When they administered Dan Glavinovich's execution by lethal injection, they dabbed his needle wounds with cotton swabs. To prevent infection, presumably.
The last he'd seen of the world outside had been a merciless winter morning. It had been the sort of mean, sharp-eyed weather that reminds one that the fix is in, that the ugly-natured racketeers always win, that the weeping innocent still suffer. This was years before.
Dan sat in his cell, waiting for morning. Tapping his foot, without realizing it. Tapping out a slow waltz—the syllables of a name.
A convocation of prisoners crowds into his cell at midnight. Hundreds of them, packed in. Practitioners of automatic writing, inquiring about pardons and paroles in the beyond. Seeking news from beyond. One of them must have snuck the writing table past the guards. A camera crew appears. A host in a bow tie laughs like someone who would very much like to be laughing, wipes sweat with a handkerchief, tests his lapel mic. This is just a dry run, people. Cue laugh track. Dan wakes up. He doesn't remember falling asleep.
Dan had blown it big time. His whole lifetime he'd puled and schemed and fantasized and double-dealed. Cheating bits of happiness out of life like an unfair transaction fee. Perpetually baleful. Treating unverified hunches like facts from the encyclopedia. Alone everywhere, and everywhere alone.
There was this job he'd had as a kid. Carrying pianos around in a truck. They'd gone out to this housing project, him and his granddad. As they drove around trying to find the address, his granddad told him the story of the person who'd owned that particular piano before, telling the story as if it were a big secret, in his deep low weathered voice. It was a sad story. They pulled out of the housing project and tried to circle back through a shopping arcade. Dan turned his face up and saw a tall painting of an angel just outside and above the truck window. It was the sign for a bakery.
Morning will come soon. There won't be a pardon. He remembers a particular person. If he could talk to her now, he'd say something like, "I even felt grateful for the folds in your clothes, when you wore them." Something stupid like that.
The heavy damp smell outside a bakery. The gradated shadow on a sleeping woman's cheek. Things he can only try to recall now.
"Chop off my head, and my IQ descends." He'd read that line somewhere—can't remember where. Dan had always been clumsy: he'd never been able to conceal the painfulness of life. He'd fucked up. Four little girls dead. And now comes the comeuppance. With death will there come relief?
He waits for morning in his cell, a scared lost lonely little boy.