Random Scribbles · writing

The Countdown


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.

Look Mom – 1st place
Are ya proud a’ me?
I’m proud a’ me!

24 thoughts on “The Countdown

  1. positively chilling. All the way along I was hoping it wasn’t counting down to that, but all the way along I knew it would. I love the format and the thoughts going through Tim’s head.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Death row stories always make me think, and reading from this perspective was a really interesting and disconcerting viewpoint. There’s a Shane Koyczan spoken word piece about meeting the man who cooks the ‘last meal’ that this reminds me of. Thoughtful piece.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s frightening . . . your brain and mine on a similar wavelength (I’m fearful for your sake, tnkerr!). I love the slices from Tim’s life as the time counts down. This really paces it well and drives a reader forward even more, I think. Great real-world horror story that, I hope, makes people reconsider the implications of “Old Sparky” and its ilk as “punishment” in our modern times.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, it was told so well. I thought the idea of a countdown linked to Tim’s thoughts was very clever (an idea I might pinch in the future) and set the back story so well.
    Thanks for a great read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gracias Mike – the countdown is certainly not original to me. But feel free to use it and send me any royalties that I might earn as a result. Just kidding.
      Glad you liked it. Thanks


  5. So good. The countdown is such a clever device and you used it really well. Tim’s disparate thoughts in no way lead us to his job – they could be the thoughts of anyone. I think that Tim needs a change of scene – the ‘Did he deserve this?’ line reveals his conflict and need to move. Not a job for the long term if you want to save your soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I wondered if someone would go in this direction. While I’m glad you did, I also found this difficult and disturbing to read. Very well written, especially with the countdown adding to the tension. I really like the perspective you chose to tell this from, and I like that you explored the issue of capital punishment without ever stating it explicitly.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A whole different kind of gruesome. As others have said, the countdown is a clever device, and very well used. I loved your description of Marvin, unfortunately so well drawn from real life. Statistics show that so many of the incarcerated are mentally challenged or sick. Very well done, Thom. One of my favorites this week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you ma’am. Thank you so much. This was not an easy story to write and I’m not sure why I chose today to get up on a sopabox. Seems like folks are tolerating my rant though.
      Thanks again.


  8. Loved this, Tnkerr. That countdown truly had the effect of ratcheting up the tension. So this is what builds in the the life of someone who eventually dies in the electric chair. It’s a fascinating slice(s) of life look at a condemned man.


  9. Wow, Thom. This is amazing! Sorry I only just got to read it now. I love the way you worked “reap” into the story – everything was so seamless, I had to go back and check to see what the prompts were. Your introduction of Marvin was well-done, so that at first I thought he was a co-worker. And the layout is brilliant. I often wish I could take the time to do something a bit more creative and out of my usual style – this has inspired me.

    Liked by 1 person

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