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Lethal Injection

21 May 2001
Neil is waiting.

It seeps into the bloodstream like a sigh, that same slow exhalation. Clusters gather, gradually growing, the city's pulse slows like the traffic on the freeway: dipping to cruising speed for a few snatched instants of voyeurism. Suddenly it's not just the professionals on either side that know where the prison is to be found.

It's hot and the whole state is sticky with expectation but the hours count lazily down, refusing to savour the eagerness or the dread. Seven in the morning it will be, so it doesn't hang over our day like it has hung over our lives. We can go about our business with it all behind us: move on, cleansed. Or for the lucky ones sleep right through it, not have to be conscious at the moment it happens, just thump the alarm clock, jump in the shower, too groggy to remember till later that it is done.

To begin with you wonder whether anything will happen, if you've been cheated, but then the effects start to become clear. Two murders, now, in a week: a young woman battered with a nine iron in a domestic. The same pattern, the same spate every single time and the dogs go mad in the back yards, scorched by the Southern sun, breathing in the same poisonous air as us all.

Some try to block it out, walk from the office every time conversation loops obsessively back to the subject, but it is on their mind as much as anyone's and nobody can seal themselves off from the ticking of bulletins and column inches. Only some kids, skating around the entrance to the underpass, seem oblivious as the same clattering trick is tried again and again, immersed in themselves with their baggy jeans, their caps and their piercings that set off the metal detectors every time they go into school.

They're advising us to do something positive with the day: visit a friend, plant a tree. It seems a fair exchange- a life that produces oxygen for one that sucked out so much. And does it really matter: one life? When bus-loads of Bolivians go off the edge of treacherous mountain roads and thousands of HIV related Africans cease existing each week, can we really justify paying such attention to a single Western death, the switching off of one evil American mind. For the families, for more than just the families, it is righteous retribution: it is a focus, an atoning sacrifice, a scapegoat for all the pain and anger, all the hate they've ever felt, it is a promise of closure. But what about me? What am I doing here? Which nerve is it, which electronic impulse, which part of that slimy grey sponge that no amount of religious instruction has managed to calm into acceptance, that continues to thrash and flail against the inevitability of its own insignificant demise. I will not weep for him, his own parents will not weep for him: just the memory of the boy he once was, but I will weep for his life.

The clusters are swelling, the other (of course) much faster than my own: clear-eyed Furies angry that it will all be over so quickly. They howl across at us in furious incomprehension, spitting curses that label us as the supporters of murder, happy to have a temporary target in the enforced absence of the main attraction. Sweat drips as they work themselves into a rapturous frenzy, as pointless as a pro-globalisation protest or an ozone destruction rally.

Between us serried flashbulbs click continuously, keen that no angle should go unrecorded, and local evening haruspexes stride around self-importantly, eager to make their readings. The pulse quickens as the bulletins tick, the last push towards fever pitch whips up the crowd around my hopeless stand, towards climax and the hope of release. I hold my placard. I wait.


Previously on upsideclown


Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

17 June 2002. Neil writes: Cockfosters
23 May 2002. Neil writes: Siege Mentality
29 April 2002. Neil writes: Oh So Pretty
1 April 2002. Neil writes: Lost
11 March 2002. Neil writes: These Are The Days
14 February 2002. Neil writes: Bedtime Story
21 January 2002. Neil writes: Said She Was An Artist
24 December 2001. Neil writes: Here's All the People
3 December 2001. Neil writes: On Antibiotics
8 November 2001. Neil writes: Private Schooling
15 October 2001. Neil writes: Morning After
20 September 2001. Neil writes: Flightpath
27 August 2001. Neil writes: Tsarina
2 August 2001. Neil writes: Family and Friends
9 July 2001. Neil writes: My Fabulous Weekend
14 June 2001. Neil writes: The Sound of Music
21 May 2001. Neil writes: Lethal Injection
26 April 2001. Neil writes: Voter Apathy
2 April 2001. Neil writes: ET
5 March 2001. Neil writes: The Shadow Over Brunswych
12 February 2001. Neil writes: Bibliofile
18 January 2001. Neil writes: Suburban Gothic
25 December 2000. Neil writes: Many in Body, One in Mind
30 November 2000. Neil writes: Urban Regeneration
6 November 2000. Neil writes: In Extremis
12 October 2000. Neil writes: Obituary
18 September 2000. Neil writes: Your Mother Sucks Cocks In Hell!
24 August 2000. Neil writes: Parent Power
7 August 2000. Neil writes: Love Letter

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