“The Stretch”

Cowley Alumni (Vol. 6 - 2016)

Lester tried to remain calm while standing on the wooden floor of the gallows. The black hood over his head and neck caused him to begin sweating. The beads on his forehead dripped down and stung his eyes. His bound hands prevented him from wiping the stinging salt away. He squinted hard instead trying to flush out the salt. He wondered how much longer before the moment came when the lever was pulled and he’d drop to the end of the rope around his neck. The executioner asked him his weight in order to establish the proper length of rope to hang him without severing his head during the drop. Lester tried not to think of the image of his head leaving his body and still be inside the black hood dripping blood profusely. What would his body be doing in the absence of his head? Twitching, convulsing, or lying still? Stop it! He told himself. It won’t last but a split second, and it will all be over! Yet he couldn’t get the moment of his head leaving his body out of his mind.

Lester squinted even harder, pushing his mind to conjure up better days when he was younger and courting a young lady under a massive oak tree near his family’s farm. A creek ran under the long branches and Lester reminded himself of the cool water tickling his toes while he taunted his lady friend with silly limericks. She smiled coyly and Lester wasn’t sure if he should attempt a kiss on her hand, her cheek or plant one directly on her full luscious lips. He was dazzled by her auburn hair dangling around her shoulders and framing her round face with deep brown eyes. The sunlight glinting through the leaves played tricks of highlighting her face making Lester catch his breath. He convinced himself to reach for her hand in hopes that she would accept his advance without resisting. She felt warm and soft in his calloused hands. He held her gaze when he leaned in.

The Sheriff nodded.