Not sentenced to die, but dead anyway
It used to be we’d just put them in Yellow Mama. Yellow Mama’s what Alabama’s electric chair’s called.
Then, just flip the switch and after a little sizzlin’ and scorchin’, they’re done.
Can you believe some country singers even wrote and sold some songs about that — that ol’ yellow chair?!
Yellow Mama’s mostly retired these days. She hasn’t been used in ages since the law changed to lethal injection. We still keep her stored up in the attic over at Holman though. Every now and again, bring her down, give her some pledge, little tweakin’, make sure she works.
Why? Makes sense to ask.
Reason being, even though the law changed to lethal injection, folks initially sentenced to sit in the Mama can still have the pleasure, if they have a mind. Least, that’s what the law says.
Now those that don’t sit in Yellow Mama, they get that needle and that ain’t no picnic, let me tell you.
That first drug is supposed to put you down, painlessly, like a dog — your eyes just close and you “go to sleep” forever. Except often, it don’t work like that.
Sure, your eyelids might shut, your breathing might start getting weaker and weaker ’til finally, you just stop, and you’re lying there spread eagle on that cold gurney.
You might look like you’re just sleeping all peaceful-like, but it ain’t so. It’s ’cause you can’t scream, can’t talk, can’t open your eyes — you can’t even blink — much less writhe in pain. You’re frozen, immobilized, in one of them chemical straightjackets is what you are.
But you’ll feel it; oh yes, you’ll feel it. Great God in Heaven, will you feel it!
Because when that first drug don’t do the trick and your eyes close like your sleepin’, but really, you’re not, they inject them next drugs and then your muscles stop workin’, your lungs can’t breathe, and your beaten broken-down heart goes bust. And then, Jesus H. Christ have mercy, you feel it, every sharp stinging step of the way…
Like your insides are melting, ’cause they are… they’re melting from the inside out… they’re burnin’, bubblin’, liquefyin’… like a bonfire raging… and you’re the witch.
You ever hear that expression, “a death by a thousand cuts”?
The needle, the “big jab,” the “stainless steel ride” — whatever you want to call this lethal injection business — it may be worse.
And you’re just lying there, helpless, with all them folks watchin’ you through the glass. The victim’s family, the warden, prison chaplain, members of the press, attorneys you know, some you don’t, plenty of guards.
Hell, maybe even your own family’ll be there… see the show. Imagine the reunion that’ll be?
One last sorrowful, saline-dripping send-off; and you, lying there all supine, them chemicals spreading, saturating your system.
Can you imagine what that does to a child? Here they are, they didn’t do a damn thing wrong except be born and they’re being brought to prison to see their pa or ma one last time. And they’re in some sterile room, and everyone’s watching — they’re watching you, watching your family, looking into your son’s and your wife’s eyes, seeing how are they gonna carry it — are they gonna cry?
And those kids… How are they supposed to have any happiness, to succeed, to have a chance at normal life after watching society exterminate you… their father, their mother… like a parasite, a cancer, a plague. How are they supposed to get over that?
And truthfully, it don’t matter if they see it or not, ’cause they’re gonna find out. Someday, they always do. Maybe the family won’t tell them straight away. Maybe the family’ll wait till they’re older or won’t tell them at all. Maybe they’ll lie; say you were killed at sea, some big traffic accident.
It won’t matter though, ’cause them kids always find out what happened; someday, they’ll know the truth. That Alabama decided you were so damn defective they had to cast you out into the unfathomable, the ungodly, the unknown.
Those kids will never be the same. Because, they’ll know.
And they’ll know they’ve got your blood, that they’re a cast-off; a bad seed, destined to wilt. And they’ll give up.
They’ll embrace destiny and follow in your footsteps — maybe not here in an Alabama prison but in some other jail. And if not in an actual cell, they’ll still be confined — trapped inside the jail cell of their mind.
They won’t be sentenced to die, but they’ll be dead anyway; dead in their heart and dead in their soul.
And that’s the death penalty in Alabama.