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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I enjoyed that story. What tone were you going for? I felt the decapitation had a streak of black humour about it (but that may be more telling of my sense of humour.) Your years of writing show in your ability to craft a story without wasted words.

Posted 1 Year Ago

how can i be chuckling over such a grisly affair ..fine names for the characters .. entertaining read start to stop .. does this have basis in history?

Posted 2 Years Ago

Will Neill

2 Years Ago

Einstein, Marie was a very good friend of mine who sadly is no longer with us, so maybe I can thank .. read more
Einstein Noodle

2 Years Ago

oh my! i did read some of the tributes to her .. did not make the connection .. i saw a comment she .. read more
Oh Marie how I wish you were still here to share more tales of blood and death. How much of a badass granny did you want to be haha? I hope the spiritual realm is treating you kindly.

Posted 3 Years Ago

That's what happens when you ignore expert advice. A wonderfully written piece.

Posted 3 Years Ago

A good hangman is hard to find & should be appreciated. You have penned a true to life story about a hanngman's craft. I support he death penalty!

Posted 4 Years Ago

excellent short story, very enjoyable read.

Posted 4 Years Ago

Marie, another excellent story. Difficult to fault. The only suggestion I could make would be to consider bringing in the senses into some of the description? Otherwise I thought the ending was excellent. We all knew something bad was going to happen, but that was a surprise.

Posted 4 Years Ago

I'm new to Writerscafe. I am now three for three in excellence of my first choices to read. I liked your "The Hanging." It was tight with seamless flow. The grisly description was very well done, and the talking head was icing on the cake. I especially liked Giddings resigning and walking away, it left me with wondering about the thoughts he might have had in his head. For me, it took the story beyond its end.

Posted 4 Years Ago

I really liked this. Wasn't expecting the hanging to go that way, it was a good twist.

Posted 4 Years Ago

Oh, boy--I sure didn't expect that talking head. And to think that sort of thing used to happen, and in public! With some mistakes, you can go back and do it over, but there sure ain't no putting Driscoll's head back on. A bit macabre, but enjoyably so.

Posted 4 Years Ago


4 Years Ago

Thanks. Splickety wanted this for their "blog," and I had to go through edits four times. I think my.. read more

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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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