Meditations on Death

It had been a strange day anyway. Now, I was sitting in my truck listening to Janis Joplin sing about how Freedom was just another word for Nothing left to lose. It was 3:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, or Saturday night. The air was cool and misty. Fog was settled in all the low spots. It was quiet. No cars on this road.

My headlights shone across the road in the outskirts of Pittsboro at a scene which remains quite stark and crisp in my mind. A deer, which had been mutilated by a speeding car minutes earlier, strained and frenzied from the man whom I deeply trusted. Pat stood over the poor beast with his brother's sawed-off shotgun aimed at its slim head. He looked like an Indian standing there, so noble, only his long free hair was red.

"God loves you," he said, "and I love you." Bam! It was like a cartoon. The deer looked up at the starry sky, its neck gave way, and then wobbled over, his head smoking from the blast. Bam! Just to be sure the deer wouldn't suffer anymore. Pat walked over to the truck through the mist. "Sometimes, I think, I feel too comfortable with a gun," he said. So anyway, according to Janis, that deer was pretty damn near free.

I remember I had been excited at first that I would get to watch the execution. I sat waiting for it to happen, thinking of my life. Waiting to see what death looked like. But it had looked like a cartoon. It still wasn't really real.

We drove back to the farm without speaking. Slammed the doors which echoed in the night air, walked into the warm house air and sat on the couch. Pat played an old CD. He was very excited from the feel of a gun in his hands. He kept saying, "It's been so long since I had the feel of a gun in my hands." I stared off dreaming of the hours before the execution. How I had sat smoking cigarettes and thinking how I wasn't afraid of cancer or AIDS or death at all, contemplating the meaning of fear and courage and how all of life was just an image reflected off the idea of death.

Erin Caldwell