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DEATHWATCH

Know what I see in your face, Momma? I see every lie Jerry ever told, every car he stole, every store he robbed, every innocent person he hurt. I see his deception, his cruelty and his brutality carved in fine detail in every line on your cheeks, every furrow on your brow. I see ridges of pain that only a child could have put there. And I see your forgiveness, and God help me I hate him for it and I'm glad he's going to die. And when I look for myself in your face, when I look for the son who has tried to erase the hurts, I can't find him, Momma. And that's when I hate you.

Three hours. Three hours until they strap him to a gurney and ask him if he has anything to say. Know what he'll say, Momma? He'll say he loves you and loves his family and that he never meant to cause harm to anybody. He'll say he's innocent. He'll say the state is killing an innocent man, because even then he'll lie. Truth is like a poison to Jerry, but a lie is sweet.

Can't you see his face, how he'll look so sincere? And outside the walls of the prison he'll have preachers and nuns lighting candles for him, praying for him, praying for a murderer while the news cameras roll.

A few minutes more and he'll never have the chance to hurt anybody again. I'll stay here with you. I'll stay like I've always done. I'll hold your hand, I'll try to comfort you while you weep, and I'll say that you have to let him go now, that you can't do anything for him. I'll say that it wasn't your fault, that you did all that any mother could have done, that some people just won't be helped, and I'll try to understand how you could still love him. And when the phone rings, and we hear that he's gone, I won't let you see how glad I am that the monster you call my brother is dead, or how I hope that death wasn't the end for him, that whatever passed for Jerry's soul will suffer like he made so many others suffer. And then I'll search your face again, and maybe I'll see love for the boy who tried to erase the hurts, and the fading memories of a dead man-child.

      — Larry W. Van Guilder