The Luck of the Damned

Brian entered the prisoner visitation room for what he mourned would be the last time. His brother, Jim, was due to be executed at midnight.

“Hey, thanks for coming,” Jim said, walking into the room in loose fitting handcuffs and leg shackles.

“Wouldn’t miss it,” said Brian then immediately wished he hadn’t. He quickly asked a question to deflect the attention onto his brother. “How you doing?” It wasn’t a great question, Brian knew, but, it would do in a pinch.

“Oh, you know, I’ve been better. I’m trying not to think about, you know. It. So, um, I need you to do me a favor before I forget.”

Brian sat up. “What? Sure.”

“Can you buy a lottery ticket for me for tonight’s draw? Who knows, might get lucky.”

Brian was sure his brother had lost his mind. “Tonight’s draw?”

Jim nodded. “Yeah. I don’t have any money on me, but, if we win, we’ll split it 60-40. 60 for me, cause it was my idea.”

“But, Jimmy, you get the chair at 12 a.m. How-”

“12:01 a.m, actually. My lawyer got me an extra minute.”

“Same thing, Jimmy-”

“No, it’s not the same thing! That’s sixty more seconds for the Governor to change his mind!”

“Jimmy.”

“Or, I could use it to finish the poem I started today. Hey, do you know a word that rhymes with, ‘capital punishment’?”

“Got me.” Brian looked down at his hands in his lap, his eyes needing to take a break from his broken brother.

“If I can finish this poem in time and everybody loves it maybe it would get the Governor to reconsider,” said Jim, chewing on his orange polyester collar.

“Jim. The Governor’s not going to change his mind.” Brian spoke directly to his hands clutching themselves for dear life in his lap.

“Hey, you’re the one always telling me to be positive and think good things, and now here I am trying to think good things and you’re telling me this? What kind of positive thinking is that? What happened to The Shack?”

“Jimmy, I think you’re beyond The Shack at this point. The Governor has gone on tv many many times saying he’s calling for a state holiday tomorrow to celebrate your death and he would never in a million years stay your execution. The man simply hates your guts. And you’re gonna have to accept that.” Brian didn’t realize that he was trying to convince himself.

“Shit, thanks. You’re a real help, little brother.”

“I’m the only one who came to see you on your last day on earth, what does that tell you?”

“Tells me you’re the only dumb ass idiot who doesn’t have the damn sense to see me as the  monster I am.”

Brian didn’t bite. Jim had been playing this game all their lives: insult to evoke praise for himself. Brian just changed the subject. “What are you getting for your final meal?”

“I’m really not that hungry, maybe a glass of water.”

“You don’t want your final meal?”

“No.”

“Then could you order it anyway and I can have it? I’ve always been jealous about people about to get, the, but the cool thing is at least they get to order what ever they want.”

Jim couldn’t believe his ears. “You wanna eat now?”

“Well, no sense letting this once in a lifetime opportunity go to waste. So, could you order me a t-bone steak with all the fixings and a sixty ounce raspberry slurpee from 7-11, mashed potatoes and gravy and for dessert, one of those Dairy Queen Smoothies oreo and a hot dog with lots of ketchup and sauerkraut?”

“I think I’m going to throw up.” Jim pushed out from the desk and bent over in his chair, waiting to regurgitate. Nothing came. After a while when he felt the nausea pass he sat back up, wiped his wet brow with the back of his arm and asked his brother, “How do you want your steak?”

“Rare.”

And an hour later when Jim saw the look on his baby brother’s face when the guards brought him his meal, he was glad his brother was hungry, cause it gave Jim a great sense of pride that he could give him such a gift. Jim thought of his two victims and knew they had died for this very moment. It was the first time Jim had felt powerful since killing them.

The feeling didn’t last. Brian finished all the food then sat looking at the crumbs and ketchup stains on the table. He had tried to eat slowly, but, not slow enough to stop time and now visiting hours were over.

“Thank you for that, Jimmy,” Brian pointed at the empty plates and burped.

“My pleasure. I was just thinking I’m glad I killed those guys so you could get it.”

“Don’t say that,” Brian shook his head.

“Why? That’s what this is all about, Bri. I killed those guys and now they’re going to kill me.”

“I don’t want to think of you like that.”

“You’re going to have to accept that’s who I am. A killer. A two time killer.”

“Jim, please-”

“And I’d kill em again. I would. Those fuckers deserved it.”

“I gotta go.”

“If that was in war, I’d be a hero. Since it’s in Disney World, I’m a murderer.”

“You know I can’t talk about-”

“Because you blame me. You never believed I was just defending myself.”

“You didn’t have to kill them, Jim,” Brian said barely above a whisper.

“I did. It was them or me.”

“They were two old men in their eighties.”

“They came at me.”

“In wheelchairs.”

“Exactly. Those things can move down hill.”

“Jim. I can’t- don’t – this isn’t the last conversation I wanna have with you.”

“Again, with the negative. Dude, I could still get off.”

“You killed the Governor’s dad and uncle. You ain’t getting off. Can you accept that so we can say our goodbye?”

“Just buy that lottery ticket for me. I think today could be my lucky day.”

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6 thoughts on “The Luck of the Damned

  1. Steven Myers

    an execution hanging in the balance and the damned learns how to feel lucky through a sort of last supper. this is graceful and grateful.
    i can hear the houdini shackles coming off as the brother not to be killed insists on the supper…because that’s the deal here on earth..the damned get that last meal.
    the full acceptance and ensuing light heartedness definitely reminds me of ron leflore and baseball penitentiary leagues and the swiping of another negativity.
    this is excellent.
    by the way, 35 days to spring training.

    Reply
    1. cottonbombs Post author

      I am grateful you get so much from something I wrote looking for laughs. Still, as it took shape, I realized some of the themes you touched on and at one point I thought about making it a serious talk between the brothers. Then it turned in to this. I leave it to you to define it, and again, I`m a big fan of your definition and an even bigger fan of the fact that no matter how cold and miserable it was in Toronto today, it can`t stop the fact that in about a month all my favorite baseball players will meet in Florida and Arizona and remind us that Winter does not last forever.

      Reply
    1. cottonbombs Post author

      Rose! Denial can both sooth and drive us insane, depending on how much you take of it. Like cream in our coffee. It can cut through the bitter taste, or, it can make us die of obesity if we drink too much. I take my coffee black, and try and keep my denial at a healthy amount.

      Reply

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