice, in a deal that included a lucrative contract and a role in her new werewolf trilogy.

Unfortunately, the eight New York State employees - equally disdained by writers and fellow characters alike for their lack of creativity and general sluggishness - would be unlikely to find work for months, maybe years. The truth? Without William Kennedy's body of work, most of them would still be waiting tables.

With the guard now only 100 feet away, the warden asks, "What is it, Monetta, what seems to be your problem?" Even at a distance, he appears confused.

"I just don't get it. You know, the story. Who's narrating in first person, and this woman in black -what's her relationship with whoever-the-hell is on the gurney?" The warden looks at O'Malley and Pearson. "Look, I don't have time for this shit. HBO is considering a sequel to Oz. If I hurry, I can catch the last shuttle out of Kennedy."

The prison, but for Monetta, O'Malley and Pearson, is now completely deserted. "I'll tell you what, Pearson," says O'Malley, "why don't you let me explain the story to him; how the first person point-of-view was really your voice from the gallery, not mine, on the gurney, and how..."

"Oh, this is precious, O'Malley. "You lay on that damn gurney without saying a word the entire story, and now, all of a sudden, you're Audie Murphy. Stay put, I'll take it from here."

Pearson squares his shoulders and sets out to meet Monetta with a warm smile and a cold pipe wrench. O'Malley watches from a distance as the two meet. Seconds later, he traces the arc of the pipe wrench from Pearson's pocket to Monetta's head, and hears the dull thud of iron against bone.

Pearson returns with a sardonic smile on his face, holding the bloody wrench in his right hand. As he raises the heavy iron tool above O'Malley's head, he begins to laugh. "Do you believe in cosmic serendipity?" he says, bringing the wrench down on O'Malley's skull with all his strength, "I finally bring an end to your character, AND with the same weapon the author had me use on my partner. Does it get any better?"

As he lay dying, O'Malley realized that he, too, was now confused. But then, speaking omnisciently, irony never was his strong suit.

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Comments by other Members

Prospero at 03:00 on 14 June 2006  Report this post
Oh this is so good Martin. So very reminiscent of those 19th century novels such as 'Tristam Shandy' or films like 'Blazing Saddles' where the author or director shows you both the front and the back of the set.

Very clever, funny and technically exquisite.



Bandy Bundy at 13:15 on 14 June 2006  Report this post
I must agree with John this is excellent.

You pulled me in from the start only to jolt me upright half-way through.

Can't find a fault.

"Blazing Saddles" - CLASS!! with a capital A. :)


sazzyjack at 13:48 on 16 June 2006  Report this post
A fantastic piece of writing from start to finish. I don't have a single criticism. A highly enjoyable read.
Nice One,

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