"The One That Got Away"
Photo by Bob Linder
My brothers were there, both of them younger than I remembered. They were shaking their heads in unison.
My mother was there, too, her face lined and worn with worry, her right shoulder misshapen where the lung cancer jutted out — a yellow-blue tumor that looked like an angry bruise.
I could not clearly see my father but I spied his nose and his right ear and I knew he was there behind my mother, telling her he always knew this would happen, he always knew I would make the wrong choices in life.
Three of the Amazons — Tamlya, Kathryn and Missie — sat together in the front row, wearing purple robes and holding small bouquets of purple iris. Each met my gaze. Each tipped me a wink, then looked away.
Three men from the Paragraph Factory stood in a corner, laughing and exchanging handshakes.
Calliope's family sat in the back of the witness room, carving pumpkins. They were accompanied by four of my oldest friends — Smitty, Wing, Tim and Danny — dressed as the seasons.
The photographer Bob Linder was documenting the event. He trained his lens on me and I tried to smile because inside I felt relieved, almost happy. I was not guilty but that didn't matter. This would all be over soon and I would be able to sleep. I laughed as the thought took full form: Big Sleep, come soon. This would be better than any smack.
The executioner came into the room wearing a Mardi Gras mask. The witnesses stood as one and applauded. The executioner leaned down until our faces were inches apart. I saw the gold flecks in her eyes and stopped laughing.
"You don't get any last words," Calliope said.