I wrote the story in about an hour, but I started putting it together in my head the night before. That's how everything I write works: I start thinking about it, piecing together phrases or images the day before, then I start jotting them down the next morning. That jotting is what you get, you poor fuckers.
I started this one with two main images: a little girl in a nylon night gown laying in a car-shaped bed, playing with a marble in the late-night streetlight hours, and a guy getting killed by the state of Texas for murdering her father. I'd had this idea for a while, in that I wanted to find that area where we, as a society, are questionably homocidal and where we, as a society, fail to fix the problems we assume we're fixing.
Now, before we all go getting in a tizzy about my being anti-death penalty, let me just say that I don't matter. My opinion of society using murder to avenge murder is, well, I don't have an opinion that applies to every single situation. If the person being killed is guilty without doubt, then society will have it's revenge. I'm not pro or anti. What I am is pro science, pro truth. I say: let's not kill the innocent.
Anyhow, in this story? The guy being murdered by the state of Texas isn't innocent. He done killed the girl's father. And for that, he's gonna' get kilt. And me, as both author and human, I'm fine with that.
So, that's out of the way. I'll address the last line of the story, the one many had a problem with, when we get there.
The images that were important to me: her fingernails as she twirls the markble around in front of her eye, her focus on the world outside her door, and how much she thinks about her father. Her world is both deeply internal (the universe in a marble in her hands) and external (in Texas, about to be killed). She's been torn that way since her father was murdered.
I use her imagination for the spatial transition between herself and her father's killer. She imagines him in his cell, she looks through the marble, we then are with him. The universe is small, belongs to her at that moment.
Her aunt in the other room, babysitting, on the phone and nervous, the news on low.
That moment coming near, time dilating.
Do you have any last words? I've always felt that, ya know, if anyone asked me what my last words were before I was to be killed, I'd be like "yeah: how the hell do I get out of here? Let me up!" and then I'd probably fall to pieces. We all think we're tough enough or noble enough or man enough or whatever to hold it together at the end, we all like to think that. Me, I think I'd lose my goddamn mind.
He's strapped to the table, arms out in the Christ pose, tubes snaking to either forearm, ready to be put to sleep then, ya know, put to the Big Sleep. He looks at the cieling for signs of other's passing. That fascinated me, actually, as I thought of the story staring up at my own cieling: here's these desperate minutes, that last desperate hour, and what permanence does this sterile room allow? None. No marks to judge the passage of so many dead. No blood, no signs, no measure. Just a sterile cold room, white and green and lonely. "The lack of any such sign left him curious as to the condition of the floor" is one of my favorite sentences in the story. He can't see the drain below him (set to catch his bodliy fluids when his body lets go), but assumes all the dead must have passed that way, on their way to hell. No sign in the cieling, no heavenly trips from that cold room.
He apologizes to the girl. That's a tough one to write. He just happens to know her? He must have seen her at a trial, or heard of her in the press about his case, been told about her by guards during a beating, been berated about her in hate mail. He apologizes to her, and no-one else.
That's a clue.
Ed gets dead. Jody falls asleep to the relieved crying of her aunt. I imagine she's crying because the ordeal is over, and it has brought all those memories back.
Now, as for that last sentence, let me explain: an eight year old girl isn't all that interested in revenge. Even if she is, even if she screams for it in the daylight crowded world, she is not screaming for it at night, at 11pm, three hours past her bedtime, quiet and alone. In her dead-of-night thoughts, she wants her father.
She wants a hand to hold, she wants comfort and warmth and love and protection. She wants him to be there in ten years, in twenty, in thirty.
Ed's Dead, baby, but nothing is fixed nowhere: she's still a lonely sad girl with 6 marbles in a box who un-forgets her father's death every damn night. Yeah, the guy who killed him is dead but yeah, so's he still. It's not fixed.
The kicker, though, is when you realize that the killer being so unrealistically apologetic...and when you look at the strange spatial transition...well, you see, the details of his death are in her head, and in her head alone. Has he even been executed? Has he even been caught? She imagines her father's killer strapped to a table, and imagines he breaks and apologizes to her, and imagines the headlines but not the act itself. She does this because she does, actually, require that vindication. And it helps her sleep. But does it fix anything? I get the idea that she does this nightly. So, no.
So that's that. That's one way of reading it. You can also call it reality, tell yourself that Ed actually was her father's killer, that he was righteously killed, that all is now well. Whatever floats yer boat.
Ya know, the other idea I was toying with on a different entry was: Jody is the killer's daughter. We hear often about the condemned killer's family, though, so I figured I'd stick with less annoying territory. Deleted that one as soon as I'd started.
There ya go. That's my post-mortem on the thing, which got a resounding 5 votes, which is good. It only had like 3 for the longest time.
That was a lot of fun, that contest. I'd like to do more of those, but I'd like the deadlines to be unrealistically short.
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