Tim started the countdown in his head, licked his dry lips and reached for the switch.
He thought about how he hated this job. He thought about how he had believed it would be easy when he took it. It wasn’t easy, it was the hardest job he had ever held.
He thought about Marvin on the other side of the wall. Marvin, who he knew would be sitting in the chair with his eyes open so wide you could see white all the way around. Marvin, who was physically 49 years old but mentally maybe 7 or 8 and scared to death. Marvin, who Tim had come to know and like over the years they had been associated with one another.
In his mind’s eye he saw the bottle of brown whiskey that was sitting in the back of his car and how much of it was already gone. He wondered if he should stop at the Package Store on the way home. Then he remembered that it would be closed. It was already after midnight.
He thought of the people standing outside waving and carrying signs. He wondered whether he agreed with them or not.
He wondered if his mother, were she still alive, would be proud of him and thought probably not! Then thought maybe so! It was a distasteful way to make a living , but at the end of the day it was an honest living.
He squeezed his eyes shut and thought about the last time he had gone to the nursing home to visit his father. How the dementia was getting worse. Dad never recognized him anymore but was happy to sit and tell stories about the war. Stories Tim had heard more than a hundred times before.
Time to think of nothing, time to turn it all off and not think of what he was about to do. In desperation, to ease his conscience, he thought of what his grandma had said, “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Did Marvin deserve this? Did he deserve this?
Simultaneously Tim looked at the clock and pulled the switch to complete the circuit – 0007 CST. He felt the vibration of 1700 Volts, at 5 Amperes running through the switch. He heard the sizzle and smelled the burning flesh. He heard the collective intake of breath from the witnesses and he continued to watch the clock. After four minutes he opened the switch to stop the flow of electricity and indicated to Doc Thornton that it was safe to open the door.
The doctor entered the chamber where Marvin sat alone. Tim could not see them but he knew what was happening. He knew that Doc Thornton was checking Marvin’s vital signs. He knew that when the Doc confirmed it was over he would nod to the warden and log the Time of Death in his notes. Warden Smithers would then close the curtains over the viewing window.
Tim looked through the door and saw the reflection in the glass of the viewing window. With the curtain closed on the other side it was now a mirror. He saw Marvin held upright in the chair by a leather belt. His wrists and ankles strapped to the chair with electrodes underneath. He saw Marvin’s contorted face frozen in the scream that no one ever heard. Through the glass he saw the pleats of the curtains closed now, to shield the witnesses from the accusing stare of the deceased.
He wiped the back of his neck with his kerchief and turned away. His job was done for today. He hoped he could face tomorrow.