THE HANGING | | The Online Writing Community


A Story by Marie

THe last hanging to take place in Lyburn County...




  “You can’t hang Parchman tomorrow,” Allen ‘Loopy’ Driscoll said  “And why is that?” Sherriff Giddings drawled.

  “Because it won’t work tomorrow. The setup is all wrong.”

  Giddings shrugged. “A gallows is a gallows and a noose is a noose. Look, I know Parchman is one of your cousins. But you’re the best hangman in Lyburn County. If you’d rather we got someone else to do it--”

   “It’s not that.” Driscoll shook his head impatiently.  “I’m good at my job because I spend a lot of time preparing for an execution. I take the condemned prisoner’s measurements and then I fix the rope to suit. It can’t be too long and it can’t be too short. When Parchman first came here he weighed maybe a hundred and forty. But he’s spent six months in jail with no exercise, nothing to do but eat, and he’s put on at least fifty pounds.”

  “So?” Giddings shrugged.

   “Well don’t you see? If I hang him now, using those first measurements, he’ll strangle to death instead of getting his neck clean broke. He deserves to die, but not that way. No, sir. I got to do the whole thing again.”

   “You’ll hang him tomorrow,” Sheriff Giddings said firmly. He gave Driscoll a crooked smile. “Parchman’s gang bushwhacked my brother and left him to die in the desert without water. It must have taken him a mighty long time to die. I don’t care much whether Parchman has an easy death or not.”

  “That’s not justice,” Driscoll pointed out. “That’s revenge.”

   “You’re right,” the sheriff agreed. “It is revenge.”

  Driscoll knew there was nothing more to say. He made an adjustment to the rope’s length based on guesswork, but he knew a proper weighing was the only way to be sure. He tied the noose carefully, checked over the gallows, and said a prayer.

   The next morning’s event brought many people to town, crowding around the jail in anticipation.  They knew what Parchman was and what he’d done, and they were anxious to see him pay for it. The prisoner’s hands were tied behind his back, and the loop rested around his neck, the knot under one ear.

   Parchman shook his head briefly when asked if he had any last words. Driscoll saw the sheriff watching, a cold look of pleasure on his face. He sighed and pulled the lever, hoping for the best but prepared for disaster.

   It was worse than he could have imagined. There was no slow strangulation but a sharp jerk--and Parchman’s head was torn loose from his body. It flew wide, trailing blood and gobbets of flesh. Driscoll heard screams and saw women faint. Giddings’ smile had been replaced by an expression of horror.

  Parchman’s head landed on the ground and rolled to the sheriff’s feet. The dead eyes opened and its mouth moved in a ghastly rictus as it croaked. “I’ll say hello to your brother.”

Giddings vomited explosively, spattering the grey and lifeless form.  Driscoll hurried up, pale and perspiring.

 “I told you--” he started.

“I know what you told me.” Giddings pulled off his badge, handed it to Driscoll and walked away.

  Driscoll looked at the badge in his hand, then at the ex-sheriff’s retreating back. “That will never happen again,” he murmured.

It didn’t.

That was the last hanging to ever take place in Lyburn County.

© 2015 Marie

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Surprising, or rather shocking, what a tiny combination of numbers, incorrect measurements could bring about. Allen indeed was an expert, and the sheriff was just biased by his emotion. Nice characterization and dialogue. Parchman's last words made it a little more creepy. Enjoyed reading this.

Posted 3 Years Ago


3 Years Ago

Thanks. I'm glad you like it. THis true event was on the history channel once, and it stuck in my mi.. read more
I'm hoping this is a juicy real story Marie and not fiction if it is well done. Gruesome but engaging loved it.

Posted 3 Years Ago


3 Years Ago

Very astute, Will. Yes, this is based on a real story.

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12 Reviews
Added on August 14, 2015
Last Updated on August 14, 2015
Tags: Sheriff, pParchman, noose, gallows, head



San Antonio, TX

I have been writing for almost 60 years. Writers' Cafe is the best writing site I've found. If you send me read requests, expect me to be blunt. I don't like poor grammar, misspelled words or mistake.. more..


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