Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Tie (02/28/13)
TITLE: No Match
By Rita Minner
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The hollow crack of hammers against wood echo through the darkening streets and synchronize with the beat of his heart, bang –Bang, bang-Bang, bang-Bang. Each reverberating hit shimmies through the thin exterior of our mud-bricked building.
Poised against a Texas sun’s scarlet horizon, the evolving structure seems to taunt, peering impudently at him through the rusty iron grates that imprison while still offering protection from a noose.
The backdrop of a rose-tinted sky fails to soften the stark outline of a rough-hewn gallows. Pine beams positioned to hold the weight of a man, compose the platform as well as the empty box that will transport him to his last place of rest.
Will he rest tonight? Not a chance. Tenaciously he holds to his claim, “I didn’t do it.” The certain blows of the workmen’s’ mallets, relentless in their rhythm, permeate every nook and cranny of the young man’s soul.
He pleaded innocent eight months ago. He never budged but was tried by a jury and found guilty. Now the judge resolutely passes sentence. “Timothy Poorman, you stand condemned and will receive the penalty for your sins. At sunrise you will be hanged by the neck until dead”. The gavel slams down on the desk’s polished wood and it’s done.
No visitors in all these months, nobody to help or comfort. It would take a miracle to salvage the young man’s life. The town believes he’s guilty. There’s nothing to prove otherwise. A pardon from the governor, his only hope and that won’t happen in a little tumbleweed-nowhere town where the telegraph machine works only on the rarest occasions.
The condemned must be guarded through the eve of execution. Hopelessness seeps blackly into the stuffy jailhouse. Nineteen years old and only a few hours left. His voice wafts from the cell, “I didn’t do it you know.” I offer no reply, allowing the sound of his voice to evaporate into the darkness. Time passes slowly yet when I look to the east and see hints of pink, my stomach shrivels into a knot. Looking through the iron bars, it’s clear he’s been weeping.
I open the cell. We don’t have a pair of handcuffs; never had need for them. I take a piece of rope to tie his hands behind his back, steer him out of the jailhouse and up the creaky steps. People gather. I place a burlap bag over his head and put another tie around his ankles. It will assure a quick and certain death−no suffering. It isn’t every day−my thoughts are interrupted. I squint toward the sunrise and think; it isn’t every day some wild rider comes charging into town before daybreak, cracking leather reins, shouting indistinguishable words. All heads, except for the condemned, turn toward the clamorous rider. Shielding their eyes they focus on a distant horseman. Never slowing, kicking up a dustbowl, he barrels through the narrow streets as if to plow right over us. He pulls up short, leaps off the heaving mare and hollers, “You can’t do it!” “You gotta stop!” “Hold off, for Mercy’s sake!” “You hear me?” His voice trails off in an odd commanding plea. Half tripping, half stumbling up the steps, the frantic rider makes his way. Gasping for breath, shaking his head from side to side as if defying death itself, he croaks, “You can’t kill the boy.”
Before we take hold of him, he abruptly digs into his back pocket, retrieves a crumpled white envelope and shoves it in my direction. His hands are calloused and cracked from hard work, his grizzled face, weathered and worn, his eyes sure and steady. A secured wax stamp with the governor’s initials seal the letter.
A hush falls as if a theatrical performance is about to begin and the gallows, a stage. The miracle proceeds and all are privy to the unfolding drama. Stiffly, slowly, the courier kneels. He removes the tie wrapped around the young man’s feet and stands to face him. Silent tears trail through wrinkles and down his dusty face. With hands still bound, the boy leans in toward the messenger and places his head on his shoulder. “I knew you’d come, Pa”.
In haughty insolence Death surrenders for even the bonds of death are No Match for the Father’s love.
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