Sep 23, 2011
Anthony Elmore

Speaking of Sentences

I’ll get to Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge, but first I want to discuss the inspiration of short-short story. If you want to skip the editorial, scroll to the bottom. However, if you would give the mic for just a sec, I promise not to waste your time.

My thoughts and my conscience have been wrapped around the Troy Davis execution. Not too long ago, I was among the ‘try em’ and fry em’ lobby. Now, I’m not so adamant.

Ten years ago, I worked as an Editorial Assistant for he Bradenton Herald, the sled dog work I did to become a better writer. Supervised by three tired and overworked women in their 30’s, I wrote obituaries, corrected copy, wrote event notices and selected that day’s Letters to the Editor. Before everyone had a blog or access to message boards, the Letters to the Editor page was the people’s forum to sound off about national policy or the trash collectors smashing up homeowners’ garbage can.

Many times the letters were eloquent, thoughtful and sometimes downright hilarious. We had a usual cast who wrote in. We had our resident One World conspiracy nut or the East Manatee County farmer who wrote hilarious rants against the local farm board, hectoring on their “conspiracy to have farmers stand in line for seed like Soviets do for toilet paper.”

My work volume increased when the report of a murder blazed across the front-page, especially if it involved a child. The public outcry was justified, but many of the letters were un-publishable. Some called on bringing back public executions or letting the victim’s family pull the Old Sparky’s switch, or hunt them down in an open field like rabid game. I would get a couple that would frighten me. Some contributors described graphic ways the murderer should be disposed of in details that would shudder Steven King.

It worried me that these people walked the streets, mowed their lawns, and played with their children, but in their minds crawled fantasies of torture and dismemberment. They didn’t just want to do such things to a murderer, but to somebody, anybody. All they wanted was the moral justifiability, and the opportunity. These were the people that bought guns not just to protect the homestead, but in hopes that a lowlife would break into their homes or try to rob their business. Get them in their sights, squeeze the trigger. They longed for an act of justifiable psychopathy.

Death Penalty advocates claim that executions perform a public good by performing an act of revenge in the name of the citizenry, cooling off the public bloodlust. The people and the victims’ families can resume their lives heartened that justice has been done. The beast is dead. They even seem to accept that a few innocents are executed, but it’s justifiable since our system may not be perfect, but it works better than most. At least we’re not Iran or Saudi Arabia.

That’s right. We’re not. We can do even better.

Was Troy Davis guilty of murdering off duty officer Mark MacPhail? Innocent? Eight witnesses recanted their testimony, no murder weapon was found, but that did not sway our Supreme Court or Governor.  Many protested, too many cheered. Troy Davis at least deserved the murder investigation to be re-opened since people lied. Mark MacPhail’s family deserved to be certain that the right man paid for their loss. Justice may not have been served last Wednesday night.

Thankfully, advances in forensic medicine and crime scene investigation may avoid executions of the innocent. Also, Drug War reform and drug courts may decrease the police dependency on informants and plea copping. Yet, I believe states should start a moratorium on executions until some of the irregularities of the system have been reformed. Damn right we’re not Iran, so let’s make sure the guilty are punished.

 

Here’s my take, in fiction, on the Death Penalty. I’m going to expand on this story, here’s the short and sweet.

Wally slid his Juror disc into the game PlayCube console, cracked open a Mountain Dew, picked up his controller and waited for the countdown to hit 10:00PM. Minutes before Travis Sturgeon’s appointed time, a court clerk read his sentence, and, a picosecond before Sturgeon’s last breath, selected a random Juror ID among millions from around the state. Only God and the computer knew whose ID was called, and Wally thumbed the Delete key, hoping he was the reason Sturgeon was now twitching and defecating himself, then ordered tacos.

 

6 Comments

  • Wow. That’s a hella concept right there. Creepy-nifty, and SO much potential for bigger story.

  • Wow. That’s a hella concept right there. Creepy-nifty, and SO much potential for bigger story.

  • If I were a better writer, I could nail it in three sentences. I worked on it for nearly two hours. No one will ever beat Hemmingway’s, “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” Thanks for the comment. How did you get here? TerribleMinds.com?

    • Yep. I love the short challenges; they’re writing warm-up exercises that force me out of my comfort zone.
      Hemingway steals my soul and my self-confidence. Sometimes I run my finger over the words on the paper or the screen, almost furtive, like I’m touching a priceless painting in a museum.

  • If I were a better writer, I could nail it in three sentences. I worked on it for nearly two hours. No one will ever beat Hemmingway’s, “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” Thanks for the comment. How did you get here? TerribleMinds.com?

    • Yep. I love the short challenges; they’re writing warm-up exercises that force me out of my comfort zone.
      Hemingway steals my soul and my self-confidence. Sometimes I run my finger over the words on the paper or the screen, almost furtive, like I’m touching a priceless painting in a museum.

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