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The Executionerby Jay Bennett
Synopses & Reviews
He stood looking in the mirror at his new face, his eyes dark and somber. He decided he'd take a walk, the first walk since the crackup. He went to the corner of the room and picked up his cane and turned and went to the doorway, out and down the carpeted steps.
When he came downstairs he paused at the opening to the living room. His father got up from the easy chair, put down the newspaper quickly.
"Going out, Bruce?"
"Just for a walk."
"I'll go with you."
Bruce shook his head.
"I'd rather be alone," he said quietly.
His father looked to his mother, a quick look.
"Sure, Bruce. Whatever you want."
"Will you be out long?" his mother asked in her gentle voice.
He sensed the hint of fear that he had brought into the room. He saw the slight tremor in one of his mother's long, slender hands.
"Will you?" she asked again.
The tight, awkward way his father bent his head toward him, the light glinting off his glasses.
"I don't know," he said. "Just want to be alone.
"Of course, Bruce."
"Of course," his father echoed.
Bruce turned away from them and went out of the house, down the wooden steps, and into the gathering twilight.
He felt the eyes of his parents at the windows of the. house, gazing out after him. His father standing at one window, his mother at the other.
Standing motionless in the slowly fading light.
He heard a neighbor's dog bark, a deep and solemn sound, and then the sound died abruptly and all was still again. The air was quiet and soft. He walked along the tree-shaded street, using the cane to favor his right leg. The leaves overhead lay flat and thick along twisted black branches. The air was quiet andsoft and the words of the orthopedist came floating back to him.
You'll soon throw away that cane, Bruce, and you'll be competing in track meets. Just as before. You start your last term of high school in the fall, don't you? Fine. You'll win some gold medals again.
He turned down the lane that led to the water, his shadow getting longer. He came to a row of benches that stretched along a stone esplanade. He sat down on one of the benches and looked out over the reach of the Sound. At the cluster of white boats at a dock. The tinge of pink on the water, the dying summer sun, and out, far out, against a darkening horizon, some sails.
Stark, white, and silent.
He put his. hand to his face and slowly drew it away.
As handsome as ever, Bruce. I must say I'm proud of myself.
That's what the plastic surgeon had said.
No deep unsightly scars.
The hand went back to the face and this time the fingers slowly traced along the lips, the nose, the eyebrows, then down the chin. And it was like his old face. Very like it.
But something was wrong.
The fingers went back to the eyes and lingered there. Lingered about the dark eyes that had been gazing long into the narrow mirror in his room. And he knew that something strange had come into the new face.
Strange and corrosive.
"The eyes," he whispered. "In the eyes. It's there."
Was it a look of anguish?
Guilt that would always remain there, never to leave?
"Guilt," he whispered.
The sound of his voice rustled away into the stillness. His hand left his face and fell to his side. Slowly, futilely. It was then that the tears came. The first tears since the crackup.
"I'm a murderer," he said, in alow, bitter voice,
And as he did, he turned around to see who had heard him. But there was no one about. He was alone
Three survivors of an automobile crash, in which the driver was killed, are threatened by an executioner who believes they too should die.
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