The Last Words of Charlie Proffet
by Stan Crown
I’m counting on you, Gordon. Is that your name? Don’t think you really told me. Not sure why I put that name with you. Maybe because you’re the guard and my brain thinks your name needs to start with a G. Anyway, hope you don’t mind if I call you Gordon. I’m thinking I can count on you, since you already came through once when you slipped this pencil stub and sheet of paper in with my chicken noodle soup and Vienna sausages. No fancy food yet, but you say the last meal isn’t until tomorrow. I guess I’m as ready as ever for this. Even though, like the food, it’s a little tough to swallow.
I’m innocent, but that don’t matter anymore, because nobody believes me. You haven’t said, but you probably don’t believe me either. But then you just call me Charlie, none of those foul names like the prosecutor did. Thanks for that. Maybe I should’ve asked your name, but I thought you might take it wrong. Anyhow, innocent people die every day. It’s just that most of them don’t have a scheduled appointment.
Here’s the deal. Tomorrow they’ll take me to the room and go through all this formal crap so nobody will feel guilty about the whole thing. They’ll probably even tell me that I’ll feel a little stick before they start the IV, as if it matters. Then somewhere in there they’ll ask me if I have something to say. At least that’s what I’ve heard. Frankly, I’ve got a fair amount to say, but if I start in they’ll tell me to shut up because then I’ll be late for my appointment. Early or late, it don’t matter to me, but I know everyone will just want to get the whole thing over. After all, folks got their own appointments to keep. So I’ll just shake my head, and they’ll get on with it.
That’s where you come in, Gordon. When you come by tomorrow, with my last meal or something, I’ll hand you this paper. It’s got the stuff I want to say. The stuff I’m writing now. As you can tell, like I said, it’s already too long for the little ceremony. Sure hope this pencil stub holds out. I was thinking maybe you could get this somewhere people might read it. Maybe like a letter to the editor or something. If you can, I’d be much obliged.
Right now I’m lying naked here on the concrete floor. It’s the only flat place to write I got and it’s cool on my skin and lately clothes just don’t seem to matter. Going out the same way I came in, I guess. The dim light filters through the bars so I can’t see what I’m writing so well. God I hope you can read it, Gordon.
Here’s the thing I want to say: I’ve seen what will happen tomorrow. Afterward, I mean. Had a dream the other night and it came to me clear, just like HDTV. I was lying here on the floor, tummy down, just like now. I was sort of asleep and sort of not. It’s hard to explain. Maybe I should call it a vision instead of a dream. You can change the words for me if you want, Gordon. Anyway, in the dream, or whatever, they had me on the table and the IV was already running and they injected the stuff, and I was dead. I’m not sure how I knew I was dead. I just knew. And I started falling down through these picture frame things that looked like they were made of wood, but I couldn’t tell for sure. I fell onto a raft drifting in a lake. I couldn’t see the shore and there weren’t any waves, so I’m not sure the raft moved at all. I looked over the edge of the raft and saw the coral in the water, every color in the rainbow. But the main thing was the swans. Diving right at me like Cupid’s arrows. Hundreds of them, more than I’ve ever seen, trumpeting away like it was that great gettin’ up mornin’. I’m guessing it was, because next I heard a loud voice rumbling through all the trumpeting and the voice said “Welcome, my son.” Reminded me of the story I heard in church a long time ago when Jesus was baptized and a dove and a voice came from the heavens, but I bet that story gets it wrong. It must’ve been swans, not a dove. And then I was back on this cool concrete floor and of course it didn’t move either.
Anyway, Gordon, that’s what I want folks to know. People will say I’m crazy and that my dream don’t mean a thing, and I can’t do nothing for them, but I still want them to know. Sooner or later, we all have our appointment, whether it’s scheduled like mine or not. And it’ll be okay. I promise. It will be okay.
Thanks for everything, Gordon. I’m counting on you.
(Submitted to The Huntsville Item by Gordon Hill, prison guard at Polunsky Unit, West Livingston, TX)
I'm a family physician, husband, father of two who loves to write. My short story "How Sweet the Sound" was published in About Such Things. I'm revising a novel, and I'm still trying to figure out this whole blog/personal website thing.
"The Last Words of Charlie Proffet" was born when this month's photo somehow led my imagination to a lonely cell on death row. How it did that, well, you'll have to ask my muse.
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'Frame of Mind'
'To My Son'