Gallows Humour

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Gallows Humour

Post by BlackOpal » Fri 25th May 2007

Okay, I wrote this story for English class, and it isn't as good as I would have liked. If I rewrote it I'd make it so that Jeff would think that God was going to save him, because maybe then it would have made a shred of sense. Anyway, read and harshly review. I'd appreciate it.

The sewage pipes dripped with what one could only hope was water. The cold, cement floor was the green-brown colour of vomit. The whole cell smelled of fruit that someone had left outside too long. Jeff sat on what the prison claimed was a bed, his hands clenching the dank, grey sheets as if in pain. He couldn’t help thinking that this had to be punishment for something, but no matter how hard he thought, no matter how long he brooded, he could not understand what.
Jeff couldn’t wait to be free; free of this gloomy, depressing place, free of the abusive guards, and free of the chains that bound him, both to the cell and the memories that tortured him unrelentingly. In his mind he saw his father’s blue face, scarred red neck and empty, bloodshot eyes that stared blindly up at him. He could feel the unforgiving pull of the police as they violently dragged him away from the body, and he could hear the crack of the judge’s gavel as it banged accusingly against her desk.
He couldn’t blame them. Jeff sure looked like a criminal, his beard was long and dirty, his hair grey flecked, and his once handsome face was lined deeply with worry. His black eyes were dull and tired. His clothes were ragged and dirty, and hung loosely around his body. He looked like a man who had been to hell and back.
Jeff was startled out of his thoughts when he heard the painful grinding of his cell door opening. A man was thrown unceremoniously towards him and the door was shut with a violent clang.
It crossed his mind that the man resembled a large, shaggy dog. His hair was long and grey, and his beard was so thick and full that it seemed to cover his features. What wasn’t obscured revealed snaky scars that slivered around his face menacingly. His dark eyes were nearly covered by his thick, grey eyebrows. He looked around approvingly.
“Pretty nice,” he said, “this’ll do quite well.”
Jeff’s eyes widened in surprise, “I’m sorry… what?”
“They usually only give such luxurious cells to people who are set to be strung up.”
Pain flitted across Jeff’s face and he closed his eyes briefly to try and block out the horrific images that flew across his mind.
“Oh… I’m sorry,” the prisoner said, “I didn’t…”
“It’s okay, I’m innocent,” Jeff said, as if this settled everything.
“Most of them are.” The man rolled his eyes at Jeff’s naivety.
“I really am. They’d never hang an innocent man.”
“Listen, this institution has a rather nasty reputation. ‘Hang first, ask questions later’ is their motto.”
Jeff felt a fearful jolt in his stomach. “They can’t hang an honest man,” he said defiantly, “that would be wrong.”
“They can and they will,” the prisoner looked at him with pity. “My name’s Joe by the way.” He stuck out his hand.
Jeff, surprised by the sudden change in the conversation, took it and shook it cautiously. Joe’s hand was leathery and covered in ragged calluses, and he shook it hard and fast.
“So, we’re cellmates now, temporarily anyway.” He grinned cheekily.
“Yeah, I suspect that they’ll be letting me out any time soon now.”
“Don’t get your hopes up.” Joe said grimly.
“They’re already sky high.” Jeff joked, but there was a quaver in his voice that seemed to tell all.

He woke up the next day to the gruff yell of the guard. “Time to go! Hurry up!”
Jeff found himself grabbed by the collar of his shirt and heaved to his feet. His hands were bound roughly behind his back with a thick, course rope that rubbed his wrists until they bled. He was led out into a small arena, across the field he saw the looming gallows. The guard pushed him forward and he began to walk. His feet felt unusually heavy, as if they were arguing with him, refusing to let him carry on.
Yet the man held his head up high, for he was not to die today, or anytime in the near future. He did not commit the crime of which he was accused and he intended to be let free. The justice system had not yet failed him, and he didn’t expect it to any time soon. He knew how this world worked; one must pay for one’s actions. What kind of country would this be if an innocent man was killed mercilessly? No, he would survive and live to a ripe old age. Something would save him, some miracle, so odd and out of place that it would have to prove that he was innocent, something that would leave no doubt in any persons’ mind. Yes, the fates would rescue Jeff and have him live a glorious life as repayment for this unfortunate incident.
It was then that he realized that the hangman’s rope had not come any closer for a while, and that he had stopped moving entirely. He attempted to force his treasonous body forward to no avail. The burly guard grabbed his arm and pushed him roughly, while growling threateningly.
The wind brushed his face soothingly as it moved a vast, dark cloud moved in front of the sun and the convict could smell the dampness of a coming storm, and shivered slightly. He continued to walk, each step weighing him down, each breath emptying his lungs. A thick line of sweat dampened his brow, he wished sorely that he could wipe it away, but his hands remained firmly bound behind his back.
He spotted his family, sitting in the stands. They glared at him spitefully, they thought him a murderer and a thief, but they would learn soon enough that he was a good man, as soon as he was let free.
Jeff caught his wife’s eye, and she looked away as if burned. Her fierce rejection stung, and he shielded his eyes, ashamed. She turned to their children and whispered to them urgently. She tugged their hand and they left the stadium hurriedly. His son had left his jacket behind, but they did not turn around to retrieve it, and didn’t once look back even though the wind must have chilled the small boy to the bone.
He reached the stairs that would lead him to the noose. Jeff stepped cautiously onto the first one and it creaked horribly.
He climbed the stairs slowly, but his legs seemed to be made of lead. It took all his strength just to lift them the mere five inches to climb to the next step.
As he stepped onto the platform he caught sight of a large, wooden box lying ominously beside the structure, his coffin, and for the first time it occurred to Jeff that he might die.
No, of course he wouldn’t, he was innocent. Jeff quickly banished the thought from his mind. It was up to destiny, and this certainly was not how he was meant to go.

Jeff felt the coil slip over his head. Its scratchy surface left thin, red marks down his face. It was tightened around his neck, and Jeff thought how much it felt like slipping on his tie for a day at work.
And then suddenly he was falling, he came to a violent stop and he felt the skin on his neck rip open and start to bleed.
Jeff couldn’t breathe; he struggled and kicked, attempting anything for a single breath.
The old structure was creaking now more than ever, it groaned and whined unbearably. Its old, rotted wood was ready to give way, but it held on, as though determined to see Jeff meet his end. He writhed uncontrollably, and the gallows seemed to give way.
Jeff felt the structure snap and fall. The noose came loose and he fell to the ground in a heap. He sat up, bruised, battered, and utterly disbelieving. Despite his constant arguments that he was going to survive, he had somehow known in the pit of his stomach that it was neither probable nor possible. The fates had been kind to him and taken his innocence into consideration, they had spared him mercifully.
Jeff turned triumphantly in time to witness the structure lean towards him and break, falling spectacularly in his direction.
The last thing he saw was the broken, frayed noose, retched from the wood that held it up, drifting away in the wind.
Thanks to darvit and /b/for my signature. :D
And thanks Kagoma, for the awesome birthday present that is the C&H sprite!
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Post by MMK » Sat 26th May 2007

It's not the best thing you've ever written, but it's not bad. It doesn't quite make sense, but it was good overall. I like the slight twist at the end- it reminds me a bit of the short stories by Vivian Vande Velde (You probably haven't heard of her).

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Post by darvit » Sat 26th May 2007

Aside from a few errors in grammar and mechanics [really minor stuff], I like it. :D

You could work on expanding your descriptions. You made very good use of illustrative language--you're getting there--but you need to let the reader truly feel the surroundings: the scents, the tastes, the energy. Maybe you could practice on how to illustrate seamlessly? You write good stuff, though. :wink:

It reminds me of George Orwell's short story called, "A Hanging" :P [You can look at how smooth-flowing his descriptions are, and his prose, as a whole. :)]

Anyway, well done! :P

PS: I think that this is the first time I ever posted anything on this forum. XD Go me! :P
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Re: Gallows Humour

Post by _Lenore_ » Tue 3rd Jul 2007

Wow, that was really good. I love your description, and yes, it would have made more sense if you made it so that Jeff thought that God had saved him.... :? I guess it would have given the story a bit more depth. :)

Overall, well done! ^_^
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