"Put the Light Out"

December 8, 2010
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A shrill bell buzzed noisily at seven in the morning. Carl Williams got up from his bunk and waited impatiently at the cell door.

“I don’t know why you stand there, tappin’ your feet and all when you know that you’ll never be gettin’ out of these here parts,” a guard snorted, obnoxiously. Carl knew that he had gotten himself into this place. He stabbed and killed a man; the same man who was suspected to killing his mother. He gets closer to the end of his life as he awaits his turn in Death Row.

“Well, you comin’ out?” the guard breathed in his ear. Carl winced as he witnessed the guard’s bad case of Halitosis.

“Sure, sure. Just don’t breathe on me anymore,” he pleaded. Sure enough, the guard exhaled right into Carl’s face, causing him to spit on the ground in disgust. The floors were filthy and the walls were covered in grime. An occasional rat would scurry from one hole in the wall to the next and the cockroaches had no fears of the prison mates. The cells were miniature and were designed to be shared; two men per cell of eight feet by eight feet. His cell consisted of a toilet and a set of bunk beds.

The guard grabbed Carl’s bicep and pulled him swiftly into the dining hall. Complete chaos overtook the room as food was thrown from one side to another and fights broke out left and right. Prison guards stood at every pillar in the room and they were not afraid to shoot if they needed to; they were all going to die sooner or later. Carl thought about his life before his life took a turn for the worst. He had a beautiful wife named, Madelyn, and three daughters. His house had just been paid off and his job as a doctor was going better than it had ever been before.

It was that cold night in October of 1924, where the full moon was out and evil poured upon his family. Carl was working in the hospital when his mother’s killer stepped in the door with a broken leg. Carl recognized the man immediately and he was sure to be in charge of this patient. He wheeled the man into the morgue. He picked up a knife from the operating table and did not hesitate to kill the man who sat helplessly in front of him. After realizing what he had done, he ditched the crime scene. He ran home and told his wife that he was sorry and that he understood if she would not love him anymore. Madelyn did not have a clue what was going on, so she tried to calm him down.

Nothing worked as sirens were becoming clearer in the distance. He barged into his daughter’s rooms and kissed them all goodbye. He apologized to them and told his daughters for the last time, that he loved them. Police were suddenly knocking on the front door, and then knocking turned to banging, and banging turned to shoving. He pulled Madelyn close to him and whispered, “I love you for what it’s worth; I always will,” and he kissed her one, final time. The police barged through the door and took Carl into custody. Carl was sentenced to life in prison but later, it was decided that he deserved the death penalty instead.

Carl looked at the clock, “7:05,” he sighed to himself. Time seemed to go slowly in prison, but other days it went too fast. He hoped that he would enjoy the last few moments of his life. His daughters were old enough now to understand the horrible crime that their daddy committed. He wondered if his wife had moved on or if she still had that puzzled look on her face when he left her that dismal October. It had been fifteen years since that night, almost to the day, and the time of death was now. Carl ate his breakfast slowly, enjoying every flavor that he could taste. His guard allowed him to see outside, one last time. He stood still with his arms extended outwards, inhaling the crisp, morning air.

Carl looked up toward the sky, hoping that God would have mercy on his soul. He very much regretted killing that man. He knew that he would never get the chance to fix that mistake, but what’s done is done. He could only ask for forgiveness and hope that he would be spared. The guard told Carl that it was time to go to the execution room. In Texas, being hung was a tradition. He marched passed the open cells where every prisoner patted him on the back in pity. They knew that they would be next, soon enough. Carl passed by a mirror and spat at his reflection. He did not want to see himself like this as he made his way to be killed.

The door opened and the steep stairs led to a large gymnasium with the hanging post in the center. A small group of people waited for him to watch, including his family. He was stunned to see them there; in fact he did not want them to watch. His daughters looked so mature. They stood their in their black dresses, their blue eyes gazing into his. Madelyn was wiping a lone tear from her left cheek. He noticed a new wedding ring on her left hand, one that he had not placed there himself. He half-smiled being happy to see them all again, but he straightened his mouth as he reached the base of the post.

He was carried up the steps because his legs and hands were bound by thick ropes. He hopped onto the platform, breathing heavily. The spectators could see it in his eyes that he was sorry for what he had done, but his execution needed to be done to avenge the man’s life that he took away. The executioner was covered from head to toe in a long black robe that also covered his face. Carl wondered if the he liked his job or if he was actually a woman. He wondered who would want to grow up to be an executioner some day.

“Would you like any final words?” the executioner asked, patiently. Carl waited for a few moments, wondering about the mysteries that came with death. He wondered what would happen after he left his body.

“Put the light out,” he quoted Theodore Roosevelt. He used these words because he knew that he would never know what came next if he did close his eyes and let go.

A guard put the burlap sack over his head, followed by the noose. As it was tightened around his neck, he began to hum the Star Spangled Banner very softly until the lever was pulled and Carl’s soul was gone forever.

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