Sunday, October 25, 2009


The strings of hardening cheese dangling from his quivering jowls, Max smiled. It was an appropriate a kind of smile, given the unusual quality of the food. The Last Chef had done a good work of a cheesesteak. It was a damn pity he hadn't been able to get a Bud to go down with it. Hell, he would have even been happy if they'd brought in a radio to let him listen to the game. Ah well, you can't always get what you want.
Perhaps it had been considerate of them to give him a real set of cutlery. After 8 years of eating with those damn plastic things, even having a round-ended knife and a jan-u-wine stainless steel fork felt pretty swell. Max looked at his reflection in the untouched spoon; first time he'd seen himself for a while. He didn't even get to see his new haircut when they gave it to him this morning. Not that there was much to see: the whole thing looked like a cueball. Max the cueball. Max the electric cueball.
"Damnation if I don't look like one of them Hairy Christmas folks. All I need's a tambourine."
Maxwell Clerk, the Cowboy Bastard, would finally be getting his just desserts of frontier justice. It had been put off a touch when his request to be drawn and quartered was summarily denied. That Jew defense lawyer had harped on and on about rights and choice, while Clerk had sat there catching up on the sports pages. Courtrooms had rather nicer seats than in Solitary.
Still, Max was the last one to go. Kimbo met with a good dosing of the blue almond stuff in an airtight tank over in Missouri. Stu got his triple cocktail from a state-sanctioned IV bartender over in Texas. Charlie had dangled from Walla Walla's home-built gallows after the rope failed to snap his neck. And now, Max was going to get to ride the lightning.
It had been a frequent dream that they would have brought back the guillotine for Max. The awe and the majesty of that simple device sent shivers down his back. He pictured his head, separate from his body, with his eyes rolling wildly in their sockets, jaws gnashing ravenously at the last morcels of life. The body, at a sudden and sharply-induced loss of its higher functions, would leap off the gurney, as if in panic, running in circles and flapping its arms. This would send Max into gales of deep laughter. The perfect end. He remembered that Charlie had purposefully gorged on his last meal, waiting for the perfect moment to finally release the contents of his intestines on an unsuspecting warden. Stu's wriggling around in his restraints had gotten the attending physician to accidentally self-inject with paralytic. It paid to have the last laugh.
The guard poked his head into view of Max's cell, curious to the guffaws that ricocheted down the corridor. "DRAW!" Whirled Max, bringing a loaded and cocked finger-and-thumb to bear on the guard. The man had jumped back against the wall, hitting his head. More gales of laughter from Max.
"Shit, pilgrim! Wouldn't last a minute out there, wouldja? Hah!"
Had the guard been less green around the ears, he would have born witness to Max's conduct over the ears. Four turns in Solitary for aggravated assault on an inmate, one for assault on a guard, with another year thrown in for killing an inmate. Two genuine escape attempts had also been pulled off, and more recently- an uncounted number of times where guards had confiscated rasps from his cell. The steel bars of his cells were usually marked by months on months of shaving, cutting sliver by sliver through the magnesium and iron. These were never in the least effective.
One rasp had been discovered in a cake delivered to his cell. One of them had been a nail file. Two had been worn down so much that they were but smooth metal rods. The guards had long-suspected that he'd been flushing the shaved filings down the toilet.
Max buttoned up the shirt, stepping through the cell's gate for the first time in months. He breathed slowly, absently picking his teeth and gums. Everything was grand.
At the observation room, familiar faces glared out at him. Some seemed to be muttering threats or prayers, others making gloating remarks to their seated neighbours. One woman in the front was weeping, though apparently not in an unhappy fashion.
"Last words?" Asked the attendent.
"Yeah-" said Max, giving a grin that brought tendons to bear on his neck, splitting his face in a chasm of jagged teeth. "Enjoy the show."
Max sat on the stained pine, breathing in the smell best-described as 'overcooked', unmasked by the sterilizing chemicals. The wet sponge dribbled water in sweating little droplets down his chin, and the hood brought an end to the last light he would know.
The attendent glanced over at the guard by the phone, waiting with baited breath for the dramatic escalation of a staying of the execution. He wouldn't have been at all surprised if the guard had purposefully lifted the set from the receiver for a busy signal. But really, he didn't care either.
"Roll on one!" shouted the attendent.
Max crowed high and loud, unmuffled by the sack. A mad cackle ran through the room, rebounding on walls. "FUCKIN' PANSIES!"
"Roll on two!" shouted the attendent, pulling down the lever.
The room lit up with shivering light, bringing strand after strand of electrical arc directly into Max's skull. Tendrils of energy erupted from his arms and hands, flashing blue bolts of the stuff.
Max's attendent gaped in confusion- what the hell was going on? The audience, transfixed by the plasma spawing from the writing form of the condemned man, picked up screams of pure terror. It was all at once that a blinding white light disgorged from the body, searing observers to blindness. Veins of blue-white light rushed to the immediate surroundings, stopping hearts and bringing others to unending fits of seizure.
Max's last few moments of consciousness were filled with pain, blood, and burning torture, but above all these sensations was the overpowering taste of the bar filings sewn into his gums, the feeling of the shavings slivered into his legs, and jammed into his fingernails. Max, the Cowboy Bastard, now the literal terminal capacitor, thundered his last laugh into the ashes of his body, unfailingly grinning to his last.