“I had to do it Joey,”he said out of the blue.
I watched him run his hand absentmindedly along the edge of the bunk bed that we shared.
” Do what,Harry?” I asked.
“They’re making me out to be a monster but I’m no monster,Joey! I had to do it! She deserved mercy!”
The bed creaked lightly as he shifted his weight so that he could face me on the bunk below him.
“Have you ever wondered where people go after they die?”
The sadness in his voice felt cold, like a draft blowing through an old, burned-out house
“I don’t know,”I replied,”heaven,I guess.”
He laid back down,turning his eyes towards the blank grayness of the ceiling and sighing. I waited to hear what he would say next. He had drawn me in.
“My wife,she believed that the dead linger on earth,” he said at last,”said she could feel them,all around her,as if they’d never died.”
He went silent. The wind blew the curtain against the cell door.
“You have a son,don’t you Joey? I’ve seen the picture you keep in your shirt’s front pocket”
“Yes,I do Harry,” I answered,”his name is Maddox. He turns four in May.”
He sighed again. I could see the tears in his eyes.
“You had a son,didn’t you?” I asked.
He turned to look away,his back heaving with the effort of holding back sobs. I couldn’t stop, I had too many questions.
“Is that why you did it,Harry? Because of your son? Did she hurt your boy?”
He turned sharply and leaned over to face me,rage apparent in his eyes.
“Lillian was a good woman! She would never hurt Tyler! When he died,she took it worse than anyone at first but what happened after,that’s why I did it.”
His voice was unsteady. I finally understood him.
“She couldn’t let go,could she?”
His eyes narrowed and his gaze shifted erratically before settling back on me. It was as if he was looking through me, straight into the past,reliving all of it.
“She sang him lullabies Joey! Long after we buried him! She talked to him constantly,as if he was in her arms the whole time. She wouldn’t go to work,she wouldn’t eat,she barely slept! I tried to tell her that he was gone but all she kept saying was that he was only, ‘regrettably intimate’, with death…so one day,when she was leaning over his crib,pretending to rock him to sleep,I took my revolver out of the cupboard and put a bullet in the back of her head,where her skull and spine meet, so she wouldn’t feel a thing. I gave her mercy.”
He went quiet again,his eyes focused on mine,searching them for something. I could not tell what. It was either judgement or justification. All I knew was that I could give him neither.
“You know what the worst part is?” He asked suddenly,”the worst part is that now,I can feel them too,both of them.”