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Light the Fuse
 

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Light the Fuse
Light the Fuse

  Four Stories of Change

  Copyright 2012 Lance William Allen

  Table of Contents

  An Open Letter to Friends

  Six in the Evening

  They Come at Night

  That Guy

  An Open Letter to Friends

  I drove to the reservoir the other day. I was not hot. The day was overcast and melancholy. I brought a fishing poll and tackle box; I didn’t want to fish. I parked in the clearing, nearest a dirt path. The grass had grown longer since I had last been. The dirt path cut through the field, leading the way to the water. The air was still and quiet; maybe the calm before the storm.

  As the trail wound to the right, I moved off to the left, through low scrub and natural clutter. I walked slowly, stepping carefully. I was not on a well worn path anymore and I didn’t know what my next footfall might find. The gray sky spun overhead and I trudged through the woods, hearing only the thoughts in my head.

  I walked out of the woods, south of the field where I had parked, and onto an outcropping of rocks. The rocks rose right out of the water; a steep cliff face. Teenagers ventured this way during the summer to get the thrill of a high jump and freefall into the cool water below. I used to be one of those teenagers. But the summer sun was replaced by autumn’s hues and me to adulthood.

  I picked up a rock and tossed it into the water and watched the ripples race away from the plunging rock. I thought about jumping in. I can’t swim. What would that be like? Would I sink like a stone? Would I struggle for a while and then slip under, exhausted? My eyes closed on the scene and my mind flashed bubbles and thrashing arms, a mouth open but no scream. My tears were masked by the watery void pulling me deeper and deeper. I fell to the ground and my eyes opened.

  The need to come to this place had been overwhelming. I came knowing I wasn’t going to be fishing yet brought the means to do so. I had no other objective but to come and while there I thought of drowning myself. My head ached and I rocked slowly with my head in my hands. I didn’t want to be there anymore. I got up from the rocky ground, looked once more upon the water, turned and left as I came.

  Janice heard me pull in. She came to the porch to great me.

  Catch anything?

  Nah. I didn’t have any good bait.

  Maybe next time.

  Yeah next time.

  I kissed her cheek and headed inside, hanging my coat on the rack.

  I’m going downstairs for while. You need anything.

  No I’m good. Are you all right?

  I am. Really I am.

  I wasn’t all right. I really wasn’t. There was a ringing in my ears and an ache in my lower back. Lately, whenever I balled my hand into a fist, the joints screamed and I would wince. The physical pain was new; the other stuff, not so much. The blues come and go; the doldrums stay a while and then are replaced by other things. My depression had been around my neck like a heavy gauge length of linked chain, a padlock clasping it tight.

  The basement was dark and cool and my place. I hung the unused pole on the wall and returned the tackle box to a shelf in the corner. Light came from the one cellar window on the far side of the basement. I lit no other lights. Instead I added weight to the bar and began pressing, bench pressing. Rep after rep after rep. Soon I was soaked in sweat.

  I followed the heavy lifting with stretching and more stretching. The pain in my hands seemed to lessen; the ache in my chest grew dimmer. Breathing in regular intervals allowed my mind to settle and I began to relax. In the dark confines of my damp basement I had peace. The respite was short lived.

  Her footfalls were accompanied by heavy breathing or shallow breathing, the kind associated with asthma. Years of smoking and other neglect had taken their toll and this made her angry. She was not the person she remembers but carried herself still. Heavy jowls, a roll of loose flesh around her waist, ankles shiny and blue; she wore billowing dresses mostly.

  I lay sprawled on the floor with my knees bent, feet dangling behind my head. A plastic mat with the layout of a race track was under my elbows, two shiny race cars in each hand. There was about to be an accident as the lead car hit a shiny spot on the track and was spinning out of control. The accident didn’t happen.

  What the hell are you doing down here?

  Nothing. Just playing.

  Why don’t you go outside with all the other normal kids?

  I don’t want to. I like playing down here.

  By yourself? What kind of freak are you? Get up and get outside. Right now.

  But Mom.

  Don’t but Mom me. You good for nothing little brat! Get out!!!!!!

  She caught me wrestling with time and I had no real defense for it. My back was to her but she had heard my muffled tears. I didn’t hear her come down the stairs.

  Chris, what is it? Please tell me. I’m worried about you.

  It’s been going on for a long time. I wish it would go away. I try and try and still it won’t go away.

  What won’t go away? Chris you’re making me nervous.

  She knew. I always suspected. She isn’t stupid. In fact, she’s quite good at a lot of things. She picked me though. That might not have been too smart. I am a case of nerves. Selfish even. I probably could have prevented all of this. I tried. Really I tried. But she didn’t see that part.

  Janice, I hide down here because I have always hidden down here. Not a very good hiding spot though. I am usually found. But I haven’t found myself yet. I come down here and I look, search for where I’ve gone. And nothing. She comes down here a lot, to find me. Most of the time she just yells at me. I never understood why. I was never in the way. I was always down here. Hiding. Not scared or anything. Just by my self.

  Who are you talking about Chris?

  Does it really matter? I guess it doesn’t. Maybe it does. Writing this now I feel a sense of guilt over the simplicity of it all. The callous nature of my upbringing. I am not alone nor unique in my feelings probably more generic than anything. But the severity of it somehow got inside my head and I have not been able to let it go. Or at least an appreciable level of it, what ever it is.

  My Dad died when I was 8. Boo hoo right? My dad died and my mom was mean. I am the selfish undeserving kid who grew up hollow and in search of something. I had a dry roof and food and clothes. Still my heart ached and I was treated as a stranger. Not all that unique in this time. But this is what happened to me. I can’t rationalize it or defend it. My desire to be rid of it is only natural. No one likes to feel pain. No one wants to dwell on those things that cannot be understood or fixed. I’m tired.

  No amount of wishing or searching can undo my father’s death or my mother’s reaction to his passing. I can not make an understanding out of garbled mixed up words. I just can’t. This is how I arrived here, how I got here, this was my bus ride. I want to get off. Need to pull the cord and step off. Actions are not reactions, not always. I’m rambling.

  Tuesday June 3rd, 1981, sometime in the afternoon, my father, James, was working on a job site in the city. He was in construction, a laborer. Not unlike other men, he was proud, had a work ethic and loved his kid. Me. He loved me. I know this. We didn’t have a lot but he treated me like he had always wanted me. I mean this. I know he wanted to be my father. He told me as much. But he showed it, said it. For a man who worked hard and got dirty, he had a soft side that was not often seen. But he didn’t hide it from me. I miss him.

  The phone rang and my mother answered. Her eyes immediately glossed over. Few things stick in the mind, others never leave. The look about her face was terror, mixed with crushing defeat, layered over by a veil of grief. Tears rolled down her face and she nodded, silently. Her hand rose and covered her mouth stifling the agonizing whi
mpers rising into her throat. She dropped the phone on the floor and rushed past me, her bedroom door slamming shut behind her. I raised the receiver to my ear, but only a dial tone could be heard from the other end.

  She didn’t emerge from her room until the next morning. I knocked a few times during the night, wanting to know what had happened. She never acknowledged my rapping. I fell asleep on the couch, waiting for my father. I awoke alone. I never shook that feeling. The empty loneliness in the pit of my stomach; the sense that something terrible was about to happened. I wish I had known it already had. Maybe if my mother had told me about my father instead of rushing into her room I could have staved off the anxiety that would soon define my life. But that wasn’t part of the deal.

  I was at the kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal, mostly spooning it around. The flakes had long since gone to mush but what else was I to do. My mother opened her door and walked into the kitchen. Her skin was red and worn, her hair a tussled mess. A grayness that would later darken to the rings of today wore like a shroud beneath her eyes.

  Your father’s dead. I don’t know what else to tell you.

  I remember my eyes welling up and meeting hers, my voice cracking, trying to ask why? She cast a downtrodden glance in my direction and fumbled.

  Wipe those tears buddy boy. He ain’t coming home. It’s just you and me now. And I am not sure how that’s going to work.

  She turned and went back to her room, pulling her door tightly behind her. She didn’t really come out much after that.

  Most of you know me. Some better than others. I’ve not shared as much as I probably could have or should have. I just didn’t. And I don’t know why. I went to a therapist after high school and for a while I thought I had it beat. She had me talking about stuff I locked away, afraid to let anyone see. She brought me to the edge, I looked over saw it wasn’t the end, and turned around knowing I had what it took to continue.

  I no longer feel that way. I no longer feel like I can continue. Not sure I want to continue. My therapist always told me life is a gift. I feel like I want to return the gift I’ve been given. The batteries just don’t hold a charge anymore. The wheels won’t spin. When I try to bounce it there is no give. Just a flat spot. I can’t build anymore. But what about Janice?

  I’m sorry, what did you say?

  I asked you whom are you talking about? I don’t understand what’s going on with you. You go away for hours, you come home and you spend most of your time down here. I hear you crying. Do you know how often you cry? I’m sure you don’t. Its way too often for someone who says there isn’t anything wrong. I’ve given you space. I’ve tried to be supportive but Chris, this is killing me too. I don’t know what to do anymore. I love you and I can’t wait to be your wife. But you have to let me help you. And if not then what is the point to all of this?

  At that moment, I looked her right in the eye and told the biggest lie of my life. I told her I would be okay. I told Janice we would be okay. I told you, honey, that everything would be okay. And I’m sorry.

  Anything I say now will be meaningless and insulting. Saying nothing would be worse. I love you. I love everything about you, Janice. But I am not fit for me. If that is true or not I can’t try any more. We come into this world alone and learn to attract others so when we leave this world alone it doesn’t feel that way. But the reality is we do. We go our separate ways. The finality of that has never left me since the phone call my mom received that day. I watched the life drain from her face leaving a tired emptiness that nothing short of reincarnation could change. Reincarnation is a belief. Sometimes beliefs are not as strong in some. I am one of them.

  To those who may read this, comfort all who I have left behind. Be kind to those I do not know. Bring peace to something that cannot help itself. And deny the fear that persists in your heart. I am not fearful. I am not in pain. I am alone. And this has been where I have always wanted to be. My father once told me, the gift is in the giving. I’d give anything to have him back. I hope I’m right.

  C

  Six in the Evening

  O’Grady was behind the bar when I walked in. It was just after nine. I nodded. He obliged. I ordered bourbon on the rocks. Benny and Lars were throwing darts. Adele was waiting on a couple from the city. Maybe they weren’t from the city. But they weren’t from around here. They ordered a bottle of wine. Folks from around here don’t order bottles of wine for dinner. He wore a gray sweater. She had on a windbreaker of sorts. The ring said they weren’t married. She wore it on the wrong finger. Her look was good though. He seemed pleased with himself.

  The regular crowd wouldn’t be in for a while still. The second-shifters. That would’ve included me. I’m a second shifter. Have been for years. But today, I didn’t go to the plant. I didn’t clock in. I never took a break for a smoke or another for lunch. I’d been doing it for years, clocking in as a second shifter. I had to. My family needed the money. I am the man. I do my job. But today my boy, my youngest boy, died. I watched him die. Saw his last breath exit his mouth. Watched his chest rise and fall and rise no more.

  My son, Clarence, had a look in his eye. I wish I couldn’t describe it. Glassy almost, shifting, seemingly hitting many points at once, but never resting, searching perhaps. He coughed a few times, stale and shallow. Maybe he was choking back the fear which was no doubt sitting in the room with him. I wanted so badly to reach out to him, afford him comfort. I was out of his reach. Eventually our eyes met. I held his gaze until it was over. He never yelled out; never cried. They pushed and he stared into my eyes. And then he was gone. I watched my son die today. I don’t wish that experience on any one.

  How did it come to this? And where do I go from here? I’m not sure I have any answers really, experience I do have, and maybe that’s as good a place to start as any. Walk down the path that eventually led to this day, not to find fault or meaning but to recount what happened along the way and perhaps make sense of the senseless, find peace in the ashes. I am not looking for justification or absolution those things are not up to me. My son made mistakes. Clarence was a grown man. He played the hand he was dealt and lost to a stacked deck. These are the facts, not the excuses.

  I could begin with a sweet memory of Clarence as a baby. I could tell you all about the day he came home from the hospital or his first birthday or the time he sat on Santa’s lap and laughed and laughed while all the other children cried and screamed. I could tell you about the time I woke up one morning to find Clarence at my bed wearing my slippers and holding an empty coffee mug, tears streaming down his cheeks because he had spilled the water he had poured into the mug for me. Clarence was a beautiful little boy with a heart of gold and I loved him.

  I could tell you how as a boy he played piano in church and sang sweetly of his love for his family, his church, his God. Clarence loved being the bright spot in the room. He took to others he sensed needed cheering up and usually won them over with a wry smile and those dimples. He didn’t understand how the world worked but he knew if he received a smile he had done his job and the day would be better.

  I could tell you about our dog, Mixie, and how Clarence loved that mutt. I named him Mixie on account of his muttness. That dog was a miracle of nature. Maybe that was the attraction for Clarence. But Mixie got old and passed as things do. I was at work when it happened. Clarence came home from school and Mixie was in his dog house. I wasn’t there to talk to him or help him understand what happened to Mixie. Clarence probably never recovered from that moment.

  The signs of Clarence’s trouble were not always easy to see. I’m sure they were there, but I work second shift and didn’t see the signs that might have been available to me had I been around more. I had a family to feed. Clarence won’t get to feed a family. He wanted to real bad. But other things presented themselves to him and now my granddaughter will have to hear about the good her father created from me, a father who didn’t always get things right.

  Clarence did well enou
gh in school. His grades were okay. I was never much of a student myself. Clarence only brought home report cards; no notes about being in trouble or failing classes. He didn’t do much else besides go to school. Clarence never played sports or anything. I wasn’t around much for that stuff. I never encouraged him to try things. I was working when he was alive and living. I missed out on a lot. I didn’t miss watching him die though. That was hard. But I owed it to him.

  I drain my glass and push it to the edge of the bar. O’Grady takes the bait and pours me another. We exchange nods as he swaps out the old for the new. Our eyes pass and the hurt in mine reflect in his. I can see he wants to say something, but he pulls back, returning to the other end of the bar as Glenda and Blake arrive. I probably shouldn’t have come here tonight. I know how to react, I was there. I watched him go. These people have no idea. And that can sometimes be worse.

  Clarence was twenty when he was arrested. Twenty years old. Do you remember being twenty? I was working when I was twenty. I hadn’t lucked into the second shift yet. That would come later. When I was twenty I was working third shift. I worked a lot and slept when I wasn’t working. I had something to do. Clarence didn’t have much to do. He was twenty. The books say at eighteen the time has come to smarten up and get on with life. That might be true in a world of opportunity. That life doesn’t exist anymore. The authors of the books like to say otherwise. I’m almost 50. I’m not that much smarter. I work second shift.

  On Saturday’s when I didn’t have to work second shift I would sit on the front porch in the evening and drink beer. Sometime’s Clarence would sit with me. He would tell me things. I listened mostly. I wish I said more. Clarence was a bright kid, I know that now. He was a bright kid with a dim future. I was his father. I should have helped him out more. Things bothered him; specific things. He would tell me. I would listen. I should have talked more instead of listening. I thought I was doing the right thing by listening. I should have been his father and talked to him. I heard his last words today.

  Clarence hated television. This is what he would tell me. He would say he saw things that he didn’t agree with, things that bothered him. He got real angry about what he saw on television. There was a show about people who eat a lot. People with food issues. They would sit around all day feeling sorry for their selves and eat. They would eat and eat. And this was on television. He didn’t understand why. I listened but never helped him to understand.

  I remember it now, not sure why but it sticks out in my mind. I think he was still in high school; he was still living at home so it must have been about that time. A typical Saturday night had me sitting on the porch, a can of beer clutched in my right hand. Clarence was heading out with some friends. I stopped him as he walked by. I hadn’t done that before. Clarence was surprised too. He looked at me as if I was a stranger. I asked him how he was and where he was going. His expression, priceless, maybe. Unforgettable anyway. He said to me:

  Dad you ever feel real concerned about something. Bad enough to want to do something about it?

  Not sure what you mean son.

  Yeah I didn’t think so. Doesn’t seem like much bothers you.

  Things bother me. Just not sure I ever gave much thought to doing anything about it though. To answer your question. What do you have in mind?

  If I told you there are some bad people out there that need to learn what their actions really mean to others, would you want me to tell them? Would you want me to find these people and let them know exactly what their work accomplishes?

  Well I guess that would depend. Are you just talking about talking to them or doing something else?

  Dad I want people to take accountability for their actions and stand up to them. There are a lot of bad people in this world who do things that are acceptable because they earn money. How the money is earned is never really the issue just that it is earned. There has to be a point where someone asks the question.

  What question son?

  When does earning money become an unacceptable side affect to progress? When will the decisions of a select few decide the benefit for the vast majority who deal with the unintended consequences?

  I guess I see your point. Not sure I have an answer for you.

  That’s okay Dad I didn’t ask. You did. I’ll see you later.

  I work second shift. I take a lot of things for granted. I drive my truck to work, I make something specific that not many people would know anything about and then I drive home. In between I do ordinary things. What I don’t often do is question the way things are; how things work; what happens to things. I found out at trial that my son spent a lot of time thinking about the state of things. Clarence concerned himself with how things are done and who is doing them. He learned about the process from start to finish. Not many people bother. Maybe if I could have responded better, I could have helped Clarence do things differently. Maybe not. I was his father. I should have had something to say.

  Clarence moved out shortly after he graduated from high school. He had a friend who owned a farm. Said he was going to learn to work the land the right way. Clarence wanted to get off the grid he used to say. I don’t want to be a part of them Dad. I want to live honestly. I never asked him more about what he meant. They talked about it at trial, but that was too late. I worked second shift because I had a family to feed. I never realized my family needed more from me than just food and shelter. I watched Clarence die. If only I had helped him live. I’m his father.

  At trial, the state of Ohio presented their case. My son, with premeditation had murdered John C Hartwell, Stedman Grace, and Worthwhile Jones. The three men, victims in the case, were lawyers for the National Coal Foundation. I didn’t know at the time, but the NCF “Keeps the Lights On.” Their branding strategy. The NCF is a powerful coal lobby in Washington. My son placed a bomb in the basement of their office building. He wanted to burn the building down. The three men were inside at the time of the explosion. The State of Ohio wanted to punish my son to the fullest extent of the law. The State of Ohio wanted his life.

  The trial lasted about two weeks. I learned more in two weeks about my son than I had in twenty years. I was his father. I should have known all of these things. I worked second shift. Not sure I could have talked my son out of doing what he eventually did. But we could have talked about taking chances and what doing right and wrong are. I’m just a grown up kid. I probably wouldn’t have made any sense. He had no reason to listen to me. I was never around. I was his father and I wasn’t there. Doesn’t make it right what he did. Not by any stretch.

  Clarence never took the stand during his trial. His lawyer said he would be viewed as too militant. He was afraid the jury would see him as Timothy McVeigh. His lawyer was wrong. The jury found Clarence guilty of capital murder and he was sentenced to die. The State got what they wanted. The State usually does. Their story of a lone-wolf domestic terrorist won out over the defense of wrong place, wrong time. Clarence’s lawyer could have done so much more. I was his father I should have made sure of it. But I work second shift. I offered nothing.

  Clarence filed a few appeals over the years. None made it passed the Sixth Circuit. The damage had been done at the original trial and no one in a position to make amends, namely the State, was going to put a finger on an appeal. Clarence had made a stand against what he felt was injustice and paid the ultimate price for that stand. I feel sorry for the families of the men who died in that building. My son placed the bomb that took their lives. There’s no changing that fact. Clarence was responsible.

  My son wrote me a few times from death row. He told me not to come. He said visiting was pointless. He always expressed his regret for the killing of the three men in the building. His intent had never been to harm anyone. He simply wanted to destroy the property of those who destroy our world. He told me about some films. Environmental films. He asked me to watch them. He said Dad I want you to know what makes me angry. Even if they don’t make you angry. They bother me.
The films. The images of what these people are doing to us. They say its progress. I say its bullshit. It’s a car payment. It’s a house payment. It’s a boat payment. It’s a hotel bill. A vacation tab. Its expensive dinners and long lunches. Its days off with pay. Its holiday’s with no names. Dad I want you to see what these people are doing to us and see what I see. I never meant to kill anyone. I’m sorry they had to die. But it doesn’t change the fact that we are quickly destroying THE ONLY WORLD WE KNOW!!!!! I read somewhere that the state of Ohio has mined 3.6 billions tons of coal since 1800 and have reserves of like 11 billion. Do the math Dad. Someday that number reaches zero. Not today and not tomorrow. But someday. That number reaches zero. The guy on Lake Erie in his fancy boat serving all his friends drinks doesn’t care. So who will, if I don’t?

  I wish my son hadn’t blown up that building. I wish my son had tried another way. I’m his father, I let him down first. I wasn’t able to give him the skills he needed to survive. The last thing I ever imagined was the State murdering my son. I’m not choosing my words here. The state murdered my son. Check the death certificate when it’s issued. It will say cause of death: homicide. My son accidentally killed three men. The state murdered my son. Those men died as a result of the actions of my son. It was an accident they died. The State intentionally killed my son. Think about that.

  I’ve read about the last day of a condemned prisoner. I even spoke to a man who worked at Huntsville in Texas. He was present at over a hundred executions. Those duties eventually crippled him. The preacher from the jail my son was kept called me and asked me to come. I didn’t want to go but knew I had no choice. I was his father. I would be there when he needed me last. I hope none of you have to experience that.

  The viewing room was small; cramped; hot; anxious. I sat in a folding chair in the front row, closest to the window. A white curtain hung over the window obscuring the view from behind. I never really looked around at the others in the room. I didn’t care to notice or acknowledge. I was there to watch my son die. I wanted to do it alone, on my own terms, even though I wasn’t alone and the terms were set by the State. Only fear for my own sanity keeps me from describing to you just how I felt, seated in that moment. They were about to take my boy from me. I just can’t.

  Sitting there in the dark, I couldn’t help but remove myself to a time when Clarence was little and truly innocent. I can see him in pictures, playing in the yard, swimming, hanging from a tree, playing with Mixie. I see his smile, his brown eyes; his wavy hair. There he is riding a bike, laughing and waiving, enjoying the freedom of being a child. Buried somewhere in all of us is a smiling child riding a bike or climbing a tree, innocent and free. As we grow, we make choices, and rely upon the consequences to gain an understanding of those choices. My Clarence made a choice he would never recover from. The penalty of death is not an alternative solution. The decree is a mandate of the State to dictate power over the individual. We haven’t progressed as far as we think we have.

  The last moments of my son’s life were spent strapped to a gurney and covered by a white sheet. His head had been shaved close to his scalp; shocking to me as Clarence had always had a head of wavy hair. A mask of disillusion shrouded a complexion of relative health; prisoners can’t die if they are sick. I wondered what Clarence had to eat for his last meal. The thought actually sickens me; the cruelty of it. The last meal. We eat to stay alive. We eat to celebrate. We eat to share our collective good fortune. Feeding the condemned is no act of decency or mercy just a way for the executioners to feel justified in their roles.

  Clarence was offered and accepted the opportunity to make a final statement. I didn’t write it down, but I will never forget what he said:

  To my father Walter Bishop, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to kill those men. You taught me better than that. I wanted to show the world change is possible, but in the end, I guess it isn’t. Tell mom I’m sorry too. I’m not scared Dad. They can kill me if they want. But it won’t change anything. My list has three names on it. The Governor’s list is longer. Make sure the Governor hears that part. I didn’t know those men were in the building. The Governor knows where I am.

  I drain off the rest of my drink and slide the empty glass to the edge of the bar. O’Grady takes the bait and walks back down to where I sit.

  I gotta be honest with you Walt I was shocked as all hell to see you walk through the door tonight.

  I wanted to be some place safe tonight Gus. Some place familiar.

  What about Roxanne?

  She told me she couldn’t deal. I’m not sure where she is right now.

  Well, for what it’s worth I sure am sorry things turned out the way they did.

  Thanks Gus. I appreciate that.

  How’d he look? I mean under the circumstances, how’d he look?

  Well they shaved his head. Not sure if that was his choice, but he had no hair. A real shame I’d say. Clarence was a handsome boy.

  He sure was Walt. A damn shame. Really. Taking a boy like that.

  Not just Clarence, Gus. Any one. It ain’t right we kill people like that. Nothing about that was just. Not one part of it. We should be past that by now. We think we got it all figured out. I’ll tell you one thing; killing Clarence doesn’t change anything; simply another senseless act of murder. Don’t matter what the judge said or how the law reads. What happened to my son today was senseless murder. Clarence did wrong. No one is debating that. Not even Clarence. Murdering him changes nothing.

  It sure don’t Walt.

  And I’m not just saying that. Sure it happened to Clarence. I need to mourn. But the fact we as a group of people could find the cure to some types of cancer and still rely upon executions as a means of punishment is an intellectual slap in the face. I’m not an educated man Gus. I’m a factor in someone’s ledger; a piece of a puzzle. I know my place. Time is coming for those who piece the puzzle together to understand they can’t play us this way.

  Walt it’s always been this way.

  We need to recognize the situation and adapt accordingly. Clarence was on to something. He saw things. Things you and I don’t see or don’t want to see. He found out things that hide in plain sight. You and I pass these things all the time, everyday, we just don’t recognize them for what they are. Clarence didn’t think through his plan. He reacted when he should have acted. This is the problem. Our problem. I’m sorry Gus.

  Don’t be. This one is on me.

  Gus pours out a fresh glass in front of me. I acknowledge his kindness with a nod and misty eyes. The tears are about to come. I can’t help but feel sad. My son, Clarence, died today. I watched it happen. I didn’t do anything to stop it. No one is going to stop me next time. They won’t be able to. I’m going to let this pain sink in. For Clarence. I am going to absorb how much this hurts. I will never forget how and why Clarence died. The State of Ohio murdered one of its own today. This can’t be allowed to continue.

  They Come at Night

  I dug holes in the backyard; a lot of holes. All over the place. Some were shallow and others were deep. I dug all night and through the morning. I couldn’t find it. The answer. It wasn’t out there, buried in the backyard. I thought for sure I would find it if I just kept digging. But it didn’t turn up. It has to be out there somewhere. But where?

  I can’t seem to tell the difference anymore. Between what I feel is right and what actually is right. I stopped digging because it was hot. I stopped digging because I couldn’t find it. Did I stop digging because the sun was coming up and the air was getting hotter or did I stop digging because I couldn’t find it? I just don’t know anymore. I’m drowning.

  I need to be honest with myself and see things for what they are and not the way I would like them to be. To do that means I need to let go of the conception born of my mind. A fragment buried deep in my consciousness has grown to the limits. I must cast it aside and go on, but the paralyzing fear wraps me in hesitation. Like a flower in a garden overgrown with weeds, the ordinar
y, the mundane, keep the blossom from view.

  ***

  I can help you, she says.

  I don’t trust you he replies

  You don’t have to trust me. Not now. Just let me help.

  I’m searching for something. Do you know where it is?

  I don’t but we can look together.

  I want to fly like an angel

  Can I fly with you?

  I can’t because I have a broken wing.

  Will you try?
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